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Cat Hicks catharsis consulting ucsd design lab

Cat Hicks (Catharsis Consulting)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 4:00 P.M.

Computer Science and Engineering Building (CSE) 1202 on the UCSD campus

Can young children learn a new language by playing games? A longitudinal exploration of digital English Language curriculum in Hangzhou, China

Learning English language skills is a highly sought-after educational activity worldwide. For many learners, however, especially very young children in non-English speaking environments, finding engaging curricula and opportunities to use a foreign language is challenging. While the recent proliferation in language learning apps and online classes has presented new opportunities for motivated adult learners, the question remains for how effectively digital education can reach young learners. This talk explores the design and implementation of a digital English Language program embedded in a rich series of developmentally-appropriate games. The speakers will present a longitudinal study evaluating the impact of these games on 5- and 6-year-old beginner language learners in Hangzhou, China, and explore the ramifications of conducting applied social science on novel learning environments. Furthermore, this work points toward the benefits of developing games that incorporate developmental social cognition, longitudinal behavioral research, and multicultural collaboration to provide powerful platforms for learning.


Dr. Cat Hicks is the Founder and Principal Researcher of Catharsis Consulting, a mixed-methods research and data science consultancy. She studies how people learn and thrive in complex environments such as knowledge work teams, and has helped organizations like SAS, Age of Learning, Tetra Insights, Vanguard, and develop applied research which draws on rigorous statistical and experimental understanding. She is interested in creative learning environments, increasing access to educational opportunity, and the future of data science. She holds a Ph.D from UC San Diego in Experimental Psychology.

Hee Jin Bang is the Director of Efficacy Research & Evaluation at Age of Learning. She oversees the design and implementation of studies to maximize the effectiveness of digital programs aimed at improving children’s academic and social-emotional skills. Hee Jin received her Ph.D. at New York University (Teaching & Learning), M.Ed. at Harvard University (Human Development & Psychology), and BA Honors at Oxford University (Linguistics & French). She has 15+ years of experience in educational research; her areas of interests include second language acquisition, education of immigrant origin youth, language assessment, and use of technology to personalize instruction.

Jacey Chen is a Senior Curriculum Specialist at Age of Learning, in charge of designing and implementing interactive curriculum and digital educational games for young English language learners. Jacey holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan on developmental psychology and has over 10 years of experience researching on how children learn languages. She is very interested in developing approaches to help children appreciate language and learning in their everyday lives, both inside and outside the classroom.

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