“OPEN: the Journal” – an app designed to help close the word gap

Created for:

  • Digital Media Design for Learning (DMDL) degree; Cognitive Science and Educational Technology I course (Spring 2014).

Project length:

  • Medium-long (approx. last quarter of the term, final group project design document).


  • Saira Mallick
  • Matt McGowan
    • my principle contributions: “Background,” “Problem Description,” “Delivery Platform” and “Project Narrative.”
  • Ruth Sherman
  • Shalini Shroff


  • As a group, produce a full, thorough design document on a project of mutual interest.

A few years ago, I read Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid (2007) and was floored to learn (amongst other things) that

[a] prominent [1995] study found that by kindergarten, a gap of 32 million words already separates some children in linguistically impoverished homes from their more stimulated peers. In other words, in some environments the average young middle-class child hears 32 million more spoken words than the young underprivileged child by age five. (p. 20)

In class, I was fortunate to have three other classmates become interested enough in this “word gap” to work on a project together. What we came up with was a mobile application titled “OPEN: the Journal.”

The main goals of this design are to:

  1. promote the sustainability of programs such as the Thirty Million Words Initiative, and
  2. support approaches learned in initial interventions–i.e. engaging in conversations with young children and speaking to children using a larger number and a greater variety of words.

The full design document can be found here:

“OPEN – the Journal” design document