Areas of Study

The Visual Language Visual Learning Center (VL2) at Gallaudet University, one of six National Science Foundation Science of Learning Centers, has announced the establishment of its eight-member Scientific Advisory Board.

The purpose of VL2 is to gain a greater understanding of the biological, cognitive, linguistic, sociocultural, and pedagogical conditions that influence the acquisition of language and knowledge through the visual modality. VL2’s mission is to gain a greater understanding of the effects of visual processing, visual language, and visually-based social experience on children’s development of language and cognition, as well as reading and literacy, and the goal of its activities is to benefit all humans.

VL2, led by co-principal investigators Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, who also serves as its science director, and Dr. Thomas Allen, welcomed VL2’s Scientific Advisory Board members on campus for their first official meeting March 4 and 5, 2012. The duties of the Scientific Advisory Board are to provide the VL2 team with scientific and professional feedback, drawing from each of their unique disciplines.

The VL2 scientific advisory board is comprised of world-renowned leaders in a variety of scientific and professional disciplines:

  • Dr. Anne Fernald, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dr. Fernald’s areas of expertise are culture, education, language meaning, neural plasticity, words and categories, and infant language processing.
  • Dr. Bruce McCandliss, Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. Dr. McCandliss’ areas of expertise are reading, development of visual expertise for words, cognition and education (educational neuroscience), EEG studies, training studies, and longitudinal research in schools.
  • Dr. Colin Phillips, Professor of Linguistics at University of Maryland. Dr. Phillips’ areas of expertise are computational models of language acquisition and neurolinguistics.
  • Dr. Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Dr. Pinker’s areas of expertise are language acquisition, development of meaning/semantic and categorical knowledge, visual processing, and cognitive development. He is also an internationally renowned author of books on the nature and evolution of human thought and language.
  • Dr. David Poeppel, Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University. Dr. Poeppel’s areas of expertise are human auditory physiology and neural basis of speech perception.
  • Dr. Ken Pugh, President and Director of Research, and Senior Scientist at Haskins Laboratory, and Associate Professor at Yale University. Dr. Pugh’s areas of expertise are reading, phonological processing, and print-to-meaning processes underlying reading.
  • Dr. Laurene E. Simms, Professor of Education at Gallaudet University. Dr. Simms’ areas of expertise are in multiculturalism, social justice, literacy research, bilingualism and bilingual education, American Sign Language and English bilingualism.
  • Dr. Ronald Stern, Superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf. Dr. Stern’s areas of expertise are Deaf Education, Educational Policy in the United States, and administration.

“The VL2 Project is a national treasure. Not only does it shed new light on the deaf experience, but it is pursuing scientific questions about language, learning, and the brain which could not be answered in any other way,” said Dr. Steven Pinker of Harvard University.

Dr. Ron Stern of the New Mexico School for the Deaf added, “Visual language and visual learning are under-tapped, little understood frontiers of learning and development of the human potential. With the Visual Language and Visual Learning Center’s impressive state-of-the-art technology, backed by its astute human leadership and research prowess, there are bound to be incredible and unprecedented linguistic, cognitive, and academic development ramifications for deaf and hard of hearing children and numerous others.”

“It was truly an honor to host these great intellectual minds and we welcomed their input,” said Dr. Petitto. “The Scientific Advisory Board members regard our science and translational activities as very exciting and they were pleased with the significant research that is being conducted at VL2. The group also applauded the broad implications that our research and community work have for all individuals — deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing. The knowledge we gain through exploration at VL2 will maximize the learning potential for all individuals. All of our Scientific Advisory Board members expressed enthusiastic support for VL2’s rich science and its important contributions to science and society.”

The VL2 team and the Scientific Advisory Board will hold their next meeting in the winter 2013.

Additional Information about VL2

VL2 seeks to determine how differences in early visual experience impact the young child’s acquisition of language, cognition, reading, and sociocultural knowledge. The Center pursues new perspectives on these learning processes through the widened vantage point of studying deaf individuals and sign language as a window into the flexibility and structure of the human mind. The team is especially interested in studying young bilingual children, for example, children exposed to ASL and English, and monolingual children, across the lifespan in order to promote optimal practices in education, both inside and outside the classroom. VL2 is comprised of 15 laboratories and dozens of researchers, students, and staff spanning the U.S., and enjoys partnerships with more than 90 schools. It is, by nature, an international endeavor as it includes two labs in Canada, and it also has international collaborations spanning seven nations.

The Center is divided into five Strategic Focus Areas (SFA). Three of the SFAs conduct basic scientific research, one conducts basic translational research, and one is engaged in the development of rich translational outcomes and innovative learning products to help young children learn language and become skilled readers. The Center is further committed to promoting two-way communication among scientists and the public, and Center members, teachers, and schools engage in exciting interactive and mutually beneficial activities. Making meaningful bridges with the community and educational policymakers is an important priority of the VL2 Center, as its members strive to improve the lives of all children, especially young deaf children.

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.

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