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Monday Morning Ready09.24.2019
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Over the past several decades, researchers have regularly developed devices meant to translate American Sign Language (ASL) to English, with the hopes of easing communication between people who are deaf and hard of hearing and the hearing world.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

If you could invent a device to translate a language, which language would you pick? Why?

Grade 5-6

According to the article, researchers attempting to create devices to translate American Sign Language to English often seem to have little contact with the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Why do you think that is? What difference could it make?

Grade 7-8

Why would it matter if a device translated a language word by word rather than in complete sentences? How could this impact understanding?

Grade 9-10

In the article, Christian Vogler, a professor at Gallaudet University, said that so far none of the systems designed to translate American Sign Language have been even remotely useful to people who sign and researchers developing these systems seem to have "very little idea of their real needs." Based on what you read, what are the real needs of people who sign and what features should a translating device contain to meet those needs?

LESSON PLAN
Design a Translation Device

PROCESS:

  1. Instruct students to conduct research to learn about language translation devices used today. What do they look like? How do they work? How accurate and effective are they?
  2. Then have students compose a list of additional features that they think would be make language translation devices even better. Encourage them to include features that would help both the listener and speaker in a conversation.
  3. Have students brainstorm ideas about how these features could be combined to create a simple, easy-to-use translation device. Encourage them to create a detailed diagram of their device. Challenge them to explain who it will help most and how it will work.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their designs with the class. Encourage classmates to discuss the merits of each design. Challenge them to identify the best features of each idea.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
As a class, investigate existing language translation devices. Invite students to share what they learned. Then have students brainstorm ideas for more features that would make these devices even better. Have each student pick a feature that most helps the listener and the speaker. Give them time to create a diagram of their ideas.
Grades 5-6:
Have students complete the project in small groups. Instruct groups to select the language they want to translate. Then challenge group members to pick at least two new features that will make a language translation device more effective for both the listener and speaker. Give groups time to create a detailed sketch showing how their device works.
Grades 7-8:
Have students complete the project in pairs. Instruct partners to create a diagram for a language translation device that incorporates several new features that aid both the listener and speaker in a conversation. Challenge them to create a device that can translate both in person and online.
Grades 9-10:
Have students complete the project in pairs. Instruct partners to create a diagram for a language translation device that incorporates several new features that aid both the listener and speaker in a conversation. Challenge them to create a device that can translate both in person and online in multiple languages.
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
There’s a Philly Sign Language Accent
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn about the unique signs used by people in Philadelphia that hint at the history of sign language in the U.S.

COBOL
Fifty years ago, each computer maker used its own programming languages to tell a computer what to do. Then, in 1959, a group of programmers devised COBOL, a Common, Business-Oriented Language, which could run on more than one manufacturer’s computer. Explore this online exhibition from the Smithsonian’s History Explorer to learn about the development of COBOL and how it changed the commercial, banking and defense industries.

This Device Translates Text to Braille in Real Time
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn about Team Tactile, and their hopes to create an inexpensive and portable device that can raise text right off the page.

Human Characteristics: Language & Symbols
Explore how words and symbols led to language and the richness of modern life in this part of the National Museum of Natural History’s “What does it mean to be human?” online exhibition.

Postcards—The “Write Stuff”
In this National Postal Museum lesson, students will adjust their use of spoken, written and visual language to communicate effectively within the limited space of a postcard.

Kissing Language Barriers Goodbye
Google is paving the way for the universal voice translator, formerly a thing of science fiction. But will they actually help us communicate? Read this Smithsonian magazine article to find out.

A Translator for Baby Cries? Yes, Please
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn about an algorithm that researchers have developed to identify cries that signal pain or sickness.
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