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WaitChatter
WaitChatter

Learn a Language While You Wait for People to Respond to Your Gchats

WaitChatter
WaitChatter

There are plenty of tiny moments of downtime while you’re online. There are the seconds you wait for your computer to connect to WiFi, the time you spend waiting for a page to load, and the time that passes as you wait for someone to respond to your chats or emails. MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) wants to harness those moments to help you be a little more productive, as CNET reports.

WaitSuite is a group of apps designed to teach people languages during that online downtime. Rather than letting those language-learning app reminders go ignored because you’re too busy to practice your Spanish vocabulary, you can learn while you Gchat.

WaitChatter, a Google Chrome extension, works with Gchat to present you with a new vocabulary word in French or Spanish while you wait for your conversation partners to respond. The new foreign language vocabulary word shows up side-by-side with its English translation just below the box where you type out your messages. You can check “didn’t know” or “already knew” to move on to the next word.

The researchers also created other wait-time language learning tools. As they write in a paper on their apps [PDF], they created language-learning tools to test you on vocabulary while you wait for your WiFi to connect, while you wait for your email to send, while your web page loads when you use the “pull to refresh” function on your phone, and while you wait for an elevator (this one required Bluetooth sensors to be placed next to the elevator, so it wouldn’t really work in the wider world). They found that not only was this “wait-learning” not distracting from the primary task of say, emailing or reading something on the web or chatting with a friend, it reduced the frustrations people felt while having to wait. WaitChatter users learned about four new words a day, according to the study.

WaitChatter is the only app that’s publicly available right now, but its functionality might not last long. It’s based on the older version of Gchat, which will be going away soon. On June 26, 2017, Google Talk will be replaced completely with Hangouts, so you won’t be able to revert back to the old chat interface after that. While the creators are looking into making versions of the plugin for Hangouts or for Slack, those likely won't be available for a while, if they come to fruition at all. Before Google makes the Hangouts switch in June, then, you'd better get in as much vocab learning as you can.

[h/t CNET]

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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
Infrogmation, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

As Puerto Rico continues to assess the damage left by Hurricane Maria last month, one American institution is offering displaced residents some long-term hope. Tulane University in New Orleans is waiving next semester’s tuition fees for students enrolled at Puerto Rican colleges prior to the storm, Forbes reports.

From now until November 1, students whose studies were disrupted by Maria can apply for one of the limited spots still open for Tulane’s spring semester. And while guests won’t be required to pay Tulane's fees, they will still be asked to pay tuition to their home universities as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Students from other islands recovering from this year’s hurricane season, like St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also welcome to submit applications.

Tulane knows all too well the importance of community support in the wake of disaster. The campus was closed for all of the 2005 fall semester as New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During that time, schools around the world opened their doors to Tulane students who were displaced. The university wrote in a blog post, “It’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need.”

Students looking to study as guests at Tulane this spring can fill out this form to apply.

[h/t Forbes]

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Pablo, a Groundbreaking New BBC Series, Teaches Kids About Autism
BBC
BBC

Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 kids in the U.S., but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the nature of the condition and what it feels like to have it. As BuzzFeed reports, a new British children’s program aims to teach viewers about autism while showing kids on the spectrum characters and stories to which they can relate.

Pablo, which premiered on the BBC’s kids’ network CBeebies earlier this month, follows a 5-year-old boy as he navigates life with autism. The show uses two mediums: At the start of an episode, Pablo is played by a live actor and faces everyday scenarios, like feeling overstimulated by a noisy birthday party. When he’s working out the conflict in his head, Pablo is depicted as an animated doodle accompanied by animal friends like Noa the dinosaur and Llama the llama.

Each character illustrates a different facet of autism spectrum disorder: Noa loves problem-solving but has trouble reading facial expression, while Llama notices small details and likes repeating words she hears. On top of demonstrating the diversity of autism onscreen, the show depends on individuals with autism behind the scenes as well. Writers with autism contribute to the scripts and all of the characters are voiced by people with autism.

“It’s more than television,” the show’s creator Gráinne McGuinness said in a short documentary about the series. “It’s a movement that seeks to build awareness internationally about what it might be like to see the world from the perspective of someone with autism.”

Pablo can be watched in the UK on CBeebies or globally on the network's website.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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