A few years ago I came up with an app idea that could be one of history's greatest ed-tech innovations. I call it the MyBrain App and Social Network... or just The MyBrain App for short. (I am currently looking for someone to help me bring this idea into reality, so if you feel you have what it takes, then just reply to this thread.)
When I was first conceiving the MyBrain app several years ago, I heard about a blog one man wrote where he cataloged every new word his daughter spoke. To do so, he set up sensored video cameras all around his house that turned on whenever there was activity in each room. After many months of cataloging, he essentially had a learning history of his daughter's first years of life. Pretty neat, eh?
The MyBrain app would do something similar in that words would be counted and tallied as they roll across a user's screen at a reading pace. As the number of encounters to a certain word rises, the "brain" on the user's screen would get bigger.
Words would be considered "mastered" after a certain number of exposures and from a certain number of sources (visualized by the "brain" turning from a gray-scale to color image). Reading comprehension research suggests that it takes approximately 15--25 exposures to a new word (encountered in different contexts) before that new word is fluently understood. The number of exposures required can be bigger or smaller depending on how experienced the reader is.
By keeping a lifelong record of one's reading history (or learning history), the MyBrain app would incentivize readers to read even more on their digital devices. It also would connect lifelong learners into a social network where they can all monitor each other's progress, be ranked to spur competitive learning, and perhaps even connect with each other to collaborate on projects. Imagine an app where you could type in any word and get a ranking of everyone in your friend network from most knowledgeable to least (or simply most exposures to least).
An app that keeps tally of word encounters would also be able to tell which words are in a learner's "zone of proximal development," and therefore, could make reading suggestions that include those words. In sum, the MyBrain app would harness the intrigue of the internet (which is where people want to use their reading skills) to maximize learning potential.
I look forward to hearing your comments and questions!