Every day, the seventh-grader from Massachusetts Cailin Wilson takes a break from homework on the Internet and open the application on your phone for a half-hour lesson in a foreign language. About it writes USA Today.
“The boy has three green bike and the egg,” said 12-year-old girl to his family in French in the beginning of my third week using the mobile app from Rosetta Stone, the software giant to learn the language.
Wilson is not obliged to learn French, it is not part of the school curriculum. But during quarantine, when a lot of free time, the girl decided to try something new.
“I really like to learn French, and for me it’s not the routine”, she said.
While children across the country are experiencing weeks and months, distance learning, companies involved in educational technology, comes the blossoming, and their products sold as the most optimal solution. Only a few were ready for it, this includes companies developing software for language learning, who have spent years honing digitized, personalized, gaming experience independent learning.
Programs like Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, Babbel and Kahoot! used in schools for many years, but usually paired with a teacher. The tools can complement teaching in a foreign and English, but some schools are quietly used them to completely replace a certified teacher, which was too difficult to find or too expensive to hire.
Executives have long emphasized that their software is not designed to replace teachers. But when hundreds of thousands of new users log in from home, global test is carried out — at least for this area of online learning: how well pupils can learn independently, using software, without a teacher.
And how this digital educational experiment will change the training when the children eventually return to traditional classes?
“I think this is one of the crucial moments,” said Matt Hulett, CEO of Rosetta Stone. The company would add 10 000 to 20 000 new users every day, so she lowered the fee for the subscription.
Hewlett was not sure to tell you how this has led to concrete gains, but he said that the first quarter of 2020 will be a strong consumer business, consisting of accounts of schools and students, and adults subscribers.
“Technology and teacher related”
“We believe that teachers and technology are interrelated,’ said Hewlett. We do not believe that there is a tendency of self-learning, which will replace teachers.”
But in this unusual time marketing materials to position the products as the decision for home schooling during the epidemic of the coronavirus.
“In light of the current situation with COVID-19, when millions of children across the country are doing their school work from home, global company Rosetta Stone focuses on teaching language and literacy, is doing everything possible to help parents working at home, to get some relief,” said a company representative.
Experts in the field of language education commended the company for providing free resources without any conditions. But they are concerned that the growing reliance on software instead of these teachers may not provide students with all the tools for reading, writing and understanding a new language.
“How you can use the language in a limited computing environment is one thing,’ said Howie Berman, the head of the American Council on teaching of foreign languages. But as soon as you leave this environment you will actually be able to use the language in real conditions?”
Academic researchers have also supported the company, but said their programs are not the total solution. Software cannot always be adapted for students with disabilities or those who have limited access to the Internet.
“It is important to understand that these resources do not replace quality teaching, and that not all tools are designed for all types of students,” said Kara Dawson, Professor of educational technology at the University of Florida.
How well the apps work for language learning?
Initially, the majority of programs for learning languages has been focused on the consumer market — the average adult who wanted to learn a new language in their spare time, on their home computer or in recent years in mobile applications.
Rosetta Stone, which started its activity in 1992, in early 2010-ies are still sold boxes with their famous yellow discs to consumers. Now, like other companies, she moved to services based on subscription with speech recognition. In the latest Rosetta Stone application for iPhone users can point their phone at the object, which the application then translates into a language that the user is studying. The company also proposed to connect paying subscribers to free virtual for virtual tutoring sessions until the end of June.
For companies that spetsializiruyutsya on the study of languages, selling software for classrooms is relatively new.
The concept is generally the same in different companies: some students are exercises for learning grammar and pronunciation, and the software provides teachers feedback about how each student.
Rosetta Stone also offers English literacy for schools. In 2012, she acquired Lexia Learning, which complements the initial English language instruction and also helps students to learn English as a second language.
According to Maya Goodall, Director of the company, before the pandemic Rosetta Stone served 17,000 schools and 4 million students enrolled literacy in English and other foreign languages. This number is now much higher.
Babbel, located in Berlin, Germany, has also proposed free access for students during a pandemic and have added more than 50,000 new young users, including about 10,000 new students in the United States.
There are few studies of the effectiveness of the latest software for language learning, partly because technology is evolving very quickly. But for mathematics and reading in a recent review of high quality studies has been proposed computer program of teaching that help students to practice certain skills that led to great academic success.
The most effective programmes are of key features: they are interactive, allow students to develop at its own speed and adapt to their abilities, says Philip Oreopoulos, Professor of Economics at the University of Toronto and one of the authors of this review. The best programmes also give teachers data about student performance, he added.
Even Oreopoulos downloaded Duolingo for their children, aged 11 and 9 years old when the schools in Toronto were closed three weeks ago.
“They don’t seem to mind spending half an hour a day on the conjugation of verbs in French, so I am glad of it,’ he said. I don’t know whether it helps in the long run, but it’s worth a try and it keeps them occupied”.
Developing educational gaming apps
Duolingo has entered the market of language learning in 2012 with the online gaming platform and mobile app. And another key feature: it’s free.
In 2015, the company launched Duolingo for Schools, which allowed teachers to track the progress of entire classes. It’s also free and supported through advertising.
“As of March 19, shortly after the pandemic has led to the closure of almost all schools in the United States, the number of registrations in Duolingo for Schools has increased by 425% per week, mostly due to the fact that the teachers were distributed remote work, and parents looking for resources for teaching children at home,” said press Secretary Michael Kron.
Carlos-Luis brown, a teacher of Spanish in middle school Wilmington, Massachusetts, said he used Duolingo for at least four years to complete the training is part of the homework of his students.
According to him, Duolingo was “the most consistent part” of what his students do at home.
Kahoot!, another online service for learning languages and other academic subjects, offers free premium accounts for teachers and schools before the end of this school year. By words a press-the Secretary, in the midst of the new traffic, the company received more than 100,000 new accounts per day.
A few States require foreign language study
The sudden burst of users of the software for learning language occurs in a paradoxical time: a few States require that students study a foreign language.
Only seven States, including new York and Michigan specifically requires one or two years to teach a foreign language, according to the latest data compiled by the nonpartisan education Commission of the States. Twenty-two other States allow local districts to declare a few options for students to satisfy requirements.
According to the Federal report, nearly all States reported a shortage of foreign language teachers in middle and high school in the 2016-2017 school year.
In 2016, one rural middle school in Maine struggled trying to find a foreign language teacher.
Brown said that before he worked at the school, which wanted to use Rosetta Stone as a learning program for all its primary school. Brown resisted this proposal — he was afraid that it will ruin the teachers.
“In fact, we teach culture, and as a byproduct, you learn a language, brown said. Is the study another life and another way, and the idea that students can tell their own story and hear other people’s stories is critical”.
Best of both worlds
Some teachers will continue to use what they consider to be the best of both worlds: a reliable individual training as well as games and online tools which enable students to work, even if it is a struggle in the new world of distance learning.
In a normal year, Richard de meij, the foreign language teacher in a Public high school of Hartford, Connecticut, uses a variety of classroom and virtual instruments. Students use the app to participate in monitored conversations with native Spanish speakers in other countries. They should look online soap Opera “Destinos” and answer the questions on the show. They take part in quizzes on Kahoot! They can also practice on Duolingo.
“Duolingo is free and is great for building vocabulary, but not necessarily to communicate,” said de meij.
Now, when all the houses, de meij who speaks eight languages, teaches through videos and encourages students to remain connected to learning using the software.
“I think that personal instruction in the class will never disappear, he said, but it’s a Golden moment for these language tools and platforms in learning.”