elt bot

Building an ELT ‘Bot’

As the sun set over Hackney  on Friday, the week was winding down as usual for the ELTjam London team. In-boxes were being zeroed; our weekly newsletter was being compiled; tasks were being moved to ‘done’ on the company Kanban board.

The team often ends the week with a bottle of craft ale or two, but the box of 24 beers from Hackney Wick’s Crate Brewery and a 3-litre box of wine suggested that this was to be a different kind of Friday night. At 6pm, we turned off our computers and gathered around the table for the start of our first ever hackathon. It would be the start of a process that, in less than 24 hours, would lead us to create Amé, an ELT ‘bot’.

we need to talk about learner experience design

We need to talk about LX

Frustration, anger, confusion, boredom and repetition are all hallmarks of bad user experience (UX); unfortunately, they’re often hallmarks of language learning too, especially when it takes place digitally. But bad UX is not the only reason digital language learning products fail – sometimes it’s the content, sometimes it’s the pedagogy, sometimes it’s the lack of human interaction. Bad UX alone fails to address the complexities of language learning. We need to start talking about bad learner experience (LX). Bad LX could be defined in a number of ways, but at its most basic it’s this: not only did you fail to learn something; you had a horrible time trying.

speech recognition

Apple’s electric car and the death of language teaching as we know it

When I was four, going on five, a TV show called Knight Rider premiered in the UK. I loved it and remained a fan for most of my childhood (OK, I admit it; I’m still a fan). There was The Hoff, of course  –  all leather jackets, open shirt buttons and swagger  –  but the real star of the show was K.I.T.T  – Knight Industries Two Thousand  –  the ‘advanced, artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car’. Over thirty years later Apple and Google are in a head-to-head race to bring K.I.T.T’s spiritual successor  –  the driverless car  –  to market. And, as a little-known and hard-to-spot side effect, the ramifications for the teaching of languages, especially English, could be huge.

80/20 principle in ELT publishing

Applying the Pareto Principle to ELT Publishing

The acronym MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, seems to be popping up in conversations with ELT publishers all over the place right now; and that’s odd, because up until about 2013, I’d never heard a publisher mention it. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an MVP is a tactic used in product development to gauge customer interest in a new product or product feature. The idea is that you don’t build the whole thing; you just build enough to see whether people might be interested in what you’re proposing. What many people seem to actually be doing with their MVP is applying the Pareto Principle. Otherwise known as the 80–20 rule