This is the first in a series presenting practices of EdTech around the world. We’re kicking off with a post from Caroline Haurie about the situation in the school system in France, where EdTech is called TICE (technologies de l’information et de la communication à l’école). What’s happening inside French classrooms and what can we learn form another country’s practice?
Artificial intelligence is a vast, complex and potentially confusing subject. Since we believe it has the potential to transform ELT (and many other aspects of life too, of course), we thought it would be useful to start setting out what AI actually is, and demystifying some of the terminology. It’s a topic we plan to delve into more deeply during 2017, looking at the pros and cons, seeking out and analysing specific examples in the field of languages and sharing our thoughts on what this all means for ELT. But for now, we hope this acts as useful starting point in simply understanding what AI is and how it works.
We believe that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing are going to have a massive impact on ELT, and probably more rapidly than many might expect. A fascinating example of this is a new product from Cambridge called Write & Improve, which aims to provide automated help with writing. Diane Nicholls is one of the team behind the product, and we asked her to tell us more about it. In this in-depth interview, Diane talks about how the system works and, perhaps even more interestingly, how it was developed and what was learned in the process. We think it encapsulates a lot of where ELT is heading – both in what the product itself is trying to do, but also in the way the project has brought together the worlds of ELT, academic research and technology in a way we haven’t seen before.
We’ve always believed that a digital product is never finished – it should always be evolving and improving in response to user needs and changing technology. But a project we’re currently working on in Brazil has challenged that assumption, and taught us valuable lessons about how working within strict limitations can improve everything you do.
For the past three years or so, ELTjam has been working with CollegePre, a Beijing-based EdTech company whose digital content delivery platform is the muscle behind Cambridge ClassServer – a classroom technology solution developed with Cambridge English Language Assessment and Cambridge University Press. We managed to get some time with founder and CEO, Walter Wang, to get his unique perspective on EdTech in China.
Velawoods English is an immersive, self-study English course that, according to its website, “offers the next best thing to living in an English speaking country”. We spoke to the Managing Director of Velawoods Learning, Hani Malouf, and Cambridge University Press’s Publisher for Consumer, Keith Sands, to hear more about the vision behind the product and their experience of putting it together.
In her previous post, Jenny Dance told us how she came up with the idea for a pronunciation app and got it published by OUP. Now, she tells us about the main challenges in bringing the app to market, how she overcame them and what she learned as a result. Inspiring reading for anyone thinking of taking the plunge and developing their own ELT product.
How many of your customers would be very disappointed if one of your products ceased to exist tomorrow? How many would register it only momentarily before replacing it with something that, as far as they’re concerned, is more or less interchangeable? My guess would be that (in the majority of cases) they would be only marginally inconvenienced, and this is something of an inconvenient truth in ELT publishing. Right now, we’re witnessing Product/Market Fill, when what we should be aiming for is Product/Market Fit. What does that mean, and what can publishers do about it?
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’.
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.
Publishers often seem to struggle to look beyond content as the primary driver of their products, while for tech companies it’s often not much more than an afterthought. End result? Products that fall flat, create poor experiences and don’t live up to their full potential. How can we move towards a more unified product-driven approach?
We haven’t had any ELT Entrepreneurs on the blog for a while, but people setting up on their own from an ELT background is something we’re always interested in.
Over the summer, we spoke to Arthur Rubin, half of the husband and wife team behind AUTHORS & EDITORS, about their socially conscious publishing company.