At the end of last year, I met up with the Jisc Futurist again for what’s becoming our seasonal meal out. This one was ‘winter’, spent indoors in a pleasant Mediterranean restaurant. Once I’d gotten used to DMs and RTs illuminating on his watch, we were served some excellent vegetarian and burnt animal foods.
And in our seasonal meal one thing we noticeably do is, inevitably, discuss DuoLingo at some point. TJF has young children who do this, without parental support or prodding, so he sees how they use it. I keep coming across it (and am using it) as it keeps being mentioned as the flagship for gamification-enhanced education, though the gamification and game elements are arguably the least interesting (neat though they are).
DuoLingo is a persistently interesting example. As TJF points out, there’s a heck of a lot of people using it; the kind of numbers that the education sector need to keep an eye on. It’s free, easy to use, quick to get started, and there’s the nice intrinsic hooks of achieving through earning gamified things *and* learning a language at the same time. In fact it’s so easy to get going (old tech is fine; seconds, not minutes, to start) that there’s little excuse for EdTech commentators to not try it before commenting.
And, and this may be the attribute that makes it so usable, it is ferociously quick to move through a lesson – even though you have to get a lot more right answers than wrong to complete. Got a few minutes? You can do a new lesson, or repeat one, sometimes in the time between two metro, bus or tube stops.
It’s not perfect. Languages come out of an ‘incubator‘ somewhat rough around the edges, and not of academically rigorous quality. Volunteers, rather than certified experts, develop this initial content. Speech/sound, vital to speaking a new language properly, is of variable quality. And the translations that players are given (which are part of the business model) are sometimes random, irrelevant or things you will never say.
But, it’s been around for a few years now and the numbers do add up. And by that I mean the large number of users/players/learners (oh let’s be honest, what’s the difference to anyone but academic pedants nowadays) and the proportion reaching advanced stages and completing (as opposed to MOOC drop-out rates) and the business model. Not everyone benefits; there’s always losers. While taxi drivers complain about Uber taking away their business, there’s less in the press about the language teaching and translation sectors taking a substantial hit, and fearing for their futures, from DuoLingo. But it’s happening.
So, yep. Worth a play, at the very least.