Solving the UK’s language learning lag with edtech

There are different methods to choose from when it comes to learning languages and, whether it’s coding, French or Spanish, gamifying the experience can add a new layer of engagement to educate children

School closures and online learning have meant device usage among children has increased, which presents an opportunity for the way different subjects are taught. Maths, for example, has largely revolved around paper-based exercises since day one, but home schooling has led to the digitisation within the topic of numbers.

Language is a fascinating area that we can also look to enhance significantly – particularly given the UK’s position when it comes to talking in foreign tongues, which is considerably low on a global scale. Of 79 countries, Britain was in the bottom four of hours spent learning second languages in secondary schools, according to OECD research.

It was suggested that the fact English is spoken globally is both a blessing and a curse, resulting in disinterest in Brits becoming bilingual. There are different factors at play globally when it comes to learning languages, but some headteachers claim a lack of qualified teaching staff is the barrier, while only half claim to have the necessary and effective online learning tools.

COVID-accelerated digitisation

It’s the latter point which is fascinating. Until recently, online learning was largely neglected by educational institutions and only really worshipped by a devout group of early adopters that recognised its value. The pandemic has changed that drastically, of course. App Annie detailed that global downloads of education apps rose by 90% in a peak week of March 2020 when lockdown first started versus the weekly average of Q4. This climbed further still in the UK, with growth of 150%.

“I believe the teaching of spoken languages in the traditional sense alongside a purpose-built edtech offering can accelerate the engagement and interest among increasingly device-savvy youngsters and help solve the bilingual blockade the UK is facing”

This tells me there’s a significant opportunity. With the increased emphasis on edtech among parents and students, schools recognising remote learning and something of a language mountain to climb, perhaps it’s time for a new course of action to bring these all together for a new educational experience.

Studies have shown that the ability to absorb language is at its highest before the age of seven, while toddlers at the age of three and four are said to be primed for learning languages and “actually twice as active as an adult brain,” according to Dr Patricia Kuhl. Based on this, I believe the teaching of spoken languages in the traditional sense alongside a purpose-built edtech offering can accelerate the engagement and interest among increasingly device-savvy youngsters and help solve the bilingual blockade the UK is facing.

Engaged in education

In an interview that touched on the new online learning love affair, Tesla founder Elon Musk admitted: “Well, my observation is that my kids were mostly educated by YouTube and Reddit. I guess there were lessons as well, but judging by the amount of time they spent online, it seemed like most of their education is actually coming from online.”

He declared: “If kids can be super engaged in video games, there’s a way for them to be super engaged in education as well.” I couldn’t agree more. I love gaming in its core form and spent my earlier career at Sega and Sony, but I still believe there’s room to help children learn within environments they normally associate with entertainment and fun to produce a new and exciting education experience.

Aside from joy, gaming has been found to offer brilliant benefits to children – including coordination, problem-solving, memory development and increased attention. Team this with education and you have a supercharged schooling strategy on your hands.

Every day that remote learning goes on, edtech becomes normalised and this provides of the scope to we should re-evaluate the way we teach. Whether learning French or Spanish through a gamified experience or even communicating the language of code, the pandemic is hopefully teaching educational leaders that nothing should be off the curriculum in this current climate, or indeed when classrooms reopen.


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