Q&A: Games Transform Online Language Learning

Learning, Online & Blended / by

Carnegie Speech and Magma Studios recently partnered together to create a game to transform online language learning for primary and secondary students. The game uses Voice-Activated Spy Tech (VAST) to recognize students’ speech and patterns in order to provide immediate, constructive feedback on pronunciation, prosody, fluency, and more. Paul Musselman, President and CEO of Carnegie Speech, and Angela Kennedy, President of Carnegie Speech International, join us today to discuss why game-based learning online is effective in language development and learning.

SC: Games for learning have made a huge impact in math learning and education. What makes it a great fit for language learning as well?

PM/AK: Students’ progress in language learning, and particularly spoken language learning, is highly impacted by the amount of time they spend on the task. The engaging nature and outstanding artistry of the online multiplayer kids game world named V.A.S.T.: Voice Activated Spy Tech, produced by Magma Studios will motivate students to spend more time practicing their spoken language skills because they are having fun while doing it. The immediate feedback and instruction that they receive will help them improve rapidly, and they will make faster progress in the game. Aligning the student’s gaming goals with improving their English reinforces their desire to keep practicing even more.

SC: What successfully bridges the gap from game-based use of language to real world application of language?

PM/AK: The language learning technology embodied in V.A.S.T. helps students perfect their pronunciation of the sounds of English, their word stress in English, and their fluency in English. Because these critical foundation skills for spoken English are improved by playing the game, the transfer to real world applications happens naturally. In essence, the game scenario is for pedagogical purposes, but the learned pronunciation and speaking skills transfer directly to real-world spoken language situations.

SC: Voice-Activated Spy Technology (VAST) used in Carnegie Speech provides students with immediate feedback based on speech recognition and analysis. How can this be leveraged in a blended learning environment to increase practice time?

PM/AK: The software is available on the Internet, so students can use the game at home or in a lab in addition to their normal teacher-led classes, thus increasing practice time. There is also a classroom component of the system that organizes students into small groups for them to practice and perfect interactive dialogues such as newscasts, plays, interactions at the mall, etc. The dialogues are recorded for subsequent teacher and student evaluation and discussion.

SC: Much of speech learning comes from spontaneous conversation and interaction with peers. How can students leverage the non-gaming mode to collaborate without picking up each other’s mistakes in speech?

PM/AK: The recordings of the dialogues in the nongaming mode allow for students and teachers to review and discuss the interactions and to point out mistakes and provide corrections for those errors. In addition, students will use the gaming mode at home while they are using the nongaming mode in school. The continued error identification and correction from the gaming mode on the students’ speaking skills will prevent the proliferation of errors.

SC: In what ways does Carnegie Speech improve traditional language learning courses?

PM/AK: Carnegie Speech’s spoken language technology pinpoints pronunciation and other spoken language errors on an individualized basis. The technology contains an intelligent tutor that then customizes the curriculum to each student’s strengths and weaknesses. That way, students spend time training on issues that they need to work on and don’t waste time working on areas where they are already proficient. Studies of this type of intelligent tutoring technology show that students get to the same proficiency as classroom training in one-third the training time.

SC: How is Carnegie Speech different than other language learning providers?

PM/AK: Carnegie Speech’s technology assesses hundreds of spoken language skills for each student and creates a customized curriculum to address the students’ deficiencies. This makes language learning more efficient. Our patented pinpointing technology, operating in tandem with speech recognition, exactly identifies each student’s errors and gives detailed instructions on how to improve each student’s speech based on both their native language and their individual skills. This makes language learning more effective.

SC: How do you envision Carnegie Speech changing the landscape of language learning?

PM/AK: We envision a world where students can learn language more quickly and easily either in class or at home using online tools that present well-structured curricula in fun and innovative settings that students love to use. These tools will also provide exceptional support to teachers, allowing them more time to work directly with students, instead of spending endless hours doing organizational and rote grading tasks.

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