Children come from war zones all over the world to Clarkston, Georgia as refugees. Many of these children enter public schools and on their way to adulthood face the dual challenge of mastering the English language and learning the educational content that is necessary to earn a high school diploma. Despite extensive efforts on the part of public schools in Clarkston, the graduation rate for refugees from high school is approximately 30%. Educational strategies that ease refugees’ transitions into the public education system are greatly needed. To this end, computer aided translation (CAT) and new forms of massive open online courses (MOOCs) are poised to revolutionize teaching content to English language learners (ELLs) in diverse schools such as those in Clarkston where bilingual English as a second language (ESL) teaching strategies are not feasible. However, significant hurdles are present to their effective and universal implementation. Teacher training, access, and student appeal are three distinct challenges that are present. Despite these challenges, I will work to develop initiatives for technology aided English only ESL education. To this end, I am going to work at Clarkston High School this next year as a teaching resident in the Net-Q program as part of my Masters of Arts in Teaching degree program at Georgia State University. It is my hope that this experience will build a solid foundation upon which innovative, practical, and low cost CAT-ESL MOOCs can be developed and implemented in the public school classroom.
The Social Language (http://www.social-language.com/en/) smartphone app provide a prototype for the first generation CAT-ESL MOOC that I will develop for use in Clarkston refugee ESL educational initiatives. Social Language is an English-Mandarin language social network that allows users to participate in speaking and reading practice exchanges. Users can serve as instructors and develop their own lessons using their spoken voice. Users can also acts as learners by listening to the lessons provided by instructors and speaking into their smartphones. Social Language uses voice recognition technology to score the pronunciation of the speaker and enables subtle language features such as accents to be learned due to the fact that the model speech is from real speakers. The best feature of Social Language is that it effectively facilitates spoken language exchanges between users around world, as speakers can be thousands of miles away from each other. It would be interesting to evolve the Social Language app concept into a K-12 only spoken language education CAT-ESL MOOC. So far, the Social Language app is restricted to English-Mandarin language exchanges. Adapting the concept to the languages spoken in Clarkston would be a significant step towards the creation of a novel, low cost digital language learning tool in the CAT-ESL MOOC model. The Social Language concept could be extended to the teaching of K-12 educational content. In particular, high school age students seeking diplomas and adults seeking general educational development (GED) degrees could be socially networked in the classroom along the local to global spectrum. The development of an app that builds on the Social Language model for K-12 education offers great potential for helping to raise the graduate rate of refugees in Clarkston and beyond.
Figure 1: Social Language provides a Facebook like social network for spoken language learning in Mandarin and English speaking parts of the world.
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