"Your native language is your life. But with English you can become part of a wider conversation -- a global conversation about global problems, like climate change or poverty, or hunger or disease." - Jay Walker
English is opportunity. Our goal is to build an online platform that facilitates that opportunity. Through games and content, JJ English allows learners to interact with the English language, and teachers to connect with students.
We believe each individual student should be the focus of the learning system. Rather than a factory model of education that batches students into arbitrary categories, we imagine a student-centered learning solution to English education around the world.
JJ English is a platform providing Personalized English Education for learners, and teachers.
Our main application is a digital flashcard app:
- 2000 basic English words - grouped and sorted by subject and level of difficulty
- Spaced Repetition - Individual mistakes are automatically recorded and recycled back into that learner's path
- Gamification - badges and competitive scoring make learning fun
- Teacher Dashboard - allows teachers to track individual progress and assign tasks
HOW THE IDEA BEGAN
The idea first began in 2009 on a trip to visit family in Aurangabad, India. My plan was to take the vocabulary flashcards I had created in PowerPoint, test drilling vocab in the classroom, and see how it worked.
It was new for the students at this English Medium school to have a computer in the classroom, and they seemed engaged. But the workload on the teacher was heavy as there were no quick ways to randomize the words or record errors. The learning was engaging but not optimized.
The next year we returned and worked with a group of children aged 8 - 14 at an orphanage in rural Aurangabad. We broke into groups and continued to work on vocabulary. The children loved it! They were focused and enthusiastic about the learning process. It felt like a game for them. Other adults with little knowledge of teaching were able to lead the group as well, and soon enough the older students were helping the younger ones.
Just as in Sugata Mitra's experiments around the world, learning occurred through just a laptop, a little electricity, and an adult facilitating the process.
WHAT WE HAVE NOW
Our current product is simple and easy to use. Any learner or teacher can start using our app within seconds. Registration is free and easy.
Our team is continuing to add vocabulary and content to our database, as well as developing the technology to implement the project on the web.
Our product has been online as a beta version in Poland for the past 8 months. Here's how it looks today:
We've discovered a lot about how people user our app, what they like, and what they don't like. For example, learners spend roughly 25% of the time in our app reviewing their learning path and statistics.
Clearly, understanding one's own progress is valued. Capturing this progress and clearly presenting it to the learner, and teacher, is the goal of our educational philosophy.
"It's easy for me to remember the meanings of words, but to remember how to write them is more difficult. I have been using the app for a few months and I can see the progress. It doesn't take hours, just 10-15 minutes a day. There are a lot of groups and levels, so it isn't boring for students." - Kasia, age 25, Poland
"As a teacher of English I have difficulty to determine which words my students should learn. Each student is different with a different set of needs. This product easily allows students to determine their level and motivates them to practice more." - Tomasz, age 32, Poland
Spaced repetition is critical to long term retention of vocabulary. We believe learners should focus their attention on problem areas. Flashcards are randomized and repeated according to the curve of forgetting.
Mistakes are recorded and recycled back into each learner's path. "Trouble words" are repeated frequently in the initial phases of learning, and less often as time goes by and the student continues to practice. Without practice, the system adjusts and ensures learners really absorb the information before going forward.
THE NETWORK EFFECT OF LEARNING
Our system is dynamic and updates continuously based on learner input. Words are ranked according to an index of difficulty based on errors and other variables. As more people use the application, the system incorporates the new user data and improves, becoming more effective as more people use it.
WHERE WE'RE GOING
Currently our product is only available for Polish students. We'd like to add additional languages to our web application so that learners from other countries can learn English as well.
We are tweaking our application according to the feedback we receive. Every few weeks we are adding new features and content and measuring how users respond.
The main features we are focusing on now are adding sounds for vocabulary as well as example sentences in context.
As we develop a product that individual students enjoy, we are talking with teachers to see how this education technology could best be employed in the classroom. Currently our teacher dashboard is in the basic beta version.
Our goal is $8000 to:
- develop our teacher dashboard to allow teachers to manage large classes
- make the application available for Spanish and Portuguese-speaking learners
Our first stretch goal is $10000 to:
- make our application available for Russian-speaking learners
- make our application available for Hindi-speaking learners
Our second stretch goal is $12,000 to:
- create a native mobile application on iOS
- create a native mobile application on Android
Our third stretch goal is $15,000 to:
- create an offline version of the app so that learners can use our tools without access to the internet
WHO WE ARE
We are a team of teachers and engineers, software developers and artists. Previously we've worked together to create our Youtube Channel which allows students to learn English grammar and vocabulary songs through pop music. Our videos have been viewed over 1 million times and teachers and students have provided positive feedback.
Thank you for reading and learning about our idea! We invite you to make a donation or share this idea with a friend!
If you have any questions, please check out the FAQ below. If it isn't answered, then feel free to send us a message on Kickstarter, tweet or email.
Risks and challenges
As with any ambitious technology project, our main challenge will be building the proper scalable technology that fits user needs. Our talented team of developers has extensive experience in building web solutions. Additionally, our mix of English teachers and learners within our team allows us to see English education from different perspectives.
We have connections with a large talent pool of web and mobile developers and will outsource specific tasks to trusted friends we've cooperated with in the past.
Understanding teacher needs and building a product that is easy to use and compatible with current Education programs will be essential to our success. That is why we have built a network of relationships with teachers to test our product and provide valuable feedback on how to improve our product.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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