Last week, I received a beta account for Duolingo. Duolingo is a service that helps you learn another language by translating snippets of the web written in the target language, listening, and speaking. Although I don't have a significant amount of time to spend learning a new language, it is fun to translate web snippets when I'm unwinding on the couch each weekend.
The service poses learning as a puzzle that you have to uncover. Lots of support and feedback is provided. For example, you can mouse over every word to see a definition, you can rate other translations, and you receive coins for every correct (or mostly correct) translation you complete. It's a highly addictive framework for a task that could be rote and boring.
What implications does this have for student learning, especially in the online environment? Here are my initial musings...
- There should be no dire consequences for failure in the activity space. Students in online environments need to be offered multiple opportunities for success. If they are not successful in their attempts, they need extensive feedback and opportunities to try again. This makes learning fun, not frustrating.
- There needs to be an opportunity to interact with others. In Duolingo, seeing the other users' translations serves as a way of connecting you to others inside the work as well as validating or refuting the viability of your translation.
- Learning should be presented in small chunks. Content is delivered in 10 minute spiraling chunks. This makes each "level" seem manageable, and it also provides lots of opportunities for review and reflection.
- Students need visual ways to chart their progress. Students need to see, very clearly, where they are and where they're going. This gives students a sense of direction and motivation.
Any thoughts to add? Suggestions welcome!