Developed in association with Oxford University Press, the application helps teach English by reading books at the right level of English, allowing the student to attempt quizzes and to interact with the text if they don’t understand a word or phrase.
Dr Phil Edmonds, a Research Manager in the Information Technology and Systems group has led the development of the project. He explains: “We call the application ELMO – for English language mobile. The inspiration behind it was that we wanted to make it more fun and motivational to learn English. The main way in which it does that is by tracking the user as they are learning and it feeds back information so it adapts to their level. Then it shows this in progress, so the user gets a kick out of learning faster.
In the background the system is working out what level you are at and where your level of vocabulary is, pointing out the best words for you to learn in green
“Elmo is based around reading books, because reading books is a good way to learn English. You can skip through the pages in the book and read the book and you can also listen to the audio. This is a great function for students because they can listen to the way the words are spoken at the same time as seeing how they are written on the page and the students can move back and forward through the texts and listen to it over and over again.”
What makes the application unique is its ability to measure each individual’s learning rate – as we all know, not everyone finds it easy to pick up a language. The quizzes and interactive games create a fun and entertaining environment for students to learn English, allowing the app to observe the development of the student.
“Elmo adapts to your level and you will see that many words are coloured green,” Edmonds explains. “Those are called study words. In the background the system is working out what level you are at and where your level of vocabulary is, pointing out the best words for you to learn in green. If you select one of those you can do a quiz to help you learn, such as a definition or using the word in the right context. There are thousands of quizzes built into this application that are created automatically from the text itself as part of the technology we have developed here at the labs.”
The application constantly monitors your performance and uses an old Japanese proverb as the basis for its definition of ultimate success.
This app personalises the reading experience and we think that makes it more motivational and fun to learn
“The other part of the technology is that it is tracking your answers to the quizzes, right and wrong, and from that it can tell you what your level is,” Edmonds explains. “It can tell you how much effort you have made today and your current word level. It also shows you how many words you have read so far, because there is a saying in Japan ‘that if you read a million words then you will learn the language.’ The app shows you how many words you have left to read until you have mastered it.”
“In the Japanese market reading is a very popular way to learn a language. There are no other applications that actually adapt to each person – so this app personalises the reading experience and we think that makes it more motivational and fun to learn.”