Most secondary school pupils own a mobile device nowadays and while some schools are slow to allow their use in the classroom, there is no doubt that they can be a great revision tool. As a languages teacher in a large Bristol secondary school, I believe that the latest Windows 10 platform has huge potential in this area. As such, I’ve developed a series of simple tools to give GCSE language students the edge when it comes to exam revision.
‘theLanguageApp project’ is actually a series of free Windows apps. I spent several years working in IT prior to teaching and have now been inspired to write software again. My ideas all come directly from the classroom and the revision apps I’ve created so far are in constant evolution. Users can leave reviews, send feedback and suggestions; meaning students themselves are playing a big part in shaping the project.
You could argue that app stores are already saturated with educational apps, and while this is perhaps true for the iOS and Android platform, the new Windows ecosystem is still lacking in this area. I’ve always been a Windows enthusiast and as the majority of UK secondary schools run Windows on their systems, I chose to base the project here. The real strength of the Universal Windows Platform is that the same app can run on different devices, be it a smartphone, tablet or PC. So you can start your work on your PC and pick things up later on your phone from home or on the move.
The project currently includes a number of apps:
Hear it first! – the most-used app by students, it’s a handy text-to-speech app to help with pronunciation. Students often prepare for speaking assessments by writing, making pronunciation of specific words a challenge. Of course, practising in school with the teacher’s input is fine, but when pupils are at home, things can get trickier. ‘Hear it first!’ helps you with pronunciation when you need it: copy and paste the text you want to hear, specify the language and press play. You can also save your work and export it as an audio file for extra convenience.
Of course, practising in school with the teacher’s input is fine, but when pupils are at home, things can get trickier
Memorize it! – another popular app built for Windows 10. In fact, this app is not only for language students, but also for anyone who needs to learn text off by heart. The idea came from seeing pupils use mini-whiteboards for their revision in class. They’d create a jumbled-up version of a learnt-paragraph and test each other orally. ‘Memorize it!’ serves this very purpose: enter the text you want to memorise, select a memorising technique from a range of options and press ‘OK’. Your text now appears scrambled-up on screen and it’s over to you to practise out loud. If you need a ‘hint’, pressing and holding will fill the blanks.
Vocab lists – theLanguageApp project also includes specific vocab lists for French, German and Spanish; a great way to help students revise for their Listening and Reading exams. They include all the words used by the main UK exam boards. Students can highlight difficult words, learn vocab as they go along and even take a quiz to get an ‘estimated grade’. Those vocab list apps are only available on Windows Phones at the moment and are in the process of being rewritten for Windows 10.
The project is still definitely a work in-progress, with lots more coming in future updates. For example, ‘Memorize it!’ will soon integrate Quizlet flashcards due to popular demand, vocab lists will be updated to reflect next year’s curriculum changes and a series of grammar coaching apps will see the light.
Cyprien Marie is a languages teacher and Windows developer based in Bristol, UK. For more information, visit www.thelanguageapp.uk.