Mobile Mayhem: Duolingo

This post is part of an assignment for INTE 5680 Producing Media for Learning. I am completing this class as part of my Masters of Arts in Information and Learning Technology.

As part of our Mobile Mayhem unit, I chose to review Duolingo, the language learning mobile application. Duolingo is a benchmark for simple navigation and mobile learning for language. It is well developed and I will refer to it for mLearning experience design for considerations of simplicity and chunking.

What is the name of the app?

Duolingo

Who is the publisher/creator?

Duolingo, Inc.

What platforms is the app available on? (Android, iOS, etc)

iOS, Android, Windows Phone

Provide a brief description of the application’s functionality.

Duolingo is a language learning application with gamification elements such as rewards, timed activities, social connections, goal streaks, lives (like mushrooms in Mario Bros.) and practicing features. Duolingo prides itself on being “the best new way to learn a language” (www.duolingo.com).

What are your overall impressions?

img_0526I had Duolingo a few years ago to practice German, but uninstalled it after a few weeks. I believe there have been some updates that kept me returning since then. For one, the layout is simplified and easy to follow. I can tell where I sit within the breadcrumbs. The menu is easy to navigate and the lessons are simple with one task per screen. I find the speaking feature helpful, as this is where my practice in high school was lacking. I can see why people use it to brush up on vocabulary, grammar, and basic language skills.

How usable did you find application?

This application is very usable. It has clear CARP, simple navigation, clear navigation, and clear visual indicators of progress and access to different lessons and features. Connecting with social media and friends was fairly easy as well, which can be a glitchy part of other apps I have used in the past.

How could the app be used in an educational setting?

It already is. There is a whole Duolingo for schools site (https://schools.duolingo.com/). I did not review it in detail, but it seems as though teachers get access to a dashboard to track student activities and scores.

screencapture-schools-duolingo-1476833589337
Duolingo Schools Website

I suspect it is used to supplement language instruction in schools. Although many adults I know use Duolingo on their own, I could see students benefitting from face-to-face instruction as the main instructional delivery while supplementing with mobile practice through Duolingo.

Any additional thoughts comments concerns.

I have gathered some informal reviews of Duolingo from friends and co-workers. Overall, the navigation seems to be a notable feature. One comment I received was that the Spanish language version did not get to a challenging enough level. This individual had studied Spanish in school and used Duolingo to practice, but wanted it to be more challenging.

Another friend uses it to review German vocabulary. He likes the simple and short practice sessions he can do with his German. This is another person who studied the language in school and possibly could use a higher level challenge, but did not mention that in his review of the app.

Would you recommend the app?

Yes! This app has encouraged me to practice my Spanish, pay attention to my grammar and accents, and return the next day. I think the gamification elements are powerful, especially experience points. I tested out of the first section to see how it went. I surprisingly passed and was automatically sent to the second level of modules. This was a confidence booster. I am still slow to produce Spanish in conversation, though. I think this will take a bit more than just a mobile application.

img_0533One peeve is that the speech recognition often tells me I said something wrong, but doesn’t give me any feedback on what I said wrong. I know I don’t have the best accent, but even when I change around the accents, sometimes it still doesn’t accept what seems to be a direct repeat of the recording.

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