Micro Materials

As my first post, I just wanted to outline a bunch of the things I’ve been thinking about, and give a little background and justification to my idea of creating “Micro Materials.”

I also would like to say at the outset that there are, in fact, a number of very nice language learning resources already in the tech space, and by no means do I want to suggest that I think people who are very happy using them should stop using them. As with all strategies, some will be more useful/effective for some learners, while others may prove more beneficial, given learners with different needs.

So then by “Micro Materials” what I mean is an entire ecosystem of applications that, individually, target extremely narrowly-defined and specific outcomes. For example, the app that I’m going to be presenting at this year’s TESOL conference in Baltimore is focused exclusively on articles (a/an/the), and even more specifically on students being able to correctly revise their own writing, paying attention to the presence or absence of these articles. I plan to elaborate on the app in a later post, but it’s my initial full-fledged attempt at creating something like this.

It is also representative of an approach that I don’t see too widely at the moment in the world of language learning apps. Most of what’s out there currently falls into one of two categories: either the learner is interacting with a native speaker, or the learner is presented with electronic versions of flash cards. The former approach depends on negotiating a schedule with another person (and often times paying), while the latter isn’t really doing any new, and certainly isn’t utilizing the capabilities of the technology at our disposal.

In contrast to these two approaches, what I would like to do is create applications (either web apps or possibly native apps) that automatically generate language learning materials. Two examples of my very early attempts at this are https://grammarbuffet.org/antweet and https://grammarbuffet.org/anredd.

What excites me the most about the potential of approaches like this is that it doesn’t depend on the intervention of a teacher, nor does it make demands of anyone else’s time except for the student user. It’s also (ideally) adapting authentic language (written primarily by native speakers for native speaker consumption), and since this language is being supplied in open forums on the internet, it continually refreshes itself.

Granted, most of what’s out there is written English, though I think there are some interesting possibilities with using audio-based language texts (eg, youtube audio streams) that might be adapted to help the student work on objectives such as predicting word/sentence stress or possibly even working on fluency in speaking.

Anyway, as an introductory post, I just wanted to introduce a few of these ideas, namely: what I’m proposing will be free, authentic, and self-generating. I would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with anyone on things like this, and I hope to use this space to record the things that I’m working on and my thought process while doing so.

The best case scenario would be that I’m even able to get some assistance with the more technical software engineering concepts that I will most likely run up against (I don’t have a computer science background, educationally, and I’ve taught myself everything I know, mostly by browsing on stackoverflow, so I definitely am not as capable just yet as most software developers out there).

This is admittedly a fairly grand and ambitious undertaking, but it’s been a lot of fun so far, so I plan to just keep at it and see where it takes me.

(Seriously though, I would very much welcome any help!!).

All code will be hosted at my public github account: (https://github.com/lpmi-13). Please feel free to use anything there, or even adapt it to suit your own needs.

This is merely the beginning.

12 thoughts on “Micro Materials

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