A year ago I worked for Eazyspeak on a feasibility study to convert their successful Doki series of language learning CDROMs into iPad apps. This was an ambitious project, as it required the conversion of hundreds of complex interactive Flash-based movies into a format that would work on an iPad (as an aside, they also converted them into iPhone apps for iPhones 4S and 5), and I have discussed the challenges of the project in various events including Online Educa Berlin 2011, IATEFL and the eLearning Symposium at Southampton University in January 2012. I am delighted to say that the team has launched a series of 9 titles globally, offering beginner and intermediate level apps for learners of English, French, German and Spanish. Congratulations to Eazyspeak’s owners and development team: Nicos, Jane, Tasos, Alex, Panos, Louise and Stella, and also Byron Russell, who was a member of the original team and advised them on business development and strategy. They have more plans, so watch this space.
For the first time in a while I went to both conferences this spring in New Orleans and Brighton respectively. I gave papers at both events, which were important opportunities to develop my new business, catch up with old friends and make some new ones. Funding my own attendance led to me to reflect sharply on whether they were worth the money.
This is the article that appeared in the Guardian Weekly on 8 March 2011:
There has been an explosion in the use of smartphones. Around 270m handsets were sold in 2010, while CNN Fortune has forecast that sales could exceed 500m in 2011. With the price of entry-level handsets expected to fall to $100 or below, growth is likely to accelerate and smartphones will become more accessible to consumers in developing countries.
Smartphone owners use them on the move to access information and entertainment such as music, audio books, reading, and for viewing photos and video clips. One-third of Facebook traffic is now via these devices used simultaneously for instant messaging, email and Twitter.
The mobile phone application, or app, brings all the above to life in one self-contained mini-program. The growth in apps for communication, gaming and simple utility (finding the quickest route on public transport) is phenomenal. Apps seem to be everywhere, often created for quite short-term uses: event apps, conference planners, even the small hotel in Berlin I stayed in recently had its own free app for guests.
Apps are often seen as synonymous with the iPhone, which has been the leader in this area, but many commentators expect the Android operating system, which works on smartphones from other manufacturers, to overtake Apple.
Apps have enormous potential for language learning because they allow for multisensory learning on the move: for learners to use nuggets of time in a queue or on public transport. And because smartphones can store so much data or retrieve it via the internet, apps can serve as rich media dictionaries and reference tools.
The term “monetising” is an ugly but useful term that helps businesses consider the short and medium term cash flows that they can generate from digital products and services. They need to do this while ensuring that their strategies for generating these cash flows support and enhance their brands and reputations.
The smartphone App stores, markets and business models and services provided by Google, Apple and Paypal are making it easier for content producers to sell their digital products and services through market places and micro payments, though the margin that these companies require are not inconsiderable.
It was fun to attend the ELTONS last week, the first time since I left the British Council last year, free of any sense of responsibility for the event, and with an “outsider” perspective. The awards were started by my former colleague Cherry Gough in 2003, and I have been involved as a judge for several of the intervening years.
Having seen some of the entries already when helping judge last year’s ESU President’s Award, I rather rated Macmillan Global’s chances, but Macmillan, along with the other major UK ELT publishers, came away empty handed. Instead United International College (UIC), a London-based language school won with their entry Communication Station, alongside the BBC, with two web-based learning resources.