Helping people learn American English is an integral part of U.S. public diplomacy and Amy Ogan, assistant professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, is part of a new working group that will help the U.S. Department of State use technology to make their English educational outreach efforts more effective.
Ogan was one of a select group of academic, industry and governmental representatives invited to participate in Technology in English, a day-long workshop Sept. 15 at the White House Conference Center in Washington, D.C.
The State Department spends about $250 million annually on English language instruction in the form of courses, teaching materials and scholarships, with regional English language offices attached to many embassies.
Ogan said State Department officials would like to use technology, such as mobile technology, natural language processing, open learning platforms and massive open online courses, or MOOCs, to increase worldwide access to these high-quality resources.
The workshop participants spent much of the day brainstorming about how that could be achieved and about the kind of partnerships that might help make that a reality. MOOCs, for instance, often fail because students lose interest in videotaped lectures or have trouble understanding the lessons, but personalizing the lectures and providing meaningful interaction among students and instructors might boost success rates.
“Rather than simply discuss, participants in the workshop used human-centered design techniques to start developing solutions, something that is second nature at the HCII,” said Ogan, an educational technologist who studies how to make learning experiences effective and engaging for learners from diverse backgrounds.
The working group that emerged from the White House workshop will meet again in the spring.
Ogan is among the Carnegie Mellon faculty members developing educational technology as part of the university’s Simon Initiative. Named for the late Nobel and Turning laureate Herbert Simon, the Simon Initiative aims to measurably improve student learning outcomes by harnessing a learning engineering ecosystem of learning science that has developed over several decades at CMU.