An Illinois, non-profit organisation called Innovations for Learning has released a handheld cosole, like a Game Boy or Nintendo DS designed for education and targeted at kindergarten and elementary students. Despite its simplicity and lack of software, this device has a lot of potential for English language education.
It is reasonably priced at $50, but only comes with classroom management software. It is very simple, without any of the frills of consuls like Nintendo or Play Station Portable. Cartridges are $20 each, and currently there are only two: Reading Programme and Maths Programme.
Many of the major English schools in Japan are developing or integrating some kind of technology into their programmes. Selling an exclusive system with their membership gives students significant buy-in and is often more interesting than a text book. One device that was popular was a machine that you could swipe flash cards though to hear the word. How much more interesting and fun would a game cosole be?
The reading programme cartridge sounds as if it would be useful to ESL students already. Images with sentences appear on the screen and listen to a narrator say the sentence while they highlight it. They then have to say the sentence themselves with correct tone and intonation. They can compare the narrator's pronunciation to their own. Not only that, the students' efforts are transferred over to the teacher's computer so he can hear how they are doing.
The really great thing about this cosole is its Sync and Store system (sold separately). Teachers can check students' performance with the classroom management software and load each cosole with lessons targeted to individual students.
I contacted IFL director, Mr. Weinberger, to ask about the possibility of third party development. He said not currently, but to check back on their website later this year. Hopefully licensing will not be as expensive and restrictive as for the big name name cosoles, and private English schools and individuals will be able to develop software for it.
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