Site icon Clayton Harbour

((Nerds, (Me)), and Duolingo Schools

(Nerds, (Me)), and Duolingo Schools

I self identify with the term “Nerd”, meaning I am a nerd on the days I am feeling confident in my nerd-like abilities and on the days that I am not confident I am aspiring to be a nerd.  In a western culture that means that I can use the N-word freely and not make it a socially awkward moment.

For a while now I’ve been nerding out on technology that can be used to augment in-class instruction and generally improve education.  I have been looking into things like Google and Apple which I’ve mentioned in the past. The new things that have come up are Khan Academy, a rediscovery of Splash Math and my love of Logo with The Turtle Academy.  

My son and I are both learning French and Japanese through Duolingo and I’ve roped my mom into re-learning French.  I’ve also been nerding out a bit with Duolingo Schools as part of this.  The exploration into the schools’ app started mostly as a way to check out the technology and share it back to the teacher friends I know.  It’s now become something I use to send out weekly motivational emails to my son, including stats on how he has been doing and also provide a classroom leaderboard.  It’s meant to motivate him to keep up the practice and I think it’s working. Yup, I know, full-on nerd.

I just re-read that and I have to mention one thing.  I think learning is important and encourage it in a lot of different forms.  My son is often showing me interesting things he’s found on Youtube, we are really loving the “funny” history channels and watch those together.  I don’t so much see the value in marks, tests or grades but I do see the value in monitoring the time that you’ve spent towards something. It helps you realize you’ve been watching Netflix or Youtube for 3h straight, for example, or that you’ve actually learned quite a few words in French.  I’ve also tracked my relaxation time for a bit and track meditation time. It follows the principle that if you are mindful of something you can have an effect on it.

Now with that caveat aside I’ll introduce the next section.  This was something that I put together for all of the people in my “teacher list”.  I made it into a PDF and then promptly went spamming all or most of them with it. It is probably not the best way to get people to adopt technology and I’ll work on my delivery.  I do feel that it’s worth a reshare in my blog though and I’ll keep chatting with the schools about adopting it as I think it would be fun to see how it works in the real world with a class.

Duolingo for Schools


Although the individual learning components for Duolingo are great I think that there is a huge benefit to use the Schools offering to augment the in-class experience.  The schools offering provides a comprehensive dashboard of skills learned:

A side note here: this profile also lets you know a little about your student’s learning style if you are operating in a self-directed classroom as we are.  Here I see that Clayton is a Nerd, Ginny tends to go in-depth into a subject while memyselfandime tends to go wide.  This can help us to encourage different ways to grow in French as well as their learning styles.

There is also a detailed overview of the activity of individual users which can be displayed for all time, for the current week or any date range in between:

Assignments – General Practice

In addition to providing these stats, the classroom teacher can also assign specific tasks that will support the in-class learnings.  Here is a simple example of a simple completed activity that just focused on participation (i.e. XP):

We see that we have one missed assignment, let’s dig into this and see if we can find more detail here:

On no, Ginny missed the assignment.  Since this was just an XP goal she is probably OK but we might want to schedule a chat to make sure that she has the program installed and understands how to use it.

Assignments – Skill Based

Once users are actively using the program we can start to use more skill-based assignments to support activities that are going on in the classroom.  In my case, I would like my students to know more about verbs, I find that some of the specific rules for conjugation help me pick out the correct endings/ sentence completion in the exercises quickly.  When I sat down with one of my “students” I found that they were a little slower on some of these tasks and understanding some of the basics would help them out here, so I created an assignment that will focus on verbs:

And we can check in on the details of that assignment:

We can use progress through the various components of this program to better direct classroom teachings and as a communication piece to address specific problem areas students might have.

Addendum – Assignments

While walking through the above example the issue with the assignment was that it was not assigned in the first place.  I will submit feedback to Duolingo as I feel this is a bug, however, it did provide interesting learning when I was putting this document together as I know Ginny is a great student and I doubt that she would miss an assignment =).

The activity has not been completed by all students in the class, we can drill down into this to figure out why:

Ah, it was not assigned to all individuals.  I must have either missed that student or the student joined after the assignment was created.  When I went and click “Assign now” it seems to have counted the assignment as missed, so effectively I threw Ginny under the bus here by accident.  I’ve submitted a bug report to Duolingo and also apologized and explained the issue to Ginny.


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