I have been using Duolingo in my German classes for over a year. In that time I have seen quite a few changes including the introduction of Duolingo for Schools. When it first launched, I was one of the first people to sign up and start testing it. In the time that I have spend with it so far, I have come to make some realizations about it. I have modified my use of it to get the most out of it for my students. If you want to see the review of Duolingo for Schools, you can watch the video below. Below I talk about the history of my use of Duolingo in my classes.
Starting with Duolingo for Schools
January of 2015, I introduced my students to Duolingo. I took them to the lab once a month and gave them what I called a “Duolingo Day”. During these days, students simply worked at their own pace to review German. I offered extra credit to anyone who would earn more than 500 points in a month. Since no real assignment was attached to it, my students only ever did Duolingo when we were in class. They decided it was more important for them to do the assignments that were actually attached to grades. I was inclined to agree with them, so I wasn’t terribly upset about it. This semester was just to see how it would work and see what the Duolingo for School dashboard looked like.
Year 2 with Duolingo for Schools
At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, I brought all of my students down to the computer lab and set them all up on Duolingo accounts. Once they made their accounts, they clicked the link on my website and joined their respective classes. I gave the students one month to “get a feel” for how Duolingo worked. They needed to know how much work they would need to do in order to get the required 300 points each month. I gave the students a schedule of dates that told them when their points would be due. Of course I reminded them periodically in class. Less than half of my students earned their Duolingo points for that month. I used that as a teaching moment and the numbers for the following month were much better.
October Year 2
After three months of Duolingo in my German classes, I found that most of my students were waiting until the weekend before the points were due and then doing all 300 points at one time. While this gets them the points for the class, it doesn’t achieve the academic goals I was hoping for. Since I didn’t want to change the system for my students until after the end of the semester, I warned them that changes were coming and that I wanted them to work on Duolingo on a more regular basis and at the beginning of the second semester I changed the system.
January Year 2
In January of 2016, I started requiring my students to get 100 points and complete at least one new skill. While there are still students who don’t do their Duolingo points during any given week, they have become more regular as a whole and I have seen a change in their writing during class because of it. Overall, I think that Duolingo has been good for them and has shown to be a good time investment for me and my students.
What results have I seen that can only be attributed to my students’ use of Duolingo?
I make my students write in German on a regular basis. At their level, they aren’t confident enough in their German speaking skills to speak “off the cuff”, so I make them write out their thoughts first and then read them to the class. Before Duolingo there were two categories of students: those who looked to me and the textbook to figure out how to phrase something and those who looked to the internet (Google Translate) to figure it out. Now I have the same categories of students, but the ones who used to come to me for vocabulary have been able to incorporate some vocabulary and sentence structure that could only have come from Duolingo.
What are my plans for the future with Duolingo?
I would like to introduce a tiered system of points for my students. I would like to start them with 50 points per week at the beginning of the 1st quarter. At the end of the 1st quarter, I will up the amount of points to 100 points per week. During the 3rd quarter the points will raise to 150 points. The last quarter of the year will be 200 points per week. The points for a grade will also increase every quarter. I will start by only giving 5 points per week, then 10 points, then 15, and finally 20 in the last quarter.
Another option would be to make my students master at least 10 skills per quarter. This would generally equate to 1 skill per week in each quarter. While this would essentially be the same as the points system mentioned above, it would make it so that by the time the students complete German 2, they will have completed almost the entire Duolingo tree.
I could always combine these two options into one idea. I would require the weekly points and the 10 total skills. At the end of each week, I would give the appropriate amount of points for the points the students earned in Duolingo according to the scale mentioned above. At the end of the quarter, I would give 10 points per skill that the students learned. If they learned all 10 skills, they would get all 100 points for the quarter. This is more than likely the option that I will implement next school year.
The next review I will be doing will be a request from a YouTuber about the HelloTalk App for Android.