Education Technology in China: Teaching Children English Using Both Digital and Traditional Styles -Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Education Technology in China: Teaching Children English Using Both Digital and Traditional Styles

CMU-SV alumnus Kai Mai gives instructions to a student in a classroom in China using the ALO7 English assessment system. (Photo courtesy Kai Mai)
CMU-SV alumnus Kai Mai gives instructions to a student in a classroom in China using the ALO7 English assessment system. (Photo courtesy Kai Mai)

Kai Mai (MS '05) has been in Shanghai helping to develop the first digital English-as-a-second-language curriculum, ALO7 English, and a virtual world to teach Chinese children English in China. According to Mai, "English training schools in China have been using English curriculum developed 20-40 years ago. They have been looking for a new English curriculum that is more up to date, more effective and attractive to children growing up in the digital age."

Using both online and offline styles of teaching English provides for an end-to-end solution to the Chinese English ecosystem's four groups of key users. For the first group, consisting of teachers and other educators, the solution incorporates traditional textbooks and interactive animated course software that can be used on digital whiteboards in the classroom. The second group uses the ALO7 Virtual World, where students can read e-books and participate in multiple learning exercises addressing reading, listening, writing and speaking while studying and playing with other students online. Third is the ALO7 Teacher Center, allowing teachers to view results and analyses of students' performance on exercises and share information with students and parents. Finally, for parents, there is the ALO7 Parent Center, where they can see their children's progress.

The core design of the ALO7 English system syncs offline textbooks and interactive whiteboard content completely with the virtual world, using the same story, same avatars and the same ways of learning and playing. Mai says, "Children are happy to learn in a fun way, parents are happy to see kids' learning progress, and training schools can distinguish themselves from rest of the competition with ALO7 English system."

AL07 can "make parents happy, save teachers time from manual-grading of homework and give teachers as wells as principles more insights on individual student, class and school performance," he adds.

Mai has been in charge of the software engineering department to develop education technology for English learning in the classroom, online and on mobile. He explains, "We have seen the success of our digital curriculum and the virtual world used by children from English training schools all over China."

Previously, Mai developed software for several Bay Area start-ups, including SearchForce, Innovative Interfaces, and MobileAppBuilder; its most popular app, Fake-Call Me, landed as a top-50 app in the productivity category on Google Play Store.

Mai tries his best to stay in touch with his CMU classmates. "I always enjoy my time back in the Bay Area. It's exciting to see the continued growth of the campus and to visit my classmates and former faculty advisors." He also participates in CMU alumni events in Shanghai whenever he can.

"I was very excited to help out in the CMU Silicon Valley recruiting event last year, as well as at the welcome reception for incoming students this year in Shanghai," Mai says, "because CMU truly offers a world-class education that can transform your career and life."