By Cassandra Skweres, GlobalPittsburgh intern
On Friday, March 6, GlobalPittsburgh arranged for twenty educators participating in the U.S. State Department-sponsored project, “Education in the Digital Age” to meet with Mr. Justin Goff, Product Manager of Duolingo. As an intern for GlobalPittsburgh, I was invited to observe the session for a group of educators learning about new technologies used in teaching. Mr. Goff explained his work at the company and was thoroughly engaged as the visitors shared their questions and comments.
During his presentation, Mr. Goff talked about his current project on Duolingo’s English Test. Their hope is that the test will become a substitute for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), and/or the Pearson Test of English (PTE). If the tests on Duolingo achieve their goal, millions of people will have access to tests in their own countries, own towns, rather than have to go to a prescribed test site. People would also have the resources to learn the material in order to, not just leave their country for better opportunities, but to learn how to communicate through multiple languages, connecting with people all around the world.
One story that Mr. Goff shared that stuck with me was about a woman who had a generator that could only support one electrical usage at a time, therefore she could not have her electrical lights on while using her Wi-Fi in order to take the test. The woman was willing to take the test by candlelight in order to use Duolingo’s English test rather than go to a testing site.
Another topic Mr. Goff shared with the group was the use of Duolingo in classes and the unlimited resource of linguistic education with possible students in any classroom setting fellow educators would find Duolingo useful. When I was learning Spanish at my high school, my teacher would use Duolingo’s resources mostly whenever they were out of class or wanted to assign us homework. I remember my Spanish teacher grinning from ear to ear when they received a Duo plush doll in order for them to use as a talking piece whenever our class would have a circle. Passing around Duo made everyone happy and allowed us to feel more confident when we spoke Spanish.
At the end of the presentation, all of the visitors smiled and thanked Mr. Goff for taking the time to speak with them. One of the visitors also shared with Mr. Goff a German word that was misspelled on Duolingo. Intrigued as he was, Mr. Goff chuckled and said he knew just the person to fix the problem.
Learning about Duolingo from an outside perspective was a unique experience. Duolingo has always been a resource to me as a way to self-educate myself. I never really thought people outside of my classroom, outside of Pittsburgh would be using it as well. During the presentation, I learned how Duolingo is a true asset to expanding education, and I look forward to listening to what Duolingo has in store for the future.