The hope here is to produce some software that can be used as a learning aid that can not only track the students progress but adapt to it and augment it. Ideally such a method could be applied to subjects other than language acquisition providing students with a completely personalised teacher that uses continual testing to provide feedback and direction.
An understanding of how the brain absorbs information (memory) is needed so as to:
- maximise retention of new information.
- know how, what and when to test so as to monitor this retention.
In this discussion the use of database driven system (StudyDB) is discussed and how it is a step above flashcards…
Such a methodology, that of direct instruction, attracts considerable criticism in second language acquisition circles, from two sources: those who favor the communicative approach, with its emphasis on communicating messages and creating meaningful contexts in which to acquire language, and those who argue that vocabulary, the most common material studied by means of flashcards, is best acquired through reading. Yet recent studies show that some direct instruction is indeed helpful (Ellis; Hulstijn; Zimmerman), especially for beginners. Batia Laufer has proposed that for English, at least three thousand word families (words and their most usual derivations and inflections) need to be known for the basic reading comprehension out of which vocabulary may be acquired. Peter J. M. Groot has noted, too, that for intermediate and advanced stages of language acquisition, students must often quickly learn a large number of words—words that cannot easily be acquired incidentally, because they do not occur frequently enough in language-learning material (61).
It concludes that if the system were used accross a body of students in conjunction with collaborative filtering ‘a technique for predicting preferences by comparing individual choices with those of a population’. The system could
locate the words, phrases, and concepts that are a little beyond the student’s current level of competence and thus most likely to help the student learn the language (127). The program would therefore add to the student’s knowledge base by identifying material that has enabled students with similar learning patterns to increase their familiarity with the language. For example, students who tend to absorb information by going from the particular to the general might first learn the words for “apple” and “lettuce,” proceed to “fruit” and “vegetable,” and then to “food,” “nutrition,” “hunger,” and so on.
“Thus the technology has the potential to create a customized curriculum for each student, a curriculum based on particular interests, study patterns, and strengths and weaknesses.”