I had a wonderful evening conversation with a couple of people from Rosetta Stone at the 2013 Education Innovation Summit. Early in the conversation, I mentioned that my son’s school was using Rosetta Stone. It was early in the conversation, so I was hesitant to start so negative, but my compulsion to be candid and honest won out in that moment. “Honestly? He hates it, especially because he is still five and the voice recognition doesn’t work well with his developing language skills. It is painful to watch my poor son repeat the same word fifty or more times, with tears starting to roll down his face, wondering what he is doing wrong.” To my surprise, they were not surprised. Over the next few minutes, I learned that Rosetta Stone was never designed for younger kids. It was primarily a tool for adults. Early elementary schools and teachers starting using it and starting asking for new ways to use it, even with the warning that it was not originally designed for younger kids.
I also learned that Rosetta Stone was well on the way to addressing this. While they could not give details at that time, they simply noted that they were working of redesigning the software so that it is developmentally appropriate for different ages of kids, and to eventually provide tools to align with foreign language standards and the sort of data that could serve as helpful formative feedback for a teacher who is trying to customize learning experiences that meet the needs of each learner.
As we talked further, I asked if they ever considered designing learning experiences around the software, creating a sort of blended learning experience. Again, they could not say much but they confirmed that this is exactly the sort of thing that was part of their current efforts.
All of this background explains why I was delighted to read the most recent weekly EdSurge (the best Education news source for those who want to read some of the more interesting and emerging education headlines). Rosetta Stone launched a Kids Division! This is exciting and promising news for those who are interested in leveraging educational technology for language instruction. Given the caliber of talent that Rosetta Stone is adding to their team for this and related divisions, I expect to see some great educational apps emerge in the upcoming years, the next generation of adaptive language software that is designed to promote language learning that is not limited to a single student sitting in front of a screen.