How Do You Ignite World Languages Learning?

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A big question, certainly. However, one that educators, EdTech entrepreneurs, and media professionals from all over the United States attempted to answer in the HMH + LearnLaunch World Languages Design Challenge.

Earlier in the week, HMH and LearnLaunch selected eight finalists to participate in the Finalists Pitch session, which will take place on March 1 in our Boston office.

As The Learning Company, we are deeply focused on creating solutions to solve problems present in the world of education today. In our work, the question “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” has become somewhat of a mantra.

We asked each submission to begin with the larger question of “How do you ignite world languages learning?” and then to drill deeper. From developing global citizens, to supporting educators on their quest for authentic materials in the target language(s), to measuring growth with language learning—we asked each participant to identify the problem he or she is trying to solve.

We were so inspired by our finalists’ submissions that we wanted to share a bit of information about their backgrounds and approaches. We applaud these innovators in the education space.

Elizabeth Black

An entrepreneur based in Washington, D.C., and co-founder of Bee Bilingual, Elizabeth holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Spanish from American University, a Master of Arts in teaching (MAT) from Christian Brothers University, and dual D.C. teaching licensures in elementary education and K–12 Spanish instruction. Elizabeth and team focused on addressing the important fact that most U.S. elementary schools do not have the time, staff, or funding to offer students world language instruction at the age when they can most easily acquire additional languages.

Dr. Peter Dublin and Jonathan Bower

Dr. Peter Dublin and Jonathan Bower are CEO and President, respectively, of Flink Learning, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Peter holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Teachers College (Columbia) and is an experienced K–12 teacher in New Haven, Connecticut, and New York City Public Schools. Jon holds a Bachelor of Arts in development process from Stanford University, where he participated in the International Development Education program (SIDEC), and an MBA from Harvard University. As former Learning Company executives and Educational Technology software developers, Peter and Jon seek to address the lack of language literacy products for young children to accompany in-school instruction.

Chris Hammer

Chris is a Spanish teacher and World Languages Curriculum Specialist based in Forest Park, Illinois. Recognizing the focus on communicative proficiency and authentic activities in today’s world language classrooms, Chris seeks to address the lack of support for interpersonal speaking practice and assessments.

Jennifer Huang

A mechanical engineer and founder of Boston-based Hihilulu, Jennifer was inspired by watching her children learn and imitate other languages while watching cartoons. Using this as a starting point, Jennifer and team seek to address the lack of high-quality, culturally-relevant content available, especially in an early-learning environment.

Richard Wade Kimbrough

Richard is a highly accomplished game designer from Allston, Massachusetts, with substantial experience creating games and playful interventions. A professor of game design at Emerson College, Wade and team identified two problems with current second language acquisition curricula: “1. Tools that create authentic and immersive environments are not as effective outside of the classroom; 2. Traditional means of measurement and assessment fracture authentic and immersive environments.”

Wade Steadman

Founder and President of Steadman Productions, Wade has more than 20 years in video/film production with an emphasis in the production of educational media. A graduate of the University of Texas film school, Wade has produced numerous language videos and media ancillaries and programs. This experience led him to focus on the challenges teachers face when trying to utilize video content in their world languages classrooms.

Daniel Verdugo

A high school Spanish teacher at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Daniel holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Barcelona. Working with students on a daily basis, Daniel recognizes the need for students to be involved in the development of content, focusing on relevant aspects of Hispanic culture and developing digital literacy.

The winner of the HMH + LearnLaunch World Languages Design Challenge was announced on Friday, March 1. See who won and watch an interview with them on Facebook Live.


Learn more about the HMH + LearnLaunch World Languages Design Challenge.

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