We hear all the time that the education system is broken, kids aren’t learning, technology isn’t keeping up with the demands of digital natives—and the list goes on.
While there is certainly a lot of work to be done to ensure we are truly meeting the needs of the students we serve, the committed individuals who participated in the HMH + LearnLaunch World Languages Design Challenge prove that there are people ready and willing to make a difference. On March 1, seven finalists pitched their solutions to support innovation in World Languages instruction and let me tell you—they were inspiring.
The HMH + LearnLaunch World Languages Challenge Finalists Pitch Session was held at our HMH Offices in Boston and moderated by Bianca Olson, SVP of Corporate Affairs. The judges included Jim O’Neill, EVP and General Manager of Core Curriculum; Eileen Rudden, Co-Founder and Board Chair of LearnLaunch; and Paul Murphy, VP of Product Development Strategy & Partnerships.
After seven excellent pitches, the winner of the inaugural HMH + LearnLaunch Design Challenge was announced. (Drum roll, please . . . )
Chris Hammer, creator and developer of Charlala: Conversational Learning Practice, won the $10,000 grand prize and an opportunity to negotiate for a commercial deal with HMH. A Spanish teacher and World Languages Curriculum Specialist in the Greater Chicago area, Chris recognized the struggle to get students speaking in the classroom and to be able to fairly assess them. Not one to sit back and wait, Chris decided to do something about it. Charlala is the result of Chris spending every moment of spare time he has—including 90-hour weeks the last two summers—to impact 1,200 users across the country.
When asked what he thought made his pitch stand out, Chris responded that he felt it was his experience in the classroom and the fact that he is addressing a “current pain point of World Language teachers.” He certainly is. Research, standards, and common sense tell us that students must spend time speaking another language to acquire it. However, in order to effectively assess students’ speaking and listening skills, teachers spend time in one-on-one conversations with each student. Let’s say a typical Spanish teacher serves 150 students—that’s 2.5 hours for one assessment! Until now.
With Charlala, Chris allows teachers to regularly monitor and assess students’ conversational language skills and provide feedback without losing hours of instructional time. This teaching and learning tool is a brilliant resource for World Languages classrooms.
And what was the ultimate goal of the HMH + LearnLaunch World Languages Challenge? It was to ignite language learning in recognition of the role World Languages play in the development of global citizens. Chris addressed that goal by saying, “Part of my job as a World Language Teacher and Curriculum Specialist is trying to create global citizens. Unfortunately, not everyone has the chance to travel the world and be exposed to different languages and cultures, so I feel like languages . . . can help bring that alive for a lot of classrooms and students.”
Congratulations to Chris Hammer for winning the HMH + LearnLaunch World Languages Design Challenge. As a member of the HMH team, I can’t wait to see how else Chris impacts World Languages learning!