Using AI to teach English with BigTalk



My name is Shir and we developed BigTalk, which is a voice app meant for a smart speaker either Alexa or Google
Assistant and it's meant to help kids practice spoken English, because we
realized that kids don't have enough opportunities to speak up. So you might
be able to read well or write well but you don't have you know the speaking
skill. So basically we're using the smart
speaker as an English teacher and making it a fun experience to help kids, you
know, get a good experience out of, you know, speaking English and build up
the confidence they need in order to get their point across. So MindCETX
basically is a program that takes designers and programmers and content
for people like myself and they give them a challenge from the educational
system and the technology with which they're supposed to solve that challenge.
So when I got here to MindCETX and to Yeruham, the challenge that I was
given is "kids don't have enough opportunities to speak English in class"
and the technology was using smart speakers. Because we realized that the classes are too big and there aren't enough English teachers and this
is an Israel, you know, where we do have a lot of opportunities and the education
system is, you know, pretty decent, but in other countries where they don't even
have the chance to go to school, obviously not everyone will have access
to a smart speaker, but this app that we're working on BigTalk can actually
be used on any phone or, you know. So you don't need a lot of means to practice
English. So we actually just started testing it yesterday. We've been testing
it on individuals or like small groups, you know, in the past few months as we
were, you know, in the process of development. But yesterday was the first
time we actually hit a classroom and, you know, we had 37 kids, I think, who were all playing with BigTalk. They were working in groups. I think for now this
technology is such a novelty to kids, so they get so excited when they speak to
Alexa and, you know, they see her light up, you know, and communicates with them. So I think it was a good experience for them. And, of course, there
is still a lot to learn about how are we going to use this in the classroom, because it's not an easy setting because you have a lot of kids in one room and a
few Alexas. It's super noisy, but I think it's fun and we just need to tweak
it and, you know, we really want to learn from the kids and the teachers of what
is it that they need. And that's the nice part because we can see what it is that
they're, you know, saying when they're speaking to BigTalk and we can take the
information, that information, from them, those analytical, that data, and
then we can apply that towards future development to make the app constantly
evolving and adjusting towards the child's needs. So, the way that it works
is actually we're using English teachers or English teachers with their kids as
content-providers as content-creators we called them BigTalkers. So we have an user interface where teachers can go online and in a process that takes about 3 to 4
minutes, they can actually feed the content that works well for their kids.
We take that content and then we make it into something that sounds more
conversational and natural and, of course, everything is reviewed to make sure that
we're giving proper and relevant content to the children. And the nice part is
that if I'm a teacher and I feed content into the system, it's not
just my kids who get to enjoy it but kids all over the world. I am not from the educational world at all. I'm a journalist and a photographer in the past. And I recently moved back to Israel
after several years in New York and Central America before that. So this was
all new to me and traveling the world I realized that English is a language that
connects people it brings people together and actually most people who
speak English in the world are not native speakers. So, meaning this is a
language that belongs to all of us, and it gave me the chance, the opportunity to speak with people from all over the world. And, find a meaningful human connection everywhere I went. So, that's the kind of thing that we
want to provide to kids everywhere.

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