Category Archives: mobile

Interview with busuu Languages Education Director, Oula Akiki

I recently had an interview with a Oula Akiki, Education Director at a busuu, a company that offers an array of digital language learning curricula and applications.




Here are some questions and her answers.

How did you get started in the language learning field?

I majored in modern languages, linguistics and translation at university. I’ve always been interested in languages. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t learning a second or third language. I went to the same business school as Bernhard amp; Adrian the busuu co-founders. I met them at an event and we immediately shared a common interest in languages. They were talking about their ideas for busuu, and I was immediately interested in the product. From my interest in linguistics, I wanted to move away from the traditional way of doing things and become more involved in product innovation. I joined busuu in January 2011 after graduating from business school in Madrid. I moved with the company from Madrid to London a year ago.

How did busuu start?

Bernhard Niesner and Adrian Hilti founded busuu in Madrid, where it was an official UNESCO International Year of Languages project in 2008. The company is named after the endangered Busuu language of Cameroon. According to an ethnological study from the 1980’s, Busuu is spoken by only 8 people. We went to Cameroon to track down those 8 people and made a video about our experience here!

Language learning technology is a saturated field. What makes busuu unique? How does it compare to other offerings in the market like Rosetta Stone, Livemocha, Duolingo…?

We create a good learning experience where we are trying to offer everything you need to complete your learning. We combine the content with a cross-platform solution so you can learn on mobile or on the web – the program is flexible to your needs. We complement that with our unique community -  it’s a friendly, helpful community where you can speak to native lanugage speakers. So you can learn anywhere on any device. You can practice with the commmunity who bring the conversational element that is so important when learning language. Language is about interacting with others and learning about other cultures is a part of that.  Learning the language is one thing, putting it into practice is another. We offer one solution that is practical, adaptable and fun to use. busuu has a gamified environment that makes the learning fun and engaging. It has nothing to do with your language book or your language class. The people in the community are more relevant as they live in the country whose language your learning. It’s an opportunity to learn and engage in a way you’d never learn with a book.

What’s the busuu approach?

We teach you relevant vocabulary, that you need in every day life. We break down the course content into smaller contexts that are easier to assimilate when you’re learning language. Then, put it into sentences. You’re going to find that conversation to be useful in every day life. We take useful vocabulary and useful conversation modes that are bundled into topics based on your needs and the situations when you need to use them.

Learning a language is a rewarding yet arduous process. What is your advice for those learning a language now or considering it?

It can be challenging, like anything new that you learn, but having regular conversations with people makes it more fun and less stressful. We’ve built a useful process to learn and remember language as well as to practice it. You have the cultural exchange happening as well. Even if you are in the early stages, you can still practice by talking to native speakers. People find out that they know more than they think they do, and that then inspires their confidence to continue learning. Keep practicing your language exercises. Like any exercise, a bit of training here and a bit of training there is still very helpful.

Is there anything you can reveal to us about the future of busuu?

Stay tuned, we have some exciting things coming in early 2014.

What about language learning and acquisition in general?

People are learning on different devices, and we find language learning is suited to a multi-device lifestyle.  We base our content creation on user behaviour and what we know is more important to them. People learning want stats, dashboard. It’s more personalized and need-driven. In general, it’s more intelligent and data-driven. What we learn from learning habits and how people interact wtih content, so we can refine and make it better.

Rosetta Stone, for instance, backs the Endangered Languages project, is busuu involved in any causes our readers should know about and get involved with?

Given we are named after an endangered language, we do support this issue as a company. We run an annual program called Learn2Help, to help educate children in Cameroon with the ultimate goal of building a classroom to support a local school. In December, the 35 million strong busuu community will help others to learn through its own language learning. As busuu users achieve completed lessons, the company will contribute to the Cameroon Association for the Protection and Education of the Child (CAPEC) to buy school supplies and furniture. With enough language learning activity on the website and on busuu’s mobile apps, busuu will reach our ultimate goal  of building an entire classroom for children in Cameroon.

Cite this article:
Silva E (2013-12-13 15:51:43). Interview with busuu Languages Education Director, Oula Akiki. Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 19, 2014, from

Storyboarding Made Easy and Automagic by Amazon Storyteller

It looks like creating a professional storyboard from an existing script just got easier with the a href=”″Amazon Storytelling Service/a.

I’m curious to if and how filmmakers, educators and others use this tool to create content.

Please share your experience here in the comments.

Duolingo – Free Language Learning Curricula (Available on Web, iOS and Android)

I can’t begin to stress how learning languages opened my life to new opportunities, coming from the countryside of Brazil
There are several ways to learn a language for free online: Skype meetups, virtual worlds, video chats, chatrooms (I used to go to my sister’s house to get on ICQ chatrooms to practice English on her computer), applications, open curricula, and so forth… many of these discussed previously on this blog.

Duolingo is especially interesting because:

  • It helps translate the Web (in partnership with Google)
  • It contains gamification elements (rewards and levels are linked to how well you perform in the application)
  • The curricula are instructionally sound and well-designed
  • It is offered on the Web, for iOS, and for Android platforms
  • It is FREE for life (especially in light of major online language learning services like LiveMocha now charging for their services)

Duolingo currently (June 2013) offers courses in:

  • Spanish
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Portuguese
  • Italian

Look for Duolingo on your app store and download it for free.

Pick a language and start learning!


Duolingo on the go

Now on iPhone and Android.

Email a link to my device

Email a link to my device

Cite this article:
Silva E (2013-05-31 11:37:44). Duolingo - Free Language Learning Curricula (Available on Web, iOS and Android). Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 19, 2014, from

Optimizing Content for Mobile Devices – Or Why Can’t My Learner Access This Content Anywhere?

The question in the title of this post should guide most (if not all) decisions we make when authoring content for our audiences, this doesn’t just apply to Education, but is extremely important as the technological frameworks that permeate it are constantly evolving. In the fields of Marketing and Entertainment, it’s constantly stressed as an emerging trend that a user can start accessing content (e.g. a movie) on a SmartTV and continue where s/he left off on a mobile device, without breaking the flow of the experience.

The same should be true for learning experiences we design. We, designers and developers of learning experiences, should always ask ourselves “why shouldn’t my learner be able to start experiencing this content on one device and continue where s/he left off on another device?”

A couple of years ago, when HTML5 and other technologies offered alternative ways to provide rich content to audiences that were used to the omnipresent Flash technology were a little cumbersome to learn and glitchy to play with. Now, there is n lack of “mobile-friendly-content-spitting” authoring tools that are as friendly as those that previously authored Flash-only content.

Captivate 6+, Articulate Storyline, Articulate Studio ’13 (just to mention the most well-known ones) all offer ways to convert old content and create new content in mobile-friendly frameworks. No excuses. We should at least “investigate” the possibility of offering seamless and/or second screen experiences to our learners, yesterday.

It’s not a choice.

I’m not discussing the creation of native apps and content that take advantage of mobile-platforms unique features like location-awareness, gyroscopes, etc. Nothing ground-breaking and uncomfortable. That’s topic for another discussion. I’m simply emphasizing the need to offer what you currently have restricted to a “desktop experience” in ways that are accessible from any* platform.

Free your learner. Now…

Do you face any challenges when trying to seamlessly offer content anytime, anywhere?


* “any” is a dangerous word, perhaps better replaced by “most widespread”


A Few Infographics on “Mobile Learning”

Source: via Enzo on Pinterest

Source: via Enzo on Pinterest

Live and Recorded Demos and Screensharing from iOS to Desktop

I am a gadget, app hoarder. I always get excited when a new app solves a problem at work or in life in general that has no-one was able to solve before.

I’ve often needed to show family and friends (who are far away) how to do things on the iPhone (or iPad, or i-whatever for that matter). At conferences, I’ve had to demonstrate an application using a table-top projector and (not-so-great) camera gadget. At work, teaching people how to use certain apps for business is essential.

Now, it’s relatively easy to do live or recorded demos of applications and iOS workflow using mirroring apps/servers.

These applications use AirPlay to show on your desktop (Mac or PC) your real-time iOS screen in a shell/skin that looks like your actual device via “mirroring.”

In a quick search for apps that would mirror iOS to the Mac or PC, real-time, I’ve found the following so far:

Educators and training professionals will be all over this… Right?

How will YOU use mirroring to demonstrate apps and teach?

AirServer App

AirServer App - for illustrative purposes only.



Thanks Brandon, for the tip on Reflection App.


The Case for App Stores

Apple has changed the way consumers expect to get access to applications, especially mobile applications, with the creation of its iOS App Store and then the Mac App Store. There are several advantages for the use of app stores that might outweigh its most apparent disadvantage: the possibility of creating walled gardens which allow customers to only purchase and update their applications via the app store. This also maximizes the possibility of censorship, as has been the case for various developers that tried to sell applications that were questionably suspended or rejected by Apple. However, if implemented well, and provided the right access rights to developers and consumers, the concept of an app store has several advantages, of which I’ll highlight a few:

  • Centralized Application Access: Let’s face it, people like comfort. They like to be able to find the things they want (in this case mobile and/or desktop applications) easily and quickly. The app store becomes then a one stop shop for customer needs. Take this to an individual company’s level and you have a central location for application delivery that you can point customers to and have them find just the application they need from your portfolio.
  • Centralized Updates: With centralized access comes “push” updates. The goal here is also to make it easy and quick for customers to have the latest version of a company’s applications (and/or developer applications that work with a company’s services or devices). This also ensure compatibility amongst customers’ applications and server side services, as well as compatibility between different customers’ applications in case of apps using for collaboration. The concept of an app store ensures everyone has access to the latest version of your content anytime.
  • Centralized Security Control: Since the enterprise has at least some control over the applications and other content that is distributed through its app store, it can more safely guard the security, policies, and access to apps and content. Isn’t this just what most companies complain about when users ask them “why can’t we use this or that device at work?”

Notice that I purposely repeat the word “centralized” as it’s key to the concept of app stores, and denotes its main advantage over a discentralized distribution of applications.

SalesForce AppExchange

SalesForce, for instance, has its own application marketplace called AppExchange where users can access cloud business applications centrally. One interesting thing about SalesForce’s app store is that it allows third party  developers to publish applications there and make them available to existing SalesForce customers. Also, it allows customers to post a custom app development request and developers can access the job posting on the AppExchange Developer Marketplace, the customer can choose the developer that best fits the requirements for the job based on rating and skills. Of course, the customer will also rate the developer after the work is done as well, so the community can make sure they only choose the best developers, and so developers drive for best results every time.

Cisco’s AppHQ Cius

Cisco created its own app store called AppHQ for their business-oriented Android App, the Cius. AppHQ lets companies create their own customized app stores with differentiated licensing and distribution control of content and apps as well as a custom storefront. From their AppHQ information page, once can find the following highlights:

  • Easy Application Discovery and Search
  • Enterprise Wide Application Purchase and Distribution
  • Application Bulk Purchases
  • License Management
  • User and Group Management
  • Application Evaluation, and Life Cycle Management
  • Private Branding and Customization
  • Internal Application Hosting Mechanism
  • Application Usage and Reporting
  • Rating and Reviews Management

Some examples of custom app stores and related services

If you’re interested in starting your own company’s custom app store, here are some services that could be worth investigating further:

As a side note, Apple offers app volume purchasing for companies that want to purchase and distribute applications for their employees via they B2B service.

If you’re interested in finding out more about custom app stores, their advantages and disadvantages, and use cases, start by reading “Private app stores: does your company need its own?” by Jon Brodkin (2011) on Ars Technica.

Does your company or institution need its own app store for your (and third party developer) apps and contents such as applications and ebooks?

iBooks Author for Mac

Apple changes the publishing business once again. Sure there are other formats and authoring tools which are supported in iBooks, but this is different: an application that fits tightly in the Apple ecosystem, and as is normally the case with Apple products, simple.

Apple unveiled this new tool in their Apple Education event in NYC. Here are some highlights and features:

Integration with other Apple products and workflow

Template gallery

Drag-and-drop editing

Embedding and customization of elements such as galleries

Support for JavaScript

Support for HTML5

iPad simulator/preview

Accessibility support

Support for widgets

Apple says on their website:

Available free on the Mac App store, iBooks Author is an amazing new app that allows anyone to create beautiful Multi-Touch textbooks — and just about any other kind of book — for iPad. With galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, and more, these books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could.

Did I say it is free of charge on the Mac App Store?

This application should facilitate the process for creating custom interactive eBooks that play well, natively, in Apple (and perhaps other) devices. Now all one needs is creativity…

One of the sources: The Official Apple Website, and TheNextWeb.

Second Screen Learning?

A phenomenon that can be classified as anything from multitasking to plain distraction is getting more popular as smartphones get smarter and tablet computers more ubiquitous: the use of the “second screen“.

It is common now to have at least one person (if not everyone) in the living room watching as movie on TV while, at the same time, checking what their friends are saying on Facebook, Twitter, or simply researching the lead role’s biography on Wikipedia. Whatever they are doing on the little screen, it seems that nowadays the big screen is not enough. People crave more. People want to connect with others and with information outside what they see on the big screen. Often, at least in my family, it is an interaction around the content of the TV, tagging it in Into_Now, and telling their friends on Facebook that they’re watching it and following up on comments about the same post.

ReadWriteWeb reports that 86% of people using their mobile device do so while watching TV. Of those, 33% use mobile apps, 37% browse non-related content, 40% are social networking, while 60% are texting with friends and family. It’s the rise of social TV which so far comprises mostly of static content (TV) coupled with dynamic, social activities (social networking, Web browsing, mobile apps, check-ins into shows and movies).

Disney offers an iPad / PC application called Second Screen which live syncs with the Blu-Ray movie on the TV and provides different content that supplements the movie: games, flipbooks, photo galleries with sketches, trivia about the movie, etc.

How would this second screen experience affect Education? What if, instead of banning smartphones and tablets, teachers in K12 encouraged synchronous exploration of concepts “synced” with what the teacher is discussing?What if in corporate Education, we saw complimentary interactions and information that gave students a better understanding of what the instructor is explaining or even interact with other students in a backchannel discussion around the topics in class?

Many already use in conferences, for instance, Twitter streams as a means to have a backchannel discussions in different sessions. Can we to go beyond that, explore other forms of “second screen experiences” at events, in the classroom, outside the classroom?

How can we combat some of the potential negative aspects of the second screen in the classroom, like distraction, lack of concentration? Can we produce second screen experiences that are channeled. guided and enhances attention rather than distract the learners? How can we employ this concept in online learning environments (being them synchronous live virtual classrooms or self-paces asynchronous experiences)?

Many questions, exciting exploration.

Food for thought: here’s a blogger’s take on how second screen experiences could be used not only in entertainment but also in politics, for instance.


Perhaps second screen experiences in Education will be a trend in 2012, with more an more mobile devices in consumers’ hands.

No Texting While Driving (or Working) – DragonDictate Speech-to-Text

In my post, I always like to talk about useful tools that I personally use. Here is a lifesaver (literally, if youre the kind who cant resist texting while driving).
If you are always on the go and of course cant or shouldnt type while driving, here is a practical solution: use DragonDictate. This handy iOS app is a speech recognition tool that turns your spoken words into text. It is quite accurate too. I have made it a point to dictate this post through DragonDictate without any manual corrections.
With a simple one button interface, DragonDictate lets you speak your next blog post, e-mail, text message, tweet, or even a novel if youre that adventurous.
It also supports other languages, by the way. Did I mention it is free to download?

Adobe Edge – Ferramenta de desenvolvimento em HTML5

Adobe acaba de lançar (gratuitamente) a ferramenta de desenvolvimento de conteúdo Web em HTML5 chamada Edge. Vocês estão considerando seu uso no desenvolvimento de conteúdo pra #EaD ?

Seria essa mais uma indicação da direção da Web rumo à padrões mais abertos?


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