FlashAcademy®, developed by Birmingham-based EdTech company Learning Labs, delivers digital English language learning from 45 different home languages via interactive lessons, games, and quizzes. The Learning Labs company was originally funded by Birmingham Local Authority, with a goal of exploring how technology can be used to accelerate language acquisition. The company is also part of a unique Inclusive Economy Partnership programme, bringing together business, civil society, and government to tackle the UK’s most pressing social and economic problems through cross- sector partnerships.
FlashAcademy® is already used by over 55,000 UK school pupils and over 500,000 learners worldwide learning a second language. The app is currently being used by schools in China, Italy and across the UK to support the continuation of learning during periods of school closure.
WHY WE NEEDED TO INNOVATE
In the UK, there are about 1 in 5 primary children and 1 in 6 secondary children who do not speak English as their first language. Often, UK schools welcome pupils with over 20 different home languages, making it difficult for EAL (English as an Additional Language) teachers to prepare resources.
Veejay and Richard originally founded Learning Labs with the invention of FlashSticks® language Post-it® Notes, sold all over the world. The FlashAcademy® platform was then developed in close collaboration with schools, to better support EAL, ESOL MFL and literacy needs for all levels of student.
OUR NEW PRODUCT
FlashAcademy® EAL is available to access on a smartphone, tablet and PC/laptop and accelerates English and foreign language acquisition through curriculum-mapped lessons, challenges and games which simultaneously teach and test pupils.
Features include the object translator – this can translate any object into English just from a picture taken by the user, a real-time leader board where pupils compete for the top spot, an exciting range of word games to test pupils’ understanding, as well as the ability to learn English from 45 different home languages. The platform also offers English to English learning to support pupils who may be illiterate in their home language.
IMPACT OF COVID-19
Millions of children and adults who do not have English as a first language have lost critical learning time over the last few months due to the pandemic, creating a concerning Education divide and further disadvantages for employment opportunities amongst this community.
Fluency in the English language has been shown to dramatically improve education and career outcomes, and with the level of current disruption to the Education system, it’s clear that Education technology will play a vital role to ensure that learning can happen from anywhere.
In response, FlashAcademy® has been awarded a significant grant from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, as part of a Government initiative to help learners catch-up lost learning.
With FlashAcademy®, teachers can set assessments to remotely track pupil progress, while learners can engage independently on smartphone, tablet, and PC. During the current pandemic, FlashAcademy® has been used by hundreds of schools in the UK, as well as by schools in China and Italy.
The Innovate UK funding will help the Learning Labs team to develop a fully digital ‘English Proficiency’ assessment platform to assist teachers with their ability to maintain learning progress outside a classroom setting. The project is seeking to save a proportion of the c.2m hours of teacher time spent each year using paper-based assessments, whilst also providing real-time access to data and reporting.
As a second step, the project will also launch assessments and learning platform for business, working closely with manufacturing association, MAKE UK. FlashAcademy® Workplace will support businesses whose employees do not have English as their first language. This new form of digital training will focus on Health & Safety and remove language barriers to technical vocabulary. Migrant workers are twice as likely to die on site due to their lack of English proficiency, so this is an important innovation for the construction sector.
Veejay Lingiah, CEO of FlashAcademy®, commented: “We’re delighted to be one of only 800 UK companies to be awarded a Government pandemic innovation response grant, especially after 9,000 companies applied. We’re determined to make a significant social impact with our digital English learning platform, for all age ranges and to better support educators across our school and College network too.”
“The Inclusive Economy Partnership – convened by the Cabinet Office and DCMS – is supporting 18 front-line organisations to scale and deliver impact in our communities through mentoring, workshops and access to new partners. We are thrilled that Flash Academy, one of these organisations, will be able to support more young people through this grant. FlashAcademy® is an excellent example of how innovative UK tech companies can help support our recovery and resurgence out of the coronavirus crisis, supporting our young people to catch-up lost learning and improve both their education and employment prospects.”Baroness Barran, the Minister for Civil Society