Tom Cheng, a recent graduate of the Learning Design & Technology program (LDT) at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), credits his proficiency in spoken English to a love for Britney Spears.
“I would watch her interviews, listen to all of her albums, and read any media or new reports about her,” said Cheng. “I got exposed to a lot of English outside of the classroom that way.”
Working as a secondary school English teacher in Hong Kong, where he was born and raised, he noticed that many of his students consistently struggled with speaking the language. “Most students there don’t really have an environment for speaking English outside of the classroom. And large class sizes make it impossible to give every student the opportunity to practice speaking English and give them individualized feedback.”
This observation became the impetus for Impromptu, an app Cheng developed that uses generative AI and speech-to-text technology to give students real-time feedback to spoken English prompts.
Cheng was one of 23 students presenting their master’s projects at the 25th annual LDT Expo, held at the Center for Educational Research at Stanford on Aug. 4.
The theme for this year’s Expo was “Made with Love,” a nod to the cohort’s sentiments in working to make education more accessible through technology.
“Of course, the LDT program is about making cool things that work,” said Karin Forssell, director of the program and a senior lecturer at the GSE. “But one of the things we believe is that learning is a social endeavor that requires relationships built on trust. Learning requires feedback, and asking for feedback requires some level of vulnerability, So a lot of what we do at LDT is to try and build that community within the cohort.”
Other projects presented at this year’s Expo included a virtuality game that teaches collaboration skills, an AI chatbot app that helps students study more effectively, and a storybook that teaches school readiness to young children.
“I came to LDT because I wanted to learn more about how to design for children specifically,” said Janet Liu, who, along with project partner Deepak Varuvel Dennison, created O Dinos, a storybook series to teach 5- and 6-year-olds how to navigate social situations. “We put a lot of love into our project because we want to bring the joy of learning to parents and kids. Hopefully they’ll get a nice bonding moment out of it, too.”
Olivia Tomaeno, an LDT student whose StudyBuddy app helps users spot gaps in their subject matter knowledge and develop better studying habits, works as an academic and executive functioning coach. She said she joined LDT because she wanted to create experiences for students that promote deeper learning.
“It’s designed for students who haven’t yet found an effective way to prepare for an assessment and feel frustrated by not seeing the results they thought they should, based on the amount of time they put in,” Tomaeno said.
Over the course of the year-long program, Tomaeno says she’s already been able to apply what she’s learned to help students, and plans on continuing to do so out in the field.
Tomaeno’s dedication to helping students through her project reflects a theme that Forssell, the program’s director, says she’s seen throughout the past year.
“With each cohort I think about a word to sum up the year, and the word that came to me was heart,” Forssell said. “This is a cohort that not only put their heart into their studies, they also cared deeply about each other and the learners. They wanted their projects to make a difference.”
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