Last night, we got the opportunity to present at the E-Teachers Academy Conference on Communities and the Power of Crowdsourcing, hosted by Kirsten Winkler (@KirstenWinkler). We’re always impressed with how Kirsten is able to organize these conferences with so many of the key players in our space. There were presentations from Languages Out There, Busuu, Wiziq and us.

Kirsten has written a more detailed review of the conference, and the presentations are all embedded on her blog. If you’re interested in the specific comments, you should definitely take a look.

Overall, we thought the attendees were positive on the value of communities for language learning, but much more skeptical about the potential in crowdsourcing. The sense was that people could rely on help from other members in a community, provided the community was well run and focused. However, the product of collaborative work from the community was generally lacking in creativity and often of very poor quality.

At italki, we have tried crowdsourcing in many areas of our site, and we are well aware of the difficulties in crowdsourcing. As we mentioned in our presentation, you don’t always get the perfect answer when you want it. However, we are definiely positive on its long-term potential. We have just updated our community-based site translation feature, for example.

In addition, we do think it is possible to collaboratively create language learning materials, particularly if the license for the content is under the Creative Commons. Our inspiration here remains Wikipedia. We agree that art and literature designed by committee sounds awful. However, we think it is too pessimistic to say that basic materials for language learning can not be created collaboratively. It seems to run contrary to experience of impressive resources being released for other academic subjects (see MIT Open Courseware, and Connexions).

It was an interesting conference, and the discussion gave us a lot to think about. We want to give special thanks to Kirsten again for organizing it, as well as Wiziq for hosting the event with their virtual classroom. We’re definitely looking forward to the next one!

Kevin and the italki team

etcon-logo250x75This morning (China time), we had the opportunity to attend the E-Teachers Academy Conference on Virtual Classrooms, hosted by Kirsten Winkler.  It was one of the most interesting conferences we’ve seen on the future of the virtual classroom, and the panel was made up of some of the most forward-thinking companies and teachers in this evolving space (view list of panel speakers).

We were definitely impressed with the potential in virtual classrooms, and we’re sure that as the technologies mature, we’ll begin to see more of these classrooms gain wider acceptance.  There are many important features which are not presently integrated or handled well by standard communication tools like Skype, such as whiteboards, direct document viewing, shared screenshot viewing, and group / class management.  One thing that is clear from the conference is that virtual classrooms are being designed with significant input from teachers.

If you’re interested in following this debate, you can follow Kirsten on twitter (@KirstenWinkler) as well as the ETCon twitter itself @ETConference.  We’re definitely looking forward to the next conference.

Kevin and the italki team

Geeks on a Plane and BarCamp Shanghai

June 16th, 2009 | Posted by Toffler in event - (9 Comments)

This past week has been a really interesting for the startup scene in Shanghai.  The big catalyst was the Geeks on a Plane tour organized by Dave McClure of the FoundersFund and George Godula of Web2Asia.  This trip brought a number of entrepreneurs, bloggers, and venture capitalists from the US and Europe to Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai to learn about the tech scene in Asia.  The Geeks on a Plane tour also led into two other events:  TEDx Shanghai and BarCamp Shanghai.

Barcamp Shanghai was on Sunday, and about 120 people attended this un-conference for presentations and networking.  We even got a chance to do a short presentation about how we think connecting people over the internet is leading to major changes in language learning.  Many thanks to the organizers, which includes one of our team members (Toffler).  We had a great time and met a lot of interesting people.

On Monday, the Geeks tour was present at TEDx Shanghai, where there was a full day of presentations (you can catch the videos here).  We managed to meet a few of the Geeks after the presentations and also at the Geeks and Glamour after party.  Here are just a few of the people we wanted to give a mention to:

goapDave McClure
Mark Hendrickson
Benjamin Joffe
Dan Martell
Dug Song
Adriana Gasciogne
Larry Chiang
Marcus Nelson

Overall it was a really exciting time to be in Shanghai and in the technology space.  Hopefully, it won’t be another year before we see an event like this again!

The italki team

Have you ever traveled to a country and wished that you had some local friends to help show you around and deal with the language? We’re experimenting with this idea for the China Travel 2.0 tour.

China Travel 2.0 is bringing a number of travel editors for a two-week trip through China in early June. Their trip will look at the changes China is undergoing and how technology plays a role in that, with a specific emphasis on technology’s affect on travel. When traveling internationally knowing another language is incredibly useful,  so when we were asked to help them learn Chinese, we were ready and willing!

While Shanghai and Beijing are relatively foreigner friendly, a little bit of travel Chinese can go a long way for enhancing the experience. Imagine not being able to express thanks (xiexie, 谢谢) or say that you don’t want to purchase that tourist trinket (don’t want, buyao, 不要). Specifically, italki is helping the travelers find Chinese teachers through our Language Marketplace. We’re also helping the travelers find friends in each of the cities they are visiting, so they can get a local perspective on the best things to experience.

When the tour returns to Shanghai, we’ll get our chance to meet the travelers: Craig, Linda, Donna, Julie, Janelle, Marina, and the team at Trip Films. We’ll be curious to hear all about their experience in China, and we hope they learn some Chinese along the way!

italki and the China 2.0 Tour

November 18th, 2008 | Posted by Toffler in event - (Comments Off on italki and the China 2.0 Tour)

China 2.0 Tour

Last week bloggers and other tech people from North American and Europe come to China as part of theChina 2.0 tour organized by The China Business Network, Web2Asia, and CNReviews.  We were privileged enough to be included in their busy schedule when they were in Shanghai on Thursday and Friday.  Among the tour participants we were fortunate enough to meet were:

Robert Scoble
Shel Israel
Mike Butcher
Melissa Sconyers
Sheila Scarborough
Ernst Jan Pfauth
Bart Lapers
David Feng
Ryan McLaughlin

As well as many other awesome people!

You also can watch videos of italki’s presentations to the China2.0 groups on Kyte.  To find out about more events or videos with italki, follow us on twitter:

This photo was taken at our office with the China2.0 participants last Friday.