Language Central for Science

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 2011, 12:00am


Over the years as a teacher, I've come across many bright foreign students who take classes below their learning ability because they fail to make the passing grade when tested in English and they struggle to make themselves understood. This is a shame because it is holding back students' real capabilities.

This might be especially true in Hong Kong, where students from around the world struggle to find the correct words in the English vernacular to explain what they already know. Often it is the language rather than the difficulty of the concept that is hindering them.

Language Central for Science is an iOS application, created by education publishers Pearson, to provide additional support to readers of basic English. It uses activities to drum home scientific terms, giving users the vocabulary to explain concepts.

The app covers ecology and biology with three learning activities: flashcards to help build understanding of the words, trivia questions to test their understanding and Word Fly to strengthen their spelling.

In flashcard mode, students can have the words read aloud so they hear the correct pronunciation of tricky phonemes like 'endoplasmic reticulum'.

This can be especially useful for aural learners, who can read along as definitions are read aloud.

The trivia challenge is a multiple-choice game testing knowledge of definitions. But it is a pity that if an answer is wrong, users cannot find out the correct answer and learn from the mistake.

In Word Fly, students are given definitions that they must match with the correct word. The word has to be formed from the letters that fly around the screen. The game is not intuitive because the letters appear randomly.

Unfortunately, there is no way to choose the vocabulary list. Pearson has designed the app to be used with its Language Central curriculum established in America. And because schools worldwide have different standards for science, it is not clear what level of learners can use this app.

Language Central for Science is a simple but focused vocabulary education app. But in its simplicity, it misses many learning opportunities. For example, it does not take advantage of kinesthetic learning, a strength of the iOS.

It is available for the iPhone, iPad and the iPod Touch. The free download comes with four sets of vocabulary for ecology and environment, cells and heredity, diversity of life and healthy body systems. All four can be used as standalone sets.

Verdict: the app will be useful for those who understand scientific concepts but simply need more vocabulary support.

So you will need to know your child's level of comprehension before passing this on.