Keywords English Translation:AS A teacher in a deprived area of London, Dubliner Joanna Norton was very familiar with language problems faced by young people from migrant communities settling in the UK. In particular she found they had great difficulty coping with academic language.
She was sure there had to be a way of harnessing mobile technology to help her students, but could find nothing on the market that met the need. This led her to set up her own company, Click4ESOL, to design a solution. Her first app, Keywords English, (which assists learners with terminology surrounding science topics), has recently begun testing with 10 schools in the UK.
The app, which works with Apple devices (an Android version is on the way,) costs £2.99 to download and it is envisaged that most schools would have multiple users. It can also be downloaded for private use.
In 2010 Norton gave up teaching and returned to Ireland to devote her energies full-time to the project. Her breakthrough came when she got a licence to commercialise research by the language unit of Trinity College Dublin into the most effective way of helping non-native speakers achieve English fluency.
“I was determined that my app would be underpinned by a strong academic foundation and being able to tap into the Trinity research means Keywords English is the only research-driven app on the market,” Norton says. “We are offering real learning value delivered in a very effective way using technology that young people relate to as second nature. It is the first learning tool on the market to be specifically designed to support the learning needs of diverse learners in multi-lingual classrooms.”
While Norton had a clear idea as to how the app should look and work, she needed help to convert it into a finished product. A chance meeting at an investment seminar in the UK led to a partnership with mobile technology company, Six2, to turn her idea into a product.
“Basically I’ve been living on fresh air for most of the development time,” Norton says. “I received feasibility study funding from the Dublin City Enterprise Board and I’ve also had great support from the Women’s Network over the last two years. Looking to the future, we will be following Keywords English with other products and our initial focus will be the UK market as there is so much potential there. We will also be developing a version of the resource for children whose first language is English but who struggle with learning.”