Getting Lost. Or, Getting Creative

I'm writing this blog-post partly for my own benefit. But knowing that it's useful for me makes me confident that it might be useful for some of you, too.

You see, there's just so much on offer here on the Mantra Lingua website that I sometimes wish I had a summary. I'm doing one for myself now, and you're going to witness my working.

First things first. The guiding principle is to use digital technology to enhance the printed (or hand-drawn) page. Added sound can simply provide fun and engaging experiences, and thus speed up learning. It also has clearly-defined benefits in the areas of EAL (English as an Additional Language, the focus of this blog as a whole) and SEN. You'll get clear examples of what I mean as I walk you through the product range.

The first way we add sound is through the PENpal. If I were with you at a conference, I would start by showing you a poster which has useful words and phrases (numbers, days of the week, 'point to where it hurts') written in English. Down one side is a list of languages. You can touch the PENpal to a language and then to the word or phrase you need. You'll then hear it translated.

This, as you can imagine, is useful. (Some say that it's magic).

That's one example of the practical applications. Of course, the PENpal applies itself to a famous range of printed books. They are beautifully produced and exquisitely illustrated; they also cover a wider range of cultures than we normally get to read about. Even without the dual-language element, this cultural range in itself has an important role to play in creating a socially-accepting atmosphere in the classroom. Here's a blog-post in which I mention a couple of the books that describe different religious festivals, both of which were fairly unfamiliar to me at least.

What's that about a dual-language element? You can order a book in English and one of many different languages. Translation is a very important part of learning when multilingual backgrounds are involved; this post gives an overview of the scholarly ideas at play. And head here for more detail on what a bilingual book can offer.

You can get access to a large range of the books on a computer screen using the e-book library. Here, the books come with activities and games as well.

If you'd like to add your own sound (your own translation, perhaps) to a book that you already own, then you can do that using the PENpal and sound-spot stickers discreetly placed. So you can have a spoken translation of The Tiger who Came to Tea. For instance.

Let's expand that idea of personalised translations. I've spoken to teachers who employ interpreters as part of their EAL budget. What if those experts spent some of their time recording translations of frequently-used texts in required languages? These could be educational materials (texts used in class or for homework) or pieces of administrative paperwork. There might be scope here for improving your communications with parents, for example.

Mantra Lingua offers set translation services to help you communicate with parents. These are part of the Welcome Pack offering. The Welcome Booklet is very popular, and again astonishes conference guests. It sets out useful practical information (school rules, meal arrangements, that kind of thing) with a personalised translation. This expands into the Translation App, which anyone can use. It provides real human translators, who will work on your text as part of an easy online service. I blogged about it here.

Let's return to your work with children, and think some more about sound-enabled personal creativity. There's the minibook creator and there's the viVOS Artframe, which lets you add sound to your drawings and projects. YOUcreate is becoming a self-publishing platform.

I've focused on EAL. But the possibility of hearing their own voice, or the voice of someone close to them, is proving to have benefits for children on the autistic spectrum. If you meet Mantra Lingua at a conference, you'll meet a bear called Ballu who will tell you more about this.

So really, getting lost is understandable. There is no limit. The parameters are: sound, print, paper-based creativity, and good educational outcomes for children with diverse stories to tell. It's up to the practitioner (that's you) to be creative with the resources.

You can call Mantra Lingua to talk everything through. And you can come in for free training. I can promise that people are very friendly.

What will you do?