9 Cool College Start-ups

foreign languages, software
Eric Schmiedl, MIT class of 2010
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Lingt Language, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Learning a new language can be tough, as MIT students Justin Cannon and Chris Varenhorst (above) discovered as they prepared to study abroad in China. The students, along with classmate and co-founder Scot Frank, found that their professors had little problem teaching the written language but, with 30 to 40 students in a class, teaching proper pronunciation was difficult. To address the problem, one of Frank's teachers created digital audio recordings that featured prompts that could be rerecorded by students and returned to the professor via e-mail. But the process was tricky and time-consuming and involved downloading special software. There had to be a better way, the students thought. So they developed a tool for teaching foreign languages. Unlike other software on the market, which focuses on self-learning, theirs would be designed for use in the classroom. The result is Lingt Editor, an application that lets teachers create custom assignments with audio, images, text, and video. It also includes a tool that allows a student to record and submit audio of himself or herself directly through a Web browser. A pilot program conducted with teachers in several charter schools and the language classrooms at MIT helped to improve and refine the product. Now, a deal to test the technology in high schools in Kansas City, Missouri, is in the works. —Benjamin P. Gleitzman, MIT class of '09