Home' Belonging Early Years Journal : Vol 7 No 1 Contents V7 N1 2018 19
Technology & Software
ELLA 2017 results
At the end of 2017, a Swinburne University study
reviewed the success of ELLA across different
preschools nationally. The research indicated
widespread high engagement among users, as
well as increased awareness of languages and
cultures, positive academic outcomes, improved
communication skills, and satisfied parents.
In a vocabulary retention activity, it was found that
77 per cent of students in the ELLA group showed
the brain response that corresponds with word-
meaning association after two weeks of learning the
new language, while only 33 per cent of non-ELLA
students had the same response.
When children had the freedom to choose their
learning activity, they spent 2.58 times longer on
ELLA-based activities, demonstrating an increased
motivation to learn. Children using the app were
also observed as being more confident with their
answers than non-ELLA students.
Importantly, ELLA also equipped students with tools
to contextualise their learning. For example, at one
preschool where there was a Chinese child who
spoke little English, the educators used ELLA to
introduce Mandarin to the class and help the child
to integrate. The educators used Chinese music and
stories to complement the ELLA component, which,
together, validated the child’s cultural identity and
language in a tangible way for the other students.
According to the Swinburne University report, some
parents were initially sceptical about increasing the
amount of their children’s screen time. Educators
reassured parents that students would use ELLA on a
strictly timed and structured basis, and in tandem with
other non-screen activities, like flashcards and verbal
games. At the end of 2017, a very small percentage of
parents were still unconvinced about ELLA’s app format,
but were receptive to the new focus on multilingualism.
Benefits of learning foreign languages from
Despite the fact that the 2016 Census reflects an
extremely culturally diverse Australia, and that many
families speak languages other than English at
home, foreign languages are often under-promoted
in our curriculums.
ELLA was devised in response to concerns about
Australia’s English-language-centric learning culture,
so that youngsters can reap the manifold benefits of
learning a second or third language.
Learning a foreign language at an early age is linked
to cognitive skills, including listening, memory,
problem-solving, critical thinking, cognitive flexibility,
creativity and multi-tasking, as well as higher long-
term academic achievement.
Studies show that children who learn a second
language from early childhood have a much greater
chance of achieving fluency and a more polished
accent than students who begin to learn the
language later in life, such as in their teen years.
As we know, young children’s brains are sponges,
which are constantly learning without them even
knowing it. This means that for preschoolers,
linguistic information takes root and is more
retainable than in adult students, who have to work
much harder to ‘unlearn’ the codes, structures and
sounds of their mother tongue.
More than just a means of communicating, a
second language is the gateway to another
culture, and opens the mind to new passages
of thought. Learning another language can be a
lifelong pursuit that is both culturally and socially
enriching, and starting at an early age gives
children both a cognitive and behavioural head
start in their education.
ELLA looking forward
Another unique benefit of ELLA is that educators
do not need to be native speakers or experts in
the chosen language in order for the program to
succeed. The Australian Department of Education
and Training has rebuffed scepticism on this
point, promising significant resources and face-to-
face training to complement ELLA for teachers of
languages other than English at preschool level.
The department will also dedicate an experienced
Liaison Officer, online forum, Facebook group,
website and help desk to support educators who
use the ELLA app to teach preschool students.
Employment trends show that 75 per cent of
Australia’s fastest-growing career sectors demand
STEM (science, technology, engineering and
mathematics) backgrounds, which has spurred the
Australian Department of Education and Training
to design a play-based STEM digital learning
experience, using ELLA as a blueprint.
In late 2017, 100 preschools began a trial of
this new program, which focuses on numeracy
and instilling a sense of scientific curiosity in little
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