New app to teach English to Israeli students through music

A new app will soon help more than 50,000 Israeli students learn English through an innovative app that immerses them in popular music.

“There is so much research that shows how music can help students learn,” says Michael Peled, founder and CEO of Singit. “For example, if you show an Israeli the word ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ from the famous Mary Poppins song, they immediately recognize the printed word and pronounce it correctly, because of how they heard it repeated in the song when they were children. I found it mind-blowing.

“Getting children to interact with words in real life through music is a very effective learning tool, and we find that students with dyslexia and students in special education respond particularly well,” he said. he declares.

Peled’s app was recently approved by the Department of Education after more than a year of testing thousands of students and will begin to be used by students in Grades 5 through 9 in some schools from of the end of the month.

Students can listen to music from a huge library of songs on any digital device and follow the lyrics on screen. When they come across a word that they don’t recognize, they can click on the word. With the help of AI and machine learning technology, the system learns the needs of each student and comes up with additional songs with words they didn’t know. After hearing the song, students take an automated test that tests them for the words they clicked to make sure they are improving.

“It’s like using Spotify,” Peled says. “We partner with a company called LyricFind which provides access to over five million songs of all genres and time periods. Most schools will not want to offer access to many types of songs, due to each school’s explicit lyrics and other educational considerations, but this will still leave over 100,000 songs they can hear.

The new Singit app. (credit: courtesy)

Meanwhile, teachers can send students personalized homework and grammar tests, or even create homework automatically using custom tools. Teachers can also access all relevant data and information about a student’s performance from their phone or computer. “You can send students a question from your device to theirs in about 30 seconds,” says Peled.

Pilot tests show that the app increased student interaction with the English language by 62% even after school hours, the company said.

“A few dozen schools across the country, including ten special education schools, have already purchased the app and will start using it from October 17,” Peled said. “By the end of the year, we’ll have about 53,000 students across the country using it, and more will follow.”

For Peled, who has struggled with dyslexia throughout his life, launching the product is the culmination of a lifelong journey. At just 21 years old and still serving the military in the Air Force Ofek unit, he learned early on that he would have to work harder than others to be successful.

“My family is fully dyslexic and I was diagnosed with it when I was three,” says Peled. “As a kid, I could do math like other kids, but I couldn’t read normally until I was in Grade 7, and I had to work really hard to be average in high school. From the start I knew that I was not a normal kid and that I should work harder than everyone else, but it forced me to excel.

THANKS to his hard work, Peled was able to attend a computer program for gifted students at the Weizmann Institute of Science and started Singit with the help of a partner several years his senior. “My father gave me the idea to use music to teach. He was dyslexic in the 1970s, when no one in Israel knew how to handle him, and he learned English by listening to the Beatles and Pink Floyd, ”says Peled. “The first version of the app we made in 2017 was bad, but in 2019 we had a working product and we tested it throughout 2020.”

The tests found the most significant results for two groups of students: gifted children and children with special needs. “At first we thought the app would only be used by gifted students, but a dyslexic child came to us after using it and was very emotional. He said he used the music to learn and the app did exactly what he needed. We understood then how valuable it could be for students with special needs, which ultimately was why we started this whole project in the first place. “

Peled has big ambitions for Singit. “The app costs NIS 300 per class, but we gave it to the education ministry for free because we want to have it on the phone of every special education student in Israel,” he says. “Our next goal is to expand to other countries around the world, Asia, Brazil and other places where they teach English as a second language.

“I think in a year and a half we will have over two million users,” he said. “The main performance measure that we measure is the number of songs people listen to. “

The app will be made available to the general public for download in November here.

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