“Products evolve. Business plans change. And startups pivot.” This axiom is as true now as it was when we first introduced our LoomVue team. Now, as we continue to listen to your feedback, we are excited to showcase our newest direction with the development of LoomVue’s educational technology tool as a web-based app across devices.
LoomVue’s previous iteration as a browser extension demonstrated the power of in-context translation for the English-learning student community. The advantage of translanguaging proved invaluable for ELL students and empowered teachers to support a classroom of diverse language and literacy backgrounds. However, the format of a browser extension had three primary problems: 1) Performing translations in real-time is prohibitively expensive, 2) installing browser extensions on school computers was burdensome and limited the use of mobile and tablet devices, and 3) dealing with all the unique types of websites was difficult and prevented us from focusing more on helpful features for teachers and students.
With these important factors in mind, we dove into the work of exploring new models and ways of bringing the best of our state-of-the-art machine translation and word alignment engine into the schools and classrooms that need it — and we have done so by creating a responsive web app available on desktop and mobile devices. A variety of considerations were taken into account as we made this determination:
Cost of GPUs
Our machine translation engine relies heavily on expensive GPUs to provide advanced, immediate translation. That immediacy created difficulties as a browser extension, but our new web app system instead allows teachers to upload their own content to be translated and shared with their students. Because the content is added ahead of time, we can rely on slower and cheaper GPUs, helping to reduce our costs without reducing quality. This in turn reduces costs for our teachers to continue to provide high-quality, equitable instruction.
Installation, Privacy, & Security
As we are committed to upholding the privacy and security of all users, and especially our vulnerable education-based customers, we needed a solution that promoted the protection of our users’ data. Laws regulating the privacy and security of browser extensions are particularly complex due to the extension’s access to every website a student uses. Moving away from a browser extension helped us ensure regulatory compliance and security for all users. Additionally, our previous model did not create a smooth implementation for the technology specialists of schools and districts, which hindered adoption into the classroom.
In the end, it is the teachers and students at the heart of language learning that are our most important stakeholders. To this end, we have prioritized educator feedback to create our edtech tool as a web app promoting ease-of-use to reduce teachers’ workloads and increase student engagement. While the browser extension version of LoomVue struggled to provide meaningful language support on “every possible website,” our new system allows teachers to upload their own curricular content that is most critical to their students. Our web app model has also allowed us to integrate reading comprehension questions and classroom management features more directly than could be done in a browser extension. Teachers can create assignments that are viewed alongside the reading, helping students to refer to the text as they complete comprehension exercises.
Bearing in mind these considerations, we are looking forward to continuing development of the LoomVue web app and its incorporation into language learning programs across the country. In fact, a feasibility study recently concluded by WestEd shows promising qualitative results for the app’s effectiveness in middle-grade classrooms, with teachers observing a noted improvement in students’ ability to recognize and define new vocabulary. We are thrilled that our new model retains the ability to support English reading with resources that take little time and distraction from the act of reading, while also aligning with the needs of school administrators, teachers, and the students they serve. We remain committed to making learners’ language learning experiences as natural, effective, and fun as possible, and can’t wait to show you what’s coming next!