How I Use It
I started experimenting with it on the last quarter of this past school year. Since it is a tool more geared towards individual learning, I use it as a companion to my Spanish course in two ways: as extra-credit or as a leveling tool. From all the language levels I teach, I found out that the tool has more use with my Spanish II students. Although Duolingo allows advanced language learners to skip beginning levels through “testing,” many of my Spanish III and IV students are not fond of the idea of taking 3 or more tests to be placed in their appropriate level. On the other hand, my Spanish II students enjoy it more because it feeds the enthusiasm of my advanced learners while providing a great customized, differentiated learning opportunity for struggling students. You can also use it as a summer assignment and monitor students' progress through Twitter or Facebook.
Duolingo is a free online tool (with respective apps in OS and Android) that promises to teach a language to anybody. I call it the free, simplified, and playful cousin of “Rosetta Stone” and “Mango Languages.” I have been using it to learn Italian, and I can say that the scaffolding from each lesson or level is very good. Duolingo incorporates pictures and audio in their activities and also includes pronunciation drills and exercises. There is a playful feeling to Duolingo, in which every practice must be completed without making more than 2 or 3 mistakes, represented by hearts like a videogame. The app keeps track of each person’s learning progress through skill points, new words learned, and streaks. It also deducts points after some days of inactivity (as any skill, if you don’t practice it deteriorates). There is a social component through integration with Facebook or Twitter that allows users to share progress and/or compete.