New Worlds: US-born educator donates software for teaching English to Arabs

Laurin Lewis, Observant Jew who taught at Hebrew U and Jerusalem College of Technology, garnered experience in software development by designing, producing 'Anglit Be’klik' (English by Click),

Writing on a computer keyboard [Illustrative] (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Writing on a computer keyboard [Illustrative]
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
An American immigrant and former teacher of English has developed a computer program to teach English to Arabs.
Laurin Lewis, an observant Jew who taught at the Hebrew University and the Jerusalem College of Technology, garnered experience in software development by designing and producing Anglit Be’klik (English by Click), a program that serves the needs of Hebrew-speaking pupils who want to improve their English. It obtained the approval of the Education Ministry and has been adopted by several schools for their computer labs. It is in use in thousands of homes.
Lewis was inspired to create a version for speakers of Arabic when he realized that English could serve as a bridge between the two major language groups in this country – Hebrew and Arabic. He gives credit to the late L. A. Hill, a “great but unrecognized genius in the field of English as a foreign language,” who made the whole project possible through his writings.
English by Click – Arabic, teaching English from the absolute beginners’ level to the academic level, consists of 193 lessons. An additional 90 lessons are currently being prepared. All of the explanations and translations are in Arabic. Education Ministry approval for an early version has already been obtained.
“When I present the program to people, they usually say: ‘Oh, you developed this program, so you must know Arabic.’ Actually, I don’t know Arabic at all,” Lewis discloses. “The program was developed entirely with the collaboration of Arab English teachers and students at the Hebrew University where I used to work.”
The program can be supplied on CD, or it can be downloaded from the website www.english4students.
com. After download, the program needs to be unlocked by an access code that the developer supplies.
Lewis says that he hopes to do some good with the program. Recently, with the support of an American donor, he contributed 100 CDs to Al-Quds University in eastern Jerusalem. He donated another 100 CDs to Tsofen, an organization that helps Israeli Arabs find employment in the Israeli hi-tech sector.
Lewis is in the process of donating a copy of the program to every pupil in the Hand-in-Hand School, an educational institution where Jewish and Arab children study together. The school was in the news last November when one of its buildings was firebombed.
Each pupil will receive a copy of the program that teaches in his or her own language, Hebrew or Arabic. Lewis points out that English plays an important role in this school, because it’s often the language that pupils of different ethnicity use to speak to each other. In fact, Jews and Arabs study each other’s language there, but English operates as a neutral means of communication – a local “Esperanto.”
Lewis envisions English serving as a vehicle for greater understanding between Jews and Arabs in Israel. “We urgently need bridges between Jews and Arabs, and this program may make a small contribution to the process,” he hopes, adding that any educational institution in Israel or the West Bank can receive the program free of charge for its pupils to use at home or for use on the premises.
Institutions can contact the developer at [email protected] or call (02) 622-2104.
During the coming decade or two, 3D printers could revolutionize the way food is manufactured – impacting everything from how military personnel get food on the battlefield to how long it takes to get a meal from the computer to your table, according to a recent symposium hosted in Chicago by the Institute of Food Technologists.
The price of 3D printers has been steadily declining, from more than $500,000 in the 1980s to less than $1,000 today for a personal-sized device, making them increasingly available to consumers and manufacturers.
Although they are not widely used in food manufacturing yet, that availability is fueling research into how they can be used to customize foods or speed delivery of food to consumers.
“No matter what field you are in, this technology will worm its way in,” predicts engineering Prof. Hod Lipson of New York’s Columbia University and a co-author of the book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing. “The technology is getting faster, cheaper and better by the minute. Food printing could be the killer app for 3D printing.”
Lipson, addressing the conference by video, says 3D printing is a good fit for the food industry because it allows manufacturers to bring complexity and variety to consumers at a low cost. Traditional manufacturing is built on mass production of the same item, but with a 3D printer, it takes as much time and money to produce a complex, customized product that appeals to a single person as it does to make a simple, routine product that would be appealing to a large group.
For example, Lipson says, users could choose from a large online database of recipes, put a cartridge with the ingredients into their 3D printer at home, and it would create the dish just for that person. The user could customize it to include extra nutrients or replace one ingredient with another.
The US military is beginning to research similar uses for 3D food printing, but it would be used on the battlefield instead of in the kitchen, says Mary Scerra, food technologist at the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts.
By 2025 or 2030, the military envisions using 3D printing for soldiers to customize meals that taste good, are nutrient-dense and can be tailored to a soldier’s particular needs.
“Imagine fighters in remote areas – one has muscle fatigue, one has been awake for a long period without rest, one lacks calories, one needs electrolytes, and another wants a pizza,” Scerra says. “Wouldn’t it be interesting if they could just print and eat?” She notes that there are still several hurdles to overcome, such as the cost of bringing the technology to remote areas, the logistics of making it work in those locations and, perhaps most importantly, making sure the food tastes good. “If the meals aren’t palatable, they won’t be consumed,” Scerra said. “It doesn’t matter how nutritious they are.”
Anshul Dubey, research and development senior manager at PepsiCo, says that 3D printing already is having an impact within the company, even though it is not yet being used to make food. For example, consumer focus groups were shown 3D-printed plastic prototypes of different shaped and colored potato chips. Using a prototype such as that, instead of just a picture, elicits a more accurate response from focus group participants.
“Even though the future of food 3D printing looks far off, that doesn’t mean it’s not impacting the industry,” he says.