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HomeResourcesACTFL ‘Shark Tank’ Chooses Woodpecker

ACTFL ‘Shark Tank’ Chooses Woodpecker

During last month’s ACTFL World Languages Expo in Washington, DC, the Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center (Tech Center) hosted its own version of the popular TV show Shark Tank, in which five language apps were showcased to the audience and an expert panel.

Woodpecker Learning, a Taiwan-based start-up, was selected by the panel as the winner of the 2019 LaunchPad language education technology competition and won the People’s Choice award by a show of hands. Woodpecker is a state-of-the-art video player packed full of features designed to help learners improve world language skills. Learners practice commonly used vocabulary, tones, and accents while watching a huge library of popular shows from all over the world.

LaunchPad offers technology start-ups a unique opportunity to attend, showcase, and receive formal recognition at one of the world’s most comprehensive language education expositions.

Participation in the event affords LaunchPad finalists the opportunity to receive feedback from various sources, including experienced entrepreneurs and a highly specialized audience of world language educators. At the competition, the five finalists pitch their language technology innovations. Honorary plaques from ACTFL and the Tech Center are conferred to the winner, selected by five competition judges and a People’s Choice award determined by an audience vote. All finalists are given free space at the Tech Center booth to showcase and demonstrate their products at the Convention Expo. The following companies were represented at this year’s competition:

Peter Sutton—Woodpecker Learning (2019 jury and People’s Choice award winner)
Daniel Turcotte—Scholarcade (Spywatch Lex)
Brooke Stephens—StoryLabs
Weerada Sucharitkul—FilmDoo
Moulay A. Essakalli—Zid Zid

Frank Dolce, Banter CEO and 2018 winner, noted, “The LaunchPad competition at ACTFL gave Banter a platform to engage with decision makers from educational organizations all over the world.”

According to Julio C. Rodriguez, Center for Language and Technology director, “Although a single winner is named after the competition, the Tech Center’s goal is to create positive impact for all five competitors through exposure to thousands of language education professionals at the conference; access to other academic, government, and private networks; and inclusion in publications, promotional materials, and press releases.”

Up next is LaunchPad 2020, led by Richard Medina, faculty specialist in human–computer interaction at the Center for Language and Technology, which will be held at ACTFL’s Annual Convention and World Languages Expo in San Antonio, Texas, on Nov. 21, 2020. 

Applications from technology start-ups are currently being accepted. Application deadline is March 1, 2020.

Details about LaunchPad and application process:

The Tech Center, sponsor of the LaunchPad competition, is an initiative by the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO). The mission of the Tech Center is to enhance the Language Flagship experience through the effective use of technology. Learn more at

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