Origins of Pendragon:
Print publishing and textbook development
In the 1980s Carl Taylor, together with his colleague Udo Hennig and Professors Schwarz and Vettel, produced a long series of highly successful language learning textbooks for the German publisher Cornelsen in Berlin. These textbooks gained a market share of over 50% of the German secondary schools where they were marketed. In the 1990s Carl Taylor was employed by the Ministry of Education in the Sultanate of Oman to design a national curriculum for English at elementary and secondary school levels. He also oversaw the development and publication of the Sultanate’s textbooks: Our World Through English. He continued to develop textbooks for German publishers such as Klett and Diesterweg Schroedel.
Embracing the internet – a new unknown
As early as 1999 Carl Taylor and Udo Hennig recognised the potential of the internet for creating rich, interactive language learning materials and potential accessibility the internet offered to learners, wherever they are.
However, early attempts at eLearning, whether online or on CD, provided few advantages over print as many products were nothing more than books on screen. Learning was often equated with reading. Emphasis was often put on gimmicks that made online learning visually attractive, but which offered no educational merit and merely distracted the learner.
In 2001 Carl Taylor and Udo Hennig developed prototypes for medium specific, internet-based language learning models. Like other publishers and developers, Pendragon faced problems with slow internet connections, unreliable browsers and customers suspicious about paying for anything online. Websites were unattractive compared to today’s sites, and the potential of SEO had yet to be realised. Thanks to changing times and a constant drive to reinvest in technology, these barriers have been overcome to produce the award-winning services that thousands of learners enjoy today.
Support from the EU: Promoting European languages
In 2003 Pendragon received funding from the European Commission as part of the Minerva programme to develop a model for online courses for Less Widely Used and Taught Languages (LWUTLs). The aim of the project was to lay the foundations for pedagogically-sound eLearning courses, which could be delivered online. The project was given a grade A and evaluated as an example of ‘best practice’.
In 2005 Pendragon Language Teaching received further funding through the Lingua Programme of the European Union to develop a theoretical model for an internet-based grammar and a specific online grammar for Danish, which targeted level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The online grammar was known as Grammar Explorer.
A mission to dispel myths – An Arabian Tale
Early 2009 onwards
Following the financial crash in 2008, the European Commission sought to promote the learning of world languages to improve the competitiveness of European companies trading outside the Eurozone and in the face of stiff competition from China and the BRICS countries.
In 2009 Pendragon Language Teaching was awarded funding as part of the EU’s KA2 Languages Multilateral Projects Programme to develop an elearning course of Arabic for multiple European languages, to be based on the Common European Framework of Reference and to target European companies, businesses and universities.
The pedagogical approach was developed specifically for European learners and treated Arabic as a dynamic living language.ArabicOnline was officially launched in TechHub in London’s Silicon roundabout in September 2011.
During the project’s development the Arab Spring erupted across the Arab world. Suddenly, there was a dramatic surge in demand for Arabic courses. ArabicOnline was well placed to meet this demand and user numbers rose exponentially.
In 2013 ArabicOnline won the coveted European Language Label.
“Everything changes again” – Enter Steve Jobs and his iPad
During this time Apple released the iPad. The team at Pendragon watched carefully for a year to see what would happen with the iPad. Was this a fad? Was it here to stay? We were not too sure ourselves, but it soon became clear that the iPad was a valuable instrument and was ideal as a learning tool.
After some late nights puzzling and despairing over Apple’s security and certification systems, Pendragon released an Arabic iPad app with a modified interface and with larger navigation buttons. The response was immediate and massive. The downloads went through the roof and the app quickly became one of the most downloaded apps for Arabic on the Appstore.
In 2012 Carl Taylor incorporated the company as Pendragon Educational Publishers Ltd.
Bridging East and West – culture and business through language and culture
In 2013, the company was awarded a further grant from the European Commission as part of the Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation Programme to develop a vocational course of Turkish as a Foreign Language. This was released in September 2015 as www.handsonturkish.com
The Hands On Turkish course was the culmination of the team’s work over the previous ten years. Significant innovations were the development of the concept of eImmersionPlus. This means that an online course is available across multiple platforms – web-based, on mobile and tablet devices (Android, iPhone, iPad), is specifically designed for each of the devices and allows learners to access learning content at any time of day using a variety of devices. In other words learners can ‘immerse’ themselves through technology in an environment that simulates an immersion experience.
Certification in a “linked in” world
With Hands On Turkish Pendragon added the ‘final’ pieces in the complex mosaic of digital resources: the development of online tests and digital badges.
The team created from the ground up the software to generate digital certification and digital badges, which could be downloaded and added to a learner’s online portfolio or CV.
Co-operation with the British Council
Pendragon will be working together with the British Council to provide innovative language learning solutions directly to British classrooms.