Bili and Languages
What is Bili?
Bili is the online student language exchange, bringing language learning to life with regular and structured native-speaker interaction.
What is Bilichat?
Bilichat is our video chat app which connects students directly with their partners through instant messaging and video calls. They also are put into small groups of their peers and partners abroad for continued interaction.
What languages is Bili available in?
Bili is currently available in English, French, German and Spanish. However, we do have a range of other languages we are currently piloting. This means the interface will remain in English but we do enable exchanges for other languages. We tend not to build our own links in these languages, so if you have any existing partners this will help here!
Can we use Bili with more than one foreign language?
Yes, of course you can use Bili with as many languages as you want.
How much does it cost?
We’re passionate about language learning in schools and believe every student should have the opportunity to communicate with a native speaker peer.
We offer three annual subscriptions to schools, which include as many languages, teachers and students as you need to help you make your school a Bilischool:
- Bili: includes full exchange platform and media messages – £500
- Bili Plus: Bili + live chat and forum – £750
- Bili Pro: Bili + Bilichat video app – £1000
Each of these subscriptions will provide you with the tool to connect your students regularly throughout the school year with individual partners (whether through existing links or a partner you find through the platform). This goes far beyond a brief penpal project or finding a partner school, and should be integrated into the curriculum to achieve maximum impact.
Free access for partner schools
We recognise that a key feature of exchange programmes, such as Erasmus+, is reciprocity and this is integrated into everything we do at Bili:
- The platform provides a simple structure to tasks where students support each other equally in two parallel message streams in their respective languages.
- The content is created by teachers for their own students in close communication with their partner teacher. Tasks are designed to ensure maximum flexibility in how you set them up (speaking, writing, levels of support, or subtasks), and avoid a particular approach to content or pedagogy being imposed on either side of the exchange.
- The subscriptions can be shared with partner schools or we invite potential partners to join the platform for free. One site licence (Bili, Bili + or Bilichat) is enough for your whole school and any partners you want to connect with.
Unlike eTwinning we do not receive any external funding, so we are not able to offer free access; however we hope the gesture of removing any financial barriers to schools abroad means that many of the 15 000 UK schools connected on eTwinning can continue their collaborations.
Not a school?
How can you adapt the platform to meet our needs?
Whilst the platform has been built from the ground up with secondary schools in mind, we have a track record of working in a number of different contexts: from primary schools, to languages schools and universities.
We have a broad range of features which can be adapted to meet your needs, including:
- Varying levels of moderation either led by you or by our own team
- Content creation and course design
- Animation of network and user engagement
How do you cater for larger scale projects involving networks of schools or institutions?
We will work directly with focal points in each organisation to ensure engagement and build the community from teachers, through to student champions, and learners. Have a look at our blog or some of our recent project pages to see specific examples.
The Pairing Process
How are schools paired?
Languages teachers create their school profile through Bili, which we then verify. Their profile includes general information about them, including the languages which are taught at their school and the number of students learning each language in each year group. Bili will then suggest schools they might like to connect with of a similar size, and with similar aims. These can be accepted or rejected until each school finds their perfect match! (See the bili way page for more info on this).
N.B. for some schools it may make sense to have more than one partner school, either because of the size or the different languages you teach.
We have a partner-school abroad already; can we link up with them through Bili?
Yes, of course! This makes our job that little bit easier too; so do let us know when you register, or click refer a school from your dashboard! Once you both have created your profiles, you will be directly linked to one another and can start straight away!
What if we don’t have the same number of students?
In an ideal world we would have exactly the same number of students at each school. In reality, we all know that this is unlikely. However, we do have a solution! Any students who are ‘unpaired’ will send their message to the class message board of their partner school abroad. The students there can earn stars for responding to extra messages every week! If the student hasn’t received a response after two days, it will flag up on the teachers’ dashboard (abroad) so they can give some feedback or assign it to one of their class!
How does the exchange work?
The concept is very simple: ‘modern day pen-pals’ if you like. How it works in practice is a little bit more complicated! There are two completely separate message exchanges between each pair of students (i.e. one in the foreign language, i.e. Spanish, and one in your native language, i.e. English).
You would plan the Spanish tasks for your students, which their partners would respond to in Spanish. Likewise, the teacher in Spain would plan tasks in English for his/her students which your students would respond to in English.
In this way:There is no issue if the students have different abilities in the respective foreign languages; Teachers do not need to coordinate tasks (can be planned according to what you are currently teaching), although of course you can if you prefer; There is no option for students to ‘slip’ into their native language in the foreign language exchange.
Can teachers contact each other through Bili to coordinate exchanges?
Yes, any teacher can message the teacher of any students their own students are paired with. This happens directly from their dashboard, and the teacher is sent an email notification as and when this happens.
How are students connected?
Students will only ever be paired with partners the same age at a school which their school is directly linked to. They will be paired up as they complete their profiles based on the interests they select, so with any luck they will find they have something in common with their Bili-pals!
How does a teacher set tasks?
Tasks are set directly through the website in a series or a topic. The content, level of support, and the mode of completion are entirely up to the teacher. Bili is built to be as flexible as possible, and enable teachers to plan tasks to complement what kids are learning in the classroom.
Can we share resources through Bili?
Yes, any topics which are planned by a teacher are available to other teachers through the topic bank, where they are categorized by topic area, age and difficulty level. Teachers can ‘borrow’ and adapt one another’s topics, or plan from scratch.
Are tasks written or can they be audio, videos or photos?
Tasks are written and planned by teachers, and the teachers decide how they should be answered. When creating a new task, they specify whether students should type their response (copy and paste disabled as our anti-google translate device!), or should upload a media file. It is expected that their partner will respond in the same format, giving students a chance to listen to native speakers as well as reading their responses.
Can students speak directly to each other in ‘real-time’?
Yes! With Bili learners can speak to any of their respective classmates through our live chat function. Even better, through Bilichat students can communicate directly with their partners in through the real time video app!
Can I just try it out with one class?
It’s entirely up to you! Of course- you can try Bili out as a teacher with your class. Generally, it is easier to find a school to pair with if you can offer more students to start with or at least be flexible. Of course, the Bili vision is that as many students as possible will have the chance to speak regularly to a class mate abroad their own age, which is why we insist on finding out the total number of students at each of our registered schools. In this way we can pair you with a school of a similar size giving you the freedom to take part with the whole school if you should so wish!
Is it secure?
Clearly, the security of children online is of the utmost importance and at Bili we treat this issue as such. Please find below some information on Bili exchanges and the platform itself:
All communication takes place through website, and from individual secure logins distributed by teachers, at verified schools.
No messages are sent between students without being approved by their respective teachers first. An exception is the live chat and forum where teachers access the full transcripts straight after.
Bili holds only necessary information on each user which includes: their age, their name and optionally their email addresses (used to send reminders for tasks).
Please do consult your school policy on this, and note that the names are used so that you can identify who is who in your class; if you need to use codes as surnames, for example, we will not object!
All data is held securely in fully managed based data centres, with hardware firewalls and 24/7 365 days a year monitoring. Any sensitive information is encrypted using U.S military grade encryption algorithms. All communication between the user and website is secure and encrypted.
Should we ask for parental permission?
This depends entirely on your school policy. However, we can provide you with a letter to adapt as necessary for your school here. Also, if you need to check our terms and conditions, you can access them here.
What technology do we need?
A device that connects to the internet, whether it’s a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Do we need to have access to computers in lesson time?
No. In fact most schools tend to use Bili as a homework tool, so the students can go away and produce some high quality written or spoken work.