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From Kill to Thrill
If you studied languages in high school or college within the past three decades and used a language lab, you most likely used what was known to may educators as a “drill and kill” lab.

old language  labThe listen and repeat methodology of “drilling” students in languages whereby students would repeat the teacher’s dialog over and over “killed” many an enthusiastic student’s will to progress into the world of second and third languages.

Level II language labs rely on the listen and repeat methodology for the whole class or smaller groups of students practicing different languages or alternate levels of the same language.

Level III language labs from the 60’s through 90’s offered all of the features of Level II labs and utilized a reel-to-reel or cassette recorder allowing each student to independently record (Drill) their own voice while comparing their responses to the teacher’s pre-recorded lesson.

The mainstream introduction of PCs into the classroom has allowed the replacement of the analog tape recorder with an “all-digital” or “virtual” recorder. The latest “all-digital” labs offer two-way voice communication from the instructor to the student and peer-to-peer communications via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP audio has eliminated the need for analog cabling as teacher and student voices are digitized before being transferred along the school’s Local Area Network (LAN). This in turn, has led to simpler installations, reduced costs and the elimination of mechanical connections that plagued many older installations.

The ReLANpro, distributed in the United States by ASC Direct Inc., offers educators VoIP communications and a suite of software driven applications that interact together providing them with a unique set of electronic classroom tools to teach languages, or any other subject.

The tools are as follows:

  • Remote viewing of any student’s PC screen and control of an individual students PC for guidance or instruction.
  • Unlimited student grouping (old systems only offered 4 teaching groups accessible by the instructor).
  • The teacher decides which software to make accessible to the student. By selecting from the teacher’s screen which software package may be used, the teacher can instigate a class activity and simultaneously prevent other applications being opened.
  • A video distribution system is included with multiple simultaneous video streams.
  • An “all-digital” dual track language recorder allows the student to perform listen/respond/record exercises including translation, commenting, answering questions, etc. Also:
    • Students can access video files directly from the school or classroom server.
    • Students can open the ReLANpro recorder and record comments or narration to any video.
    • Students can open their word processor and type their comments to any given video.
  • VoIP one-on-one interaction; with any student including voice communication and features such as student-to-student Pairing, Group Conference and Telephone Dialing.
  • Multiple-choice authoring (teacher) and testing (student) with instant correct/incorrect feedback to the student or results sent directly to the instructor’s email address.
  • Text editing and paperless testing. A dual-window text editing system allows students to cut and paste from the teacher window containing the text example or questions to their own window giving them the ability to answer test questions or write comments to video presentations.
  • Internet access. The new generation of multimedia systems allows the students to be connected to the World Wide Web and to be able to access information on a global basis. This allows instantaneous access to information worldwide and communication in the following ways:
    • Viewing English and target language websites.
    • Person-to-person communication through email, chat rooms, Internet phone, etc.
    • Student-to-student video conferencing with local and foreign classes.
    • Direct communication with other students from their country and culture of study.
    • Access to foreign literature and museums for research and study.
    • Watching live TV broadcasts and listening to foreign radio broadcasts.

There are many advantages for any school district that embraces the installation of new language learning technology. Dynamic educators are attracted to advanced technology. If a district has outdated analog equipment, technology savvy teachers looking for new employment will shy away. New labs offer AP testing facilities with digital quality, improving the grade coefficient over older analog systems.

privacyThe language lab provides all students, no matter where they are seated in the room, equal opportunity to hear the instructor and to be heard by the instructor. None of the lesson material is misheard due to the direct nature of the sound transmission heard by each student via his or her individual headset. The language lab makes most efficient use of time, improving the teacher/student time ratio and allowing the instructor to maximize the use of time in a given lesson. In a single teaching session, individual students can have more opportunity to speak than during an entire semester in an average class of 30 students.

Individual headset/microphones provide students with a psychological privacy that promotes their speaking ability. It reduces the inhibitions felt in normal classroom situations and encourages the shy student to speak. Teachers can interact more efficiently via headsets than in a regular classroom where other students stop speaking when the teacher talks “out loud” with a student, in a lab they will continue working without interruption.

All of these features come at a surprisingly low price compared to the dedicated language labs of the recent past.

new  language labStudents are now “thrilled” to be in an electronic learning environment that reflects their own technological upbringing. In lieu of a constant procession of audio stimulus, guaranteed to bore the most attentive student, a palate of audio, video, text, testing and interactive Internet sites stimulate the students senses as they absorb the language, culture and history of a studied region. It’s the next best thing to being there!

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