Newly digitized language
lab makes learning a piece of kuchen*
student learning to say Davaite pogovorim! ("Let's talk!"
in Russian) might want to hear and repeat the phrase 10 times before
using it on the street. Last year in U.Va.'s language lab, that
meant rewinding a tape over and over again. But in this year's newly
upgraded lab, that means clicking on a mouse to bring a digitized
audio-file back to the desired place.
first of two phases of a $1.1 million renovation was recently completed
in the Multimedia
Language Learning Laboratory in Cabell Hall, making it one of
the two most technologically advanced language labs in the country,
said Rachel Saury, director of the Arts & Sciences Center for Instructional
Funded by Arts & Sciences and the Office of the Provost, the new
lab includes 69 new computers with zip and DVD drives, an interactive
student-teacher console called a Tandberg Prisma and a digital media
server. With 47 of its computers connected to three teacher workstations,
two or three classes can meet in the lab simultaneously.
"The new lab allows language study to move beyond the last
30 years, in terms of relying on tape recorders, to a system of
much greater flexibility," said Brantly Womack, a Foreign Affairs
professor who heads U.Va.'s planning commission on international
nice that this is happening at the same time as the University is
making an effort to increase the internationalization of its curriculum
and, more generally, its international exposure."
lab will eventually make some of its learning materials available
to students in remote locations, Saury said, noting that the Tandberg
system was chosen for its compatibility with the World Wide Web.
means the language lab could extend beyond [its] four walls into
students' dorms and faculty homes,"she said. Faculty may eventually
be able to access student files from long-distance locations as
now have greater flexibility in creating assignments, because they
can manipulate audio-files by editing them, recording their own
voices onto them, and having students record their responses, she
"It's much easier for oral work to be saved on an audio-file,
allowing teachers to correct and grade oral work the same way they
would written work," Saury said.
A teacher can listen in from the lab's teacher workstation as students
practice speaking the language and can communicate privately with
each one by intercom without correcting them in front of others.
Another new feature in the lab is a video file server, which allows
teachers greater flexibility to select video clips from documentaries,
feature films or advertisements and manipulate them for student
assignments, she said. For example, "a teacher could delete
the sound from an advertisement and have students do a voice over
for it." Because the video file server allows up to 100 video
streams at a time, the lab can be full, with every student using
a different video.
"We hope teachers will increasingly use digitized materials
for homework assignments, to increase students' exposure to the
target language as spoken by native speakers,"she said.
practicing their oral skills, students will be able to do word processing
and send e-mail in all the foreign languages taught at U.Va. by
the spring semester
of the greatest difficulties for American students is learning to
write in languages with non-Roman characters," she said. Among
the lab's many new software packages is a Japanese program that
offers detailed explanations of how the characters are written.
The new facility will eventually support a Web-based collaborative
writing tool in all languages taught here, allowing students to
read and comment on one another's papers.
"Students will be learning from and teaching one another,"
"The new lab allows teachers to be much more creative and have
much more flexibility in the manipulation of various media."
(*German for "cake")