Sept. 10-16, 1999
U.Va. gets $4 million cancer grant
Curry School bringing classroom technology to Bermuda
Improvements made for checking children's hearing

From the desk of. . .Tom Gausvik

Hot Links -- slave life
U.Va. Patents Foundation upgrades operations
Making hospitals safer workplaces
A solution for broken hearts
Free guide offered for sexual assault survivors
Conference on health-care ethics Sept. 16-17

Robertson Media Center open house Sept. 17

Johanna Drucker appointed to media studies chair
Newly digitized language lab makes learning a piece of kuchen

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Benefit concert for Living Wage Campaign


Newly digitized language lab makes learning a piece of kuchen*

By Nancy Hurrelbrinck

A 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.

The 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 Technologies.

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 activities.

"It's 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."

The 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.

"That 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 well.

Teachers 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 said.

"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.

Besides 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

"One 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," she said.

"The new lab allows teachers to be much more creative and have much more flexibility in the manipulation of various media." (*German for "cake")


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