50th Edition, Global Education

Language lab goes hi-tech

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Charley Bandes,
Volume 28
June 8, 1988

The students enter the room and calmly take their assigned cubicles. They wear a headset which allows them to hear their teacher’s commands. Every cubicle is fitted with a video screen that enables the students to watch as well as listen to his lesson. They proceed to study prerecorded educational tapes. During all of this, the teacher simply maintains discipline.
No, this scene does not come from Steven Spielberg’s next movie. Rather, it describes Newton South’s new language lab. The new lab has been equipped with entirely new tape consoles, along with video monitors.
The new lab has been greatly updated and currently utilizes technology greatly advanced over that of the previous lab.
Language lab supervisor Betty Earle spoke enthusiastically about the new lab. She stressed the importance of the video images to the learning process.
The old lab consoles were too unreliable to be used in administering tests, according to Earle. However, students had to use the lab for the foreign language AP exams.
Using the old equipment often resulted in distracting buzzing noises which have  detrimental effects on the test-taker’s comprehension.
The new lab not only eliminates the buzzing noises, but is also capable of analyzing multiple-choice exams automatically.
Although Earle stressed the importance of the video component of the new lab, she said that it has been excessively difficult to find Spanish videos. This limits the usefulness of the new lab for Spanish students.
Many French videos, however, have been acquired, mostly from the public television program French In Action. The new equipment enables students to create their own narrations for each episode.
In this exercise, the tape is played several times, so that the student can gain familiarity with it, and eventually the student is allowed to narrate the program. This narration is recorded on tape, and can be played back simultaneously with the video.
The new lab also is much easier for teachers to use. It can be used to create oral exams, in which the teacher does not need to manage the console at all. The exam is controlled entirely by the main lab unit.
Earle said that on the whole, “the system was a little hard to learn at first but everyone is basically happy with it.”
The new lab is also equipped with many new computers, including fourteen Apple IIgs units and several Apple Macintoshes.
The computers are mostly used by entirely classes but are also available for individual work during J block. Students use these computers largely to drill new vocabulary, although several new programs are also available.
Student opinions on the new lab have not been entirely positive.
“It looks real neat, but I think that it was a waste of money,” sophomore Steve Finkel said. Finkel went on to say that he felt that the money would have been put to better use in improving the auditorium.
However, he admitted that he had never used the video screen of the new lab. He said that his Spanish class did not have access to any appropriate videos.
Sophomore Steven Telio, on the other hand, said that going to the lab is “better than class.” He also said that the new lab is better than the old lab because “the teachers don’t have to run around to figure out what they’re doing.”

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