Monday, September 29, 2008

Future of Language Learning Labs - Sinicariello, S. G. (1997)

What impact might the virtual language laboratory have on language teaching?
And
Do you think that laboratories will be changed?

The WWW has made it possible to have greater connectivity and enhanced the accessibility of many resources. As Scinicariello (1997) points out, the future of the LL will go beyond just equipment provider, to the role of information resource and beyond. I believe that the new language laboratory will take on a number of different functions. Primarily digital interfaces will (and have been) start replacing other formats and act as a main resource for various language learning materials, in a more integrated way, bringing together video, audio and text. This, as Scinicariello (1997) suggests, supports pedagogical aspects with the possible integration of the four skills in language learning, especially with the ability to link materials, such as through hypertext. In addition to providing access, the language laboratory of the future (within the virtual realm), will also provide chances for Ss to interact with material, allowing them to personalize their own learning, or add to the ever-increasing wealth of resources. There will be opportunities for Ss to access material that is directly relevant to them, or even alter or add to material, according to their own background experiences. Places such as Wikipedia are already setting precedents that will provide models for future VLL, in that material can be in constant flux, and reactive to the communities they serve. This would obviously create doubts about the reliability of information, but can also serve as a great way to produce a huge amount of material, in a cost effective and speedy way. Teachers and Ss will be able to create for the VLL, and work can be judged and edited by peers…This would give a very personal touch to the VL environment, that could be highly motivating to all users.
I believe that the greatest obstacle for the VLL is that of Copyright infringement. With greater access to material within campuses offering Wifi, there will be a need for language laboratory directors to monitor and regulate the availability of information. Having the participants create much of the material can be one way to avoid this (Kangaku University in Japan has created much of it’s own material), but much of the resources will be commercially available material, at least in the early stages. I think that the VLL of the future will be an environment that will be entered into by using a password (such as this USQ board), which has varying levels of access. Publishers of material will need to alter their business models to take into consideration a number of different hubs of learning, and there will be a need for more collaboration with schools to work out how to make material available. Scinicariello (1997) suggests a collaborative of human beings working to help learners reach their goals, with the assistance of technology. The VLL will be the Hub, within the school, or community. Access will be given and monitored, and contributions will be sought after and encouraged. The VLL will be a work in progress, constantly changing and adapting, but always being responsive to the community it serves.
Scinicariello (1997) says that with the loss of the physical space will contribute to Ss feeling isolated because there is no focal point for language learning activities. On the contrary, I believe that with the WWW, there will be new environments that are created in the virtual world that bring groups together on a regular basis. Some schools will establish spaces in virtual environments, and even have specialized language-teaching functions, or be spaces where Ss can connect to others with similar needs (I’ve heard of a project by a university here that is trying to establish a virtual school in second life. The VLL can be connected to this learning hub). As long as there is access to the internet, Ss and teachers will always find little niches for support. That along with specifically created chat rooms and discussion forums that help focus language learning.
ciao
Steven

Reference

Sinicariello, S. G. (1997). Uniting teachers, learners, and machines: language laboratories and other choices. In M. D. Bush & R. M. Terry (Eds.), Technology-enhanced language learning. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook.