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SANS Digital Language Learning Lab
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Sony Virtuoso Software - teacher
Demonstration Video
Sony Soloist Software - student
Authoring Tools for Teachers

Before choosing any technology that impacts student learning, it’s important to ask questions and to learn more about the product and the provider. Here are some of the FAQs that our clients have posed. If you have questions that have not been addressed here, we invite you to contact us to discuss them.

I see "SANS" and "Sony" shown in your technology. What is the relationship between the two companies?

SANS Inc. is the exclusive licensor and developer for Sony language learning software and an affiliate of Sony Electronics Inc. Our fully digital language lab technology is based on the Sony Virtuoso™ and Sony Soloist® software with additional features and technologies developed by SANS. See the About Us page for more details on SANS Inc.

Language labs have been around so some time. What's different about today's language lab technology?

The days of "drill and kill" are a thing of the past with digital language lab technology making it so different from what was considered the primary function of a lab.

In a fully digital language lab easily integrates with the technology that students are so comfortable in using today. For example, lessons in the lab can be based around content on an internet site with the instructor enabling navigation or not based on the level or desired outcome of the activity.

Teachers can download authentic materials including news and social events from around the world so students are getting "real life" scenarios to work with. Instructor and student recordings made using the Sony Soloist software can be played back on an mp3 player providing a ubiquitous mode for students to develop language skills outside the physical space of the lab.

I have an older Sony Symphony® language lab. Can I upgrade?

Yes. The Symphony system was a "hybrid" or hardware/software language lab system. It is possible to upgrade to the Sony Virtuoso and Sony Soloist "fully digital" language lab technology. Your local SANS representative can provide technical details and a comprehensive proposal to upgrade to the latest technology.

Once purchased, how can we ensure that our technology remains current?

Being totally software based makes our technology much more flexible in terms of updating and adding features. With a software development team in the United States, SANS has been able to make hundreds of software enhancements over the past several years providing our customers with the ability to benefit from new features without discarding what they already have. Just like other software programs that your institution uses, SANS offers annual upgrade plans to keep our technology up-to-date.

Also, our Sony technology suites are fully upgradeable. Our philosophy is to enable schools to purchase what they need and can afford today and when budget becomes available or needs change they can easily move to another version of the Sony software suite without having to replace what they already have. This sets our technology apart from many of the other solutions that are currently in the marketplace. Your initial investment is secure.

I would like to use the technology to prep students and administer AP® world languages exams. Is this possible?

From the basic Sony Virtuoso APT suite to the Sony Virtuoso Major suite, functionality is included to administer standardized tests with listening and speaking components. Student digital recordings can be centrally collected and saved for assessment and grading. Having students work with the technology prior to testing creates a comfortable environment so they are prepared, confident and their focus is only on the language and doing their best.

Our World Languages program offers several spoken languages as well as American Sign Language. Do you have a solution to accommodate all of these course offerings?

Yes. You can choose to have a mix of Sony Virtuoso Major/Soloist software licenses and Sony Virtuoso Major ASL and Sony Soloist ASL software in a single room. The ASL portion of the lab would include high quality video cameras and offer audio as well as video communication between the instructor and students. This arrangement is very flexible to accommodate learners of spoken and visual languages.

We currently don't have space for a dedicated language lab room but we do have a computer lab. Can the Sony software be used there?

In years past, language labs were hardware based systems with a control panel for the instructor and analog audio tape decks for each student. Because of their footprint they could only be installed in dedicated "language lab" rooms. With the advent of digital technology, software like the Sony Virtuoso and Sony Soloist suite can be installed in almost any networked PC lab alleviating the need for dedicated space if not available.

Can we use ancillary materials that are available from our textbook publisher?

Today, many publishers provide digital materials as part of their offering. It's easy to incorporate these within the realm of your Sony language lab. In the lab, you may also take your students to content that may be on a publisher's website – student's have access to this content but can still be guided by the instructor using the features and controls within the Sony Virtuoso software.

There are so many resources available today that are rich in multimedia content. Is there a way for teachers to create authentic lessons using the Sony software?

In addition to, the Sony Soloist software being a digital comparative recorder and media player, it includes a full suite of authoring tools for instructors to create customized lessons with any variety of audio, video, text, and html content. The possibilities are limitless.

My students have varied skill levels and learning styles. Can the software assist me in providing equal opportunities for all language learners?

A digital lab provides multimodal learning functionality. It provides a safe, non-intimidating environment where students are not afraid to speak allowing them to develop confidence. The private communication between the teacher and student enable a teacher to work with an individual without anyone else in the class being aware. Also, the instructor can easily send out varied activities to accommodate any number of skill levels within the class. Audio activities may also be created with variation in speed and repetition to reinforce or not based on skill level.

Our town is building a new school. When should we begin discussing a new language lab?

The earlier the better - Getting in "on the ground floor" when the initial planning meetings are taking place will help ensure that your needs for language lab technology are included in the budgeting and space plans. Having documented why the language lab is a necessity and showing how it can improve your language program and student success should be presented to stakeholders early on in the process. You need their buy-in.

We don't have funding yet. How have other schools funded their language labs?

Many schools' language labs are funded out of the school technology budget - you need to make your needs heard by administration. Some schools have funded labs with federal funding, including Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grants, Education Technology Grants, etc. Look to your PTA and other local business, or alumni, which see the necessity for learning a second language. SANS also provides information on possible funding sources and information on how to write a successful grant proposal.

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