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ICT for Teaching Languages
What is a digital language learning lab
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Everyone is talking about Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for teaching and learning languages, but what does this really mean?

It is well known that the use of technologies in teaching has the capacity to transform the way teachers teach and improves the learning outcomes of students. Integrating the right technology into your language program can engage students and improve results. But what is the "right" technology?

The right technology is a technology that addresses the unique requirements of teaching and learning languages. These unique requirements are often misunderstood by others outside of the profession. If a technology does not address these unique requirements, it will not be effective. Given this, it is critical that the investment in technology is the correct one, assuring the best results. The role of the decision maker is to ensure that the selection of technology adds significant value to language learning, resulting in better language speakers and listeners.

Teacher in learning lab

Many schools are already attempting to use a variety of generic technologies to teach languages. These technologies are not always designed to address the unique requirements of the language teacher and language students. The result is a system that is difficult to use, maybe problematic and can detract from the task at hand; teaching and learning languages. It is critical that student / teacher time is efficient and effective.

There are also a number of standalone software programs available for students to learn languages and they certainly have their place to supplement student learning in the classroom, but they are not a substitute for having a teacher monitoring process. It is difficult for these self-access programs to provide feedback, for example "am I pronouncing this correctly?"

The use of a controlled learning environment means that the teacher is able to provide an individual student, group or the entire class with immediate feedback as they progress through a lesson.

The answer to addressing the unique ICT requirements of language educators is a Digital Language Lab that has been designed through many years of consultation with language teachers, is fully featured, flexible, scalable and well supported.

Why would we want a Digital Language Learning Lab?

Language educators definitely support the use of language labs to improve the language skills of students. The controlled language lab environment means that the teacher can control the student’s PCs to ensure students are kept on task and to monitor their progress. The ability to create a one on one environment via a private intercom channel to each student is very important as the teacher can listen to students while they practice and provide instant, meaningful feedback. For those students who lack the confidence to practise their oral skills in front of their peers, the privacy of individual channels is especially beneficial. Control is also given to the teacher by providing flexibility in class structure and the ability to group students together and assign varying tasks. This can be very useful. For example, a teacher may have three easy lessons and one hard lesson running concurrently. This would enable the teacher to concentrate on a small number of students at a time and cycle them all through every lesson.


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