Does a language lab improve learning?

The present school language laboratory is a classroom with computers connected to the Internet and multimedia resources. Can these technologies improve learning?
There are several reasons to think that a modern CALL environment can improve learning:
  • Combination of different sources and media (texts, images, audio, video, recording, Internet).
  • Wider diversity of activities.
  • A greater variety of linguistic input in context with authentic language models.
  • Access to enormous linguistic corpora and databases.
  • Inner interactivity with materials that make autocorrection and negotiation of meaning possible and external interactivity with other channels of communication between class members and distant learners.
  • Possibility of creating different itineraries of learning and tutorial feedback.
  • Autonomous independent learning and individual control.
  • Tools for the creation of individual and group projects.
  • Learning comes out of the classroom and teaching adquires an ubiquitous dimension.
  • A friendlier environment of learning is provided, where there are fewer risks of failing and learners can develop self-confidence with greater freedom to experiment and repeat as many times as needed.
  • Students can publish their writings or podcasts with an authentic audience.
  • They can share their learning and knowledge with students from other countries and become part of the global web community by improving their digital literacy.
Is all this possible in a traditional classroom? It would be rather difficult without the technological tools of a language lab, wouldn't it?
CALL is now perceived as something that is inherently different and/or complementary to classroom teaching. (K. Beatty, 2003)


Anonymous said...

This is Revathi Viswanathan from India. I agree that language lab promotes language learning, but what happens when institutions do not have a language lab? I feel language teachers can integrate technology with classroom teaching by using web tools and resources effectively while handling lessons. He/She can prepare web quest tasks, encourage students to interact with others through Nicenet or a blog. This way we facilitate language learning among students.

José Luis Cabello said...

Thank you for your comment, Revathi. I agree with you that web tools (there are so many)can be an effective way to encourage students to interact and facilitate language learning. Nevertheless, we need a model of integration, I mean, we should specify the activities and methodology, and also the when, how long and where. What happens when institutions do not have a language lab? What happens when there is not access to the Internet? Digital literacy is so important that governments and international institutions should do something about it (I don't know if Negroponte 100$ laptop computers could be a solution), but sometimes there are other more important problems to solve.
Now let me ask you the question in a different way.
What happens when there is an expensive language lab available and teachers do not use it because they think it is not useful?

Bill Day said...

I am interested in language learning outside the classroom. It would seem to me that if language learning technology were developed in web-based form, that it could be widely deployed in people's (and students') homes. I am not knocking the language lab, but particularly in the United States, where second language learning is abysmally low despite the country's resources, bringing language learning to the home should make sense. The nearest thing to this approach that I am aware of is RosettaStone.

José Luis Cabello said...

I agree with you, Bill. However, if CALL is introduced at schools, then students can go on learning at home.

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