Many language teachers remain skeptical or indifferent about the new technological possibilities, or even see them as an enemy instead of an ally. There are teachers who still relate language labs to old audiolingual drill and kill methods. The audiolingual methodology was dominant since the 1950s, as the modern alternative to grammar and translation methods, and stressed memorization of structures and vocabulary through repetition (drilling) where the teacher was the language modeler and drill leader and the student a pattern practicer and accuracy enthusiast.
Since the 1960s there was an expansion of descriptive work on discourse, pragmatic and functional properties of language. Language had to be examined in natural contexts, either oral or written, not in sentences made up by the linguist. The functional-notional approach (Finocchiaro & Brumfit, 1983) to language teaching was one of the first results of the evolution in linguistic theory . In the European framework the Threshold Level was issued as a specific list of contents, competences and communicative functions to be developed by the learner.
The old analog lab was rejected in the 1980s with the arrival of CLT (Communicative Language Teaching) and because of its poor technological possibilities. Not only the technology differentiates an analog lab from a CALL or digital lab. The classroom dynamic is also different and the interactive possibilities of Internet connected computers affect the way contents are learnt. In the audiolingual lab students were delivered predetermined audio or video material as a model to repeat or decipher in comprehension questions. As Szendeffy (2005, Using Computers in Language Teaching, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan) puts it:
Using computers as tools to produce collaborative projects shifts the focus to the relationship between students working together and away from a student working alone with a machine.
Where the analog lab broadcasted information in one direction, the computer serves more as a pliable tool displaying a vast array of information and stimuli on demand while also providing constant opportunity for input and more creative expression. Teachers can tap into this power to orchestrate challenging activities that involve and empower students, stimulate thought and production, and create more instances of authentic interaction between students using the target language than might be the case in the analog lab or conventional classroom.