Use of Language Lab in English Language learning/teaching

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Introduction of technology In Language teaching/learning

Emerging technologies make it practical to approach learning in ways that have been advocated by scientists, theorists, and educational psychologists for years.  Advanced information technologies such as virtual reality, visualization, digital modeling, digitization, simulation, games, virtual worlds and intelligent one-on-one tutoring systems dramatically enhance teaching and learning of elusive concepts by translating abstractions into real-world contexts and providing customized instructionand individualized assessments.  To realize the full potential of this technology and to ensure its pervasiveness in all institutions of learning and training, we must undertake a long-term, large-scale effort to research, develop, test and disseminate tools for building advanced learning systems.

Pedagogy of learning through technology

I Assimilating what has been learned

These are generally guided exercises. They are used to help students assimilate grammatical and lexical structures, as well as phonetics. They consist of the following:

-Repetition Exercises  (Word Pronunciation, Sentence Pronunciation).

_ Substitution / Transformation Exercises (Sentence Practice, Grammar Practice).

II Putting the rules into practice

These are guided exercises. Their objective is to highlight specific functional components within a language:

_ Reflection on the organization of sentence components (Word Order).

_ The use of vocabulary and grammar in fill-in-the-blanks exercises, which require students to analyze a sentence in its entirety in order to place the correct word (The Right Word, Fill-in-the-Blanks).

-Vocabulary practice with association exercises, which consist of matching a word with its synonym, antonym or a related image (Word Association, Picture / Word Association).

_ Reflection on vocabulary or grammar using texts or lexical groups, in which students must identify words belonging to a specific grammatical or lexical group (Words and Functions, Words and Topics).

III Mastering the language The objective of these types of exercises is to put the acquired knowledge into practice through written expression. The exercises consist of:

_ Guided expression, consisting of the transformation of context (Text Transformation).

_ Semi-guided expression, in which it is necessary to write texts based on an image or video, or to write a summary of a longer text (Written Expression).

Strategies of Teaching/Learning

Learner can respond at ease for communicative mode of teaching. Communicative method for learning languages combines extensive, high-quality content with flexible and interactive multimedia technology. This comprehensive language-learning method can act as a total solution for self-teaching, as well as a teaching support to formal courses. Through a wide range of activities, a variety of skills are aimed to develop in a learner. A learner needs to communicate: oral and written comprehension, as well as oraland written expression. It also addresses the concepts of grammar, lexicon, phoneticsand conjugation.In order to achieve this objective, there are three possible Learning Modes:

The Guided Mode offers a step-by-step study course. Organized into Learning Paths, this mode focuses on the acquisition of functional language patterns across a broad spectrum of themes. In this mode a learner at lower intermediate level can learn pronunciation, grammar, functions of words and vocabulary by applying and practicing the rules.

The Free-to-Roam Mode gives a student the option of learning by topic or by linguistic skill. This mode is particularly useful for students who are at intermediate level of learning and also for teachers who want to familiarize themselves with the content available to them.

The Dynamic Mode takes a student under its wing. By analyzing a student’s results, this mode adapts the course of study to ensure that it corresponds to the student’s needs and abilities. The activities offered evolve in relation to the student’s results and original objectives. Advanced learners can immediately be immersed in an authentic learning context through

-the various dialogues and videos, which illustrate everyday and professional life.

-In line with current pedagogical trends, familiarizing students with the voicing of the language using recordings made by native speakers.

-Subsequently, students will address concepts of grammar, lexicon, phoneticsand conjugationthey have previously met in context, allowing them to understandand retainthese notions.

-Finally, in order to reinforce the knowledge they have acquired, students will be asked to apply it in a practical context.

All the modes can be applied for the learners of the same class according to their abilities and capabilities. Thus individualized learning can be encouraged, through using the cultural texts, images, maps and corresponding activities.

Methodology of Instruction

It is followed in the Communicative and integrated approach. It keeps the ability to use language to communicate as central goal, to make meaning-focused activity which simulates real life transactions; crucially activity is on the learner’s part, with the teacher being more of a facilitator and guide. The type of Syllabus framed is Analytic. It equips the learner with language to use it in a variety of situations (real or simulated) covering the varied purposes for which they have to communicate in corporate world. The learner analyses these wholes and develops a sense of the patterns of usage. Thus they learn language naturally by being immersed in its communicative use. In these activities, learners move from controlled practice of a conditional form presented in an Audio or Video form or Reading text or the combination of both to the activity in which they have to produce in Spoken or Written mode. This Presentation-Practice-Production (PPP) model is followed in the lesson plans.

Use of Language Lab with Teacher’s Console

Language Lab can be used for teaching/learning through teacher’s Console and Language Learning Software.It acts as a platform for learning, practicing and producing language skills through interactive lessons and communicative mode of teaching. Learners can act and respond in a variety of ways at their own pace. Language lab may have the following objectives, purposes, functions to work upon.

Objectives:

  • To maintain good linguistic competence- through accuracy in grammar, Pronunciation & Vocabulary.
  • To develop pragmatic competence, to understand the grammatical form & function & scale of formality.
  • To enrich the discourse competence, to prepare the learner to be able to produce contextualize written text and speech.
  • To acquire strategic competence to use both spoken & written language to use in a wide range of communication strategies.

Purposes of teacher’s Console;

  • Stay in control- Monitoring the students from the teacher’s PC when they are on self learning.
  • Reinforce learning- Facilitating broadcast and sharing files from Teacher’s PC to the other student workstations through audio, video, text and image.
  • Teaching with software that is approachable- Pairing and grouping the students to facilitate group discussions. Content authoring to create course material, and tests.
  • To ensure the best learning results

1) Stay in control

New ways of learning and interacting in the classroom demand new ways of managing student activity. Many software language learning solutions keep teachers and learners firmly at the center of learning activity with a suite of classroom management tools: control web browsing; manage chat sessions; monitor students’ on-screen work and activities; black out screens; lock cursors and keyboards to focus attention on a given task; shut down, log off or restart student computers etc.

2) Reinforce learning

Teachers can use communication tools that are familiar to their students, such as text messaging or chat, to communicate with them in an engaging way and by creating more opportunities to interact in the target language. Learners can reinforce their language in various activities. They can revise pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure and conversations

3) Teaching with software that is approachable

Teachers will be perfectly at ease by using teaching software, as the interfaces are user-friendly and activity-driven, so that activities that are not in use cannot be accidentally selected to confuse the teacher and disrupt the lesson. No specialized IT skills are needed in the comfortable teaching and learning environment provided by the interface.

4) To ensure the best learning results

Language Learning Software gives learners access to resources for independent or supplemental learning and study. This unique learning-on-demand feature creates additional learning opportunities and reinforces classroom activity. It is possible to conduct & practice  tests and get results in individualized manner.

Functions of Teacher’s Console:

  1. Live Audio & Video broadcasting
  • To broadcast live Audio and Video from news and educational channels of  TV or from internet
  • To broadcast the teacher’s screen or a selected student’s to other computers
  • To broadcast Audio and Video from any analog source i.e. DVD, MP3 & CD etc
  1. Monitoring the student’s workstations
  • To Monitor students’ screens as a whole and also on individual basis from the teacher’s workstation
  • To take control or terminate applications on any student computer
  1. Speech drill exercises

To practice voice based activities like speech drill exercises through model imitation, voice recording, voice graph and variable speed playback to neutralize accent & acquire fluency

  1. Group Discussions
  • To bring the students into random or standard groups to conduct group discussions and role plays from their workstations.
  • Live recording of discussion content for each group so that the teacher can provide feedback on their performance
  1. Content Authoring and Conducting online examination
  • To combine text, video, images and audio to design customized course materials.
  • To create, edit and score exams, quizzes and tests using text, graphics, audio and video.

Techniques to improve macro skills of language Though Language Lab

Among the four macro skills of language learning, listening and reading are receptive skills whereas speaking and writing are the productive skills. These skills can be improved effectively, when the learner learns at his own pace. With the help of the functional tool- Language Lab with Teacher’s Console, language skills can be learnt, practiced and evaluated through the techniques followed.

I) Techniques to improve listening

The primary form of linguistic communication is speech and so listening is the most important receptive (and learning) skill for foreign language students. An ability to listen and interpret many shades of meaning from what is heard, is a fundamental communicative ability.

Teaching listening involves training in some ‘enabling skills’ — perception of sounds, stress, intonation patterns, accents, attitudes and so on, as well as ‘practice’ in various styles of listening comprehension.

a) Perception / Pronunciation

Accurate perception of the sounds of the language is the first stage which leads to interpretation and comprehension. When listening to a foreign language, we need to know the sounds, rhythms, tunes and stress patterns of that language. All the pronunciation work which we do will benefit the students’ listening ability.

1) Phonetics: The sounds of the English language can be written down using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) which is used in all Longman dictionaries. Use of minimal pair perception exercises (ship/sheep, ten /then) helps students learn the sounds of English. It can be well practiced on pronunciation exercises with the help of software or by using CDs in language lab.

2) Interpretation: We listen to interpret meaning. Most of the exercises which students will do focus on listening comprehension, which is, interpreting meaning from spoken language.

3) Listening to words: In written language, there are convenient white spaces between words. Whereas spoken language is a continuous stream of sound. The learner has to pay attention to understand the meaning of words spoken.

b) Tools for Listening

1) Acoustics: Our ability to hear is essential to our ability to listen. The first set of ideas concerns the production, corruption, transmission and reception of spoken language.

2) Usage of language laboratory: Earphones and headphones deliver undistorted sound directly to the ears. It is better practiced in a language laboratory with the help of head phones and earphones; this provides ideal conditions for intensive listening.

c) Organizing listening comprehension activities

As in reading comprehension, there should always be a ‘purpose’ in listening. In most cases, this will be some form of comprehension. We should establish regular ‘procedures’ for listening activities in which students will develop from general (gist) to specific comprehension through repeated listening and a specific activity at each stage.

1) Understanding the setting: After the first listening, students should be able to understand the setting of the recording — where the speakers are from, how many speakers there are, the ages, roles, professions, moods of the speakers, etc., and what they are talking about. This encourages students to think about the setting so that they can go on to speculate about the content of what the speakers will say. This first listening allows the students to get accustomed to the voices.

2) Pre-teach difficult vocabulary: Teaching isolated and meaningless lists of words and phrases is probably not a good idea. Teachers may choose to introduce the setting before the students listen. This provides an opportunity to elicit or introduce and explain the sort of language we might hear in that setting. This language is listed on the board and students listen and mark what they actually heard.

3) Focused listening: Listening tasks should give the students a reason for listening and focus their attention. These listening tasks should be set before the students listen. This intense listening requires intense concentration. Therefore the listening task can be limited for ten to fifteen minutes.

4) Comprehending: In large classes we will probably have different levels of competence. There is no reason why all the students need to work on the same task. Equally, if we have more than 6 questions, groups of students can be given questions 1-5, questions 6-10 and so on. After listening students share their answers.

5) Analysis: After students have understood the gist and some important details of a recording, it can be analyzed in more detail and investigate the way in which the speakers have expressed the ideas. How much have they revealed their mood, their opinions and so on? Analysis of the speed and style of speech, the use of hesitation, repetition, false starts, paraphrasing and so on can also be practiced.

6) Graded Listening tasks: We teach listening by building up comprehension from general understanding to identifying specific information. We can also grade the listening tasks from easy to more difficult by the form of questions we use and it can be evaluated based on the kind of out put by the learners in the form of writing or speaking.

II) Techniques to improve speaking

Students’ speech evaluation is possible through the digital recorder modules in language learning software. Students’ audio recordings can be scored or saved for later evaluation. The Teachers can Record their own voice notes that students can hear later as they review their work.

Group Discussions & Role Plays: The students on different workstations can be grouped and put into random pairs or groups to participate in role plays and group discussions. Teachers can listen directly or intervene as when required to control, monitor and evaluate the process. It can also be recorded and saved for later evaluation.

Digital Recorder: This software module allows students to experience interactive multimedia programs while simultaneously recording their own voices for practice. Using this, students feel like they are interacting with a live native speaker and they can increase their comprehension, vocabulary and speaking skills. By adding subtitles, reading skills are also increased. Quizzes and tests can be prepared by using text, graphics, video and audio materials. These quizzes are graded automatically

Voice Recognition Technology: This technology is integrated into the Pronunciation module of the software. Using the built in microphone on your computer, the learner will be able to repeat words after they hear from a native speaker through computer speakers. The software will analyze their pronunciation and compare a waveform representation of the native speaker’s pronunciation with a waveform of their pronunciation. An accuracy scale on the screen with display their voice match to the native speaker on a scale of “Bad”, “Acceptable”, and “Good”.

III) Techniques to improve Reading & Writing

The key to learning a language is the frequent exposure and use of vocabulary and grammar. The average person must be exposed to a word or phrase 100s of times before integrating it into fluent conversation. The major thresholds of gaining language fluency are the learner’s ability to:

  • Learn a base vocabulary of approximately 2000 words for day–to–day use
  • Learn the rules of grammar
  • Vocabulary Lessons
  • Grammar Exercises
  • Interactive Stories/situations

a) Grammar Exercises – Reading, Writing, Comprehension

The goal of these exercises is to build the knowledge of how the words fit together to make sense. Some of the exercises may be translations; others can be designed to teach the learner to think in English by asking them to change a phrase in a specific way. This feature requires to type responses within the exercises, providing a practical and effective form of writing instruction.

Reading Comprehensions can be given in the form of stories, case lets, cases, descriptions and narrations. The learners can be encouraged by allowing them to follow the different methods of reading such as, skimming and scanning. They can be followed by activities in groups through exercises on word meanings, vocabulary, fill in the missing information, writing summary / gist. Note taking, thought provoking questions for group discussions, brainstorming sessions etc.

b) Writing exercises: Writing can be practiced through typing on gap fill exercises and model format for E-mail, letter, memo, reports and resume. They can also prepare the paper for presentations. These can be observed and edited by the instructor through the Teacher’s Console.

Written Assistance: – The teacher can send messages to guide learners with their work and learner can reply. The teacher can also initiate a text chat session with single & multiple learners. In this feed back can be given on the spot.

Track learning progress through Language Learning Software

Language learning software provides teachers with a number of methods for evaluating students’ performance and tracking their progress. By using writing, listening, recorded and Web-based activities to stimulate learners to make use of their growing oral and written language skills, store results for comparison over time, so the teacher/learner can measure progress.

Exam module under the Teacher’s Console provides a complete interactive and automatic quiz module. They can contain text, graphics, audio, video in the quiz. This allows teacher to use virtually any media available to create tests and evaluate the learners. Ex. Question types may include multiple choices, true/false, fill in the blanks and essay.  Speaking can also be evaluated through digital recorder module. Students’ working on assignments or conversations in groups can be evaluated. Their audio recordings can be scored in and saved for evaluations.

Reports and statistics for tests are immediately available at the end of the each session, giving the important details of the class, individual student and individual question in tabular, graphical representation or pie diagram model.

Conclusion

There is always scope for improvement and advancement in any field and for any subject. It has to be accomplished with commitment and enthusiasm. We are habituated to the traditional teaching methods. It is high time that our teaching methods have to undergo a change. Unless the new technology is adopted in English language teaching, we can not impart language skills in our learners at the rate of growing competition. According to my view, these are a few of the whole lot of techniques those can be used to improve language skills through technology in the present generation. It can be implemented for a learner of any age at any stage.  It will be more effective if technology is introduced from the elementary level. According to my view comprehensive language learning (language along with skills) is possible through both classroom and language lab teaching, as applied for science subjects.


References:

Books

  1. M.Ashraf Rizvi, Effective Technical Communication, The McGraw-Hill Companies
  2. Meenakshi Raman & Sangeeta Sharma, Technical Communication, Oxford University Press

Journals

  1. Teaching English with Technology
  2. ELT Oxford Journal
  3. The Asian ESP Journal
  4. Reflections on English Language Teaching
  5. Language Teaching Quarterly

Brochures

  1. Symposium –Digital language lab system
  2. Sanako – Study 1200
  3. Professional Language lab-DLL
  4. Smart class Language lab systems-Robotel
  5. Multimedia Language lab system-Nuri Net-II
  6. Genesis- Linguatronics
  7. Tell Me More V6 Network
  8. English Lab Plus- Globarena

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