By Maria J. Treviño
It’s impossible to review every piece of technology equipment, so let’s look at the biggest one – language labs.
Language labs have been used for years at the college level and now many school districts have language labs in high schools. Most of the labs of the past were used to develop listening comprehension. Many of today’s language labs are multimedia labs and students work on developing their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills individually, simultaneously, in pairs, or in small groups.
There are several types of language laboratories – listening labs, computer labs, and multimedia labs. Labs can be permanent fixtures in classrooms set aside so that students/classes can rotate in and out of them. There are ceiling hanging labs that can be installed in every Spanish classroom with a variety of equipment. Traveling media (laptops or iPads) labs are checked out from the library or technology department and move from classroom to classroom. Some schools have computer labs for other disciplines but are shared with the language department.
If your district is considering adding language labs, it is recommended that a team consisting of language teachers, administrators, and personnel from the technology department be involved in the study and selection of the best labs for the schools. In addition, it is recommended that the team visit different schools and universities that have labs to obtain information on implementation, use, upkeep, upkeep costs, etc.
Funding is never easy to obtain for such high priced items. However, it is not impossible. Search big technology company websites for technology grants. My district was able to provide funding for the labs through a bond issue. At the end of three years, the first new high school had a 120-position language laboratory (60-positions listening/60-positions multimedia). Language labs became a regular part of every new high school. Additional bond issues provided funding for the retrofit of older schools to have language labs.
Now the school has a language laboratory. What are the next steps? First, every teacher should learn how to manage the lab. Second, teachers need to learn to use the auxiliary materials associated with the textbook in a different manner. It’s not just placing a CD/DVD in the system. It’s how that CD or DVD is used to simplify, enable, differentiate, accelerate, and evaluate language learning. Is technology simply a “babysitter” or are the students involved in active learning? Third, teachers need training on using multimedia materials beyond the auxiliary materials. Spanish teachers need to make connections with the technology department. They have a treasure chest of ideas beyond developing PowerPoints and wikis. Learn how those ideas can be used to teach Spanish as well as how students can use technology to demonstrate what they have learned.
Technology can be a great tool if used properly. Take advantage of it.
María J. Fierro-Treviño
Instructional Specialist, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX. (Retired)
Director for Languages other than English, Texas Education Agency (Retired)