October 30, 2000
Language center offers new concepts to teaching
By Eric Rangus email@example.com
Foreign language instruction has never been a high priority in American
education. But with globalization becoming more of a buzzword, that is
Emory is playing its part with an increased emphasis on internationalization,
and that is most apparent with this falls creation of the Emory
College Language Center (ECLC).
What we hope to do is to improve the quality of foreign language
instruction on our campus on many different fronts, said Mahmoud
Al-Batal, associate professor of Middle Eastern studies and ECLC director.
Al-Batal said the center has two primary focuses, one of which is pedagogy.
[The other] front is the technology area of our classrooms,
Al-Batal said. We want to provide more opportunities for students
to be immersed in the language, to be exposed to the languagethe
sounds, the images.
ECLCs technological jewels are a pair of identical smart
classrooms on the eighth and ninth floors of the Woodruff Library. A total
of 10 language classes share the rooms, which keeps them filled from 8:30
a.m. to 6 p.m. most days. And anyone taking one of those classes is in
for a treat.
Just a handful of the classrooms multimedia features include a
multiformat VCR, DVD/laser disc player, a six-speaker stereo system and
access to international television and radio programming. All these tools
are routed into a computer and displayed on a digital projection screen.
The screen is touch-activated, meaning an instructor or student can use
his or her hand as a mouse by clicking on an icon displayed
on the board.
In addition to the newly opened smart classrooms, a language lab is being
built on the librarys fourth floor. Al-Batal hopes it will be ready
by next March. A smaller lab with six networked computers is already open
next to the smart classroom on the ninth floor.
Not only will many of ECLCs programs help students, they are tailored
to assist instructors as well, particularly through training.
We are hoping sometime next summer to have workshops for language
faculty who are interested in undertaking projects to rethink the way
they teach, trying to incorporate new technologies intoteaching,
Faculty have had a lot of local support in the past, but they havent
had customized and focused technology support geared toward languages,
said Jose Rodriguez, ECLC technology analyst.
That often requires a lot of other things to think about, like
the non-Western scripts, writing from right to left. You have to integrate
culture as well as grammar, so there are a lot of things to consider.
And, according to Al-Batal, exploring new teaching techniques, whether
they involve new technology or not, is ECLCs other goal.
The language center sees as its mission to provide more exposure
of the faculty to the latest trends in teaching and pedagogical matters,
he said. I dont want it to be perceived that our mission is
only to deal with technologybut rather technology and pedagogy,
and how they interact.
For several years, language faculty have been looking for ways to upgrade
Emorys offerings in the area. One of the more positive advances
came in 1998, when the college mandated two semesters of a foreign language
in its degree requirements.
The Universitys increased focus on internationalization also intensified
the interest in addressing foreign language education. Then in April,
college Dean Steve Sanderson announced ECLCs creation.
The general push on campus toward internationalization and globalization has made it crucial to have a center that could coordinate all efforts on campus aimed at enhancing the learning and teachingof foreign languages, Al-Batal said.
As part of ECLCs responsibilities, it has taken over administration
of the 4-year-old Languages Across the Curriculum (LAC) program, which
moves over from the Center for Teaching and Curriculum (CTC).
ECLCs workings are guided by two committeesexecutive and
advisory. The executive committee will meet once a month and is made up
of representatives from each foreign language area. It will oversee the
centers activities and handle the planning and organization.
The 11-member advisory committee includes reps from the college, Oxford,
the graduate school, the Institute for Comparative and International Studies
(ICIS) and seven other departments that deal with the teaching of foreign
languages. Starting in November, it will meet each semester to discuss
ways ECLC can aid this instruction across the Emory community. The executive
committee had its first get-together earlier this month.
While ECLCs creation may not lead to any more foreign languages
being added to college curriculum in the near future (Portuguese was added
this fall), it can help students find language resources outside Emory.
We have graduate students in anthropology who have research needs
in African languages, Al-Batal said. We are hoping to find
a formula by which the language center can assist the graduate school
by providing training to graduate students using whats called the
self-instructional model, where you find a native speaker
or tutor who will meet with the students.
New technology initiatives are already in full swing. This summer ECLC
began digitizing archived audio and video materials. This would allow
them to be posted to the web so students can download them from any computer.
While the music and media librarys cassette collectionlong
a staple of any foreign language programwould never fully disappear,
the center hopes to build a significant collection of digitized files.
A good representation of materials in Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Italian
has already been built, Rodriguez said.
The material in the new language lab, for instance, will be digital, making it more of a foreign language computer lab than anything else. The new language lab will include a digitizing suite so faculty members can digitize material on their own time.