Who would have thought that what used to be frowned upon, even banned, in classrooms can make this kind of a comeback?
Computers, tablets and smartphones—once the bane of language teachers the world over, are now in full collaboration mode, helping teachers create the kind of lessons students can’t help but love.
In this post, we talk about seven language lab software solutions educators can integrate into their language classes. We look at how these technologies make language acquisition a more exhilarating and engaging experience.
But first, we briefly talk about 3 mindsets that ensure educators make the most out of these amazing technologies.
Ensuring Digital Language Lab Software Success
Nothing replaces the teacher
It’s tempting to simply sit back, relax and play second fiddle to cutting edge technology. After all, teachers are all too human, and if there’s some software able to accomplish their tasks, why get in the way, right? But don’t commit the mistake so many PowerPoint presenters make—thinking and talking as if the slides are the show. But truth is, in both instances, the human speaker/presenter will always be “the show.” You will always be king or queen.
Technology can give you an extra pair of hands and that extra oomph to your class. It can make your job a little easier and sure, it can save you time, but it will always be your job to educate and mold those students. You will always be holding the reins. No matter the software in your language lab, it can never replace the passion of an educator.
A program can be made to be interactive and fun, but only a living and breathing teacher can make funny faces, tell funny stories or find the humor in the mundane. It’s still on you.
Active learning is key
Your students can place the same burden on tech and expect it to teach them a language on command. But that should never be the case. The most productive of language programs are those done with active participation and purposeful attention.
Language cannot be learned passively. It cannot be acquired through a thousand mindless mouse clicks. If students are going through the motions, like Rapunzel waiting for her prince atop a tower, then no software program will suffice. So, remind your students to engage in every activity, every exercise, actively. If the program says “Okay, repeat after me, ‘Water, water, water,’” they better be cooperating 100% and really get on with the program.
Repetition will be key. It’s not all about finishing the modules and getting through every task. It’s about going at it over and over until concepts are learned like the back of one’s hand. For technology to do its part, your students must be willing partners in the process.
Make use of the flexibility and feedback
Students are unique in that they have varying mixes of strengths and weaknesses. Thankfully, today’s language solutions can easily factor that into consideration, for example, by allowing students to study at their own pace or tailor-fitting a program according to a student’s needs.
Today’s classroom technology is robust enough to respond to individual requirements. Make use of this flexibility by allowing students to chart their own learning paths—instead of compelling the whole class to learn the same things at the same time. Gone are the days when a class is considered a single, homogenous blob.
In relation to this, you should also make full use of a software’s feedback system. The lessons are for the students, the feedback mechanisms are for you. There are plenty of takeaways from those progress reports you receive. You’ll get a clearer picture of how each member of the class is doing. For example, you’ll know who’s having trouble with what topics. This would, ideally, inform your future lessons. Armed with insights, you are in a much better position to effectively guide your students to language mastery.
So, if you are to make the most out of your language lab technology, you need to be fluent on flexibility and feedback.
7 Digital Language Lab Software Solutions for Your 21st Century Classroom
FluentU brings cutting-edge video content to your language classroom.
FluentU’s carefully-curated authentic videos are actually pre-packaged mini-language lessons. They have been subtitled, translated and annotated by professional translators so your students can comfortably follow every clip. Whether they’re watching a movie trailer, a music video or an interview, they will be immersed in content packed with lessons and insights.
FluentU’s interactive transcription technology works like magic. Whenever a student doesn’t understand a word in the subtitles, they merely have to hover the pointer or tap on that specific item and outcomes everything they need to know about the mystery word, including translation, definition, pronunciation, images, audio and even usage examples!
FluentU is a powerful learning system that comes with progress tracking—allowing you to spot pain points so you can cover them in class reviews. Your students will pick up vocabulary and grammar, and hone their listening and reading comprehension. They’ll also be competent to perform communicative tasks.
Best of all, its cloud-based system is a breeze to set-up. No installations are needed and you can begin with as few as 10 students. So, if you’re teaching English, Chinese, Spanish, French, German and Japanese, be sure to ask for the free trial.
Imagine a class where each student is busy looking at her own computer screen. DLL is a language teaching software that allows for pronunciation practice, video presentation, audio broadcasting and quizzes to be integrated into your language classes.
The system prides itself of its “Courseware Building” feature which allows teachers to create multimedia language lessons in advance. You can make use of slides and images, for example. But aside from creating original material, DLL can be the platform where you display 3rd party content you find online.
There are two modes of learning: Teaching Mode and Self-Learning Mode.
The “Teaching Mode” lets you manage the pace and direction of learning. You control what students see or hear on the computer screen. You may call on a student and ask him to speak into the mic. For example, you can ask him to pronounce a word, to which you can give you instant feedback. The class listens to you and engages in activities as a group.
In the “Self-Learning Mode,” students continue to learn the target language even outside of class. With their own devices accessing DLL, they can review the lessons, do the exercises and work on the assignment you’ve prepared. (Both modes have their own merits.)
Still unsure if the system is for you? Get the DLL trial download and see for yourself.
Mythware Language Lab is a top-notch facilitator of language instruction in a class setting. Mythware is able to do this because the interface was designed, first and foremost, as a classroom management tool.
You practically have complete control of your students’ activities on this one. With your own console, you see what goes on in each of your students’ monitors. You can whitelist or blacklist websites for the class, you can even determine if their USB ports work or not. You can also fire up the device’s camera so you have an actual visual of students as they work through your activities. All these you can do, remotely—with the click of a button.
Language educators can broadcast lectures and give demonstrations by controlling the audio and video coming through every monitor and headset. You can stream a foreign language film or any prepared multimedia lesson, for example. You can conduct pronunciation or vocal exercises and encourage class participation. Quizzes and tests can be interactive and you can check in real time how every student is responding.
Mythware Language Lab really puts you in the driver’s seat, with your students being willing and happy participants.
Orell claims to be “best in class” and promises to teach your students all the four language skills—listening, speaking, reading, writing. And it does this in a very particular order. Listening and speaking come first. Reading and writing come later.
Program developers believe that this is the most effective way to learn languages because it is the order in which we learned our first tongues. When we learned our first languages, we weren’t writing words or reading grammar textbooks early on—we were listening and babbling.
Orell follows up on this Philosophy by providing plenty of pre-recorded native speaker voice, accent and pronunciation training. The students’ job is to listen, hone their ears to the target language and become familiar with its rhymes and rhythms. After listening, they are to pronounce and mimic how a native speaker sounds like. There is a voice recording feature that allows students to listen and modify their own vocal work.
The instructor’s console can monitor each student the whole time, privately correcting and providing input if need be. Like other language lab solutions, you will have the ability to assess student performance, and can even assign a particular lesson to a student if you think it will help.
The Zybro Language Lab affords your students the flexibility to learn the language at their own pace, and in the privacy of their own personal consoles. The company argues that this language lab set-up really helps shy students and encourages learners to speak more freely compared to the traditional classroom setting.
Students develop their language skills by engaging with a “master stimulus,” native speaker audios that serve as modules building in complexity as the lessons progress. There’s a recording feature that allows students to save their output and compare it with native speaker pronunciation.
The teacher’s console allows for access to each terminal so that the teacher can give individualized attention without disrupting the work of others. You can assign pairs and create role-playing exercises so students can converse and practice with each other. You can also monitor those conversations, facilitate the interactions and give constructive criticisms when needed.
The language lab set-up allows pairs to have more time for practice. In a traditional language class, everybody else keeps quiet and pays attention as one pair goes to the front of the class to say their piece. But in this set-up, all the pairs are doing their thing at the same time. Productivity for all is increased.
The pairs (or groups) don’t even need to leave their seats. With Zybro Language Lab, your students learn language at the speed of light.
All language lab systems feature some kind of audio pronunciation practice that requires students to speak into their mics and mimic native speakers. Checking recorded output would then be done by students themselves or by the teacher listening to individual recordings. Smart Class Plus cuts through all the trouble by using A.I. that can “listen” to student pronunciations and quickly determine how close they are to being accurate. This time, students can know how they’re doing, make some adjustments, without all the inherent bias of self-assessment. Educators, for their part, can quickly scan how students are faring by looking at the automatic assessments provided by speech recognition technology.
Smart Class Plus is also able to run in any device—iPads, smartphones, laptops—not just the computer terminals of the school’s language lab. Because the program can be safely hosted on the cloud, students can continue working on the target language on their own, wherever they are. You can send them off with assignments and homework that they can submit outside class schedules.
Truly, Smart Class Plus can help your students learn any language, from any place, at any time and on any device. Request for a demo today.
The School Shape system follows the principles of the Communicative Method where language is taught through authentic, task-based activities. After all, the goal of acquiring a language is so that one can adeptly use it to communicate with others. Students are placed in context and input rich situations where they would have to use the target language in order to accomplish a task—like introducing themselves to a stranger, asking for directions or ordering food at a restaurant.
The different activities in School Shape—whether they’re about listening, speaking, reading or writing—are geared towards a communicative mindset. You don’t have empty drills of phrases or sentences that students will never encounter in life, like “The green cat jumped over the pink elephant.” All activities are purposeful and experiential.
The system also allows you the full range of assessment tools including: drag-n-drop exercises, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks and even essays. You also have a “Worksheet designer” where you can spiff up those activities you broadcast to the whole class.
Many schools in the US absolutely love School Shape—find out why. Register your school today.
So, there you go! Have your pick of these language lab software solutions. And remember, in spite all the surreal advances in technology, there will never be a substitute for a teacher who has her students’ welfare at heart. For all the ungodly discoveries science and technology makes every day, a passionate teacher will always be at the very heart of every language class.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach languages with real-world videos.