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Language Resource Center
Newsletter Fall- 2011
Content, Language, and Research - Intermediate/Advanced German Class

The previous newsletter included an article on the activity of using Skype in beginning Arabic classes. This article describes how Skype was used in advanced classes. Professor Martin Kley used Skype video conferencing as a tool for his advanced German classes in Spring 2011. He designed the course for his students to "converse with a native speaker of German currently in Germany and in a meaningful and authentic context." Skype video conferencing played a vital role in his course curriculum.

Professor Kley describes the course overview as follows:

"The course was built into a sequence on study-abroad, and students had to explore online (as a homework and in the language lab) student housing options at a German university, compare dormitories, prepare questions, etc.  Students then discussed housing options in a video Skype conference with the administrator of the Studentenwerk (the institution in charge of student housing at the university).  After the session, students had to follow-up the conversation with an essay about the best housing option at this university." 

Professor Kley's course curriculum design of 'language use in meaningful and authentic context' fits in the concept of Content-Based Instruction (CBI).  The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota describes that CBI is one of the curricular framework (not method) which seeks to reach a balance between language and content instruction with an emphasis on 'using the language rather than on talking about the language'.  CBI promotes teaching for both content and language (language within meaningful content) and "at its best integrates a focus on language in the context of content instruction". (See the details on CALRA website)  I believe that the Skype video conference in German class allowed students to demonstrate the content knowledge that they acquired and prepared and their language proficiency in an authentic synchronous environment. 

Professor Kley mentioned that the students found it exhilarating to communicate live with someone in Germany. 

"I think it really worked extremely well...   Students are still talking about this session, as it allowed them to communicate meaningfully what they had prepared." says Martin.   

Another important aspect of integrating the technology tools into advanced courses, along with integrating the content and language in course curriculum, is to explore the combination of various tools in different environments (synchronous/asynchronous) in order to stimulate the development of students' content knowledge and language proficiency.  Each environment has advantages and disadvantages and they have a variety of tools which can be used.

Professor Kley reflected on his course and mentioned:
"In an earlier course, I had students discuss with German students over discussion board. While this worked well, I might schedule a video Skype session before starting the discussion board for a get-acquainted session."

He concluded the remark with how indispensable integrating technology into course curriculum and classroom activity is for a language classroom.

"I use a variety of tools (sessions in the language lab, videos, discussion boards... etc.)" says Martin.  

 

Refrence:
CALRA at University of Minnesota: http://www.carla.umn.edu/
The Principle of CBI: CoBaLLT program at CALRA
http://www.carla.umn.edu/cobaltt/modules/principles/index.html

 

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