ERIC Identifier: ED317039
Publication Date: 1989-12-00
Author: Krause, Julie
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Telecommunications in Foreign Language Education: A Resource
List. ERIC Digest.
Foreign language and bilingual educators are in the unique position of being
able to bring the world to their classrooms via the new telecommunications
technologies. Telecommunication is electronic communication over long distances
by means of an online computer service, a telephone, a television, a satellite,
or other "long distance" technologies.
There are many alternatives available in telecommunication technology, and
educators must decide which of these alternatives are the most instructionally
appropriate to meet their students' needs. For example, through a computer
hooked up to a telephone line via modem, students in one classroom can exchange
information with students in another city or even in another country. Through
the use of a satellite dish and a television, students can view and hear native
language programs from all over the world.
This Digest discusses the many possibilities available to foreign language
educators for enhancing instruction through telecommunication technology. Sample
telecommunications programs, organizations, and services for foreign language
and bilingual teachers and students are mentioned below with addresses and
resources provided at the end of the Digest.
PROGRAMS AND SERVICES OFFERED VIA TELECOMMUNICATIONS
Orilla A Orilla (From Shore to Shore)" is a telecommunications project in which
groups of "Sister Classes" are set up between classrooms in the United States
and other countries for bilingual, English as a second language, and foreign
language students. The goal of the project is to increase students' proficiency
in one or two languages through written communication with a class in another
country, and to improve their understanding of another culture. The sister
classes participate in whole-class joint projects (to enrich language arts,
science and social studies, and math or other content-based lessons) and
exchange cultural packets via regular mail (letters, photographs, drawings,
student-made audio or videotapes) at least once each month. Languages currently
included in the network are English, French, and Spanish.
"The Computer Writing Network" at the National Heritage Language Resource
Unit (NHLRU) in Canada encourages second language learning maintenance and
stimulates cultural interchange between students in French immersion or NHLRU
language classes in Canada and students in other countries, including Portugal,
Brazil, the United States, and China. Support materials for both process writing
and the computer network have been developed, and writing folders in French,
English, and ten other languages are available from NHLRU.
"CompuServe," a commercial computer network that requires a computer,
communications software, a phone line, and a modem, provides users with the
opportunity to communicate with each other and to retrieve information online.
Users with similar interests can join a forum that enables them to receive or
contribute information in their specific fields. On the CompuServe network, the
Foreign Language Education Forum (FLEFO) allows foreign language and bilingual
teachers to contact each other, check the job market, and download public domain
software. The FLEFO libraries menu includes: Foreign Language Education,
Spanish/Portuguese, French, German/Germanic, Latin/Greek, Slavic/East European,
East Asian, and other languages.
CompuServe, like other commercial networks, provides access to electronic
mail, bulletin boards, data libraries, and online conferences. "Electronic Mail"
(E-Mail) is a fast and usually inexpensive way to send messages to a specific
individual or group. Recent developments in E-Mail may now make it possible for
most systems, including Bitnet and the commercial systems (i.e., CompuServe and
MCI Mail) to communicate with one another. Regardless of the system a party uses
to send or receive messages, anyone with E-Mail can communicate with anyone else
that has an electronic mail address. There is an initial fee for the software
package and an hourly (or monthly for some networks) service charge based on
local phone connect charges (with evening and weekend rates available).
"Bulletin boards" enable users to post and read messages, ask questions, offer
suggestions, and exchange information with other users of the forum. For
example, a teacher planning to take a group of students abroad can ask for
general information on the bulletin board and get answers back from anyone else
who happens to read the message. "Data libraries" make it possible to browse
through a series of abstracts of longer articles or to call up key words on a
specific topic. Articles can then be printed out or downloaded on diskette or a
hard disk. Online conferencing allows for the convening of an electronic
conference with other members of the forum all over the country. The CompuServe
package is sold by most software dealers.
"Minitel" is a French commercial network service that is now available in the
United States. (The name of the computer-like unit is also Minitel.) It is being
used in pilot sites to enable students of French to communicate in writing with
native speakers in France. Minitel is also being used by deaf foreign language
students at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.
"The Global TELEclass Project (Telecommunication Enriches Language
Experiences)" in Hawaii was established to assist foreign language students in
interacting directly with their counterparts learning English in other
countries. Some of the tele-systems use speakerphones and videophones
(freeze-frame or slow-scan) that transmit still video images over telephone
lines. In addition to reading and writing via computer, students can see and
communicate verbally with each other. Students in Hawaii, Japan, China, Korea,
Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Canada have been part of these "school
"The Satellite Communications for Learning (SCOLA)" is a consortium of
colleges and universities that provides members with foreign news and
information via satellite. The programs are unedited and are live or short-delay
in the original language. The current 24-hour broadcast airs programs from 15
countries daily and a dozen or more on a rotating basis. Other frequencies will
carry high speed data with resources fed into computers connected to the
satellite signal, including vocabulary, discussion topics, speech pattern
exercises, and graduated difficulty quizzes. The computer can also receive the
text printout of the original language as well as the translation into English.
Affiliation fees are based on the total numbers of students on a campus. SCOLA
can be used to supplement classes in foreign language, international business,
international law, international studies, and international relations.
ADVANTAGES OF USING TELECOMMUNICATIONS IN THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE
- Learning via a computer network provides an opportunity for
improving reading and writing skills in the target language.
- Learning via satellite programs can increase listening comprehension skills
and develop cultural understanding.
- Learning via distance technologies allows both students and educators to
interact with native speakers in other countries.
- Learning via interactive telecommunication technology media permits real
(and live) communication in the target language.
- Learning via interactive telecommunications provides opportunities for
developing international understanding and cross-cultural communication skills.
The effect of these technologies depends on their appropriate use by informed
educators and motivated students, and with integrated multi-media curricula. The
impact of the different telecommunication technologies on language learning
provides a rich domain for future qualitative and quantitative research.
The examples above are only a few of the many telecommunications projects
available to foreign language educators. Perhaps the future will hold many
additional possibilities for making the world smaller and the opportunities for
teaching and learning foreign languages much greater.
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