Hello everyone, so I am finally sitting down and writing my first post for LLU. Barbara and Erin, thanks again for having me here on your wonderful blog.
Always tricky to write the first post. I’m planning to write about new technology, software, and certainly new gadgets. All of those will relate in some way to language learning, language teaching, as well language center and lab design and development.
So today I thought I’d muse on the new innovative touch screen device presented a little while ago. No, not the iPhone, which is drawing all the attention these days. No, I’m talking about Microsoft. You heard correctly, Microsoft presented something cool, even though it won’t come out until later this year, and then not even for consumers. Called Microsoft Surface, this 30-inch flat and touch screen “coffee table” lets you collaboratively work with your fingers. It’s hard to describe, just watch the short clips on their web site.
I am not even so impressed by this device. Yes, it’s flashy and a cool new (and probably very expensive) gadget, but it won’t replace my Mac Laptop anytime soon. Many of the features shown are still concepts and will have to face reality once MS Surface is on the market. Not to mention that it’s running on Vista…
But my mind has been racing when I was connecting this device with our foreign language resource center (we’re building a new one as we speak). This “coffee table” is exactly why we should not build standard, so-called turn-key labs (I get mad when the first question about our upcoming center that people ask at conferences is “How many stations?” or “Sanako Lab 250 or 300?”). Not only is the whole methodology behind these simple yet expensive solutions completely outdated, Microsoft’s upcoming gadget also shows that new language labs and centers need to stay flexible. Who knows, maybe future hardware will look like a coffee table. Well, that will turn a traditional lab upside-down. The chronicle wrote in a great article on campus design that we don’t have to build around the technology anymore.
So buildings designed for the new generation of learners should be designed with flexible spaces, movable furniture that allows students to spread out, and a lot of natural light.
I’ll try to get one of these as early as possible and see. Maybe it’ll change collaborative work in language centers and classrooms, maybe it’ll turn out to be a fad or simply not practical. Time will tell, but this example shows us how to stay on our toes and not take anything for granted in language lab or center and classroom design.
So, I actually managed to create some controversy in my first post, dissing turn-key labs, behaviorist models, and the audio-lingual method , not to mention saying something positive about Microsoft (don’t worry, I’m an Apple fan, but it’s too easy sides against Microsoft). I believe that blogs need controversy.
So, besides some feedback on these issues, I’m looking forward to hearing about how we could use the iPhone in language education. I haven’t found a use yet, but finding one might justify buying one of those expensive, shiny little things…