Podcasting – 24/7 foreign language learning

MIT has an article about using podcasts for what is essentially 24/7 foreign language learning. Of course, a student can’t really listen to their foreign language material 24/7, but with portable devices like iPods, the potential is there:

MIT’s Foreign Languages and Literatures (FL&L) section is exploring ways to use podcasting and mobile media players such as iPods in foreign language teaching, thus enabling their students more frequent and non-traditional ways to hear and speak foreign languages.

The common goal in the faculty podcasting projects is immersing students, as much as possible, in a foreign language during the course of a semester. Given the ubiquity of mobile devices (e.g., cell phones, MP3 players), students can now experience many types of media in nontraditional surroundings 24 hours a day. They can fit in a few minutes of language learning while riding the bus, walking the dog, or exercising in the gym. Podcasting, as a distribution medium, has changed the learning landscape, providing many more opportunities for immersion.

Portable devices really have turned the whole idea of a “language lab” upside down. With iPods or other MP3 players, you can basically take your language lab anywhere you go. This is a huge jump even from the home computer becoming a language lab over the past years. With the internet and access to so much foreign language media, both text, audio, and visual, a computer with a broadband connection can easily serve as a language lab. But unless you have a laptop, you can’t very well carry your computer around with you. Portable devices solve that problem wonderfully.

Another segment of the article that I thought was pretty cool was this:

At Groeger’s request, LLARC is investigating tools that would allow for an oral threaded discussion, in the style of a regular online forum.

That would be pretty amazing. Students and teachers could post to the forum whenever they had time; after a while, after a thread had been heavily active, you would essentially have one long dialogue to work with. A teacher could then slice in their responses to each student with corrections. This would be great for the students, as well as anyone else who wanted to listen to the exchange.

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