Part 1: Summary
This article from KQED News discusses a new method in online teaching of foreign languages. Often, when attempting to learn a language online the lack of immersion causes a barrier that is hard for the average student to overcome. I personally experienced this when attempting to take a Spanish course online as a summer course. It becomes too easy for students to take shortcuts in their learning when given the vast resources of the internet just a mouse click away, and this in turn leads to superficial memorization. This new series seeks to solve these issues by immersing the student in different activities or conversations. None of the interactions are slowed down for the student’s benefit which I see as a step in the right direction. When completing my online Spanish course, I found I was able to conduct the course work adequately, however when it came time for conversational Spanish I would have trouble keeping up. Another interesting way that this program approaches learning a new language is by requiring students to speak and record their own responses to questions, which provides feedback on pronunciation and inflection. A final interesting thing to note regarding the program is the way it attempts to incorporate grammar. The program seeks to introduce grammar in a way that invokes critical thinking, and in doing so further solidify the rules in the student’s mind.
I believe that in theory this is a good program that seems to address multiple issues facing online learning. I do, however, have some questions regarding the effectiveness of implementing this program in schools. I am curious as to how school districts would intend to use this software in the classroom setting. While I do feel that this is a vast improvement over other online options I don’t feel it is a valid substitution for in person instruction. I think if the online program was used in conjunction with coursework, for example assigning homework using the online program, it can be used effectively and a tool for reinforcement. In dealing with online programs in my own scholastic experience I have noted a tendency for these type of programs to experience issues and this seems to be the main complaint leveled against the program. If this or any single program is relied on too heavily, it is detrimental to the learning process as it takes valuable time away from instruction and draws the focus away from the material.