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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Easier Alternatives to Oral Interviews

mac_dill.jpg Formal and informal assessment of students' spoken language is used by most language departments, commonly as one-on-one interviews with the instructor. This can put a huge strain on instructors as they are responsible for not only proctoring and grading each interview, but also: coordinating interviews with each student (which usually takes up several class dates), finding equipment to record the interviews, and figuring out how to access the recordings. Fortunately, the Language Center computer classrooms offer a variety of alternatives to one-on-one oral skills assessment!

All four of the LC classrooms can be used as a Digital Language Lab (DiLL). The DiLL uses an intuitive software interface that allows you to carry out the activities of a traditional language lab. You may already be familiar with the DiLL for informal speaking activities in class, but a growing number of language departments (Spanish, Chinese, ESL) are using the DiLL for graded speaking tasks.

The DiLL allows you to pair students (one-on-one or even small groups) and then, with the press of a button, they can record their conversations! You will have easy access to student recordings which are saved automatically to the DiLL server. Recordings can be played online or downloaded for easy access anywhere. What normally took days of class time will require less than one class period.

In my own experience, I have found that pairing students, rather than interviewing each student myself, produced more natural language and students felt less nervous, because they were working with their classmates and not their instructor. However, if you prefer to assign assessments that are individual, especially if you are focusing on accuracy, the DiLL is capable of this as well.

The DiLL also allows you to simply record students individually by giving them a prompt in advance or you can speak with the whole class (via the DiLL) and record their responses. You can even use a pre-recorded prompt, which allows students to listen, pause and record. Students can have multiple attempts, if the goal is accuracy. And again, each student's individual recordings will be available for you online immediately after they are submitted.

The DiLL is a great way to easily collect speaking samples from all of your students in the amount of time that you might normally spend interviewing one student. Their recordings are available immediately and can easily be accessed for grading, or even downloaded to share with the student. If you would like to learn more about how the Language Center classrooms can be used for oral assessment or if you would like to schedule a one-on-one training on how to use the DiLL, please contact us.

Have you used the DiLL for oral assessment? What was your experience like?

Monday, July 8, 2013

TandemPlus Event: Summer Pizza Social

On Wednesday, July 3, 2013, TandemPlus hosted its summer event, a Pizza Social. The event was cozy and personable with approximately ten attendees. Guests broke into two groups and exchanged friendly conversation about cultural differences and the difficulty of learning a new alphabet. Everyone enjoyed lunch from Mesa Pizza and lemonade.