Saturday, November 14, 2009

POODLL: A New Kind of Language Laboratory - PCC Conference Presentation

Attended the PCC conference at Ehime University where I co-presented on PoodLL with Mr. Justin Hunt. Here are the notes from our presentation:

Justin Hunt, Nagasaki Commercial High School
Thom W. Rawson, University of Nagasaki, Sasebo

Currently available computer language laboratory systems (CALL) are lacking one major feature; curriculum content designed for the classroom.  Systems are made with top quality hardware and have excellent feature sets designed to be flashy and impressive. The technology is exciting.

However without the appropriate lesson materials most of these technical features are not easy to use in a real class. For example, most LL systems allow the teacher to create a pair session and to have the students talk in pairs via headsets. But is there a means for the teacher to provide the students something to talk about? Is it possible for information gap activities to be used which show each member of the pair a different “worksheet” on their computer? It is surprising to find this area lacking.

POODLL - Presentation Summary

POODLE - Presentation Slides

Another problem is that LL systems often do not have the “educational features” to make the technical features useful. All LL systems have the ability to record a students’ voice. But how easy is it really for the teacher to set passages for the student to read, and how easy is it to review the student’s recordings? Can the teacher provide audio or text feedback to the student? Can the student in a subsequent class, or in their free time, review their efforts? Again, surprisingly these things are not easy to do.

Also, creating a new kind of activity such as “dictation” or “listen and fill in the blanks”, the high-tech LL systems currently available are not flexible enough to allow it.

The core deficiencies of these systems are:
  1. The inability of the teacher to build on the basic LL system functions to create original lessons and lesson formats, easily.
  2. The lack of an integrated means for teacher to evaluate and give feedback to students.
  3. The lack of an integrated means for students to review past work.
Undertaking the task to develop an original system, Mr. Justin Hunt and Mr. Thom W. Rawson have collaborated to develop and implement an original LL system which addresses the shortcomings of the big CALL players. In addition to addressing the problems with LL systems noted above, the project has several additional goals:
  • The software should run in a web browser with no need for software installation.
  • It should be easy and fun to use for students and teachers.
  • Technically minded teachers should be able to add to or alter the system.
The system (named POODLL) has many functions now available with many others in the roadmap for production. Current functions available include easy content creation, audio recording, pair sessions, pronunciation drills, dictation, audio and non audio assignment submission, and teacher feedback.

POODLL delivers online content and courses to students at many levels using the well-known and trusted Moodle system with some special CALL enhancements. POODLL is on par with many higher-priced CALL systems and integrates well in any networked computer lab.  Using HTTP, Apache, php, mysql, and flash, POODLL offers low-cost high-impact online course management for professional content delivery and in addition, the features of a language lab system.

Mr. Justin Hunt and Mr. Thom Rawson will co-present (in English) the goals and uses of system which is currently a work-in-progress and has live beta sites at 3 schools in the Nagasaki area. POODLL experiences, current features, demonstration, as well as some of the future road map for POODLL will be presented.

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