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Longmeadow High School students take language studies to new level


Oct. 31, 2013
<b>Foreign language teachers from school districts throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut took part in a training session at Longmeadow High School’s new language lab on Oct. 24.</b> <br>Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

Foreign language teachers from school districts throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut took part in a training session at Longmeadow High School’s new language lab on Oct. 24.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

LONGMEADOW – Students at Longmeadow High School are now able to take their foreign language studies to the next level, thanks to a language lab that was built as part of the new building.

Kathleen Epaul, World Language Department Chair at the high school, allowed Reminder Publications a peek at the new lab during a training workshop on Oct. 24. The event included teachers from several districts throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut and illustrated that Longmeadow is using programs that are widely held in high regard.

“Everyone here has this lab in their school,” she said. “We have teachers from Minnechaug [Regional High School], Longmeadow, Amherst and the Hartford area and it’s a technology we all use regularly in our classes.”

Epaul explained that Longmeadow students in all of the school’s world language classes utilize the lab at least once a week.

While there are several benefits to the technology, the biggest one, Epaul said, is the assortment of learning options it provides.

“The lab allows us to create activities where students are engaged with the language in a variety of modes,” she said. “[Students] can be writing, speaking, [or] listening. We can record them and we can collect and grade the recordings, but we can also play the recordings back right away so they can hear themselves on the spot, which is really important for them to have the opportunity to do.”

The lab also allows for collaboration. The example being used during the training session involved the teachers, acting as students, pairing up in order to draw a picture of a shaggy dog.

“In this model, we’ve sent a note to one student asking them to describe the shaggy dog and the other one has to draw on the screen what the first student is describing,” Epaul said.

From the teacher’s station, students’ work can be monitored from one central location.

“Teachers pop in and out from station to station, listen to the student and even provide on the spot feedback,” Epaul said.

She added that each student has a more intimate, one-on-one approach with the language, which helps them develop a greater understanding of it.

“What we found is the students are engaged the entire time they are in there,” Epaul said. “They are able to take the language and because it is in those headphones and right in their ears, it focuses it so much more for them.”

The lab can be split as well, offering more than one group of students the opportunity to use the equipment at a time, even if they are studying different languages.

Superintendent Marie Doyle called that an important aspect of the programming because it means that eventually the district will be able to offer learning options in languages other than the ones presently offered.

“Languages such as Mandarin or Farci are ones that are very important in the world, but we don’t necessarily have the funding to employ a teacher,” she said. “This would allow us the opportunity to teach those languages.”

Utilizing equipment and software that is used by several districts offers greater opportunities for collaboration as well.

“The representative from the company through which we got the technology has suggested that we create a regional group that meets every so often just to exchange ideas on how to best use the lab,” Epaul said. “It’s been very useful for other districts.”

Epaul added that internal collaboration is already taking place with half of the department’s regular meetings devoted to the subject of best leveraging the technology to the students’ benefit.

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