Jason White and Dr. Dilworth Parkinson, Linguistics and Asian and Near Eastern Languages
In Arabic pedagogy (as in many languages), listening comprehension continues to be an area of frustration for students as well as teachers involved in second language acquisition. The greatest challenge is to allow a student access to authentic material with interaction. Obviously, the resources (natives) for such idealistic activities are very limited. The goal of this software development was to make authentic material available to students and allow for interaction (though somewhat limited), and to make the setup of such activities and materials easier for the professor. Computer-aided instruction cannot replace conversation or live interaction; however, it can and does help the student prepare for these activities in their target language (in this case, Arabic).
The program was developed in HyperCard 2.2 on the Macintosh platform. It includes three files which work together to allow the professor to set up his/her activity and the student to participate in the activity once it has been set up. Currently, the teacher is limited to creating approximately 44 different activities under the same format; however, this will be edited in order to allow more flexibility and volume for creation and organization. The student is allowed to see a video clip or hear a sound clip and do multiple choice questions based on the clip. Each time the student completes a round of questions, he/she receives more help until doing three rounds of questions or until they answer all of the questions correctly.
For the teacher, there is a file which he/she may use to edit and create the activities for the students. When he/she opens that file, he/she needs to have recorded and placed their video or sound file with authentic material into a designated location. He/she may then name the activity, identify the video/sound file, and enter a brief abstract. The program checks for the sound file, enters the information, and moves the professor to where he/she may create a transcript, translation and dictionary to accompany the sound text. Finally, the professor may enter questions and finalize the installation of the activity.
When the student opens the file, he/she is taken to a table of contents where he/she may choose an activity. He/she is taken to a screen with control panels and immediately hears the sound. At this point, the student may see the available controls, but they [the controls] are still disabled. Consequently, the student is forced to listen to the sound/watch the video. After hearing/seeing the clip, he/she is immediately taken to questions with no help whatsoever. After completing all of the questions, the correctly answered questions are removed so that he/she is not asked those same questions, and the student now receives control over the sound. The student has a ‘scroll bar’ to control the sound. He/she may listen to the sound as many times as he/she wants and focus on any part which is especially difficult. The student may then begin the questions which he/she did not answer correctly, and still control the sound while doing the questions. After completing the second round of questions, the student is given the option of seeing the transcript and using the dictionary. Glossed words are designated by underlining. When he/she clicks on an underlined word (in Arabic), he/she will see a definition in English along with notes that the teacher may have entered with the word’s definition. The student still has control over the sound. After the third round of questions or answering all of the questions correctly, the student is given the option to see any questions answered incorrectly and is rewarded with all helps including the sound control, transcript, dictionary, and the translation. He/she may exit to the menu and do other listening activities of the same format or exit all together.
Much of the software being developed in language instruction has become complex and full of ‘bells and whistles’ with little content and a lack of solid pedagogy. Despite beginning down that same road, I decided to simplify and give the user more control of the interface. By doing so, memory requirements were reduced, time was saved, and my project was completed within the deadline proposed. The simple secret is, that pedagogy must govern the technology and not vice versa! Also, the computer should not be pushed to imitate something which it is not capable of imitating.
The program was tested here at BYU with some Arabic students who felt somewhat stranded in the beginning of their experience, but enjoyed the way that helps were incremented within the activity. In fact, the sounds and texts which were entered were estimated by Professor Parkinson to be good for a 300-level student. The students who tested it were coming out of Arabic 102 and all scored very well. In fact, the first student to test it, scored perfectly on the third round of questions. Granted, some of the correct answers were made by guessing; however, the students manifested an increased confidence after using it. There remains much more testing to be done as to the effects of this program on students ability, but the initial feedback is promising.
This program has a future here at BYU and at other institutions. Professor Parkinson has requested that it be implemented into his program, and this semester we will begin entries for the 101 level. In addition, a professor at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California has requested a program with the same functionality in ToolBook for the IBM platform. I plan to develop it with his content of sounds and texts as part of my Ling 565R class this fall. ToolBook for the IBM will be my medium for development. The templates will be remain here at BYU to be used and distributed by the Humanities Research Center. Finally, the program uses the Arabic Language Kit for Macintosh which makes it more versatile and makes it usable for Latin-based languages in addition to Arabic.