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Air Force Academy steps into future with interactive video.

Air Force Academy Steps Into Future With Interactive Video

A new concept in foreign language instruction at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. uses individually self-paced interactive videodisc (I/V) instruction coupled with classroom exercises to help cadets live the language.

According to Major miguel Verano, chief of the language learning center and director of software development at the academy, "The I/V instruction is so vivid, it brings the foreign lanaguage and its culture to the students. They can actually interact with the material--something they couldn't do before with television or films."

LANS and Lessons

Key hardware elements of this new videodisc-based instruction system include 32 Sony VIEW Systems, advanced interactive videodisc workstations from Sony Corp. of America, Park Ridge, N.J. Each workstation comprises an MS-DOS-compatible microcomputer, a keyboard, a videodisc player, a color monitor and a mouse.

Workstations ar arranged in groups of four or five, in several hexagon-shaped work areas. Students work independently, each in a dedicated space, so that they do not disturb one another.

All student stations are networked to a main computer for data collection purposes. This central processor, which serves as a file server for the local area network, also tracks student activity and provides the instructor with a variety of reports. The reports include counting the number of keystrokes each student enters per lesson, the lenght of time required to answer a question, and what choices a student made during the course of a lesson.

The academy's new technique for teaching a foreing language uses an icon-based authoring language to develop a blueprint of the entire lesson. Language content is then added in text form using a word processor.

"To create our I/V materials, instructors don't have to learn computer programming," says Verano. "All they need to know is what content they want to add to each class segment and then simply key in the appropriate text."

Dissection of a Lesson

Each student spends the first 20 minutes of the class at a workstation. Cadets first select an overview of the particular lesson. This is usually a one- to three-minute, live-action video depicting a typical scene in the target country or culture--such as being in a German restaurant. The student sees and hears a person ordering in German from the menu. This sequence can be stopped, reversed and rerun at any point.

The next phase is called "manipulation." Here, students have the option of seeing foreign language text, or hearing it, along with viewing the action video. However, this time the sequences have been "chunked." "Chunking" refers to a technique in which a sentence is broken up into short segments or phrases. If a cadet needs help, he or she can call up a glossary showing the English translation of each word. Or cadets can get a complete sentence translation in English via a mouse click.

In addition, students can move back and forth through each lesson at their own speed until they totally understand what is occurring in each video segment.

The next step for cadets is to complete four screen-based exercises. In the first, an English translation of the live-action video scene is displayed and the student is asked to guess if it is correct. This is followed by a reconstruction task--an actual sentence in the target language is scrambled and the student must correctly reassemble it. The next task is a letter-for-letter scramble within a word. And the last exercise has students place out-of-sequence sentences back into their proper order within a paragraph.

Following these I/V-based exercises, students go to the classroom where all conversation is conducted in the target language. These conversations adhere to the themes of the videos. For example, if the I/V-based lesson was on ordering food in a restaurant, then classroom interactions may have students order a steak, select a wine or acts as a waiter or another customer--all in the native language of the designated country.
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Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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