Magnet High School's Lab Gives Foreign Language Students an Edge

William Fleming High School, a magnet school in Roanoke, Va., that is part of the Fleming/Ruffner magnet campus, takes its foundation from a successful program that includes aeronautics and fine arts in its curriculum. The campus applied for and won a magnet grant, which provided $3 million for both Fleming and Ruffner. A portion of these funds were used to purchase equipment for two foreign language centers, one located at each site. Acoustic Integrity The foreign language equipment of choice was the IS-10 series from Brewster, N.Y.-based Tandberg Educational, Inc. According to Sheila Balderson, the curriculum specialist for foreign language, the Fleming/Ruffner Magnet Center located on the Fleming campus is more elaborate. Up and running as of last October, the center hosts approximately 25 foreign language classes, which utilize the facility throughout the day. Thirty Synsor student study carrel stations house Tandberg IS-10 multimedia-equipped student systems and are arranged in a horsesh'e with the teacher placed in the middle. Students are guaranteed a certain amount of privacy and acoustic integrity via the furniture's carpeted side walls and see-through front panel. The teacher station boasts a Tandberg IS-10MM audio-video-computer learning system console, a Pioneer videodisc player and a Canon video visualizer. This set up assists up to two instructors with oral and visual communication on an individual-student level. A special station with a higher and wider worksurface allows wheelchair-bound students to utilize the technology center. Also, two Apple Quadra computers, a 610 and 660, are located at the back of the center, along with four Panasonic VCRs. Students use the Quadras for individualized instruction. Many Materials The Tandberg equipment supports audiotape and videodisc materials as well as multi-standard videotapes from around the world. Closed-captioned materials and computer software can also be utilized. Teachers use the Canon video visualizer to enlarge even the smallest of printed materials or to display three-dimensional objects on students' video screens. The high school's rooftop satellite dish brings a wide variety of satellite programs in transmissions types such as SCOLA to the student workstations. Lastly, a standard markerboard with colored markers enables teachers to highlight lesson information. Teacher-student communication is enhanced by a full audio-video computer feedback system. Instructors can privately monitor any student, listening to him or her speak and offering support, or they can speak with groups of students and let those groups hear each other. The Tandberg system also lets teachers randomly pair students together for dialogue exercises. This feature lets students located across the room from each other work together with minimal classroom disruption. Instructors can also send a visual image to any or all students; up to four separate video signals can be sent to different groups during a class lesson. Impressive Balderson explains that instructors rely on a variety of curriculum materials, including videos that supply cultural information, satellite materials, transparencies and Rosetta Stone, from Fairfield Language Technologies in Harrisonburg, Va. The latter is CD-ROM software for Spanish, French and German language instruction. She uses the Tandberg system to demonstrate the program to the entire class, then lets the students run it independently on the Quadras. During a recent visit to the center by a group of interested educators from another county, students were encouraged to express their opinions on the technology center. Says Balderson, "In students' vernacular, comments included 'Oh it's great,' 'It's more individual,' and 'It's more private.' The visiting group was thoroughly impressed."

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.