INDEX | Foreword | Editorial | About Wah Yan
  The Language Laboratory
By Kwan Yat Tong, Alvin Leung, Ng Ka Ho, Henry Chan

Have you ever been to the language laboratory? I believe that most of our schoolmates have been at least once. When you are using the facilities or working at the language laboratory, do you know the history of this laboratory?

In fact, Ms. Chau Suk Man Eva is the advocater and the planner of this new language laboratory. There are two main reasons for her to make such a proposal. First, with a language laboratory, we can make use of IT resources from all over the world for language learning. Second, in the past, the common rooms served as a place for language learning. The facilities were very limited. For instance, there was a loop systems. It was old and often out of order. There were just enough headphones for students of one class. So, we need another place for language teaching. During the academic year of 1997 to 1998, Ms. Eva Chau decided to apply for the Quality Education Fund from the government. A Quality Education Fund Project, namely Self-access Multimedia Interactive Language Education (SMILE), was launched. It included building a new language laboratory with the modern information technology in our campus.

At the beginning of the project, there were many barriers, such as funding, human resources, IT support and so on. At first, no suitable places were found. Eventually, Mr. Norman So, our principal, suggested having it in the canteen, where originally Form 7 classrooms were located. Relying on our effort and co-operation, finally the project was in a success. The language laboratory was completed in 1999.

Comparing the new language laboratory with the common rooms, there are more new facilities. The most obvious improvement is that every student can have a computer to work on. There are 43 computers for students and 2 computers for teachers. We have new programs and software for learning. Modern headphones are installed. And most importantly, the Language Learning System was set up. Teachers not only can connect and control every computer in the laboratory, he/she can also speak to any student directly and individually. Despite the seating arrangement in the laboratory, the teacher can group any students for group discussion. Moreover, the computers can serve as virtual recorders. Students can record their voice and then listen to it again so that they can check whether their pronunciation is correct. Now, the language laboratory supports the subjects of Putonghua and English.

Currently, Ms. Eva Chau is in charge of the language laboratory. Language teachers and some other teachers also provide assistance and technological support. There is a SMILE Management Committee responsible for the laboratory. As everyone knows, Ms. Eva Chau will be promoted to be the Assistant Principal in the next academic year. Hence, Mr. Percival Ho and Mr. Eugene Lee will take up her place. Due to the difficulties in time-tabling, it is not possible for all the 32 classes to use the laboratory during lesson time. Therefore, up to now, only form one to form four classes can take double English lessons in the laboratory every two weeks. And the classes of form one to form three can have a single Putonghua lesson there in two weeks?time as well. Besides during school hours, the laboratory is open from 3:45pm to 5:00pm during the winter order. But it is closed after school during the summer order of time. In addition, there are about 6 to 8 prefects helping in the laboratory to provide assistance to students. The prefects are higher-form students and they serve on voluntary basis.

Perhaps some may confuse the function of the language laboratory with that of the IT laboratory. In fact, there are some differences between them. Firstly, the IT laboratory mainly aims at providing students with space and modern technology for their personal study: while the language laboratory is designed to offer space for learning languages more efficiently and effectively. It provides a comfortable environment and a high-tech atmosphere. Secondly, computers in the language laboratory are equipped with software specially designed for language learning. These facilities cannot be found in the IT laboratory.

The construction of the language laboratory has been completed. However, the mission of the laboratory will continue, that is to facilitate language learning. Of course, there will be further development. When there is new technology or new concepts, they will be introduced into the laboratory.

communication is still important

Finally, Ms. Eva Chau told us that although information technology is very popular all around the world, it does not mean that IT will take over the whole education system in the future. The genuine education is based on the communication between teachers and students. The traditional teaching methods are important as well. Therefore, we should regard IT as an assistant in our study. Moreover, we should keep a balance between IT education and human education. We should not waste the modern technology in doing meaningless tasks.

Language laboratory has been proved to be useful in language learning. We are looking forward to the IT development in our campus. We sincerely hope that it will be more brilliant and we are full of hope for the future.

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