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The wired classroom: hype and reality in foreign language teaching


DEBATES OVER FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING at institutions of higher education raise questions about the role of instructional technology in the classroom. The public at large is listening to leading inventors, scholars, and entrepreneurs discussing the future of instructional technology with the media, while marketing strategies by publishers of educational materials influence the needs of the foreign language instructor. Like everyone else, teachers of foreign languages are intrigued by, and wary of, the promises of the technological revolution and what it might mean for the future of their classrooms.

The tenured professor who has taught using traditional methods is often at odds with the new assistant professor, eager to implement the most recent technology. However traditional language teaching is not necessarily at odds with the latest technology, but so much hype about instructional technology tends to make the profession anxious. Implementing new and rapidly evolving technology is often viewed as extraordinarily complicated, and this can easily overwhelm teachers who are trying to keep current.

The actual “wiring” of the classroom is fast becoming the new standard of most technical institutions. In this situation, foreign language instructors have unprecedented access to information created in the target language, and the Web can become a flexible supplement to the traditional textbook. The wired classroom allows for a variety of creative approaches to foreign language teaching as long as the proper infrastructure and training are in place. The wired classroom is the first step towards the use of technology that must transcend the digital divide.

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Correspondence to Victor R. Rivas.

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Victor R. Rivas is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature and Culture at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He holds undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and Journalism, as well as a Master degree in Spanish, from The University of Oklahoma. He received his Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California at Berkeley in 2000. While at U.C. Berkeley, he ran training workshops for all Foreign Language Graduate Student Instructors and delivered papers on Second Language Acquisition at regional conferences. His academic research focuses on Latin American Literature and Cultural Studies, U.S. Latino issues, and Postmodern and Postcolonial theories. He has been a classroom teacher of Spanish for over a decade and has participated in several Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) pilot projects.

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Rivas, V.R. The wired classroom: hype and reality in foreign language teaching. J. Comput. High. Educ. 13, 51–70 (2002).

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  • instructional technology
  • integration
  • second language acquisition
  • teacher training
  • World Wide Web