Friday September 16, 2016

New Vision for Language Center

The University of Dayton Language Learning Center has taken a leap into the 21st century with the arrival of digital technologies to assist in language learning.

The classroom on the third floor of the Jesse Philips Humanities Center is virtually unrecognizable from its appearance last fall, with a new name to reflect its enhanced purpose. Now known as the Innovation Space in Teaching and Learning, the room is equipped with new technologies and furniture to allow professors to facilitate learning through a variety of techniques.

"We needed to become in line with the 21st century," said Francisco Peñas-Bermejo, chair of the department of global languages and cultures. "Today there are so many different learning and teaching styles, and through the use of technology we can integrate those styles with the way that students are used to communicating."

Peñas-Bermejo feels the open learning space will help prepare students to use their language skills outside the classroom.

"We live in a global society where you have to interact with people in other languages and cultures," he said "We want our students to be able to learn, lead and serve in the U.S. and worldwide and in order to do so we need them to have direct experience with language and culture. Through this technology we are going to create a direct experience in which they can apply their skills and knowledge."

The Innovation Space is now equipped with furniture that can be easily reconfigured to facilitate communication activities and group work, multiple widescreen televisions, new magnetic white boards and a large, interactive touch-screen display.

Peñas-Bermejo said the department’s push toward new technology use is rooted in meeting ever-changing student population needs.

"Technology is something that is natural to today’s students and we need to create a learning experience for them that is relevant. That way they will be engaged while learning," he said.

Historically, teachers were believed to be the only source of knowledge, said Jorge Aguilar-Sánchez, assistant professor of Spanish. However, a "flipped classroom" encourages activities to emphasize student interaction rather than lectures, better allowing students to problem-solve in the classroom.

"This puts the student in charge of their learning therefore students will engage more," Aguilar-Sánchez said.

Anguilar-Sánchez has done extensive research in technology with language learning and was added to the Language Learning Center renovation committee when he joined the University faculty last year. Peñas-Bermejo said the committee was selected for their knowledge and experience in technology for professional purposes. The committee was formed more than four years ago in response to the obsolete technology and design of the original Language Learning Center, which had not been improved since it was constructed in 1993.

In addition to Peñas-Bermejo, the committee included Daniel Figueroa, director of the LLC and lead designer, and Nicola Work, associate professor of French.

Although faculty members such as Peñas-Bermejo and Aguilar-Sánchez are thrilled with the new Innovation Space, there is still plenty of work to be done in the center’s "Open Learning Space." Plans call for the removal of outdated analog audiovisual and recording stations, as well as old, unused equipment, to create a space more conducive to learning in the 21st century. The committee hopes to create stations in the open learning space for meetings, showing films, collaborating on group projects and training faculty.

As the project continues, Aguilar-Sánchez believes the department is headed in the right direction with its approach to reaching students.

"This project is a great step — it is visionary and strategic," he said. "It is a leap of faith in a sense, we are turning the corner to create a generation of critical thinkers and moving away from a generation that was complacent and just wanted to get the grade and move on."

- Alex Burchfield ’16, communication assistant, College of Arts and Sciences

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