AKA books, shiny disks, VHS and – oh my! – cassette tapes. All come with shelves. Yuck! Where is Google Books, when you need it?
The media library I had to work with had, as I found it, a content specific labeling system and a language specific sort order on the shelves. This seems an anti-pattern in many modern languages departments: try to avoid complexity by isolating yourself. 1st degree: each language program on its own; 2nd degree: each instructor on his/her own. Atomization leads to idiosyncrasies and duplication of efforts (which must result in lowering of standards, despite, no doubt, individual toiling).
Trying to find an easy answer for complexity: I am afraid I quickly had to throw overboard the suggestion to implement the Library of Congress labeling scheme. I also abandoned trying to represent in one physical order what has to be viewed under multiple perspectives. I introduced a unique id labeling scheme based on a a simple numerical counter, where each new item would be added to the end of the stacks with a label equaling max(counter) + 1, and as a new row at the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet, which supported all discovery and lending with sort, filter, search.
And here is a partial screenshot of the offline_resources.xls:
Way too much complexity still remained: too many fields, all types of resources had to be coerced into records of the same format (hand-coded an access database for records to avoid this requirement – don’t go there!). Should have relied more on full text search, even with the simple regular expressions that come with Excel.
However, the sheet was open all day on the lab assistant’s computer behind the reference desk and worked pretty well, or was at least a major improvement. Remaining issues: speed of spreadsheet (too many complex ISBN validating formulas), lab staff training, more so instructor training (if they did not want to rely on lab staff entirely or on trying to browse the physical stacks looking for a physical order where there was no such system any more: change management problems).
Textbook exercise management is a rapidly evolving field, with more textbook becoming digital and online resources and more metadata getting added and AI getting implemented to enable personalized (data-driven, feedback-based) learning paths.
German.xls was an attempt to be able to sort, search, filter the exercises of some bigger textbooks in the American college market, each containing thousands of exercises (how many? why does it take a sumif() to find out?):
Subtitles.xls converted text files with movie subtitles which can be extracted from DVDs or found into spreadsheet for post-processing (search, filter, sort – and assign different show times, for DVD editions differ). online,
Auralog Tell me more 7 is a language program that allegedly comes with “more than five times the amount of content than other language programs” – but strangely not with a table of contents of its exercises. Automation extracted the exercises first into the file system for full text search with Windows Desktop Search, then converted the extracted files into links in the Auralog Content XLS.
- An example from long before mobile computing but still: While I personally like communicative uses of the language lab infrastructure best (pairing, group conferences, with recording, screen sharing, collaborative writing),
- the above (click image to download and play WMV video, also on MAC – sorry, file won’t transcode) may be the 2nd best :
- The student is engaged
- primarily with a listening (comprehension) exercise using authentic target language media (German chanson),
- also with some light writing (recognition of vocabulary words)
- and receives automated feedback in response form quiz template.
- The communicative aspect is added
- through seamless, effortless, surgical and last not least private teacher intervention or “remote assistance”
- when the teacher (“automonitoring” all LAB300 students one after the other) notices from afar (even though thumbnail-sized, hence the large fonts of the quiz template)
- how the current automated error feedback may not be enough of an explanation, but may have created “a teachable moment”:
- Student heard phonetically correctly, but not etymologically. German “Fahrstuhl”, not “Varstuhl””: literally a “driving chair” – after this little intervention, likely a quite memorable compound.
- A good example how language lab computers need not get “in between you and your student”, but connect you – just like has become an everyday reality, in the meantime, in the social web world.
- The student is engaged