Dill: The Digital Language Lab
To increase exposure and practice in interpersonal skills, the Geddes Language Center adopted Dill, or “The Digital Language Lab” in the summer of 2014. Classes use Dill for various activities, such as paired conversations, listen and repeat exercises, interpersonal dialogues, oral presentations, and speaking exams all in the effort to increase oral proficiency.
For instructors, the software is very easy to use. As students log in, they appear as an icon on the instructor’s lab controller. Instructors can group students (in pairs, usually) for conversations simply by drawing a line between the students. To make sure students remain on task, instructors can monitor or converse with students by drawing a line between them. Activities can be recorded by the instructor initiating a recording task and assigning it to the class. For individual recordings, students have a recorder with a simple interface. All recordings are saved automatically, and instructors access them via a web interface.
In the Spring 2016 semester to date, 26 instructors representing a number of different foreign languages have brought their classes to the lab to use Dill. Students have reacted positively. Many students prefer being recorded in a booth with a noise isolating headset while speaking instead of having to perform in front of their peers. This allows them to consider their speech instead of possibly being self-conscious, and as a result they tend to generate more speech. Not being able to see the person they are speaking with also allows students to focus on what they’re saying and not their body language.