WASHINGTON, PA (June 29, 2011)—A merging of traditional language learning with modern technology, a new “Skype” booth at Washington & Jefferson College is giving students the opportunity to connect with the world in a variety of different languages.
An idea of Michael Shaughnessy, Ph.D., chairman of the modern languages department at W&J, the retrofitted, fire engine-red, old British-style phone booth combines a “traditional” telecom device with modern digital equipment.
“The idea came to me as a way to highlight the great language programs we have at W&J and to provide a practical way for students to chat with people around the world. I am a bit of a tinkerer so I spent a morning drilling, wiring, and mounting to produce what we have today,” Shaughnessy said.
The Skype booth is located in the Howard J. Burnett Center’s Language Resource Center, where students can view media such as films, video clips, read and write in foreign languages, and use computers to talk with people around the world. Free language tutoring, study spaces, and often classes are held there as well.
“The language resource center is a hub of activity for students interested in all things international. Many of our international students use the computers to call home and many of our students use the video and audio chat features to talk to their friends they made while studying abroad and to practice their foreign language skills,” Shaughnessy added.
Shaughnessy said he used an iPad2 due to its reliability and simplicity of design and purchased a locking enclosure from iPadenclosures.com in Utah, a company that manufactures custom cases for iPads.
“We use Skype to call phones around the world based on an unlimited plan we purchase for our students. The booth can also utilize Face Time by Apple or Google Video Chat,” Shaughnessy added. “For me, it shows that technology can help us do what we have been trying to do for many years, connect people to each other. For W&J, we know that connections happen in a variety of languages and we train our students to be proficient in the seven languages we teach.”