The Tucker Multimedia Center (TMC) is a key component of language education at Washington and Lee University, assisting both teachers and students with the technological resources they need. At the TMC students take tests, watch videos, listen to audio media, check out video cameras to film projects, engage in computer-linked group pronunciation exercises, and communicate with other countries via webcam and video conferencing. Though the TMC is primarily used by faculty and students in language classes, it also provides access to media and support for other disciplines as well, particularly history, religion, chemistry, and other classes using media content to facilitate discussion.
The TMC supports the academic pursuits of students at Washington and Lee in foreign languages, humanities, sciences, and the arts through progressive, multifaceted approaches to learning. Resources and personal assistance offered through the TMC encourage students to both maintain and exceed given levels of competency required of them.
One of the most effective ways the TMC can help students learn a language is by exposing them to the language as it is used in the native country. Since communicating with other cultures is heavily dependent on understanding the context in which a language is spoken, having access to up-to-date media from a foreign country helps students understand the relevance and application of what they are learning. For one, students have access to a constant stream of news from around the world through the TMC's subscription to the satellite news broadcast company SCOLA®. Web conferencing directly with students or teachers in another country is another great example of the benefit of exposure to native speakers. W&L students have conducted web conferences with their peers in China, Italy, France, and Russia, among others. Students who plan to study abroad can meet their host families by webcam before they leave the U.S., thus enabling a smoother transition.
The TMC offers a variety of resources to help professors. Students take placement tests, exams, and quizzes here, making full use of the flexibility the Honor System offers. Here again, professors can easily use multimedia elements such as audio and video in their testing to more closely approximate real-world situations. In addition to administering final examinations, French and Spanish majors' final assessments are completed in the TMC. One of the goals of the TMC is to make professors aware of accessible technologies that can help them and their students. Suggestions by professors for new methods, technology, or other needs as they arise are always welcomed.
The TMC provides the Washington and Lee community the opportunity to enrich language knowledge and skills through an online language learning product known as Mango Languages®. With over 40 languages (Mandarin Chinese, Turkish, Farsi, Hebrew, Spanish, Greek, French, Korean, ESL, and more) as part of the package to which Washington and Lee subscribes, users of the interactive language learning system are able to improve their linguistic proficiency. Key users are students who are studying abroad, students who would like additional opportunities to improve language skills for languages previously studied, and faculty who desire language preparation prior to and during sabbaticals abroad. Washington and Lee faculty, staff, students, and alums are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity and should contact the Tucker Multimedia Center to enroll in the program.
Professional development is another of the TMC's missions. Our open houses provide a place for discussion about new technologies and developments in the language field. Topics range from informing potential students about the language programs at Washington and Lee to foreign language refresher courses for alumni during Alumni Reunion Weekend. The TMC also sponsors important technology conferences on language-learning technology, which teach language teachers skills to use new technologies to improve their teaching methods. The TMC also provides professors from regional high schools and universities with the opportunities to assemble four to five times annually to share their experiences and learn how to integrate new technology into their teaching as a part of the TMC's Foreign Language Teachers Workshop Series.
The TMC has been erected with funds approved by the President of the University and members of the Board of Trustees. The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund have supplied substantial and separate funding grants, thus providing means, over the years, for equipment acquisition, curriculum development, and, most importantly, methodology enrichment. As stated by the late President John W. Elrod: "The Tucker Multimedia Center speaks volumes about what can be achieved when technology is harnessed imaginatively in the service of a clear educational mission. It can energize the whole campus and bring us closer together."
One of the TMC's goals is to remain flexible and ready to respond to the changing needs of professors and students. Comments and suggestions are welcome via links provided on the TMC website.