German makes the news
TV und Texte, based on selected television news broadcasts, gives practice in reading and listening comprehension but goes a great deal further than more traditional materials in offering students the chance to take over as newscasters by scripting and recording their own voice-over commentary to produce their own TV news programme.
As the introduction to the disc explains, learner autonomy is ensured as students work individually to enter script into the on-screen notebook and, using their notes, record themselves reading without permanently replacing the original soundtrack. Selected frames from the news items can be copied into a third-party word processor and work can be saved to disc and printed out.
The package is an exciting addition to existing video and written teaching materials from Oxford University Press, and has great potential as a learning and teaching aid. The texts are aimed at reasonably advanced language learners (post-16) though such an innovative approach to language skills practice would prove motivating for younger learners if the tasks were modified to match the foreign language competence of students in key stage 4.
IT skills among students in schools and colleges, many of whom are becoming familiar with CD-Rom as a research and reference tool in the school or college library, would probably be sufficient to allow them to benefit from the language practice which TV und Texte could provide once the package was successfully installed and the languages staff themselves confident in its use.
There is no handbook or manual, and while the 10-page booklet which accompanies the disc outlines procedures for installing TV und Texte, more explicit guidance comes as part of the actual disc contents and appears on screen. This is fine once the programme is in operation but a fair degree of computer technician expertise is required, as well as what for many schools is still fairly sophisticated equipment.
The cost - Pounds 60 excluding VAT - is reasonable though the languages department would probably find that the investment might best be made via central resource funding in the school since this would be the most likely route to technician support not only for installation but for assisting students who would almost certainly be working outside the normal classroom.
Shropshire Information Technology Support Services offer free help for a period of 30 days for registered users and were very ready to answer questions when contacted about the project. It is particularly pleasing to see language teaching materials produced first in German, although teachers of French and Spanish need not be too envious - there are plans to produce similar packages in French and Spanish in due course.
There may be more urgent priorities on the shopping lists of the majority of language departments but acquaintance with TV und Texte would tempt many heads of department - in particular Germanists - to invest if not their capitation allowance then at least their share of central resource funding for IT in this innovative and linguistically sound package.