Knox College Installs New Language Lab Technology

Faculty: students making video skits "puts language into their hands"

July 30, 2010

Knox College has installed new state-of-the-art technology for language instruction and is developing new ways to use the equipment that engages students in collaborative learning.

Dedicated in June, the newly renovated Dorothy Johnson Burkhardt and Richard Burkhardt Laboratory for the Modern Languages is named in honor of the two Knox alumni who donated $50,000 toward the project. The lab was completed late this spring and final furnishings are being installed over the summer.

A separate gift of $1.5 million from the Burkhardts has endowed a faculty position, The Burkhardt Distinguished Chair in Modern Languages.

"The way we use technology has changed in the 15 years since we first built the lab," said the lab's director, Jerry Miner, associate professor of Spanish. "It used to be that a language lab would have mostly VCRs and DVD players, and computers were just used to play back lesssons. Now we have web-based lessons to deliver audio clips and video clips, so we built the spaces where small groups of students can work on video projects, engaging in active, collaborative learning."

A typical assignment involves students making a short video skit. "This puts language into the students' hands," Miner says. "They have to write the script and run it by the professor. Then they have to rehearse it and record it -- usually more than once -- which means they get a lot of practice."

Supplementing in-class recitations with the out-of-class videos expands both the quantity and quality of a student's language learning. "Students who may be reluctant to speak up in class will just open up and really flourish with these video projects," Miner says.

Dr. Richard W. Burkhardt and Dorothy Johnson Burkhardt are both 1939 graduates of Knox. Mrs. Burkhardt, a life trustee of Knox College, taught French, Spanish and Russian for many years at Ball State University. In 2002, she was awarded the Palmes Academiques by the French government recognizing her efforts to promote cross-cultural learning between France and the United States. Mr. Burkhardt taught history at Ball State, where he also served as vice president, acting president, and dean of faculties. He received a Knox College Alumni Achievement Award in 1974.

Gifts from the Burkhardts to Knox College have also established The Joseph and Clara H. E. Johnson Fund for Modern Languages, in honor of Mrs. Burkhardt's parents, and the Edgar S. and Ruth W. Burkhardt Fund for History in honor of Mr. Burkhardt's parents. The funds support campus lectures in history and modern languages by distinguished scholars from Knox and other colleges.