School bus

A ConVal Regional School District bus awaits the start of the school year.

PETERBOROUGH — The ConVal School Board recently approved the purchase of an online language lab program. It offers the same material as the school’s physical language lab, which was due for updating, and could be useful if the school continues remote learning in parts of the coming school year, Assistant Superintendent Ann Forrest said. The board approved its purchase on June 30 for use by all world language students in the district.

Spanish and German teachers have previously used a physical room in the high school as a language laboratory, where students access audio and audio-visual materials in a real-time lesson with their teacher, Forrest said. Language lab activities focus on strengthening students’ communication and speaking skills, and a teacher can listen to different students speak by clicking on their audio input, and providing critique — something that can be difficult in a loud classroom without dedicated audio equipment.

The physical lab’s materials were due for an update and the school decided it would make more sense to invest in an online program, Forrest said. The online program eliminates the need for scheduling use of the lab, she said, and activities can be conducted outside of school and beyond school hours since every middle and high school student has a Chromebook.

The program also allows middle-schoolers to access a language lab for the first time as they learn Spanish, she said. “We could have everybody on at the same time,” she said, since the subscription allows 500 concurrent users.

“Hopefully it expands the student experience, but it’s not a brand new thing, just an enhanced resource,” she said. However, it could make a difference in foreign language instruction if remote learning continues, Forrest said.

This spring, teachers had to figure out how to provide practice opportunities and give specific feedback to each student remotely. The online platform allows everything that used to be done in the language lab at the high school to occur anywhere, she said.

The $6,500 annual subscription to the Sanako Connect software program had been budgeted for the 2019-20 school year, but staff turnover and the rollout of remote learning delayed its purchase until now, Forrest said. Spanish and German classes will be able to use the program starting in the fall.

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