In an era when language tutorials are often just a touch of an iPod away, this set of photographs of Middlebury’s language laboratory in 1982 may appear at once strangely futuristic and quaintly outdated.
However, located in Sunderland Language Center, the equipment represented the cutting edge of educational technology at the time. In its autumn 1982 issue, Middlebury Magazine remarked on the reopening of the lab, made possible by funding from the Pew Memorial Trust, and its impact on language learning:
Last spring the language laboratory was renovated and expanded: the sixty-three existing tape stations were converted from reel-to-reel to cassette and a teaching laboratory was added with thirty-six stations for students and a master console at the front of the teaching laboratory. The instructor can control the lesson and listen to or talk with individual students, groups of students, or the whole class.
The students apparently liked what they saw, and heard. According to Professor Knox, tape use was up 50 percent over the previous summer.
The photos highlight Middlebury’s dedication to leveraging new technology to make language learning interesting, accessible, effective, and enjoyable—a practice that continues into today, albeit with somewhat smaller headphones.
These photographs were taken by Erik Borg ’67. The originals of these pictures can be found in the archives of Middlebury College’s Special Collections. These images were scanned specifically for this article, but you can find more information and media from the Language Schools’ past by searching our digital collections online.