| by Eva Gudbergsdottir

News Stories

Students in Spanish class using technology to learn
Middlebury Institute students in one of Professor Guillén’s Spanish courses in 2018. (Credit: Elena Zhukova )

What is the social impact of language learning apps? What is the role of technology in the classroom? Middlebury Institute Professor Gabriel Guillén publishes research on challenges and benefits of incorporating the digital world into the language class.

At the beginning of the year, the third edition of Robert Blake’s successful book Brave New Classroom (Georgetown Press) was published, this time with Guillén as co-author. The book explores how to teach foreign language using technology. This edition reframes the conversation to account for how technology has been integrated into our lives and addresses the ways it can be used to expand the traditional classroom, how to choose the right tools, use them effectively, and how technology can impact time on task and identity.

Brave New Digital Classroom cover

“The nature of this edition is essentially social, like the invention of internet,” Guillén shares. “We provide a road map for instructors to create a learning environment that fosters empathy and a multilingual mindset, leveraging technology and focusing on inherently human qualities; our ability to communicate (homo loquens), to analyze (homo analyticus), to socialize (homo socius), to create and modify tools (homo faber), to play (homo ludens), and to construct stories that change the way we see the world (homo fabulans)” 

A recent article by Guillén (Tecnología e impacto social en la enseñanza de español) challenges the social impact of language learning apps. The popularity of these apps shows the great interest in language learning, Guillén says, but they lack an important element of language – social interaction with other speakers.

Gabriel Guillen teaching

This year has challenged Guillén and other faculty members at the Middlebury Institute to rethink their lesson plans and teaching as the Institute moved to remote instruction last March as a response to the global pandemic.

“I am not going to lie, I miss the embodiment, the serendipities, the random encounters of the physical world, working from home,” Guillén says and adds that he also had to cancel many trips and curricular projects. “However, I also had the opportunity to reconnect with “old friends” like the online exchanges space and we will soon have a telecollaborative program with a university in Chile, thanks to our Middlebury program in Valparaiso. In addition, I started collaborating with a startup, Jiveworld, behind the Spanish Lupa app, and I couldn’t be happier with what we are offering for intermediate learners.”

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Eva Gudbergsdottir