EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES

Skype and Podcasting: Disruptive Technologies for Language Learning!

Robert Godwin-Jones,

at the Virginia Commonwealth University:

FNew technologies, or new uses of existing technologies, continue to provide unique opportunities for language learning. This is in particular the case for several new network options for oral language practice. Both Skype and podcasting can be considered “disruptive technologies” in that they allow for new and different ways of doing familiar tasks, and in the process, may threaten traditional industries. Skype, the “people’s telephone,” is a free, Internet-based alternative to commercial phone service, while podcasting, the “radio for the people,” provides a “narrowcasting” version of broadcast media.

Both have sparked intense interest and have large numbers of users, although it is too soon to toll the bell for telephone companies and the radio industry. Skype and podcasting have had a political aspect to their embrace by early adopters — a way of democratizing institutions — but as they reach the mainstream, that is likely to become less important than the low cost and convenience the technologies offer. Both technologies offer intriguing opportunities for language professionals and learners, as they provide additional channels for oral communication.

Skype and Internet Telephony

Skype is a software product which provides telephone service through VoIP (Voice over IP), allowing your personal computer to act like a telephone. A microphone attached to the computer is necessary and headphones are desirable (to prevent echoes of the voice of your conversation partner). It is not the only such tool, nor the first, but because it provides good quality (through highly efficient compression) and is free, it has become widely used. The software is based on peer-to-peer networking (from the creators of the file sharing program Kazaa) and runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, or PocketPC. Normally, calls are from computer to computer and are free. It is also possible to use Skype to call a land-based phone (rather than another Skype user), but that requires a fee (using a service called SkypeOut). Skype generally works well, even through firewalls. The sound quality is dependent on the network and is very good with a broadband connection. It is possible to link up to five people through Skype for conference calls. One member of the group acts as the convener and enters the Skype ids of call participants. The current version of the software does not allow users to join subsequently Skype conference calls. The sound quality of Skype with multiple participants in the same conversation tends to degrade somewhat.

(Read the rest of this long article/users guide on Ilt.msu.edu).

Link in french for frenchies.

Update Sept 5, 2017 – this link: https://www.thenetworkunion.com/content/a-simple-guide-to-buying-a-voip-system

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