Using Computer Networks to Enhance Foreign Language/Culture Education



ABSTRACT  The call for more authentic communication in the language classroom has led to a variety of educational innovations such as content-based and learner-centered instructional approaches. Although these approaches developed concurrently with the application of computer technology to language teaching, the computer has not traditionally been heavily used in either content-based or learner-centered language courses.

This article reports on a content-based, learner-entered Italian language and culture class (Italian 403–1) which used Usenet (NEWS) and electronic mail (E-Mail) to connect students with native speakers interested in communicating about contemporary cultural issues. Section One briefly outlines the history of the use of computer networks in language education. Section Two describes the design, implementation, and outcomes of Italian 403–1 and discusses the potential importance of NEWS for language teachers. Finally, Section Three addresses the benefits and challenges associated with the use of computer networks in the language classroom.