The paper describes the first two years' work on the Language Partner Japanese 1 interactive videodisc which has been developed under the aegis of the Western Australian Distance Education Consortium during 1990 and 1991. At the time of writing, the design and content of this two semester course for university and other students have been developed, a trial disc and a final disc have been produced and the first semester's computer driven exercises and explanations are on course for completion by December. The paper summarises the processes, the findings and the technologies employed in developing an interactive multimedia learning system which aims to provide a solid language foundation and help develop or consolidate Japanese communication skills.
Japanese 1 aims to introduce a new element into the teaching of Japanese in Australia. The majority of currently available resources are print based and centred around situations students may encounter in Japan. Few are designed specifically for students studying outside Japan, that is for foreign language teaching rather than second language teaching. The majority of Japanese multimedia programs concentrate on the teaching of written Japanese, using Apple Macintosh in Australia (as in the Hyperglot Software (1989), Kanjimaster and Easy Kana) or IBM in Japan (as in the Seiko software Let's Learn Nihongo (Otsubo 1990)). Systematic instruction aimed at developing oral communication skills is found in far fewer programs (as in the University of New England computer aided Japanese language learning units designed to teach both receptive and expressive language skills to externally enrolled secondary language teachers with no prior knowledge of the language (Youngblood 1991)). By comparison, as Looms (1990) suggests, work on interactive videodisc is best concentrated on listening, comprehension and oral skills, with reading and writing given lower priority. Thus Japanese 1 is primarily conceived with spoken language in the Australian context and takes full advantage of a medium which offers full motion video and has the capacity for simulation and role play, with or without subtitling, browsing and vocabulary guidance and feedback in response to each choice, decision or answer made by the user.
All of the Japanese 1 video sequences are set in Australia and feature interactions between native and non-native Japanese speakers. The language content is organised according to the concept of language functions, defined by Brumfit and Roberts (1983) as "the purpose for which a certain form of language is used; a category of purposive use of language". The order of introduction of functions is in accordance with the texts Japanese for Communication - Stages 1 & 2 developed by the Japanese language staff in the Curtin University of Technology School of Social Sciences (Hosgood et al. 1991a, 1991b). The same language functions are in most cases demonstrated in two contexts, an informal Australian University context and in a more formal context, with a Japanese air conditioning salesman visiting an Australian based company. The register of the language is medium-polite. However, specific examples of less formal or more formal speech are also incorporated to provide samples of the language range evident in Japanese.
A learner survey established that sixty percent of the university students interviewed who were studying Japanese were studying the language with a view to ultimate employment in business or tourism. Specific examples for the business, hospitality and tourism industries are therefore built into the program and it has been designed to be both a stimulating introduction to everyday Japanese for beginning students and a foundation for students going on to study Japanese for business purposes. Japanese 1 has been designed for students with no prior knowledge of Japanese but it can also be a means of consolidation for those with some experience of the language. The program can be used in conjunction with the texts Japanese for Communication - Stages 1 & 2 or on its own. Although it is designed for self study, it can also be used in teacher directed language classes. To this end, for example, subtitles and text have been designed to accommodate large group presentations as well as individual viewing. A preferences menu for teachers allows certain functions such as subtitling to be activated or deactivated as desired.
The videodisc introduces over thirty language functions (eg., Introducing; Making suggestions; Making requests; Apologising; Expressing appreciation; Paying compliments; Stating preferences, etc.). The disc comprises fifteen video sequences which vary from one to three minutes in running time. Each sequence embodies a theme such as 'Meeting and making friends", has continuity of characterisation, setting and dialogue, incorporates a limited number of new language functions and can be viewed in its entirety. However, each sequence has also been designed to have an internal structure of three to six segments. These segments may be accessed and worked through as discrete units of study and practice. Many language functions recur throughout the seventy-four segments that make up the fifteen sequences thereby building in a language review mechanism. The overall structure of the sequences and the segments is shown in Fig. 1.
Students using the videodisc can access all sequences, in any order, and observe the interactions between the speakers. They can then assume the role of the character of their choice and participate in the videodisc conversations. In addition to offering the opportunity to interact with characters in the videodisc sequences, the program offers students the option of repeating any section or phrase within the sequences as many times as necessary. English subtitles or subtitles written in Kanamajiri or Romanised Japanese script (Romaji) can also be accessed.
Unit 1. Meeting and making friends|
Exchanging personal information
Choosing food and drink
Talking about activities
Saying goodbye Unit 2. Meeting business acquaintances
Welcoming an overseas visitor
Greeting old friends
Exchanging business cards Unit 3. Visiting a Japanese home
Welcoming guests to your home
Offering and accepting food
Asking about objects
Farewelling guests Unit 4. Organising an outing
Telephoning an invitation
Making small talk
Describing Unit 5. Sightseeing
Telling the time
Locating places on a map
Talking about travel time
Losing a possession
Saying thank you
Giving out small gifts Unit 6. Chatting at the office
Discussing working hours
Making invitations Unit 7. An International telephone call
Making a business call
Chatting with colleagues
Chatting with an overseas visitor Unit 8. At university
Talking about studies 1
Talking about studies 2
Talking about yesterday's events
Unit 9. Discussing holiday plans|
Making an informal invitation
Describing holiday plans 1
Describing holiday plans 2
Talking about buying souvenirs
Unit 10. A game of golf
Unit 11. Chatting about Japan
Unit 12. At a Japanese restaurant
Unit 13. Buying souvenirs
Unit 14. A cooking lesson
Unit 15. Meeting the characters
A PAL laser disc typically allows for thirty-six minutes of video material. Telernedia, the presser of the Language Partner disc achieves thirty-seven minutes. However, the Japanese 1 disc contains forty-five minutes of material. This has been achieved by split screening some segments. The disc also stores two hundred and fifty full frame photographic slides and two hundred and fifty reduced slides on Japanese life and culture. Many of these slides have been utilised within the computer driven "bookshelf'.
The computer driven aspects of Japanese 1 include a pronunciation tutorial which is accessed through the "Main Menu", a lexicon of key words and phrases organised to correspond with the video sequences and segments (again with kana-romaji options), listen and repeat activities, explanations of cultural and paralinguistic items, multiple choice and other practice tasks and role play options which may be accessed through a "Bookshelf'. Self evaluation tasks for each sequence are also built into the program with an audit trail available to supervising teachers. In all, it is intended that the program should represent one hundred and twenty hours of study. Figure 2 summarises the general structure of this Language Partner program.
Although the technology holds great possibilities in this area, the teaching of Japanese script is not dealt with in the program. The use of Japanese text on screen assumes that a concurrent instructional program attaining a level of 250 Kanji characters is undertaken by the learners. A kana only option is currently being considered. This would create a median between the existing Romaji/Kanamajiri options.
At November 1991, as the two year initial funding period draws to a close, the Japanese 1 development team has mapped out all of the content and broad treatments for a two semester course, has produced the disc for the whole year's learning and is finalising the computer driven material for the first semester's study. Funding has been obtained for completion of the second semester's computer based material. Public and private sector support are being sought for further trialing, conversion to other platforms, adaptation to the school context, the development of a Japanese 2 disc (set in Japan) and further interactive multimedia development work in the area of languages.
The project found a home in the Educational Media Centre at Curtin University of Technology, partly because this Centre has 1 inch C format and Hi-band video production facilities and a full time video producer and support staff. Because the project was a two year project and because most of the team were unfamiliar with videodisc development, it was decided to produce a test disc during the first year.
Figure 2: Program layout for Language Partner Japanese 1
General progress was maintained but, as in all projects of this type involving neophytes, a lot of creative energy was expended on defining new working relationships and the parameters of the task. No clear cut mandate for content, form or treatment could be identified intrastate or interstate. The initial part time native speaker language specialist left the project for other employment and two part time non-native specialists were contracted in her stead. It was evident that the language specialists needed time to master the interactive capacities of the system, there were dangers of the project being technology driven rather than language driven and egos were bruised as inevitable compromises and pragmatic considerations over-rode creative desires.
The test disc was largely influenced by the Lancashire Polytechnic North-West Educational Computing Project's French Language videodisc. In evaluating the former, Picciotto (1987) was able to evidence that learners value being in charge of their own learning; learning from native speakers; repeating without embarrassment and as often as they desired; observing expressions, gestures and lip movements; and doing a lot of practice.
The team was also influenced by the production style of an earlier Australian videodisc, the Aussie Barbie (Anderson and Field 1988), which used the "I am a camera" approach with actors addressing the learner and then responding in accord with the answers of the learner's choice.
The Japanese 1 test disc was shot on Hi-band, edited to V format and pressed by November 1990. The subsequent evaluation revealed that while the system clearly had potential, the teachers consulted were critical of the levels of language used and some of the methodologies. It was also clear that the amateur actors - hiring professional "talent" was well beyond the scope of this project - could not sustain their performances throughout the long, continuous Stedicam takes required for an "I am a camera" approach.
The test disc proved to be a catalyst for change. The team recognised that a full time Japanese language specialist position was essential to the project and the position was advertised nationally. The filling of this position in early 1991 by a well qualified non-native speaker with extensive teaching and work experience in Japan was a turning point in the project. She was supported by an inter-institutional language consultancy team and, later, a native speaker Japanese language assistant, cultural adviser and researcher. In a further development, the Japanese language teachers in Curtin's School of Social Sciences had just published their classroom developed, first year university Japanese for Communication - Stages 1 & 2 texts and it was agreed that this syllabus could provide the basis for the Japanese 1 disc, albeit adapted to the more interactive multimedia context. The project took on a new dynamic as the language specialist engaged in an intensive process of objectives, content and methodology development which evolved into: flow charts, story boards, video scripts, scripts for text screens, guidelines for the graphic designer, searches for slides and reference materials and so on. This was also the peak period for instructional design input. A more detailed description of the program layout and the instructional design process appears elsewhere in the IMM Symposium Proceedings (Fox and Pinfold 1992). It was clear that all parties had seriously underestimated the scale and complexity of the task of providing a self standing first year university Japanese language course and strict timelines and budget controls had to be introduced in the full knowledge that the computer based material could always be modified, enhanced or extended at a later date, by the course team or by others.
The video material for the final disc was shot on Betacam and edited to 1 inch using the normal television production conventions of cutaways, reverse shots and long shots to cover any inadequacies in the amateur actors' performances. All shoots were attended by the language specialist and at least one native speaker to coach and monitor the amateur actors' performances.
An inter-institutional board of management was established by WADEC to oversee the project. The project manager, the Japanese language specialist and the two instructional designers were members of this board which reviewed and approved overall policy, budgets and all appointments. Weekly meetings were held between the project team members to review progress, resolve concerns and ensure integrated development. The key members of the project team were as follows:
Project Manager/Authoring Manager and System Integrator - responsible for the success or failure of the project; all budgets, schedules and resource and personnel matters; focusing the expertise of widely different people on common goals; authoring and platform options; decisions on pressing plants; hardware and software integration; system implementation; house keeping.
Japanese Language Specialist - responsible for language and cultural content and, in cooperation with the instructional designers, for learning strategies; briefing the authoring manager/system integrator, video producer, graphic designer, etc; reviewing and signing off as satisfactory all courseware development from the perspectives of content, culture, language and methodology.
Instructional Designers (2) - responsible for assisting the language specialist in developing lessons, strategies and storyboards; creating logic flow charts and control systems that are easy for students to navigate; assisting the authoring manager with system utilisations; assisting with on screen presentations.
Video Producer - responsible for pre-production (locations, sets, auditions, hiring actors and crew, rehearsals, facilities hire, schedules, budgets); production (filming, recording, still frame production) and post-production (editing, voice overs, special effects, video graphics and animations, etc.).
Graphic Designer - responsible for interpreting the briefs of the language specialist and the instructional designers; graphics house style and aesthetics; ergonomic and generic controls and system coherence to the user.
The Japanese 1 graphics have been designed to be "video safe", that is to say, the colours do not "boil on screen", a common problem when using computer generated graphics that pass muster on an RGB monitor.
A fuller account of developing graphics for multimedia applications appears elsewhere in the IMM Symposium Proceedings (Temple and Borzyskowski 1992).
The primary platform is a low cost Amiga 2000 with a broadcast Rendale 8806 PAL genlock and an industrial disc player. The system is authored with CTS Designer running Workbench 1.3 or 2.0. Input device options include mouse, touch screen, track ball or barcode reader. The system provides three simultaneous outputs, two RGB monitors and one composite video allowing low cost sharing of screen presentations for larger groups.
The Mac has excellent Japanese language word processing support and with a Mac network already in place in the Educational Media Centre, Mac was seen to be the best solution for development of the program in its text form.
The twenty programs used by the various team members were as follows:
Turbowriter (Mac) with Kanjitalk operating system
Hypercard 11 (Mac)
Mac to Dos (Amiga)
CTS Designer (Amiga)
Deluxe Paint IV (Amiga)
Art Department Professional (Amiga)
Superview 3 (Amiga)
Audio Engineer (Amiga)
Microsoft Word (Mac)
Most of the above emerging technologies are designed to run at video levels with "video safe graphics". For as long as the world maintains PAL and NTSC low bandwidth video technology as its delivery standards, the Amiga, with its image resolution and multi-tasking operating system, will allow for easy conversion to these new CD based technologies. The easy connection of the Amiga system to broadcast video, fibre optic and ISDN video level system opens up easy opportunities for students in remote locations to interact with the system either individually or in groups. The current position is that the Amiga platform option will be completed before other options are made available.
Given the benefits of "twenty-twenty hindsight", it is clear that embarking on the production of a first year videodisc without a clearly articulated syllabus or the appointment of a full time language specialist was a formula for failure. However, the setbacks were the catalyst for action that led to a greatly improved product. The experience also helped to forge a situation in which the group was better able to share in problem analysis and problem resolution. The achievement of a system that is language driven" rather than "technology driven" is due in part to the fact technology issues did not dominate the group's learning process. At the start of the project, the language specialist and the instructional designers were not overly familiar with computer or videodisc technology. Their understanding grew as the project developed but their ability to look at the system through the eyes of end users who are not necessarily familiar with computers has been maintained.
The prime aim of the consortium and the Language Partner team is to maintain the project and the momentum and to further develop and evaluate multimedia for Australian and overseas educational and training organisations.
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|Authors: Mr Anthony Temple, Director of Temple Interactive Media, is currently consulting to the Western Australian Distance Education Consortium (WADEC) and managing the production of "Language Partner Japanese 1 ". He has worked in film and video based media since 1971 in Europe and the USA and with videodisc technology since 1982.
Ms Christy Pinfold, BA DipEd, has been involved in foreign language education in tertiary institutions in both Japan and Australia. She has twice been the recipient of Japanese Government Ministry of Education Scholarships and currently is involved with resource development as Japanese language teaching specialist for the WA Distance Education Consortium.
Associate Professor Colin Latchem, NDD, ATD, CertEd (B'Ham), MEd(Wales) has lectured and conducted consultancies in educational technology in the UK, Africa, India, and Australia. Currently Acting Head of the Teaching Learning Group responsible for academic staff development, instructional design and media and distance education at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, his research interests relate to applications of technology in the classroom and rural and remote learning.
Mr Robert Fox, BEd (Hons) (Lond), RSA Dip TEFL, MA (Educ) (Lond), has taught and conducted consultancies in Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Singapore and Australia. Currently Senior Lecturer in Instructional Design in the Educational Media Centre at Curtin University, his research interests relate to applications of technology for on and off campus teaching and learning.
Please cite as: Temple, A., Pinfold, C., Latchem, C. and Fox, R. (1992). Language Partner Japanese 1: A case study in cooperative multimedia courseware development. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 157-167. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/temple2.html