Faculty Experiences - Marianna Chodorowska-Pilch


Slavic Languages

Interview Topics

What matters most to you in your teaching?

How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?

How have your students responded to your use of technology?

What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?

How could the University better facilitate the use of technology in instruction?


Use authentic materials

Different learning styles

Student motivation



Multimedia presentations


Internet materials

Using the Internet to Enliven Language Learning

Using multimedia is very beneficial and efficient for the students, because they can practice the four modes of language learning: the oral, the aural, the reading, and the writing.

When teaching any foreign language we have to teach grammar, but at the same time we should teach the culture of the language as most languages, except, for example, Latin, are living languages. My first goal in teaching Polish is to emphasize the culture while teaching the grammar. This is especially important with the Polish language—and Poland in general—which has undergone many changes in the past fifteen years. Secondly, we have to provide authentic materials. In the case of Polish, very often the materials are outdated and do not represent the current reality in Poland. Many students of Polish are taught with traditional materials which still incorporate aspects of the communist philosophy. So there is a need to make Polish teaching material more authentic to today’s reality in Poland. My third goal for teaching Polish here at UCLA is to cultivate students’ interest due to the fact that Polish is not a very popular language. Students should be exposed to more Polish culture and things done by Polish people in order to be motivated by the language spoken by a number of people who have made important contributions to the universal culture and progress.

I have used technology to help me achieve these teaching goals. Let me give you an example from my Polish 102 class, which has continuous fall, winter, and spring components. The first quarter I put videos to accompany the course text on reserve in Powell Library. But students weren’t taking advantage of these videos, most likely due to the inconvenience of going to the library. Thus it was important to use technology as a tool in my teaching to bring interactive learning materials to the students, to facilitate and to provide more authentic materials in our language class. I need to emphasize that without the help and support of a group of people from the Center for Digital Humanities the implementation of technology in my courses would have not been possible. Let me just mention Annelie Chapman and Michael Samojlik whose assistance and support was vital from the start. Later Hiromi Aoki made me realize that I had done something valuable for a language course. Thus I got the necessary permissions to upload Polish video clips and dialogue materials to the course web site. Students were able to use these video resources as a “portable language lab”. Because they could access these resources from home rather than going to Powell Library, they could repeat and see those materials again and again. Using multimedia is very beneficial and efficient for the students, because they can practice the four modes in learning language: the oral, the aural, the reading, and the writing.

The portable language lab concept is also very useful in the case of Polish, a less frequently taught language, because the class must be addressed to heritage and non-heritage speakers. Non-heritage speakers were able to receive more practice outside of the classroom, and they could catch up with heritage-speakers. Internet-accessible video resources provided more repetition and exposed students to more culture—to more realistic and authentic issues about Poland. Links to Polish newspapers were also available so that students could see how newspapers are written in Polish. New newspapers were available every day so that students could consult them. This motivated students to go to the Internet, and if they needed more information they could always look for more on the Internet.

In general students have responded very favorably to the Portable Language Lab because they can access materials from home via the Internet. But we must distinguish between heritage and non-heritage speakers. In the case of heritage speakers, technology was a reinforcement of what they learned or saw before in their families or backgrounds. Heritage speakers were still able to learn because the dialogues and settings were different. They could learn more vocabulary and practice the language. Technology was more necessary for non-heritage speakers. With access to the videos they could catch up with heritage speakers, because they could repeat the dialogues as many times as needed. Practice made them more confident in class. They could practice at home and come to class much better prepared due to videos available on the Ecampus.

Since my use of Polish videos and scenes on the Ecampus, the next new goal for using technology in teaching could be the use of current Internet materials for distance learning. I know that there are distance learning courses in Czech taught in Santa Barbara by one of the lecturers here, for example. Because of the experiences I’ve had so far with Polish 102, the Center for European and Eurasian Studies has become interested in distance learning and using these “portable language lab” materials for other UC campuses. With wireless technology, students can access these materials anywhere. There is also the possibility of Internet chats. Students who learn Polish here can contact students learning English in Poland. Also, online quizzes could be developed around the Polish video clips and dialogue materials. The more practice students can get the more effective studying Polish becomes outside Poland.

To better facilitate the use of technology in the classroom, I would say that the university should have ready network setups in the classroom. For example, other universities have smart rooms (where one can use the Internet, DVD, etc.) so that professors don’t have to spend time connecting laptops to projectors and computers, and so on. Those things should be available to the instructors so that they could spend time on more pertinent aspects of language teaching. In other words, the classroom should be prepared for the use of technology.

Oral Interview, February 2006