New Media in Foreign Language Education


On the 16th of November 2010 our course went to the Martin-Luther-Schule Marburg to get an impression of how this school is equipped at the moment and to what extent new media are used in the respective subjects. We were shown around by a young female teacher that teaches German and two foreign languages, namely English and Spanish. I was curious to see if and to what extend the state concerning equipment and the use of new media has changed since I have left school.

The Martin-Luther-Schule Marburg is a “Gymnasium” (the German equivalent to a grammar school) which employs about 90 teachers and accommodates ca. 1,300 students at the moment. The school has its main focus on the natural sciences but also on languages and musical education.

The Equipment

The equipment of this school with new media is average because it is not extraordinarily well equipped, but it has the equipment one would usually expect to be available at school. The staff room is provided with two computers which are to be used by the teachers exclusively. Here the teachers mainly check on a schedule if equipment is available and make reservations. The students also are able to make use of computers and the internet because there are more than a handful of computers available at the school library. With the consent of the parents the students will receive a pass which enables them to work on the computer and on the internet after the regular lessons. The new media that are used in the lessons include computers, laptops, loudspeakers, digital cameras, video cameras and data projectors. This equipment is mobile and can be easily reserved and used in any classroom. Furthermore, there is stationary equipment that can only be used in certain classrooms. There are e.g. several big flat screens in some of the classrooms that will be locked up in a wooden box after use, so that the students cannot damage them too easily. These flat screens can be connected with a laptop and it enables the teacher to show contents to the whole class. There is one computer lab that can be extended according to the number of students by opening the room next door. In one of the classrooms of the biology department there is an interactive whiteboard available. Other mobile equipment is e.g. a case that contains speakers, a projector and a laptop and there is even a “mobile cinema” which is a projector with an integrated DVD player.
One of the flatscreens in a classroom. After use they are locked in a wooden box.

At the beginning of the 5th grade the students get an introduction where they learn the basic skills that enable them to use the new media. Furthermore, they get a so-called “digital schoolbag” which is a USB flash drive that provides all the software they need. The students are also able to save data on this flash drive and they will use it at school and at home until they leave school. The “digital schoolbag” is supposed to be used at school continuously so that the students should always carry it about with them. There are no online student-accounts, but the students have the opportunity to access data that has been put online by the teachers and that has been made accessible for the students. Furthermore, the students of the Martin-Luther-Schule Marburg are able to take part in a workshop where they run and edit the homepage of their school. The students enjoy working with the new media and they usually work very efficiently and achieve good results. An important issue is the safe use of the internet so that no private data is published on the web. Especially parents are concerned because often they are not aware of what their children do online. Some parents are critical of the fact that their children use the internet and the computer at school and there are even students that have no access to the internet or no computer at home. Therefore it is important to meet with the parents in order to inform them about the dangers but also the advantages of using new media.

The Use of New Media and Tools

About 1/3rd of the teachers make regular use of the computer lab which means that they are able to work on the computers 2 to 3 times a month at most. The mathematics classes and the IT-classes use the computers on a regular basis because it is a constitutive part of the lessons and the content requires the use of a computer. In mathematics the students use special software for calculation and in informatics they learn programming. English classes often make use of the online-dictionary “” which enables them to quickly look up unknown vocabulary and also “” is used regularly to make researches concerning a certain topic. The tools that are generally often used irrespective of the subject are e.g. “WebQuests” where the students have to make a research on the internet regarding a certain topic or question. Another tool that is used regularly is software like e.g. “Microsoft Word” or “Microsoft PowerPoint” so that the students can create written documents or presentations on the computer which can easily be shared with others. Classes of minor subjects do not use the computer lab very often because these lessons are usually rather short and it often takes a certain amount of time to make the preparations that are necessary before working on the computers. The teacher is able to supervise the students while they work on the computers in the computer lab to make sure that there is no misuse. The tool “Master Eye” enables the teacher to see what is on the students’ screens at the moment, the computer can be blocked if necessary and the teacher might even take control over a student’s computer. But it is also useful to show the content of one screen on the screens of the other students. The teachers optionally can get further training by the teacher that is responsible for the computer lab, but unfortunately mostly only younger staff members and trainee teachers are interested in this.

This field trip was very useful to me because I got further information on some tools and media. I also got an impression of how well a school is equipped with new media at the moment and which tools are often used in the lessons. I was surprised by the fact that there are big flat screens installed in some of the classrooms because I haven’t seen this before in a school. It was also interesting to me that there is only one interactive whiteboard at this school because I experienced that a lot of blackboards were replaced by interactive whiteboards at the time I have left school. The field trip demonstrated that in the future every teacher has to be able to use new media and therefore it is important to educate future teachers accordingly.