Russian and Ukrainian instructor Anna Kudyma uses technology to give her students a chance to work, in a protected environment, on their production skills.
Kudyma likes to give detailed commentary to each student on their speaking and provide models for practice, but the classroom is not an ideal venue for that kind of work. Her solution is to use Wimba, a web-based interface that allows students to record their speech and receive recorded feedback tailored to their own needs.
Kudyma designs Wimba assignments for all the levels she teaches, from beginning to highly advanced. For example, she assigns introductory students to talk about their family for as long as they can, while students on higher levels work on their presentation skills, including arguing, proving a point, or expressing and justifying an opinion.
At first, many of Kudyma's students are skeptical of Wimba. They're used to speaking Russian face-to-face, which also allows them to use physical cues to understand and express themselves. Kudyma's view is that Wimba is essential precisely because it removes the physical cues: when they record themselves, students aren't able to compensate in other areas, and have to focus on the basics, including grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and intonation. Wimba also offers separate channels of communication between the instructor and each student, reducing students' inhibitions about speaking and being corrected. Students quickly see Wimba's advantages, especially when they realize that their speaking is improving.
Kudyma has also created a series of Russian-language podcasts to help intermediate-advanced students master terminology used in a business setting by using the basic vocabulary they already know. Kudyma recorded the podcasts for her Business Russian class, but they are among the most popular podcasts produced at UCLA. Kudyma has received many emails from outside the university praising her work and encouraging her to add to the series.