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‘Dot-edu’ Migration Promotes Language Training

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif., Aug. 29, 2011 – A pilot program that gives students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center unprecedented access to language training resources is proving so successful that it’s being expanded throughout the school.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Eric Morales demonstrates to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta his iPad and foreign language applications that aid him in his study of Dari, a dialect spoken in Afghanistan. Panetta visited the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Aug. 23, 2011, to learn about programs there, including plans to transition to the educational network. U.S. Army photo by Natella Cutter

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The pilot, launched Feb. 1, enables 200 students studying Dari -- a dialect spoken in Afghanistan -- to tap into materials and capabilities offered through the educational, or “dot-edu”, network, said Jonathan Russell, the language center’s chief technology officer.

Instead of operating in the dot-mil domain that’s often hampered by security and bandwidth restrictions, students in the pilot use the same network that supports accredited civilian colleges and universities.

The Naval Postgraduate School, also in Monterey and one of the few military institutions operating in the edu domain, provides the access through an agreement between the two schools.

“We physically connected 200 students to the NPS network, and we gave them access to mobile devices, a robust wireless network, more bandwidth … [to improve] network speeds and access to some open-source technologies,” Russell said.

This includes a wealth of material about Afghanistan and its most widely spoken language, including al-Jazeera and Voice of America broadcasts, foreign-language newspapers and tools such as Skype and Google Earth.

“All of our curriculum is audiovisual-based, so it involves lots of large-file formats and tons of storage,” as well as access to authentic materials, Russell said.

But the military network simply wasn’t designed to accommodate that. For example, prohibitions on external drives made it all but impossible for students to download material from classroom “smart boards” onto their computers, or to electronically submit homework assignments. The center’s work-around was to position stand-alone computers not connected to the network around the school, used by both students and their instructors to exchange files.

“The military network is an operational network that’s security-focused,” Russell said. “We are very much like a university.”

The transition to the dot-edu network has been revolutionary, students told Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta during his visit here last week.

“It’s been night and day,” said Army Spc. Eric Morales, who like other students in the pilot, spent his first semester at the center studying under the dot-mil network before the pilot program kicked off.

“This innovation lets us go on to open-source websites in order to quickly gather the information we need and link up with websites that have our target language on them,” said Army Sgt. Noah Mott, another Dari student. “We as a military unit have been able to use them in a way that better helps us understand our foreign language.”

Mott called the transition a huge benefit, particularly in light of the highly compressed training cycles at the center. The basic course for Dari, one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn, runs just 47 weeks.

“We have these students for a short amount of time and are trying to get them to very, very high proficiency levels in their target languages,” Russell said. “So if I can get them just two minutes a day extra as far as getting them time on task, that is huge.

“And that is at the base of what the edu network is,” he continued. “We are trying to optimize the network so they can have access to the information they need very fast in the manner in which they want to get it.”

Officials at the center are so impressed with the pilot program that plans are under way to expand it to the entire institute.

The transition required an extensive review by a panel of Defense Department, Defense Information Systems Agency and service representatives, who gave their official go-ahead to the plan in April, Russell reported. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, which oversees the language center, approved funding for the project in July.

Now, the school is in the process of procuring the required equipment so it can begin building out the network and data center this fall.

If all comes together as planned, Russell and his staff plan to begin migrating students off the global information grid

“By fall 2012, we should be fully migrated to the edu network,” he said. “At that point, we will be giving students the same tools the leading universities are using -- giving them connectivity and putting them at the forward edge of learning.”


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Related Sites:
Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

Related Articles:
Panetta: Language Training Critical to U.S. Interests, Security

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA student of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and Presidio of Monterey, Calif., briefs Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on the technological language resources students use, Aug. 23, 2011. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNew hardware and software, such as this iPad and foreign language applications that provide access to authentic websites and broadcasts, have proven invaluable in supporting instruction at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif. DOD photo by Donna Miles  
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Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

9/1/2011 1:36:41 AM
The His Hands Reader deaf literacy project will soon include the Dari language. Maybe that free language tool will be helpful. www.HisHandsReader.org
- Bob Achgill, USA

8/30/2011 6:54:44 PM
DLI uses a number of applications and file formats. Most of the material, if not all, is now in PDF and mp3 format. Transparent Languages CL-150 Matrix applications can also be used on Windows machines and the Rapid Rote Mobile app from TL is used on iPad and iPhones. Coupled with all the authentic material available on the WWW, internet connected tablets and computers give the students a lot of access we did not have back in the day. George
- George Sprague, Pensacola

8/30/2011 12:38:50 PM
What is the iPad app in the picture? What other off the shelf software are they using there?
- Wayne Culbreth, Memphis, TN

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