By Jimmy Lichtenwalter
Thom Thibeault is using his extensive language experience to extend Samford University's reach from Alabama to Vietnam and beyond.
Thibeault joined Samford's faculty last fall as director of the Grace Marquez Language Technology Forum, where he oversees the Language Lab located on the second floor of Chapman Hall. Before coming to Samford, Thibeault worked at Southern Illinois University for 23 years.
Thibeault's expertise is in using technology to assist in learning languages. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Salzburg (Austria) in computer-assisted language learning, known as CALL. He is familiar with teaching both German and Spanish to students. He is also the creator of the computer program FLAn, or the Foreign Language Annotator. FLAn is a free hypermedia editor that information to be attached to words in phrases, much like the popular website site Wikipedia. This program allows "instructors to turn static texts into dynamic learning units."
According to Thibeault, his role at Samford is "to assist the teaching staff and provide them with expertise and resources to help with technological instruction." He also creates computer-based quizzes and exercises which are used in the Language Lab by students.
In addition, Thibeault is using his expertise to aid programs abroad. Recently, he attended the GLoCALL (Global and Localization of Computer Assisted Language Learning) Conference in Vietnam. There he helped in "laying a foundation for workshops to train teachers to use technology to teach English."
Vietnam is part of an economic organization known as ASEAN (Association of Southeastern Asian Nations). The official working language of ASEAN is English, so the Vietnamese government is promoting a proficiency in English among its citizens.
This May, Thibeault expects to return to the GLoCALL Conference and give a presentation on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), an online program where an unlimited amount of users can take courses covering a large variety of subjects. His lecture will focus on how MOOC can be used to teach foreign languages to users.
Jimmy Lichtenwalter is a journalism and mass communication major and a news and feature writer in Samford's Office of Marketing and Communication.