what’s new

a hiatus from this blog doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t been writing, it just means I’ve focused my attention elsewhere. Launched just a few months ago is my column that is explained here, as highlighted by my institution’s news channelVNY 16271-media-620x423.jpg. Hope you enjoy!


Twitter and Teachers and Bloomfield College (NJ)

Months ago, I was invited to lead a workshop on Twitter at Bloomfield College. I am very grateful to Yifeng Bei who organized this faculty technology workshop because I feel that I was finally granted a hiatus from administrative responsibilities (which have totally consumed me the first half of the academic year semester) and bring me back to talking about my research interests and sharing it with like-minded people for discussion, feedback and more.

It was a fun experiment for many and as only few were already tweeting, we tried to get everyone to send out a couple of tweets to determine if they were comfortable with the interface and sending an update. This was the end result.

I posted the presentation on SlideShare but because there are a number of links, I decided to write this brief post to for the links, which can’t be clicked on Slideshare.

Twitter Bird & Books image

Tweet is the Word of 2009

Building your PLN

RETWEET image (article by S. Cole)

Twitter and Academia (AcademHack)

25 Interesting ways to use Twitter in the Classroom

The good, the bad & the online talk

Thanks to a recent blog by CogDog which made me laugh and want to readdress this draft post that I have been reluctant to share.

Talking at a conference is something I whole-heartedly enjoy; from the welcoming address to the sessions, the exhibits and the schmoozing, well, it is an undeniably enriching experience. Unfortunately, in May, circumstances prevented me from attending IALLT in Atlanta, Georgia, notwithstanding my every effort and desire. Fortuitously, I was still able to virtually present via Elluminate Live!, a real-time virtual classroom environment designed for distance education and collaboration in academic institutions and corporate training.

I am extremely grateful that my co-presenter, Sharon Scinicariello of the University of Richmond, indulged me by allowing me to use Elluminate so I could present my contribution to our presentation on Netvibes and Pageflakes (it’s posted on slideshare so feel free to peruse it)iallt09
It really saved what could have been a faux pas on my part (i.e., not presenting) so for this reason, I am thrilled that I have my Elluminate classroom. And there are some things about which I wasn’t so thrilled.

The good, the bad and the chipmunk
Like every good technology user knows, it is always wise to do a run through with the technology before hand to ensure, with a degree of certainty, that there won’t be any issues with the tool being used. Sharon and I had met in my Elluminate classroom to talk about the presentation the day prior to the actual talk. She was in the room assigned to us (the conference logistics worked out perfectly) and I in my home study.

To prepare for the presentation, I would suggest the following:

  • Enter the configuration room prior to the meet-up (this is done independently, and it is suggested that you do it the day before you actually use it, just in case). It is essential that there are no technical issues with a user’s computer or connections.
  • The speaker (me, in this case) should use a headphone with microphone to block out any type of noise. System speakers are fine, however, the background noises are easily transmitted too, so the microphone really limits the sound heard by the audience.
  • Test the audio. Always good to know what you will sound like as your voice is projected on speakers in the room. Also, remember you will hear your own voice and must not let it distract you from your talk. Btw, don’t forget the lag…using an Internet is a blessing as well as a curse: after brief pauses, Elluminate would still transmit what I said, however, I sounded like a chipmunk (high-pitched and very quick…if anyone remembers LPs, it was like playing a 33rpm at 45rpm).
  • Give your co-presenter moderator privileges. Since she is in loco, it makes sense that she control the slideshow and be privy to all the gadgets and features of Elluminate Live!

Now, in terms of giving the presentation, I highlight 5 key points from CogDog’s blog post on Deadly Online Seminars. Read it for yourself to truly appreciate his advice…and humour!

  • Make it hard to even get inside.
  • Don’t let your participants know who else is there.
  • Make it hard or impossible for the audience to communicate with each other.
  • Don’t greet the audience or make them feel welcome. I got into this session 15 minutes before it started, and there was no chat message, no welcome screen (the presenters were flipping slides), and on one greeted or welcomed the audience.
  • Ignore your audience, make ‘em wait til you fill the hour with your voice, do not involve them at all.

I would love to receive any additional advice you may have to offer, as I will be doing another online talk in a few weeks for LARC’s Social Media Safari. Thanks in advance! 🙂

I broke (almost all) the Ted Commandments

I wasn’t going to write a post complaining about a conference, but then I clicked a link and read the post (from which I borrowed the image below) and realized it was a “sign”…I had to share my nasty experience.

On Mother’s Day, I was scheduled to present at the 29th annual conference of an American Italian association. As the process with all conferences, I submitted a proposal in late November, was notified in late January and the program was released in March. I was disappointed that I was presenting on a Sunday morning (session started at 9:30) because I realized that my tweeps on Twitter, the subject of my talk, would probably not be online on that day, at that hour. Then I realized it was not just any Sunday, but Mother’s Day, and that my parents were going to be in town visiting, so I was also annoyed. I opted, however, being the conscientious presenter that I am, to attend rather than pull a no-show.

  • Sunday morning arrives, I wish my mother a happy mother’s day and leave the house at approx 7:45.
  • I drive into the city, the traffic through the Holland Tunnel paralleling what I expected Twitter traffic to be that morning.
  • I arrive to the conference location at approx 8:15.
  • There was another presentation on Italian literature in the room in which I was to present. I waited in the corridor for that session to let out. It finally did, 15 minutes later than scheduled. So our session was late.
  • I was the 4th of 4 speakers.
  • It was a technology session.
  • None of the other speakers could figure out how to use the two trolleys of technological equipment.
  • There was no one to help out. I became the designated tech assistant.
  • At this point, we are approx 25 minutes late to start. Speaker one speaks. Nasty.
  • Speaker two presents. Interesting talk on podcasts but really nothing new.
  • Third speaker speaks…for 35 minutes!!! Chair of session does not monitor time nor stop #3.
  • Session ends at 10:45.
  • I am told to start my presentation at 10:50. Screw the PowerPoint, I don’t have time to load it up on the various trolleys. I am angry…visibly.
  • I log onto Twitter (need a hard connection, no wireless). Internet connection weak. Twitter community very quiet.
  • I tell them students enjoyed it, try to explain the benefits.
  • At 10: 55, first interruption from a speaker in the next session. Chair tells her we still have 5 minutes.
  • At 10:58, chair of next session comes in and says “we have people who need to catch flights and they want to know how much longer you will be?” Angrily, I bark, “Give me 1 and a half minutes!”
  • Check Twitter replies. Limited shoutouts.
  • I tell them if they are interested in my work to read chapter 4 of the Calico 2009 Monograph.

The end. Can you determine how many of the Ted Commandments were broken in this story? 😉


Thanks to Tim Longhurst (The TED Commandments – rules every speaker needs to know) you can see the list in an easier to read format below.

  1. 1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick
  2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
  3. Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
  4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
  5. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
  6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
  8. Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
  9. Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
  10. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.

Calico ’09 musings

I was fortunate enough to have a paper accepted at the 26th annual conference of Calico ’09,  my first Calico conference ever. It was an experience that surpassed any and all expectations (how often can we say that?!). Different aspects of the conference that made it so memorable include the venue, the presentations, the participants and the discussions that happened online and off.

Arizona State University is a large, modern campus abounding with art, architecture and green space. The fact that the talks were mainly in the lower level of Coor Hall (a glass ice cube with etched text fragments and letterforms) could easily be forgiven, given they were fully equipped to meet all our tech needs.

The presentations I attended were, for the most part, very interesting and engaging. There were 6 concurrent sessions, which made selecting a session quite difficult. Thankfully, there will be podcasts and presentations available on the site (organized by @msiskin) so anything I missed I can listen to at a later date. Getting a glimpse of the gamut of investigations conducted in technology (more specifically, Web 2.0 applications) and foreign/second language learning, was very inspiring. The range of research is incredible…but as @glordward mentioned in her session, we are such preliminary stages of research, focusing much of our research agenda on students’ evaluation of the implementation of various tech tools. Hopefully, in the very near future we will begin to see investigations that demonstrate concrete evidence in terms of benefits to language learning in terms of increased proficiency.

My presentation, 4:30 on the Friday afternoon, went well. I had a smaller turnout (read below to find relativity in this statement) but was well-tweeted on the back-channel thanks to @judifranz, @glordward and @eRomanMe. It was the Pageflakes project, about which I have previously posted, on which I collaborated with @kahnp and @hellermd98. Another little bonus was the idea of Twitter Crowd Status as a widget, thanks to the ingeniuty @sethdickens, which the audience seemed to like.

The participants in the various sessions I attended were equally as engaging as the presenters themselves. I met a number of intelligent, interesting and committed scholars and researchers who provided feedback and were involved in each session. Being able to connect with these people, network with them was rewarding. Even more rewarding would be future collaborations and/or discussions.

From this, I must highlight two different things that occurred during the conference that impacted me the most, both related to Twitter.

The Twitter back-channel
This is the first conference that I attended that had as much of an online discussion via Twitter as it did in the actual presentations. The dynamic presenters were so engaging that they created discussions both in the session and on twitter. Many people in our respective communities joined in on points raised during the presentations as we tweeted them. Read, for example, @eslchill’s post about his presentation being retweeted (i.e., shared with a different twitter following by a member of @eslchill’s community) by someone who wasn’t at the conference. It is a great success when you find approximately 22 pages in a search for the #calico09 hashtag. (Btw, the other hashtag used was #calico2009)

This was a great experience for me, the avid twitter aficionada, to participate actively with so many other great twitter conference goers. Additionally, I had received a DM re a position opening, and that given my interests, as indicated by my tweets at the conference, I might be interested in pursuing. LOL! If only this had happened pre-tenure, maybe I would have considered it 😉

An impromptu presentation on Twitter
My first day at the conference (the first day of sessions) brought about another personal success. There was a presentation to be given, entitled “24/7 Twitter” at 11:00 a.m. The classroom was full—standing room only (about 50+ people; great news for Twitterati). However, the presenter was a no-show. After a few moments, the chair of the session asked if there was anyone who wanted to say something about Twitter. The phenomenal Claire Siskin (@cbsiskin) spoke briefly to what an effective tool Twitter is and then I, in a moment of self-indulgence, commented that the 4th chapter of the monograph, which was given at registration, was based on my initial investigation on Twitter in the intermediate Italian class.

One thing led to another, then I heard myself saying: “Well, if you would like, I could give the presentation. I have my flash drive with me.” Yes, what a über geeky thing to say! The audience was very indulgent and I gave my impromptu talk about my work with Twitter and language learning. I must admit, this was one of my most rewarding, professional experiences.

Calico ’09 was an amazing conference and I look forward to the next year’s conference in Boston. From the conference program, I created this wordle to give you an idea as to the top 200 terms. Enjoy 🙂


Is there a right way to be ugly?

Watch the archived lecture by Umberto Eco of October 8, 2008 here. Scroll right to the bottom of the page and click the icon under “Watch” in the last column of the table.

Why would thousands of people in the US and Canada want to participate in a lecture entitled “An Illustrated Presentation on the History of Beauty and Ugliness”? Well, when it is Umberto Eco who is the speaker, any topic is worthy of our participation.

Eco (even without the beard) has always been avant-garde in his writing, from scholarly publications to literature. Which academic could ever forget his monumental text: Trattato di semiotica general / A Theory of Semiotics (1976)? And which mystery reader did not find Il nome della rosa / The Name of Rose (1986) completely enthralling? Even the movie was quite enjoyable.

So when he talks about ugliness, why not? Let’s face it, there is so much available in the public eye that dictates what it means to be beautiful in our current society (and he already wrote about it some years ago (On Beauty, 2004)). His follow up book, On Ugliness, seems like an absolute necessity. Why? How do we know what is ugly? Is it just whatever is not beautiful? Or is there more to it?

I could never synthesize Eco’s talk, which was webcast to the community of Montclair State University thanks to the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM)—my thesis director still rocks! Since there were so many interesting and engaging things he presented in his talk, many of which resonate to this day, I will only highlight some things he said. Hopefully, very soon, I will be able to provide you readers with a link to an archive of his talk, once UTM makes it available to the public.

Eco comments on ugliness:

  • The Aesthetics of Ugliness, written by German philosopher Karl Rosenkrantz, in 1853, is one of the first works to draw an analogy between ugliness and moral evil
  • Beauty, in every era, follows certain rules. Ugliness is unpredictable and offers an infinite amount of possibilities
  • Beauty / ugliness is also defined socio-politically (how else can we explain Hugh Heffner)
  • The unicorn, a mystical creature, was considered a monster historically
  • Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, offers a romantic eulogy of ugliness when describing Quasimodo
  • Do we still consider Frankenstein, Rigoletto and Cyrano de Bergerac ugly?
  • Currently, do we define ugliness via a cyborg philosophy – the symbosis between man and machine?
  • Disgust and repulsion help us understand what is ugly … beauty is in the eye of the beholder?
  • This is an appeal for compassion – ugliness presented for our amusement, and just perhaps to make us learn to love what is ugly

Amusing, entertaining, engaging…sitting at the edge of my seat one moment and heartily laughing the next. Only one man can do this when talking about ugliness … Umberto Eco!

a new discovery or two

I was invited to give a talk at the NJ Italian & Italian Heritage Commission Annual Symposium at Rutgers yesterday. I share this with you for two reasons: 1) I had no internet access and found myself wanting to write tweet but couldn’t; and 2) was rewarded by the experience.

Let’s start with the Internet…OK, so I am dependent on technology. I wanted to share what was happening at the conference, which was worth sharing either because it was interesting or the power point presentations were nasty (again!). The interesting materials included my session on teaching and teachers’ education and two of four other sessions, as well as many of conversations and exchanges that occurred after the sessions. Since I continue to complain about using PowerPoint as a presentation tool, I decided to go cold turkey and was “powerpoint-free”! 🙂 This is a good thing, because I rediscovered my ability to engage my audience with words and human interaction without an unnecessary dependence on the slide presentation. The main reason I did not use PowerPoint was because the content of my talk was all text. They did not need slides with sentences to hear what I had to say. The word signs I was using would not make my presentation more effective, so I didn’t even bother making one. Sometimes I make some very wise choices! 😉

Another wise choice was accepting the invitation to present. I was not compensated monetarily (nor did I have to pay the conference fee) but I did get unlimited coffee and a free lunch (but I couldn’t finish it because many attendees wanted to talk to me and one thing I can’t do is eat and talk, at least in this type of environment). The networking, the schmoozing is always enjoyable—running into people you only see at conferences, introducing yourself or being introduced to some key players and then, remarkably, discovering that some people are beginning to consider you a key player. Yes, yesterday I discovered it is finally happening to me professionally: I have found my niche, my strength, my voice.

Overall, notwithstanding the sessions, the value of which I am still questioning given the audience, I feel satisfied with the events of the day. In addition to the professional return, I also bought books (not related to research) that I intend to read, hopefully over the course of the week, to balance off my writing-intensive March break.

new website

Much deliberation, hesitation and reconsideration has now ended. Late last night (or was it in the wee hours of the morning?) I posted what is my new professional website. My previous website was attractive enough but outdated. I started rethinking designs about a year ago, but since website design had to take a back seat to my professional responsibilities, it took me a while to actually focus and determine what I wanted my new site to say about me (moreover, my virtual reinvention was greatly fostered by the transformed and reinvented “real me”which occurred over the last year.)

I am an amateur in web design, that I have some good ideas, but having them materialize is sometimes difficult because I am not properly versed in code (still can’t figure out CSS to make it work properly for me, so I stick to simple HTML pages). What I would like to ask my handful of readers to this post is some feedback. Since the new trends in colour show that “grey” is the new neutral, I have adopted this colour scheme (I won’t change that).

But I do have some specific questions that I would like to ask about

  1. the rollover links (should the image link to the new window? or just the text part? Or just the “read me” part?);
  2. the new windows (big enough? should I make them resizable?);
  3. the charts within the new windows (are they easily legible?).

Other comments would be appreciated too.Grazie

Presentations…using PowerPoint (or Keynote or anything else)

A presentation that uses a software program like PowerPoint can enhance a talk by providing visual cues for elaboration and development, and aiding people who maximize understanding with seeing what is being said rather than just hearing it.

When the software is not used effectively, it becomes a page of written text in which the audience gets lost  because they are more prone to try to read all that stuff (“Ssh! Mr. Speaker I’m trying to read, be quiet!”) instead of listening to the speaker develop the key concepts/terms. And of course the implications for the presenter: what type of eye contact does he/she make with the audience when there is so much text to read from either the screen or monitor?

Look at the example here:

Now look at something a tad more appealing with good use of text & images:

Need I say more?

Then, there is also the issue of transitions and animation which we all like for the WOW! factor. Problem is that before we use it we aren’t interested in learning about it. We click these “cool” options, let the software program randomly choose the effects and we don’t bother modifying or adjusting things. As an end user of software, yeah, the possibilities are endless. As a good end user, we are quick to judge what is ineffective and correct it.

I shouldn’t toot my own horn, but after years of training in marketing, I prepare some fantastic presentations. I also, for a short while, trained the corporate and academic world on creating effective PowerPoint presentations (part of a previous career). Ultimately, the advice I am willing to share with everyone is don’t use it just because everyone else does (didn’t your mother warn you about that long ago?). Use it as a tool to enhance what you need to say, not just present what you are going to read to them.