Running, Writing and Restlessness

Two weeks ago, after an honest realization that my writing is going nowhere (2 articles in the works, neither of them even close to satisfactory), I decided to invest my time and energy elsewhere: my running. I challenged myself to run 100km (just over 62 miles) in 2 weeks. This morning I met the challenge, completing 103.5km (64.33 miles) in 6 hours, 37 minutes (11 runs in total).

In spite of my inability (read: fear) to run a race, running has given me great satisfaction. This is a goal that I’ve managed to achieve because it is a truly selfish accomplishment…I have nothing to prove to anyone, I set my own pace, I defy myself.

This is so conspicuously different from my writing, which has waned considerably. With each sentence I write, I imagine endless challenges from reviewers and critics–unsupported theses, poor discussions, irrelevant conclusions. After an entire academic year (the one immediately subsequent to tenure) in which I was given endless administrative duties, I find myself unable to write. I need to find a way to write for me first, then for an audience…to make my writing analogous to my running. And then maybe this restlessness will pass, maybe…

Correcting language mistakes on Twitter

My awesome tweeps are so encouraging and supportive of my adventures in the twittosphere. Their enthusiasm and level of engagement with me is so very much appreciated.

After my last post on how I’m learning Spanish (and now Portuguese too) on Twitter (my language goals for the summer!), in Spanish I thanked a number of people who had retweeted my blog post. Of course, there was an error in my tweet and I had two friends advise me of them, in two different ways…one in a direct message explicitly stating my error, the other in a reply message using a recast to note my error.

How do others approach error correction on Twitter? This is fundamental to me as a language instructor and I wonder what others do too!

Thanks for your anticipated feedback 🙂

google’s voice in translation

Do you have Google voice? Have you ever seen a transcription of a voicemail left for you in a foreign language? The other day I had the pleasure of receiving this and the linguist in me found this really amusing. The message, left in italian, was transcribed in English.

Google asks you if the transcript was useful. I’d say yes and would love to use it an intro course to Italian phonetics!!

Here is the voicemail in Italian, if you care to play a linguistic game comparing Italian phonemes to English words 🙂

Buon pomeriggio dottoressa Conforti. Ho ricevuto il suo messaggio ma non ho avuto l’opportunità di risponderle quando ha chiamato. Sì, mercoledì andrebbe bene se avremo la possibilita di incontrarci. Umm, se ha la possibilità di richiamarmi sarebbe fantastico altrimenti mi lasci un messaggio per cortesia almeno per sapere a che ora possiamo incontrarci e parlare, okay? Grazie mille e buona giornata.

PLN, website or web space(s)?

I spent the better part of my morning trying to update my personal/academic webpage hosted on our college server. I was using  Dreamweaver to update my professional addresses page and realized that I have this information on some many different social media sites that perhaps my limited knowledge of Dreamweaver didn’t tap into all the available information that already exists elsewhere.

So then I thought about getting off my a** and creating the personal start page on Netvibes that I never got around to. Then, I thought, why not a wordpress blog as a web space and could use various widgets there too. Then I thought, maybe my knowledge is far too limited and there are other tools that I could be using that I don’t know about. Then I thought…it’s time to stop thinking and start asking questions to my personal learning network. So, PLN, what do you use for your web space? My space currently is like an online CV, but it could be so much more, couldn’t it?

Any suggestions would be so greatly appreciated. Thanks 🙂

Challenging all foreign and English as a second language teachers

During a wonderful colloquium at the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) in Atlanta (more on that in a subsequent post), I set forth a challenge to the audience and co-presenters who were interested in using Twitter with their FL and ESL/EFL students: Try to learn a language using Twitter yourself.

As teachers/researchers, we always deliberate the implementation of new tools (especially Web 2.0 ones) in our classes. We research the literature, we outline our agenda, implement the tool and make the necessary adjustments as our project proceeds. The most rewarding part of our research is when we analyze our data and review the students’ perceptions so then we can reflect on the challenges and reconsider the project for future implementation.

So we’re ready to go with our action research, right? Well, why not familiarize ourselves first hand with what we want our students to do by putting ourselves in their shoes? I know that although we are already bilingual (or trilingual or polyglots), we are interested in learning other languages. So why not use Twitter as a tool to language learning ourselves?

Start by finding speakers of the language on Twitter. Start following them. Create a Twitter list (see my list for my Spanish tweeps from whom I’m learning) so you can follow their tweets. If you are a little gun shy initially, that’s OK…just read their tweets, follow their conversations, view their links (no, this is NOT stalking 😉 ). Eventually though, you may want to say “buenos días” and “¿cómo estás?” so that later you will be in a position to interact with them as you become more comfortable with the language you are trying to learn.

Can you learn the language by using Twitter alone? Of course not! But the tweets are a good springboard and I hope they encourage you to discover all other media available out there (books, blogs YouTube videos, music, movies (and clips), etc.)

iPods in the Italian class…again :)

In the fall semester, I introduced the iPod Touch in my senior level Italian courses. Our majors and minors were excited about the idea of the iPod Touch but their excitement was far surpassed this semester, when I introduced the iPod to intermediate level students. These students, few of whom will declare Italian as a major or minor, were thrilled beyond words. I remember the looks on their face when we started distributing them last Thursday. I hadn’t provided them with the syllabus yet so they did not know that some of the usual language learning objectives were going to be reached via mlearning.

I walked into Monday’s class with time to spare and all the students present were using their iPod. Were they doing anything class related (i.e., in Italian)? Only 2 of them. The others were just using them, making it a part of their daily routine. Will this help them become better Italian students? I hope it will be giving them immediate access to information (see this interesting article on learning & technology in eLearn Magazine) in the target language and give them access to it whenever they seek it rather than waiting to get this information from me in class those 150 minutes a week.

I will share via Twitter some milestones and would like to blog more about it…however, for different reasons, I can’t make any promises as to the frequency of these updates. For the time being, remember Marshal McLuhan‘s famous expressions: “global villages” and “the medium is the message”.

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

not a twitter post – but Nike+ does update there

In Spring of 2007 I decided to start running…I never ran a day in my life prior to that. I started speed walking (because I love walking), and then realized that I could start intermittently running during my speed walking. Over the summer of 2007, I managed to run 4 miles a day, 6 days a week, and lost approx 30 lbs. It was the most revitalizing experience ever  and 30 months later, I’m still into it (though I must admit, there have been periods of inconsistency) .

This past summer, needing a new pair of running shoes, I went all out and decided to do the Nike+ running thing…sensor and shoes to accommodate sensor. Some really surprising things happened since this purchase, because it became a more tangible means by which to monitor my running.

Before Nike+, I was averaging a running pace of between 9-10 minutes/mile. I would be the one many regular runners would pass repeatedly in the park during their run. My first monitored run of 4.24 miles in July 2009 was 9min 8secs. Unbeknown to me, I discovered I am competitive! The Nike+ was not only what I needed to boost my interest in running, but to become a better runner. I was able to challenge myself in terms of pace, personal bests and distance (the latter I am still working on 😉 ). My best 5 km (3.1 miles) is 18 min 9s (by the way, I haven’t been able to run more than 10km).

Currently, I run an average 6 min/mile and discovered I am so very competitive. In October, I decided to join a Nike+ challenge to run 100 miles prior to Jan 16/09. I completed my 100 miles in 25 runs (about 6 weeks), so I’ve decided to keep up the challenge and trying to get another 100 miles in before Christmas.

You can see that I’ve taken this challenge rather seriously, given that the distance I’ve run in November is comparable to the distance I used to run way back in the Spring of 2007 (since I was running a regular 25 miles weekly).

Once I get comfortable (secure) with my endurance, I think I need to challenge myself to running for a cause…

P.S. Oh yeah, the Nike+ website allows my updates to be tweeted, when it works 😦

Twitter in Higher Ed: the Report

Click here for PDF
Click here for PDF

Maybe I’m expecting too much from higher education, given how ingrained I am and how much I have at stake professionally …

Why some faculty members never tweet? “It’s not as easy as Facebook” “It’s too complicated”…what?

Well, maybe I’m biased. I don’t recall participating in the survey (but I could swear that one of the pro-Twitter answers could be mine!) but I think this is worth sharing.

If you prefer, you can go directly to the Faculty Focus site to see a brief description of the report and request to download it. They are also on Twitter @facultyfocus.

P.S. September must be a hot month for Twitter reports. Check this one out too that analysed influence on Twitter

ready for the new academic year


I am very fortunate to be one of a select few professors to pilot a personalized study on learning with the iPod Touch (an entire class set–w00t!). As I am an Italian professor, the Office of Information Technology at Montclair State University, has also provided my students with the mini microphone.

In addition to the apps above, I like the ability to create shortcuts on the iPod’s home page so there are direct links to different websites too (e.g., Learn10, Garzanti dictionary).

Does anyone have additional apps to suggest applicable to language learning? I was very fortunate to have attended the LARC Summer Institute session given by Claire Bradin Siskin on mobile assisted language learning apps. If there are other apps you have used and can share with me, it’d be so greatly appreciated.