Invitation to speak about Twitter at York U (Canada)

Imagine walking into a mid-size, clean, welcoming seminar room for a morning presentation. It does not seem imposing, but you discover once you begin to set up that this room is equipped with tools that you haven’t ever encountered. Quite impressed I was with just the concave wall upon which my  presentation was projected, reminding me that sometimes things can become larger than life, and that it is not all that bad. I was mesmerized as Ron Owston, Director of the Institute for Research on Learning Technolgies at York University, increased the size of my opening slide to Goliath proportions. Here I am pictured with Ron, and Roberta Sinyor of the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, literally before my talk.

I actually gave two talks but the first, the powerpoint of which I share here, was the one of which I am particularly proud. It gave me an opportunity to revisit much about Twitter, including the *new* Twitter, new research and where I am with Twitter as an academic and avid twitterer. Discussing Twitter in higher education is always a rewarding experience because there are always some good discussions which ensue, especially those comments that begin with “I want to play devil’s advocate” 😉

Clearly, the research on Twitter in higher ed I share in this presentation is not comprehensive. I am grateful to dana boyd for sharing research on Twitter and Microblogging on her site. Here you can find more articles, conference talks, etc.

Annunci

Tweeting the petition protesting SUNY-Albany cuts

Economic crisis, reevaluation of programs, reallocation of resources, restructuring of priorities…this process is leading everyone in this country to make difficult decisions to deal with current realities.

For those of us who feel that these decisions are outwardly wrong, we unite and make our voice heard. This has been the case with the language programs cut at SUNY-Albany. If you aren’t aware of the dastardly attack on the humanities, here is the decision being protested from around the world.

In October, UAlbany president George Philip announced that the campus is suspending admissions to five programs — French, Russian, Italian, classics and theater — in the wake of an unprecedented budget shortfall.

This decision has created quite an uproar not only from academics directly affected, but from constituents in higher education from administrators to scholars to students. Stanley Fish blogged about this crisis (in two parts). Other institutions are aiming to revive the humanities.

Ultimately, once decisions like this one reached at SUNY-Albany are made, there is little hope at reversing it, despite the most comprehensive attempts made by all. As a faculty member, I have participated in letter writing (both in its traditional sense and by email correspondence), and have disseminated information to others too.

I even zealously tweeted about the online petition immediately after I learned about it. I imagine a smile or a smirk appearing on the lips of you readers as you get to this paragraph. You are probably thinking, “There she goes with Twitter again. Isn’t there a statute of limitations?!” No, there isn’t! 😉

On Sunday, October 10, 2010, I learned about the petition via this tweet:

It was retweeted by a number of members (more than just the 2 in the image above!) in my personal learning network (PLN). One tweep asked if international signatures would be accepted. I did not know whether their signatures would be counted, nevertheless many of us pleaded with everyone in our PLN to sign the petition and retweet the information to their PLNs. Three days later, I tweeted this:

My last tweet on October 13/10 showed an increase of 2,960 signatures over the three days in which I tweeted it and it was retweeted. I am not naive enough to think that Twitter was solely responsible for this increase of almost 3,000 signatures in 3 days, but I do credit my PLN on Twitter with helping disseminate information about the petition quickly and effectively. Tweeps in Italy, Spain and England, people across NJ and the rest of America united to be heard on the SUNY-Albany cuts.

The penultimate paragraph of the timesunion.com articles tells us

The document has garnered signatures and comments from 37 foreign countries, particularly in Europe, Asia and the Pacific, as well as 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Although I will never know for certain, I firmly believe that the far-reaching arm of Twitter contributed to the extensive national and international representation of the signatures on the petition.

You may think this is a lost cause and I have tweeted and blogged for no reason…but there were and still are so many lessons to learn from this, at so many different levels.

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 http://www.webecologyproject.org/2009/09/analyzing-influence-on-twitter/

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! 🙂

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 🙂

wordle

E-Twinning: NJ & Trento

Why we learn foreign languages…to understand better the world in which we are living thus, in turn, understand ourselves and our homeland better. Except, with globalization people think barriers are being removed and everyone should just be able to speak English, since it is considered a global language.

But that is not globalization. Cultural globalization does not aim for homogeny, it rather foresees a growth of cross-cultural contacts, something that is dear to me as a language professor. Understandably, teaching foreign languages occurs in a rather artificial environment (the classroom) since the professor is the only contact with the target language that a student has.  With technological tools, this is no longer the case. Culture and language can be explored via different tools to bring the reality of the target language to life in and out of the classroom. In previous posts, I have discussed my personal exploitation of technology in the classroom, and, yes, I have explored Twitter ad infinitum.

And it is to Twitter that I return for this post too. Except now I am not alone. Just before the Christmas holidays, I chatted with @sethdickens (whom I know solely from following him on Twitter) and I proposed creating a community on Twitter for both his students and mine. This e-twinning proposal excited us both and we decided to use Twitter for 1) my grammar and composition course in Italian and 2) my Contemporary Italian Cultural Studies in English. Seth was agreeable and introduced his Italian high school seniors from his philosophy and history course to both of my classes.

We are in our third week on Twitter. Seth has prepared for everyone in our community a wiki to introduce and provide details for this project. Just amazing.
So far, I have been rather laidback giving students an opportunity to explore Twitter (again, for the majority of students, Twitter was a new social networking tool) and get comfortable with the text limitations, language use and course requirement (3 general tweets a week, 1 reply tweet to another community member). As past experience has shown me, some students tweet away while others wonder why they should tweet.

Some exciting conversations have taken place, but with either myself  or Seth at the helm of the discussion. The prompts that we provide have led our respective students to engage with us in the target language and Seth’s students have engaged with me and vice-versa. Just the other day, there was some good exchanges between our students, which pleased us to no end. To many of you reading this, you’re probably thinking that “it really ain’t much” but the truth is, yes it is. For students to feel comfortable enough to engage in the foreign language to discuss and assist other language learners is a great accomplishment. Knowledge, linguistic and cultural, is being constructed by the learners, and the scaffolding of new skills and concepts is evident.

Read for yourself:
In the culture course, the talk of some current events in Italy led to students contributing to the talk and wanting to learn more from one another.
culture
In the grammar course, learning new vocabulary was the impetus of the exchange.
profeac

In both exchanges, I would hope that students did, even momentarily, recognize the value of Twitter, both in synchronous exchanges (the second example) and asynchronous (given the time difference with Italy).

I am really thrilled to have found such an engaged and knowledgeable collaborator (read his blog to learn how talented his is) and I know this e-twinning project this semester will continue to surprise and excite me.

Arriverderci AP Italian?

Just 4 years into it…and now this!

In the fall, I had published an article on Italian teacher training in Foreign Language Annals (the journal for the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Shortly before its publication, the editor had asked me to comment on the then recent decision of the College Board to no longer support the financial costs of administering the Italian Advanced placement exam. Here is my comment:

Worth noting are the results of the inaugural year of the Advanced Placement Italian Language and Cultural Exam, particularly with respect to New Jersey. Villa Walsh Academy in Morristown was recognized as an Exemplary AP Italian Language and Culture Program for small-size schools that “lead the nation in helping the widest segment of their total school population receive an exam grade of 3 or higher . . .” (The College Board, 2007, p. 52).

Notwithstanding the national results for the inaugural year, the College Board has announced the imperiled position of the AP Italian exam. Practitioners, politicians and ambassadors, and community supporters alike have mobilized in support of the exam (as evidenced by messages from the president of the American Association for Teachers of Italian, various letters of support, a recent meeting of the Ambassador of Italy to the United States with the College Board, etc.). It is the hope of this author that the ongoing negotiations with the College Board will soon yield positive results for the future of the AP Italian exam.

Here we are, just months later, the AP exam has been discontinued, with this ray of hope from the College Board:

[w]hile AP Italian will not be offered in 2009-10, if at some future date the funding partnerships needed to support an AP Italian program arise, the Board of Trustees will consider renewing work to develop and offer the AP Italian course and exam.

Between the two announcements, the Italian community came together and worked very hard to try to raise the $1.5 million (originally $4.5 but reduced in negotiations) required. This community raised a good chunk of the money, but everything was contingent upon the Italian government’s contribution of more monies. Unfortunately, the Italian government did not come through.

In an email sent today to the AATI, the president of the teacher’s association made the following comment:

By not having an AP in Italian, the Italian language acquires in certain quarters of society a de facto second-class status.

My personal take on this situation

I first read about the College Board decision on Jan. 8 in an article in the NY Times. Once the initial shock wore off, I did two things: tweeted it and then wrote an email to the president of the AATI. In his reply to me, he referred me to two other news articles: The Washington Post and the LA Times.

Having read the latter article, I was a tad annoyed that the presentation of stats compared Italian AP examinees and Italian high school programs nationally and in the state of California to Spanish. Uh, hello?! Did the journalist not reflect on the status of foreign languages in the US and realize that Spanish is not just another foreign language but rather a language of the US (since it does not have an official language)? I also emailed him and tried to explain to him that his presentation of the statistics was not an equitable comparison for Italian. I used the adage “comparing apples and oranges” and that Italian has always been and should be compared to French and German, the other foreign languages that maintain a foreign language status in the US, unlike Spanish, which is a second language for all intents and purposes. Well, his reply to my request for a follow-up paragraph accurately representing the reality of the Italian AP exam within the context of foreign languages was rather dismissive. So I will, for the sake of making some noise, post it here. In 2008:

  • Italian AP had 1,529 examinees and increased by 18% since 2007.
  • French language AP had 20,675 and German 5,259.
  • Both, however, experienced a decrease since 2007 (-5% and -3% respectively).

Yes, economically speaking, the exam is not financially feasible…but we are growing, not at the initial projected rate, but let’s face it, we aren’t Spanish!

What options are available?

First and foremost, the idea of taking the test via computer vs. pencil and paper. Terminally Incoherent’s blog post about electronic test taking gives some examples as to benefits and pitfalls of these types of tests. Financial justification by the College Board cannot be the only reason to go this route.

Next, find more money. We are in the midst of the worst recession since pre-WWII across the globe. Can we really be expected to find more money? Unfortunately, Italian has been considered the “stepchild” of modern foreign languages, given the limited number of speakers of it world wide (according to Wikipedia, Italian ranks 20th in terms of native speakers, and it is an official language in: Italy; Vatican City and San Marino, both geographically located within Italy; Switzerland; Croatia; Slovenia). So to whom can we turn for financial rescue? Obviously, Berlusconi’s government is unable to fulfill previous promises given Italy’s economic turmoil. Italian Americans? Many of them who have already generously promised monies must be applauded. They recognize the value of maintaining language in tandem with culture (funny how many people label themselves Italian American but cannot speak the language and for the most part, don’t encourage their children, grandchildren to study the language/cultural formally).

Another possible strategy? Find ways to lower the cost of grading the exam. I have never been involved in grading it (but I have been invited to be a reader this summer), but I can appreciate the entire grading process. Language learning isn’t just right/wrong answers, it is negotiation of meaning, free writing, persuasion, narration. There is also an oral component that needs to be evaluated. Finally, the 0-4 grading scheme is revisited every year in light of the test-takers.

What else can be done? I’m not sure.

I hope that we can reinstate the AP exam in the future.

Using the right tech tool for teaching…how did you decide?

I have deliberated this post to death, wanting to ensure that I made a positive contribution to the discussion of social network sites (SNS). As an educator, my use of SNS is always from a professional perspective (yeah, right), wanting to investigate different tools for language learning and teaching. 😉

During one of the umpteenth revisions to my chapter on Twitter and teaching Italian, I came across a series of articles on identity, community and SNS. danah boyd, sorry Dr. danah boyd, has been very instrumental in much of the research on community and SNS and from her and co-author Nicole Ellison, I give you the history of SNS. If you haven’t seen this, it is the intro to a volume available online.
boydellisonfig1

Can you pinpoint your introduction to SNS ?

I must admit that I am a late adopter of SNS, joining this wave of new technology at the personal level only in late 2006. I deliberated very briefly introducing Facebook to the classroom, but there was too much happening on Facebook and I think it was more a personal reluctance bring it to my language students…I couldn’t focus on a single community with its multiple apps (really so many fun things happening—invites, “poking” and updates). I do know some teachers who have incorporated Facebook to their classroom as a learning management system. If you are an educator but are not yet a member of http://www.classroom20.com/ I would strongly urge you to join and read the forums available there for Facebook (and other SNS) and share your own thoughts.

Next, I joined Twitter…and I discovered I could tweet with people around the world. Immediately I knew that I had to integrate Twitter into my Italian language curriculum. How could it not be successful?

ONE: an overarching question: What are you doing?
TWO: a limited message size: 140 characters.
THREE: people would read my tweet if they saw it…it is really hard to ignore tweets if you are using Twitter when others’ tweets appear.

Then, finally, FOUR: I could communicate with people I don’t know. OK, there’s a FIVE: just because I wanted to communicate directly with someone doesn’t mean that twitterer will reciprocate (but that didn’t discourage me, eventually some did answer me and I have made many virtual connections!).

Bringing Twitter to students has not been an easy task—initially, students are a bit reluctant to join this community because, after all, they are “being graded on it” and perhaps it should be an “extra-credit” component. They also think it is too much work for a language requirement course (“I just need to get my credits to graduate”).

However, for the most part, college students generally like it once they are comfortable with what it accomplishes in terms of connections and the building of a community outside the classroom. And they tweet—one student this semester tweeted 400% more than expected (245 vs. 52 tweets required) over the 13 weeks of the course. This student has also made connections with Italian twitterers in Italy (beyond the 4 introduced to her in the class community) and it seems like she’ll be tweeting in the future.

What’s next? Well, my head is spinning…there are so many Web 2.0 tools (just look at http://www.go2web20.net/) that I really have to think through what I’d like to accomplish next and how best to achieve my goals. I’m going to be looking at some other investigations conducted by language colleagues and use that as a model.
So I ask you to share with me:

  1. What was the first SNS you used personally? in your classroom?
  2. What would you like to investigate that you haven’t yet?

Your comments would be invaluable not only to me but to many others. I would be more than happy to share what I have done with anyone who asks and hope you would do the same.

Twitter in the Foreign Language Classroom – my investigation

Another update: paper has been removed as it is under revisions as  you read this. Will share once again in the near future…

update: if you would like to read the manuscript, it is password protected. Thanks for the head’s up Luke.

I’ll keep this post brief and to the point, as I should be concentrating on my upcoming Personnel Action Committee (PAC) class observation tomorrow. I am, however, deliberately trying not to think about it.

We’ve been asked to post our entire manuscript on the wiki (of which I spoke some time ago) even though it is currently being peer-refereed. Last night, in a fit of sleeplessness, I cut, paste and formatted “Micro-blogging on Twitter: Social networking in Intermediate Italian I“, and now it is up for public perusal, if you so desire.

Any comments would be appreciated, but I believe they have to be given here, as you do not have permission to join our wiki discussions. Also, anyone good with titles? This current one is missing something…

*Can’t view the site? use your openID to view the chapter*

Nota bene, “Contributions to https://secondgenerationcall.wikispaces.com are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License.”

read-write web vs. academic publishing

Preparing this tenure application has led me to another question about academia in the age of social media. I have mulled over the process vs. the content in a previous post, the medium as the message based on Wesch’s article and also posted on how-to integrate technology in my teaching without disrupting the flow of the teaching and learning process.

The question I have been pondering lately is this:
What role does a read-write web platform play in the dossier of an academic?

This may seem like an absurd question given the level of expertise a scholar is to establish in her research. This level is validated by publications in prominent journals and books, by invitations to speak at international conferences and to participate at different events as an expert, and it is hoped that these invitations come both within academia and beyond.

I’ve been truly fortunate to have had a paper accepted by the official journal of the American Council for Foreign Language Educators, which has a circulation of approximately 10,000 subscriptions in membership and also has found in approximately 1000 libraries. Now, past issues are available on the net for members only, but anyone affiliated with a university can access the journal online through institutional library services. Impressive numbers, are they not? Well, I’ve been trying to do the math and realize that I cannot do more than determine the probability of people actually reading it. In reality, there is no way I can ascertain how many people actually read my article. If I’m lucky, maybe a 100 at best.

Now, let’s turn to the world of the read-write web. Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to determine with certainty how many people read it, but I could see how many views my article gets, as Intellagirl tweeted yesterday. Let’s look at this exchange:

(refers to her presentation on Web 2.0 Secrets: SEO, SEM, and Web Traffic)

Would any member of the administration of an American college or university consider the number of hits, favorites, downloads, etc. as valuable for a decision on hiring, tenure, promotion, recognition, etc.? I believe in the age of web 2.0, where social networking fosters an environment for sharing and transmitting knowledge (no longer limited to the ivory-tower library), we can’t ignore the importance of web views.

My next question is who determines how these significant numbers play into the decision-making process?