ready for the new academic year

iPodapps

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.

The Tweep Types behind the Tweets

as I write this post, Twitter is down. What did I do to network? Went back to Friendfeed (new UI in beta & a new widget for my blog) and reintroduced myself to it. Well, I also discovered a good thing while I was there (which just might prompt me to use it again).

A few posts ago, I asked what our main use of Twitter is? Well, here are the results:

survey


On Friendfeed tonight, I discovered this enjoyable analysis of the psychology of tweets, which has interesting implications on my very informal and unscientific survey results. Evidently, I am at the point where I have achieved “the full realization of [my] potential” on Twitter. I personally doubt that and hope that there is more for me  on this great micro-blogging site. 

hierachy

Where do you fall in this hierarchy?

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

why twitter?

An interesting international conversation on Twitter this morning caught my attention and prompted this poll. The three participants I follow, @josepicardo (UK), @nergizk (Bursa) and @courosa (Canada), were engaged in a dialogue about the ways in which we use Twitter, the purpose of following and the right to unfollow, and the idea of community membership (just to name a few topics). 

I WANT TO KNOW…what is your main reason for tweeting? Please feel free to add another option. There is no wrong or right answer! (how many profs actually say that?)

FYI, here are 4 soundbites, in chronological order but not sequential as the real dialogue occurred on Twitter. In an attempt to perceive the whole conversation, I used search.twitter.com (this link will be relevant for a limited time, given it provides real time search results). If you can view these results, you will see it was a perfect example of a many-to-many conversation between participants who may or may not have been following one another.

twitter1

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.

Podcasts and FL Learning

I was invited to provide some thoughts on podcasting and language acquisition. Maybe some of the comments may be published in an article in a popular business magazine, but in the meantime, I thought I should share them on my blog.

Podcasts (both audio and video) in foreign language (FL) learning are invaluable both as a self-teaching tool and as a supplementary tool in the FL classroom. The podcasts available on the Internet enhance the type and amount of comprehensible input (a necessary component to language acquisition) as they range the gamut from elementary language lessons—(fill in the language)Pod.com or podclass.com—to authentic and culturally-rich materials from various media sites (newspapers, radio, television).

The advantages of podcasts that differ from previous content delivery via technology in the history of FL learning include the following:

  • Streaming audio/video or downloadable podcasts – having the option to hear/view the podcast streaming from the website or downloading the files to listen to/view on mobile devices
  • mobile learning/audio Internet on the go* (Stanley 2006) – files and listening/viewing devices are much more portable and sophisticated that podcasts are more readily integrated into daily habits (no more forgetting the audiocassette/CD in the car, at home, etc.).
  • content delivery occurs beyond contact time (teacher and student meeting times) – in a classroom environment, students have additional available resources to continue the language learning process beyond contact time that are also not restricted to a language laboratory setting.
  • ease with which new podcasts are updated on the various source sites, downloaded, accessible and immediate (in particular if RSS feeds are used) – there is no need to wait for updates via new book editions or delivery by postal service
  • contextual support for language teaching (McQuillian 2006) – research indicates that there are required, recommended and optional components for both oral and written language acquisition. Audio is required. Visual components are required or recommended (according to level of learner). Video podcasts (a.k.a. video blogging, vlogging or v-casts) enhance other modalities to accommodate learning styles in the language acquisition process.
  • Podcasts can also be a form of output. Users can easily create their own podcasts that can be a simple recitation of a podcast lesson to practice pronunciation to a creative original podcast developed from a language lesson. The ability to create and publish learner podcasts and then share it with the language teacher, class or target language community. Voice-recording is no longer the sole objective of audio technology in language acquisition. Podcasts are for listening, practicing, sharing and receiving feedback.

Some caveats:

  • Podcasts are only effective FL learning tools if they are properly integrated into a FL program. Like all tools, including technological ones, the success of such is tool can be measured if it is level-specific and oriented toward the learner. It would not be recommended that an elementary autodidactic learner begin by downloading podcasts available by news, radio or television programs. He would find more useful podcasts geared at beginning FL learning. Similarly, a teacher would want to integrate podcasts that are tied to curriculum goals and themes, which are level-specific.
  • Podcasts are not the sum total of a language program. By perusing the FL podcasts available on the Internet, you immediately notice that other materials are available for subscribing/paying users. They include transcripts, exercises and grammar rules, as did “teach-yourself” audio programs with textbooks and workbooks (remember Berlitz?).

Podcasts can be the foundation of an online, autodidactic FL program or can be used as a supplement in the FL classroom. Is there an advantage to teaching yourself or enrolling in a course? The former allows you to get your feet wet by introducing you to the language and certain aspects of culture. The latter, on the other hand, allows you to dive deep into the language and culture nexus.

is social media really an “us” vs. “them”?

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for some time but hadn’t found my courage voice for it. It was born from a comment of a student evaluation from a fall course that stated that not only were my “clothes inappropriate” but I also “had Facebook”. The comment on my wardrobe is completely off (my outfits are always professional and tasteful) but then again the idea of fashion has always been a generational thing … has technology now become the next great generational divide?

Of late, there has been a resurgence of talk about parents on Facebook and MySpace and what kind of parents has his/her own account. Over the weekend, at a BBQ in the rain, this became part of what started as a small exchange between 3 moms (myself included) to a group conversation with many parents. In a previous post on texting, the generation gap is obvious…new technologies sometimes elude people who are not interested in learning (isn’t that always the case though?). So one of the first questions that arose was “How old do you have to be to have a Facebook account?”. One of the mom’s replied “under 40”. The parents all laughed and said “that counts us out”.  Of course, it is an easy out…we don’t fit the age criterion so we are safe. Then a friend turned to me and said “Wait, you’re not 40. Do you have one?” And that started an engaging conversation about technology, media literacy vs. literacy, and what all this means.

As I have mentioned in the past, each exploration of new applications, platforms, networks, etc. was purely academic in nature. Unfortunately, it has become much more than work. I have become a partisan of social media for many reasons: it is informative, educational, entertaining, enlightening and allows me to meet not just my neighbours, colleagues, and friends but expand my geographical limitations by allowing me to converse and “friend” people from the far corners of the earth.

In my humble opinion, the idea that certain sites become “theirs” (students, teens, kids) and others “ours” (educators, adults, parents) is speculative. There are too many social dichotomies that become reinforced (and perhaps validated?) when we fall into the trap of dividing technological culture according to our biases, fears and misunderstandings. This mutual exclusivity of sites and apps for certain age groups demonstrates an unwillingness of users to see beyond their own nose. Perhaps this is one key difference between “us” and “them”… are we adults more “global” in our use of technology? Are they more “solipsistic”? lol! I fell into the trap, didn’t I?

These sites can provide different services and serve different needs for a multitude of users and I think it is up to each user to accept and open her/his mind to the unending possibilities that things like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Plurk, etc. can provide without wanting exclusive rights to it.

Is this just another phase in the evolution of generational gaps or is it something more? What do you think?

more on plurk

On June 2nd, I received my invite from Adamo to join Plurk. You may be asking: “Why another micro-blogging site? Is the honeymoon with Twitter over?” Not at all, except I understand its shortcomings and the recent rash of problems was driving me over the edge (you must understand, addiction is a nasty thing). So I accepted Adamo’s invitation and signed up to Plurk – comments made so far is that it is a Twitter clone and that it isn’t. Users and non-users alike are talking about it … “I’ll never use it” to “I love Plurk”… “a lot more noise” to “more social/fun” (compared to Twitter) … “user interface is neat” to “UI is very confusing”.

From an end-user’s perspective I have discovered the following:

  1. since many friends are new on  (read, early adopters of) Plurk (even though they use Twitter), I tend to talk to more strangers and socialize more
  2. I read many more replies. Given you can’t filter responses to get notices only if someone else replies to a post to which you have also replied, I get lost in looking at the extensive conversations.
  3. I read more replies because it is easy to see the entire “conversation” – See Robert Scoble’s
  4. I friend people randomly. And no it’s not ‘cause I want more karma…I’m good being in a state of maintenance.
  5. I friend people indiscriminately. Since profiles aren’t detailed, if someone friends me, I do the same.
  6. Content of Plurk posts tend to be a cross between Twitter, MySpace, Facebook

Things I’d like to comment on about Plurk:

  • the ability to include video and images in Plurk is cool. I don’t like that the pop-up box disappears if you click on anything else.
  • The timeline is really not conducive to tracking anything. Really easy for me to lose friends or find certain posts that I had read or commented on previously.
  • Responses tend to take on a life of their own and you could discover some really interesting conversations that have nothing to do with the original post.

I’m going to stop here for now. As far as first impressions go, I’ve decided to stay awhile and determine where this will take me. At some point, I will provide a comparison between Twitter (and no, we’re not cheating 😉 ) and Plurk, if I think it’s worthwhile. In the meantime, see the following posts: