why shouldn’t we play in the university classroom?

Students took their midterm exam on October 25. Meteorological phenomena stopped northern New Jersey in its tracks for a week: power outages, commuter interruptions, and gas shortages all played factors in our institution’s decision to keep the University closed until November 5th. Despite the wonderful ways in which technology kept us connected throughout the worst parts of the superstorm (read this great post wp.me/p2hiSW-ib /), I couldn’t impose technology on my students to keep them practicing Italian. Even if 75% of students had access to the Internet and various other technologies, trying to continue “business as usual” (via online tools) was not an option. Anyone who experienced the impact of the storm understands this.

So 14 days later, how does a language professor proceed? Which of my students, given the events they had just experienced, would be able to recall talking about past events in Italian, recalling the conjugations of the tense, the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs, and irregular past participles? I tapped into some creative juices and I decided to that playing would be a good way to reintroduce them to the classroom and the language after an unexpected absence.

The game: Tombola (Bingo equivalent)

The main board (il tombellone): I provided students with a list of 40 activities  (which I would use as caller) that they may have done during the aftereffects of the superstorm. The question to them was “Since the university was closed, what did you do?” There were a list of daily activities, including getting up, getting dressed, showering, sending text messages, chatting, sleeping, as well as looking for gas, grocery shopping, online shopping, relaxing, being bored, etc.

Students were given a blank board, resembling an Italian cartella rather than the Bingo game card.  Image

Students were then asked to fill in 5 of the 8 spaces per row, and shade in 3 per row (like free spaces). They were allowed to use any of the 40 activities in any order. The only requirement was they phrase it in the present perfect. I modeled a few of them… “Io ho bevuto molto vino” and “Io non mi sono depilata perché sono stata a casa”. In addition to getting a few laughs, I modeled both transitive and intransitive verbs. It started the recollection process for many of them. As they completed their game card, they helped each other recall vocabulary and verb conjugations.

Once they had completed their first task, I had shared with them the rules on how to win. I asked what they knew about winning in Bingo. Students told me (in Italian) that it was getting a line horizontally, vertically or diagonally, and also the whole card. I wrote the words terno, quaterna, cinquina on the board. I asked them how many spaces they needed to get in a row to win. They recognized the number base in each of the words, and so once it was clear, the game began.

I called out each activity; I had each activity on a slip of paper and pulled them out randomly from my bag one at a time. I formed a question (Chi ha dormito molto? Who slept a lot?) and students marked their card and some even raised their hand if they did the activity. If they shouted terno, quaterna, cinquina, they were required to read out their activities to the entire class and I would confirm the win (or in a few instances, tell them they hadn’t won!). We played until all 12 prizes had been won. When we were close to the end of our activity, students were anxiously calling out the activity they needed for a win.

This entire activity took about 35 minutes (of a 75 minute class) from start to finish: 2 minutes to introduce the activity; 10 minutes to write out their 15 activities on their game card; 3 minutes to explain how to win; then 20 minutes to play and verify their win.

Students were excited, engaged, and had great fun. Their disposition had changed dramatically from the start of class to the end of it. They walked in with heads hanging low as a result of the superstorm and snowstorm (which was the day before, on Nov. 7). For a little while, they were able to forget about it by reviewing, practicing and playing in Italian. Playing Tombola helped also transition into the next part of the lesson, which introduced new material via an Italian song.

This isn’t part of the regular curriculum…perhaps games should find a more regular place in our teaching, even at the university level.

Annunci

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.

How We Skyped in the FL Classroom

Time to share what a wonderful experience this semester’s e-twinning project with Seth Dickens at Martino Martini has been, and in particular the final culminating technological project, the Skype calls.

Over the semester, as mentioned in a previous post, Seth and I introduced our students to Twitter to give them an opportunity to interact and engage in conversations related to topics covered in our courses this semester. Initial tweets were very encouraging and many students exchanged opinions and perceptions about a range of themes from passions to politics (in Italy aren’t they one in the same? 😉 ) and some usual daily chatter.

Seth and I arranged to conclude the project with a video conference followed by one-to-one Skype sessions for our students…how could we not provide them an opportunity to “see” one another after months of tweeting? Seth’s excellent post is a thorough and well thought out overview of the organization and what went well and not so well for us. I whole-heartedly agree with his take on technology and overzealous teachers giving too much to focus on for the task and not enough time to feel free to chat in the L2. 😉

The group hug

Affectionately termed this by AJ Kelton, MSU’s Director of Emerging Instructional Technology, this opening activity gave us an opportunity to not only see the others but also  visualize their lab and get a sense of how they work (technologically speaking). Seth, having everyone group around in front of the webcam was a great idea (my students were already seated in front of their computers so it was hard to take see them all at once).

During the group hug, the large image projected on the SmartBoard was not very clear so beyond the sound issue Seth mentioned, sometimes details were lost…ah, if only we had the best of everything 😉

From a presentation perspective, I think I should have requested my students prepare some relevant information…funny how when you ask people to say something, they become quickly aware that they are in the “spotlight” and then freeze & we need an ice-breaker. Maybe next time, we could have them prepare five bits of relevant and interesting information (name, Skype name, years at MSU, specialization, and…I don’t know, the best thing they ever ate!)

By the way, I have a really unsteady hand and I was holding the webcam, trying to make sure I included all students…what I also included was the ceiling, the main computer at the front of the lab, AJ’s webcam for the Ustream, etc. Next time, we’ll have to place it somewhere so I don’t mess that part up  😦

skype

The one-on-one chats

When I was at Calico in March, I attended @judifranz’s session and adapted her idea/process for Skype chats. The break out into personal chats was something of which I would not have immediately thought so I am very grateful to her for this idea.
I thought this went extremely well for our students. Many students were very engaged in their conversation and I think at this point the nervous excitement just turned to excitement. They chatted for more time than planned or anticipated, which for me was a great treat. Also, their ability to chat and share websites and friend each other on other social network sites was truly awesome. I remember walking around the room with my Flip recorder and thinking to myself that they, most of them being digital natives, have once again impressed with what they can do with technology, esp. if it serves an immediate need (as they did on Twitter in SP08, on Pageflakes in FA09 and now on Skype in SP09).

Only two disappointments from my students’ perspective: 1) some issues with sound on our end made voice chatting impossible so they were required to text chat; and 2) not being able to use video. Unfortunately, due to a shortage of webcams at Martino Martini, my students could not see them. Some of my students, however, did allow for video and they were “seen” during the one-on-one sessions too.

The end of the semester…the beginning of a continued e-learning relationship

As many of you already know, I was tenured in November, so now I can turn my attention to working and researching not according to mandates dictated by some archaic notions of what is expected by university professors (remember publish or perish?) but rather more in line with 21st century learners, personal learning networks/personal web, and the role of technology in foreign language education.

Collaborating, organizing and achieving what Seth and I have with this e-twinning project would have been considered quite insignificant on my tenure application, but is really quite significant in terms of learning and creating connections where none have existed in the past. So I hope Seth and I will continue with this in the fall (so many more exciting projects to develop) and maybe the spring too (what do you think Seth?) 🙂

P.S. A special thanks to Michael and Robyn for their endless assistance before and during the Skype event. I am so lucky to work with such wonderful, gifted and just darn nice people (esp the techie ones!). Grazie infinite *big hug* 🙂

how i’m discovering

if you would like to try social|median, use the invite code “iVenus”. Still have a few left.

I’ve met some amazing people on Twitter and from each person I have listened, learned, discovered equally as much about them, world events, possibilities and myself. According to Robert Scoble I’m discovering the secret to Twitter 😉

I have, in particular, learned to appreciate the Twitterers who live in different time zones. I’m sure you too have had the great experience of waking up and reading tweets over coffee and learning about many things to which, generally, you wouldn’t be privy were it not for Twitter. Let me give you a few examples. 

  • The morning of March 6 last I woke up and read a recent post by @Frenz advising that CommonCraft had released their why Twitter video within hours of its release.
  • Weeks ago, @pandemia advised on April 29 that www.socialmedia.com was providing open code to test it in private invite-only alpha. So, I took advantage of it and signed up.

I’m really social|median & how easy it is to clip and share personalized news and information…not everything updated by RSS feeds. Every morning, I get an email telling me what’s new…people from around the globe, who have been up for hours already, clip news & other info that they found worth sharing. What has been truly wonderful about this is that I get a chuckle out of tweets saying “read this” and linking to an article that was clipped on social|median days earlier. It is always nice to know that sometimes I can be ahead of the game.

If you want to try social|median, send them a tweet, requesting an invite and tell them @iVenus sent you (for the week of May 12, the valid code was “London”… so if you are reading this Fri, Sat or Sun, May 16-18, it may just work)

  • And of course, the tragic news of the earthquake in Sichuan China…yes, I learned of that from @scobleizer’s early morning tweets, retweeting tweets on GoogleTalk posted by people in China about an earthquake happening right then and there. I won’t even continue about this…

What does all this mean? Other than, like many others I am a Twitter addict, I am also learning so much from so many interesting and informative Twitterers locally and from around the world (and how many continue to make me smile hourly daily). Still learning how to juggle a growing following and increasing the peeps I follow. Just the same, I strongly urge everyone to test the Twitter air…get out there are fly!