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.

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?

teaching with twitter…the epilogue

Update: as a prelude to this presentation, I was interviewed by lead instructional designer Peter Campbell of Montclair on Twitter. Here is the link to three podcasts recently made available on the University website. I hope you may find some value in my words and my academic use of twitter. It was a truly memorable experience. Thanks again to all my friends and colleagues who have been instrumental in the twittosphere and beyond…

today I presented a faculty forum on teaching with Twitter. I had a good turnout (small group but they were interested) and a cheering section. At the end of the presentation, I went live to my fellow Twitterers to say hello and I want to thank all those who replied. The response was instantaneous–and the audience impressed. 

some of the things that people who didn’t attend may have missed included: 1) my stunning Italian linen dress 😉 ; 2) some notes and observations on twitter in education; and 3) good questions about twitter. Below, I give you some of the key ideas on twitter & teaching and I hope they might encourage you to think about it as a tool in whatever line of work you do.


I want to thank a group of followers for graciously providing me with screenshots for my presentation, which really provided a grasp of the various ways to tweet: Francesco, Luke, Milos, and Sharon, and, of course Michael, for retweeting and saving me, yet again.

Anyone interested in developing twitter as a FL classroom tool, in more defined ways, please contact me as I think it’s truly valuable.

P.S. Thanks also to AJ, who was tweeting about my presentation during my presentation! Didn’t see this until today.


on being a prof, dying, & more

Updated: july 25

ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported Friday morning that Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, 47, has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.

At a social function on Saturday evening, an article from Carnegie Mellon’s alumni magazine was brought to my attention. An alumna talked about a 46 year old professor of computer science, Randy Pausch, who is terminally ill and gave his last lecture in September as part of the university’s Journey series.

As soon as I got in, I watched all 76+ minutes of the lecture, but give you instead this video for a quick overview of the talk. If you want the entire lecture, it is right here.

Why it struck me? The professor in me is very empathetic … someone who has achieved so much in a career that I too chose, well, how can I not want to hear what he has to say. In addition, a recent post on a blog about career choices, well, it makes me ask many (far too many, perhaps) questions. Pausch entitled his talk Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. In my humble opinion, some noteworthy quotes are (from transcript):

One of the things he told me was that wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you. He said, when you’re pissed off at somebody and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they’ll almost always impress you.

And that’s one of the reasons you should all become professors. Because you can have your cake and eat it too.

Go get a Ph.D. Become a professor.
And I said, why?
And he said, because you are such a good salesman that any company that gets you is going to use you as a salesman. And you might as well be selling something worthwhile like education.

Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

Where does inspiration come from? Well, I have to say this address gave me some…just enough to overcome some of my own fears and appreciate what I do have. Maybe my career choice and my childhood dreams may actually be one in the same. I can’t wait for the day when I can have my cake though 😉

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

oral vs. written

I have finally finished, more than 30 minutes late, the last of the oral exit interviews for my intermediate Italian students (47 in total). These brief interviews, the second part of their formal oral evaluation for the course, was not as rewarding or fulfilling for a professor of foreign language.The class is, unfortunately, populated by students who are fulfilling a degree requirement. Enough said about motivation and preparation for it.

More disappointing was that there were students who at this level could not comprehend the questions either orally or written. It was really a shame to recognize how poor their comprehension level is, and even more disturbing, to realize that they really don’t care. The reality is unsettling in so many ways: they don’t see a need for learning a different language; they don’t care that other languages exist;  they live in a vacuum and they can’t see the world beyond the tip of their nose; they don’t care about wasting money on courses and having mom and dad pay out for the same course in their semester prior to graduation. I could go on, but I’d rather just leave.

Sorry, in my lamentations, I failed to address this title of this post: my question is to my few readers, would you prefer a formal written examination in a two hour time frame, or would you prefer a directed somewhat spontaneous dialogue on different cultural themes that require you use the language in practical and creative manner? Is the gift of speaking, oratoria really becoming that lost in this new generation of millennial students? Or is it just me?

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.