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* 🙂

Annunci

7 facts about me

I have been tagged by Seth Dickens for the ‘Seven Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me’ Edubloggers thing. I’ve done a couple of these in the past so forgive any repetitions for those who’ve read my past lists.

The rules say you have to:

  • Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog
  • Share 7 facts about yourself in the post – some random, some weird
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged

Here are my 7 facts:

  1. As a child, I used to sing at weddings, on stage with the live band…my parents would always buy 45s (anyone remember those?) of new Italian songs and play them incessantly. By the time I was 2 or 3, I was singing Il cuore è uno zingaro at weddings (not very appropriate, eh?).
  2. I saved my neighbour years ago (when I was in university and still living with my parents). One hot summer afternoon, my mom sent me to drop something off at her house and when I got there every shade was pulled, every light off and every window closed. I peeked through the sliding door in her kitchen and saw her sprawled on the floor. I managed to open (I don’t know how) her living room window without breaking it, slid inside and called 9-1-1. Not truly heroic but helpful.
  3. As a part-time university gig I worked at CompuCentre (a Canadian chain of computer stores in a mall) for minimum wage & commission. It took me at least 4 months to sell my first computer (actually sold 2 of them that same day). Customers would come in and “talk” to me about computers, but would by them only from the male employees because apparently I wasn’t “geeky” enough.
  4. I’ve don’t like video games…never have. I don’t know if it is a hand-eye coordination thing, or rather I don’t like to play if I can’t win thing…
  5. My first teaching assignment as a graduate student at my alma mater was an introductory Italian course. There was only one professor who was an expert in second language pedagogy but he did not train TAs unless you enrolled his course. The senior lecturers who led the program did not provide any training either and it was baptism by fire. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was not going to teach Italian the way I had been taught it but it took me a quite some time (and some grad courses) to learn strategies and techniques for language teaching.
  6. I enjoy physical labour. This is something I inherited from my father. Although I do enjoy it, I’m not good at it. I walk away with cuts, scars, scrapes, bruises and other injuries that I won’t mention here.
  7. My dad was a white hat (i.e., foreman) of a construction corp. in Toronto pretty much since he immigrated to Canada. He was very much a “hands on” worker and I admire him for being able to, even after he was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease, be productive and accomplish so much. So now every time we are in Toronto and do something that requires us to drive by one of the highrise complexes or skyscrapers that he worked on, he starts his “I was working on this building when…” tour of Toronto. He remember precisely the year, the company with which he worked and the memorable family event that occurred while he was there.

Now I choose my 7 victims:
AJ Kelton
Laura Nicosia
Claire Siskin
Sarah Robbins
Sharon Scinicariello

Gina Miele
Michael Heller

thinking about twitter…

[updated: April 16] gapingvoid is back on Twitter! LOL

over a month ago, I had stumbled across the blog of hugh macleod and took a moment to laugh at myself. of course, one thing leads to another then we started following each other on twitter. This morning I noticed he was not tweeting about alpine TX or his book deal, actually he deleted his twitter account. From avid twitterer (‘cause it does get addictive) to deleted twitterer overnight? i was a bit surprised…

the reality of twitter is this: twitter is becoming the next big thing, the it girl, because it is the new communication tool for business (e.g., JetBlue), politics (e.g., Obama), news (e.g., NY times), academia (i.e., my work), and, of course, schmoozing (everyone else who uses it regularly). We use this social networking service to make connections, to collaborate, to discover, to learn in a way that wasn’t possible before this type of tool. A friend mentioned yesterday that news from silicone valley, for example, that previously would take a few days to break (via other forms of communication), is now instantaneous.

of late, twitter has been making some upgrades, simplifying its layout somewhat. it’s not perfect, could use some more improvements (e.g., it apparently loses some replies somewhere out there in the twittosphere) but it is readily accessible via web, OS applications (twhirl, twitterific, spaz), browser apps (firefox), desktop platforms (netvibes, pageflakes), widgets for blogs, facebook, etc., and, last but not least, mobile phones. This accessibility, the 11+ million users (ok, not all regular twitterers), makes twitter worth exploring.

All I have to do now is convince the 18,000 students who attend the university, and the majority of our faculty and staff … no small task. 😉

celebrating via Twitter

elyllaurea.jpgAn Italian twitterer, Elyl, successfully defended her dissertation at approximately 5:00 p.m., her time. And, the beauty of it all is that before the dissertation, we all cheered her on and after, we happily celebrated with her, from Italy & other countries, from across the ocean too.

Today, Elyl posted a thank you on her blog to all her Twitter following and said (translation mine):  

If ever anyone should ask you “What’s the purpose of Twitter?” … tell him to take a look at the links [the Tweets she received]
Seven months ago, I hardly knew any of the people linked; yesterday they were all with me, beside me, supporting me and rejoicing with me on this my happiest of days…

kickass twitter posts…do’s and don’ts

experimenting with twitter in the classroom has had me conduct research on a different level–not peer-reviewed journals as is always the case in academia but rather blogs on twitter and qualitative analysis of what people say and do with Twitter (basically, I am conducting two different research projects simultaneously).

this morning I came across a post B.L. Ochman’s what’snextblog and discovered this list applicable to all Twitterers, I suppose. I have interspersed my comments amongst his her points, so feel free to oppose, support or just comment…

     

  1. Don’t be pedantic. We don’t care what you’re eating for lunch, or that you just woke up. Actually, the culture value of these types of tweets is phenomenal for a language learning. Language doesn’t happen in a vacuum. See my first post Twitter’s “what are you doing?”
  2. Don’t use Twitter just to pimp your blog posts. I’m not guilty of this, am I? Actually, maybe a little.
  3. Don’t rant (unless you are Vaspers.) Occasional venting isn’t a problem. We are “family”, after all.
  4. Don’t pimp your clients all day or friends, for that matter
  5. Don’t over-tweet. If you need half a dozen tweets to make your point, do one that points to a blog post. Amen to that! It’s only 140 characters…
  6. Don’t share breaking news that you can’t confirm. Learned my lesson, never again.
  7. Do link to interesting articles, sites, blog posts. Doesn’t always have to be about “me”?
  8. Do continue your conversation with another tweetie offline after a couple of @someone tweets Being voyeuristic is one thing, but as stefanomainardi said, out of respect for others, some information/conversations should be personal.
  9. Do include links in as many of your posts as possible.
  10. Don’t be dull.
  11. Do pick up the phone and call tweeties with whom you interact often. Actual conversation, what a novel idea!
  12. Answer and ask questions. Why follow twitterers otherwise?
  13. Be polite. i.e., again, why follow people or have a following? We don’t need to engage in uncivilized tweeting.
  14. Don’t be boring. Hmmm, what do you consider boring? Our concepts differ.
  15. Don’t be overly critical of other people’s points of view.
  16. Don’t be promiscuous with the “Follow” button. There are only so many hours in a day. Exceptions to the rule: Barack Obama, Scobleizer, etc., of course.
  17. Don’t feel bad about blocking people. You don’t have to let everyone and his dog follow you. Twitter is a network, the benefit should be two-way. Also, like all forms of communication, there are junk-micro-blogging twitterers, spam twitterers, etc. Caveat emptor!
  18.