iPods in the Italian class…again :)

In the fall semester, I introduced the iPod Touch in my senior level Italian courses. Our majors and minors were excited about the idea of the iPod Touch but their excitement was far surpassed this semester, when I introduced the iPod to intermediate level students. These students, few of whom will declare Italian as a major or minor, were thrilled beyond words. I remember the looks on their face when we started distributing them last Thursday. I hadn’t provided them with the syllabus yet so they did not know that some of the usual language learning objectives were going to be reached via mlearning.

I walked into Monday’s class with time to spare and all the students present were using their iPod. Were they doing anything class related (i.e., in Italian)? Only 2 of them. The others were just using them, making it a part of their daily routine. Will this help them become better Italian students? I hope it will be giving them immediate access to information (see this interesting article on learning & technology in eLearn Magazine) in the target language and give them access to it whenever they seek it rather than waiting to get this information from me in class those 150 minutes a week.

I will share via Twitter some milestones and would like to blog more about it…however, for different reasons, I can’t make any promises as to the frequency of these updates. For the time being, remember Marshal McLuhan‘s famous expressions: “global villages” and “the medium is the message”.

counting, counting & more counting

I have just tried to update my vita with my accomplishments (?) from this past academic year. There is a specific layout which I am using (strongly suggested from my institution) that has me do a literal head count of my teaching, research and service. At my four year mark, I have accomplished the following:

  1. I have taught over 500 students in language classes capped generally at 25 students
  2. I have presented at 16 conferences
  3. I have been invited to review 2 books (but volunteered to review 3 more)
  4. I have written endlessly and still have two completed articles and a book proposal waiting to be accepted (2004 to date, refereed publications 6)
  5. I have served the university endlessly, on at least 13 different committees

I have to stop counting, my head hurts…
And the fun doesn’t stop here. I must prepare my narratives and organize my binders to provide supporting documentation to the university that my tenure application is worthy of consideration.

In addition to outlining what I have accomplished, I must demonstrate that I am continuing to conduct research: my fall semester will commence a pilot project that use of pageflakes as a course management tool (& I’m still keeping my fingers crossed … the grant for which Patty, Michael & I applied); the use of a wordpress blog (yes, I have another one) for a grammar & composition course; AND a teacher’s workshop symposium in which I will be presenting, partially organizing then publishing the proceedings. Oh, I forgot. I will be teaching 3 classes and sitting in on committees too. Wow, I’m exhausted just thinking about all of this.

Fortuitously, faculty at the university is accustomed to this grueling, rigorous and challenging self-promotion. To different degrees, the appointment process has us go through the motions annually. Really, it is not THAT bad.

For me, this year is the most demanding. If I am denied tenure, I must start the job search again. I won’t be advised of the university’s decision until late November so maybe I’ll be proactive and start perusing the classifieds early fall.

So, if on Sept. 5 you remember me for some reason (given it is my b-day too), keep your fingers crossed as I will be submitting my tenure application. Good karma never hurts 😉

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!

on a new model for education

although I downloaded the article as soon as it appeared online, I just read Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance this past weekend. I had my usual lapsus calami and for the nth time this year, questioned what I do. Like Mike Wesch, I teach at a large public university. Also like Wesch, I teach, for the most part, required courses for which students put in a minimal effort. Unlike him, I do not have large classes, because they are capped at 25 (though they usually are closer to 30). Unlike him, the content being delivered is in a foreign language and one thing that I have discovered with each passing year is that if a student takes degree requirement courses reluctantly in English, many have an even stronger aversion to those offered in foreign languages. The excuses range the gamut: I’m not good at languages to why should I study languages? everyone speaks English.

I applaud Wesch for what he does in his classroom—he wants his intro to Cultural Anthropology students to co-construct knowledge about different topic areas, not only to explore them, but to live them through World Simulation. As I read the brief methodology he presents in the last paragraphs of his article, I chuckled to myself: not because I dismiss it but rather because I embrace it. I have been using such a technique, under the guise of foreign language level-appropriate communicative activities.

Since the 80s, foreign language educators have been trying to encourage students to simulate various scenarios that they would encounter if they were in an environment where the foreign language is used. Providing students with authentic input (this is where the Internet as a “medium” helps students get “the message”) and having them attempt to negotiate meaning and construct knowledge is at the base of each and every lesson. Ask any of my students if they are able to sit where they lay their backpack in my class, and the answer is no. They move around a lot, with partners or in groups, working on jigsaw activities, where each student is responsible for becoming and expert on his/her topic then moving on with other groups to share information and knowledge and learn from his/her classmates. They simulate, role-play, discuss, share and reach the objective of the activity, doing this for the most part in the foreign language. 

The fact that this methodology, these techniques are being implemented in courses other than language courses gives me hope. Why? Because it is not just “those crazy language people” who have unconventional ideas about the teaching and learning dyad.

Ay, there is the rub—the out-dated educational model. Students come to my class expecting a lecture … some even in English. Apparently, the grammar translation method to language learning is still alive and well in many classrooms and institutions in this entire continent. We, as a department as well as a united front with other FL departments, have pleaded with the university administration to allow us to address the issue of how foreign languages are learned in the freshman seminar offered to our students. To date, we have been unable to get time in that seminar.

This tells us that administrators too are unaware or wish to remain uneducated about acquisition theories and techniques and the role of technology in language teaching and learning pedagogy. Moreover, they fail to recognize that the “lecture” designation given to our courses is completely inaccurate, arbitrary and unsound.

So, how can we update this model of education? Do we start at the top and work our way down to the students, or do we start with our students and move up the hierarchy? What do you think?

i’m making some noise!

A number of weeks ago, Melanie McBride suggested that I make some noise about Web 2.0 technologies and user rights. I am an avid user of these technologies who appreciates the level of engagement of social media, and a scholar who would like to continue to implement these computer-mediated communication tools as regular instruments to my foreign language teaching and learning repertoire.

Last fall, after exploring Facebook for a number of months, I was put off by it for a number of reasons, in particular the excessive spam continuously received after adding modules…and that was extremely frustrating given that the modules are fantastic and that is one of the greatest features of FB. OK, I am sure there is an academic use of FB that I could have contrived, but I tired of it before I could investigate it further and develop something. In addition to this, a NY Times article from December 2007, I posed the question “Is Facebook Public?” and found this concern to be quite valid as a researcher/scholar. Then, with other FB issues “Leaving is hard to do” as a former user I do feel that I have no rights. 

So then, what options to I have? Not to participate? That would be wholly unacceptable to me, as I am a technophile / Web 2.0 aficionado. There is a call to create a personal policy that gives users rights and real options (I strongly urge you all to complete the survey Social media: Essential user controls) because we have every right to control and own what we choose to share. We tend to show greater ownership when it comes to e-commerce but not social media. I wonder why?

P.S. Did you ever notice that after you delete a tweet on Twitter, it actually doesn’t “disappear”… compare my archived tweets of less than 48 hours ago….


to those from tweetscan…


@biz what’s going on?

M.Sc. Thesis on 140 characters or less?

The Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science is perhaps one of the first, if not only, post-secondary institutions to grant a Masters of Science Degree on Twitter as a thesis topic. I came across this dissertation in December 2007 (it was submitted in September 2007) and greedily held on to it … not wanting to share this interesting morsel on Twitter. It takes Erving Goffman’s “presentation of self in everyday life” and looks at it through the theoretical framework of Social Shaping of Technology (SSOT) and Social Construction of Technology (SCOT).

Given my propensity to want to do too much and, realistically speaking, limitations imposed simply because it is not within my realm of expertise, I will share this with my handful of readers with the hope that you might share this information with like-minded individuals in academia, business, technology, etc.

Given all the media coverage on Twitter of late, the idea of a Master of Science Degree from such a prestigious university (see Wikipedia for different rankings nationally and internationally) may make believers out of more than just us converts.

Twitter: Expressions of the Whole Self
An investigation into user appropriation of a web-based communications platform 

Edward Mischaud 

Twitter.com is a web-based communications platform combining Instant Messaging and SMS  that enables subscribers to its service to send short ‘status updates’ to other people. Beyond  its hybrid platform, Twitter’s unique feature is its overarching question “What are you doing?”, which acts as a ‘guidance note’ on how users should phrase their postings. Although it is a ‘soft restriction’, meaning that other formats and styles are possible, this study investigates the extent to which users of Twitter are responding to the question. In the case that people are going beyond “What are you doing?”, are there commonalities in the ‘other’ uses thereof? To develop this premise, a content analysis of 60 users’ postings was conducted to seek for deviations and to categorise them accordingly. To acquire a better understanding of why people use Twitter to disseminate messages, several users participated in a questionnaire to provide insight into the platform. Based on the content analysis’ results, it is possible to conclude that the majority of Twitter users observed are appropriating the platform beyond “What are you doing?”. The findings are discussed within a theoretical framework exploring the role of society in shaping technology and the influence a technology’s design may have on how it is used.