best practices brings me out of a long haitus

lurking around many social media sites, i’ve sat passively for many many months listening and reading. Now I find myself compelled to share because one of the greatest lessons I’ve taken from my hiatus is that we share because the medium allows this quite easily. Yet much of what is shared forgets that there are best practices that help engage students, achieve objectives and develop learning (a constructivist approach).

I propose therefore a need for all media, print and internet, electronic and social, to embrace once again best practices . For language learning, let’s integrate authentic materials, realia but let’s not rely on translation or rote memorization activities. Let’s engage our students to think critically and take ownership of their learning. With all forms of authentic materials, general strategies to planning good lesson are only 3! Start with

  1. prepration (pre-reading; pre-listening; pre-viewing); then
  2. presentation (reading, listening, viewing and post-reading, -listening, -viewing) ;and finally
  3. expansion (beyond post-reading, listening, viewing)

Why use these 3 components? So that learning does not happen in a vacuum. Teach culture (practices, products, perspectives) while focusing on vocabulary building and language structures. Language and culture are inexorably linked so teach that way!

On January 21, the Ministero per lo Sviluppo Economico released an effective promotional video entitled Italy: The Extraordinary Commonplace

Traditionally, a video like this is shown to students, then teachers [triy to] solicit comments or feedback from students (think about the concept of pulling teeth!).

Instead, using best practices, teachers can skillfully guide students to learning from the video:  let’s prepare them BEFORE watching the video using their personal knowledge and experiences; let’s show them the video and have them observe certain details (the goals of the lesson) and have them apply the new knowledge acquired from the video; and finally let’s have them complete an expansion activity that has them engage in a level-appropriate activity that reflects a certain cognitive level of learning (remember Bloom’s taxonomy).

Here’s my lesson (PDF) for an intermediate level of Italian using this video. For one section of this course, it was a face-to-face activity; modified, it was also an online asynchronous assignment (a snow-day activity). Feel free to share your thoughts here or elsewhere (my social media pals 🙂 )

P.S. Please respect the creative commons license!

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 🙂


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?

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: