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.

Annunci

Tweeting the petition protesting SUNY-Albany cuts

Economic crisis, reevaluation of programs, reallocation of resources, restructuring of priorities…this process is leading everyone in this country to make difficult decisions to deal with current realities.

For those of us who feel that these decisions are outwardly wrong, we unite and make our voice heard. This has been the case with the language programs cut at SUNY-Albany. If you aren’t aware of the dastardly attack on the humanities, here is the decision being protested from around the world.

In October, UAlbany president George Philip announced that the campus is suspending admissions to five programs — French, Russian, Italian, classics and theater — in the wake of an unprecedented budget shortfall.

This decision has created quite an uproar not only from academics directly affected, but from constituents in higher education from administrators to scholars to students. Stanley Fish blogged about this crisis (in two parts). Other institutions are aiming to revive the humanities.

Ultimately, once decisions like this one reached at SUNY-Albany are made, there is little hope at reversing it, despite the most comprehensive attempts made by all. As a faculty member, I have participated in letter writing (both in its traditional sense and by email correspondence), and have disseminated information to others too.

I even zealously tweeted about the online petition immediately after I learned about it. I imagine a smile or a smirk appearing on the lips of you readers as you get to this paragraph. You are probably thinking, “There she goes with Twitter again. Isn’t there a statute of limitations?!” No, there isn’t! 😉

On Sunday, October 10, 2010, I learned about the petition via this tweet:

It was retweeted by a number of members (more than just the 2 in the image above!) in my personal learning network (PLN). One tweep asked if international signatures would be accepted. I did not know whether their signatures would be counted, nevertheless many of us pleaded with everyone in our PLN to sign the petition and retweet the information to their PLNs. Three days later, I tweeted this:

My last tweet on October 13/10 showed an increase of 2,960 signatures over the three days in which I tweeted it and it was retweeted. I am not naive enough to think that Twitter was solely responsible for this increase of almost 3,000 signatures in 3 days, but I do credit my PLN on Twitter with helping disseminate information about the petition quickly and effectively. Tweeps in Italy, Spain and England, people across NJ and the rest of America united to be heard on the SUNY-Albany cuts.

The penultimate paragraph of the timesunion.com articles tells us

The document has garnered signatures and comments from 37 foreign countries, particularly in Europe, Asia and the Pacific, as well as 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Although I will never know for certain, I firmly believe that the far-reaching arm of Twitter contributed to the extensive national and international representation of the signatures on the petition.

You may think this is a lost cause and I have tweeted and blogged for no reason…but there were and still are so many lessons to learn from this, at so many different levels.

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* 🙂

The Tweep Types behind the Tweets

as I write this post, Twitter is down. What did I do to network? Went back to Friendfeed (new UI in beta & a new widget for my blog) and reintroduced myself to it. Well, I also discovered a good thing while I was there (which just might prompt me to use it again).

A few posts ago, I asked what our main use of Twitter is? Well, here are the results:

survey


On Friendfeed tonight, I discovered this enjoyable analysis of the psychology of tweets, which has interesting implications on my very informal and unscientific survey results. Evidently, I am at the point where I have achieved “the full realization of [my] potential” on Twitter. I personally doubt that and hope that there is more for me  on this great micro-blogging site. 

hierachy

Where do you fall in this hierarchy?

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 🙂

wordle

why twitter?

An interesting international conversation on Twitter this morning caught my attention and prompted this poll. The three participants I follow, @josepicardo (UK), @nergizk (Bursa) and @courosa (Canada), were engaged in a dialogue about the ways in which we use Twitter, the purpose of following and the right to unfollow, and the idea of community membership (just to name a few topics). 

I WANT TO KNOW…what is your main reason for tweeting? Please feel free to add another option. There is no wrong or right answer! (how many profs actually say that?)

FYI, here are 4 soundbites, in chronological order but not sequential as the real dialogue occurred on Twitter. In an attempt to perceive the whole conversation, I used search.twitter.com (this link will be relevant for a limited time, given it provides real time search results). If you can view these results, you will see it was a perfect example of a many-to-many conversation between participants who may or may not have been following one another.

twitter1

E-Twinning: NJ & Trento

Why we learn foreign languages…to understand better the world in which we are living thus, in turn, understand ourselves and our homeland better. Except, with globalization people think barriers are being removed and everyone should just be able to speak English, since it is considered a global language.

But that is not globalization. Cultural globalization does not aim for homogeny, it rather foresees a growth of cross-cultural contacts, something that is dear to me as a language professor. Understandably, teaching foreign languages occurs in a rather artificial environment (the classroom) since the professor is the only contact with the target language that a student has.  With technological tools, this is no longer the case. Culture and language can be explored via different tools to bring the reality of the target language to life in and out of the classroom. In previous posts, I have discussed my personal exploitation of technology in the classroom, and, yes, I have explored Twitter ad infinitum.

And it is to Twitter that I return for this post too. Except now I am not alone. Just before the Christmas holidays, I chatted with @sethdickens (whom I know solely from following him on Twitter) and I proposed creating a community on Twitter for both his students and mine. This e-twinning proposal excited us both and we decided to use Twitter for 1) my grammar and composition course in Italian and 2) my Contemporary Italian Cultural Studies in English. Seth was agreeable and introduced his Italian high school seniors from his philosophy and history course to both of my classes.

We are in our third week on Twitter. Seth has prepared for everyone in our community a wiki to introduce and provide details for this project. Just amazing.
So far, I have been rather laidback giving students an opportunity to explore Twitter (again, for the majority of students, Twitter was a new social networking tool) and get comfortable with the text limitations, language use and course requirement (3 general tweets a week, 1 reply tweet to another community member). As past experience has shown me, some students tweet away while others wonder why they should tweet.

Some exciting conversations have taken place, but with either myself  or Seth at the helm of the discussion. The prompts that we provide have led our respective students to engage with us in the target language and Seth’s students have engaged with me and vice-versa. Just the other day, there was some good exchanges between our students, which pleased us to no end. To many of you reading this, you’re probably thinking that “it really ain’t much” but the truth is, yes it is. For students to feel comfortable enough to engage in the foreign language to discuss and assist other language learners is a great accomplishment. Knowledge, linguistic and cultural, is being constructed by the learners, and the scaffolding of new skills and concepts is evident.

Read for yourself:
In the culture course, the talk of some current events in Italy led to students contributing to the talk and wanting to learn more from one another.
culture
In the grammar course, learning new vocabulary was the impetus of the exchange.
profeac

In both exchanges, I would hope that students did, even momentarily, recognize the value of Twitter, both in synchronous exchanges (the second example) and asynchronous (given the time difference with Italy).

I am really thrilled to have found such an engaged and knowledgeable collaborator (read his blog to learn how talented his is) and I know this e-twinning project this semester will continue to surprise and excite me.

Similies & smiles

Happy 2009!

Before I get back to the grind, I had to catch up on some e-reading…tweets, blogs, news. It seems that some people never really take a break from their social networks, and for that I am grateful. Much reading, as you can imagine, also occurred as it was written, in real time, so to speak. So for those who also spent time away and played catch up like me, their return was also appreciated.

In particular, I would like to thank @ophelia for these precious gems this morning. Being I love food as much as I love social networks (able to resist overindulgence but also known to binge time and time again), I had to compile them for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

opheliatwit
opheliaa1ophelia1
ophelia2ophelia4

Using the right tech tool for teaching…how did you decide?

I have deliberated this post to death, wanting to ensure that I made a positive contribution to the discussion of social network sites (SNS). As an educator, my use of SNS is always from a professional perspective (yeah, right), wanting to investigate different tools for language learning and teaching. 😉

During one of the umpteenth revisions to my chapter on Twitter and teaching Italian, I came across a series of articles on identity, community and SNS. danah boyd, sorry Dr. danah boyd, has been very instrumental in much of the research on community and SNS and from her and co-author Nicole Ellison, I give you the history of SNS. If you haven’t seen this, it is the intro to a volume available online.
boydellisonfig1

Can you pinpoint your introduction to SNS ?

I must admit that I am a late adopter of SNS, joining this wave of new technology at the personal level only in late 2006. I deliberated very briefly introducing Facebook to the classroom, but there was too much happening on Facebook and I think it was more a personal reluctance bring it to my language students…I couldn’t focus on a single community with its multiple apps (really so many fun things happening—invites, “poking” and updates). I do know some teachers who have incorporated Facebook to their classroom as a learning management system. If you are an educator but are not yet a member of http://www.classroom20.com/ I would strongly urge you to join and read the forums available there for Facebook (and other SNS) and share your own thoughts.

Next, I joined Twitter…and I discovered I could tweet with people around the world. Immediately I knew that I had to integrate Twitter into my Italian language curriculum. How could it not be successful?

ONE: an overarching question: What are you doing?
TWO: a limited message size: 140 characters.
THREE: people would read my tweet if they saw it…it is really hard to ignore tweets if you are using Twitter when others’ tweets appear.

Then, finally, FOUR: I could communicate with people I don’t know. OK, there’s a FIVE: just because I wanted to communicate directly with someone doesn’t mean that twitterer will reciprocate (but that didn’t discourage me, eventually some did answer me and I have made many virtual connections!).

Bringing Twitter to students has not been an easy task—initially, students are a bit reluctant to join this community because, after all, they are “being graded on it” and perhaps it should be an “extra-credit” component. They also think it is too much work for a language requirement course (“I just need to get my credits to graduate”).

However, for the most part, college students generally like it once they are comfortable with what it accomplishes in terms of connections and the building of a community outside the classroom. And they tweet—one student this semester tweeted 400% more than expected (245 vs. 52 tweets required) over the 13 weeks of the course. This student has also made connections with Italian twitterers in Italy (beyond the 4 introduced to her in the class community) and it seems like she’ll be tweeting in the future.

What’s next? Well, my head is spinning…there are so many Web 2.0 tools (just look at http://www.go2web20.net/) that I really have to think through what I’d like to accomplish next and how best to achieve my goals. I’m going to be looking at some other investigations conducted by language colleagues and use that as a model.
So I ask you to share with me:

  1. What was the first SNS you used personally? in your classroom?
  2. What would you like to investigate that you haven’t yet?

Your comments would be invaluable not only to me but to many others. I would be more than happy to share what I have done with anyone who asks and hope you would do the same.