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

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.

The good, the bad & the online talk

Thanks to a recent blog by CogDog which made me laugh and want to readdress this draft post that I have been reluctant to share.

Talking at a conference is something I whole-heartedly enjoy; from the welcoming address to the sessions, the exhibits and the schmoozing, well, it is an undeniably enriching experience. Unfortunately, in May, circumstances prevented me from attending IALLT in Atlanta, Georgia, notwithstanding my every effort and desire. Fortuitously, I was still able to virtually present via Elluminate Live!, a real-time virtual classroom environment designed for distance education and collaboration in academic institutions and corporate training.

I am extremely grateful that my co-presenter, Sharon Scinicariello of the University of Richmond, indulged me by allowing me to use Elluminate so I could present my contribution to our presentation on Netvibes and Pageflakes (it’s posted on slideshare so feel free to peruse it)iallt09
It really saved what could have been a faux pas on my part (i.e., not presenting) so for this reason, I am thrilled that I have my Elluminate classroom. And there are some things about which I wasn’t so thrilled.

The good, the bad and the chipmunk
Like every good technology user knows, it is always wise to do a run through with the technology before hand to ensure, with a degree of certainty, that there won’t be any issues with the tool being used. Sharon and I had met in my Elluminate classroom to talk about the presentation the day prior to the actual talk. She was in the room assigned to us (the conference logistics worked out perfectly) and I in my home study.

To prepare for the presentation, I would suggest the following:

  • Enter the configuration room prior to the meet-up (this is done independently, and it is suggested that you do it the day before you actually use it, just in case). It is essential that there are no technical issues with a user’s computer or connections.
  • The speaker (me, in this case) should use a headphone with microphone to block out any type of noise. System speakers are fine, however, the background noises are easily transmitted too, so the microphone really limits the sound heard by the audience.
  • Test the audio. Always good to know what you will sound like as your voice is projected on speakers in the room. Also, remember you will hear your own voice and must not let it distract you from your talk. Btw, don’t forget the lag…using an Internet is a blessing as well as a curse: after brief pauses, Elluminate would still transmit what I said, however, I sounded like a chipmunk (high-pitched and very quick…if anyone remembers LPs, it was like playing a 33rpm at 45rpm).
  • Give your co-presenter moderator privileges. Since she is in loco, it makes sense that she control the slideshow and be privy to all the gadgets and features of Elluminate Live!

Now, in terms of giving the presentation, I highlight 5 key points from CogDog’s blog post on Deadly Online Seminars. Read it for yourself to truly appreciate his advice…and humour!

  • Make it hard to even get inside.
  • Don’t let your participants know who else is there.
  • Make it hard or impossible for the audience to communicate with each other.
  • Don’t greet the audience or make them feel welcome. I got into this session 15 minutes before it started, and there was no chat message, no welcome screen (the presenters were flipping slides), and on one greeted or welcomed the audience.
  • Ignore your audience, make ‘em wait til you fill the hour with your voice, do not involve them at all.

I would love to receive any additional advice you may have to offer, as I will be doing another online talk in a few weeks for LARC’s Social Media Safari. Thanks in advance! 🙂

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.

to learn italian or english? both…

One of the greatest rewards of teaching is when your students teach you something. I have taught one of the most challenging courses in my 4 years here this spring semester: Advanced Italian Grammar a.k.a intro to Italian linguistics. I attempted to present students to the scientific study of language, from phonology to morphology to syntax to sociolinguistics. Interspersed there was also the history of the Italian language as well as a unit on dialects. I was very enthusiastic about this course and we all know that a good dose of enthusiasm is contagious…

As part of the course requirements, my students were to keep a linguistic diary. I wanted them to consult various forms of media and reflect metalinguistically on Italian. These 10 journal entries for many were expected: influences of foreign words in the Italian language, phonetic and semantic variations of dialects, denotative and connotative significance in newspaper headlines, web, etc. Then, a few students surprise me: YouTube videos, movie clips, Italian corporate websites & advertisements to provide great examples of living language and how the scientific study of it is actually relevant.

One student used this as a sample of the development of oral proficiency for an Italian ESL (English as a second language) learner and takes this discussion to the concept of sociolinguistic awareness. The ESL student asks the Corriere della Sera’s resident expert of Italians why it is so difficult to understand spoken English. Beppe Severgnini (columnist, author) replies to this question:

L’inglese, come mi ha spiegato il guru Giles Watson con cui ho aggiornato “Lezioni Semiserie”, è ostico per l’orecchio italiano. Noi – come i francesi e gli spagnoli – parliamo una lingua “syllable-timed”, in cui la velocità di pronuncia corrisponde grosso modo al numero di sillabe che contiene. L’inglese è una lingua “stress-timed”: la durata della frase corrisponde al numero di accenti con cui chi parla sceglie di scandirla.

English, as it was explained to me by the master Giles Watson…is unpalatable for the Italian ear. We (Italians)-like the French and Spanish-speak a “syllable-timed” language whose pronunciation tempo is determined by and large by the number of syllables contained in an utterance. English is a “stressed-timed” language: the length of the statement corresponds to the number of inflections that the speaker wishes to articulate.

Interesting…

Even more interesting are the “one-a-day for a month” reasons Severgnini provides to encourage Italians to learn English. I will highlight those that I found utterly amusing 😉 (all translations are mine…)

1 Perché siete stanchi di dire “Non parlo l’inglese, ma lo capisco…”.
1. Because you are tired of saying “I don’t speak English but I understand it…”

2 Perché parlare con le mani, alla lunga, stanca.
2. Because speaking with your hands, in the long run, is tiring.

3 Perché capirete come riempire quel modulo su internet (un terzo della Rete funziona in inglese).
3. Because you will understand how to fill out that online form (1/3 of the Web is in English)

4 Perché così, quando vi insultano all’estero, evitate di ringraziare.
4. Because when Italians are insulted abroad, you won’t thank them.

6 Perché in America saprete leggere i cartelli stradali (one way non è una canzone di Frank Sinatra: vuol dire “senso unico”).
6. Because in America you will know how to read street signs (one way is not a Sinatra tune:…)

14 Perché quando sentirete “Vorrei shiftare la vostra attenzione sul break-even del nostro business, un must che stressa la necessità di downsizing”, almeno lo sapete: vi stanno licenziando.
14. Because when you hear “I would like to shift your attention to our business’ break-even point, a must which stresses the necessity to downsize”, you will know that you are being fired.

15. Perché un po’ già lo parlate. No comment, in fondo, è una frase completa.
15. Because you already speak it a bit. No comment, is in fact a complete sentence.

20 Perché comunque è impossibile far peggio di quel ministro italiano che, a New York, ha chiesto “gamberetts and fagiols”.
20. Because it’s impossible anyway to speak worse than that Italian minister in New York that asked for “gamberetts and fagiols”.

26 Perché capirete le canzoni inglesi e americane, e vi renderete conto che spesso sono più cretine delle nostre.
26. Because you will understand American and English songs and realize that often they are more idiotic than Italian songs.

27 Perché se George Bush dovesse invitarvi a cena, potrete commentare la cucina della Casa Bianca (Good heaven! How can you eat this junk, old boy? Now I see why you’re so nervous all the time and you ended up messing around in the Middle East…).
27. Because if Bush were to invite you to dinner, you could comment about White House cuisine (Good heaven! How can you eat this junk, old boy? Now I see why you’re so nervous all the time and you ended up messing around in the Middle East…).

29 Perché un brasiliano, per chiedere a un tedesco in Italia di presentargli un collega francese per discutere dello svedese Ibrahimovic, parlerà inglese.
29. Because a Brasilian asking a German in Italy to introduce him to a French colleague to discuss the Swedisch Ibrahimovic will speak in English.

31 Perché è trendy, baby.

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!

courses taking on a new design in SP09

The end of another academic year is coming to a close and this brings me much relief. I would like to focus my efforts on my tenure package and continue to ride on the wave of teaching with technology in my department. This is an exciting time for the department, the most exciting in fact in the last 4 years. There has been some experimental redesigning of course syllabi with technology, but now, there is going to be a more concentrated effort on offering these courses in a more official manner.

One of the greatest downfalls in teaching with technology, as I have found, is that so many people implement technological tools to such varying degrees but then do not necessarily share this information, so it always feels like you are reinventing the wheel when you have a brainshower and want to do something pedagogically sound and technology-enhanced. Case in point, how many of my colleagues know that at our institution this spring term alone offered 26 online courses (many in the MBA program) and 34 hybrid courses. These numbers are surprising because I don’t know how many of us are aware of whom else is experimenting with this new course format and I wonder if there have been any conversations that have arisen from it…

Our college has now initiated a dialogue about hybrid and online courses with our first meeting scheduled Thursday. One question that has always intrigued me about hybrid courses is: how do we define it? By what parameters are we limited? After some research, I’ve discovered that there is no singular definition. This may or may not be disturbing (depending on just how prescriptive one may wish to be—or not!) but I think it is time that we share ideas with the hope of creating a model that works within our community, with our student population and with the support of administration. Our personal objectives will always remain very distinct (as they should be), but we really need to come together to enhance our common vision and promote it, as I believe this is very important.

The great thing for my department is that we have all been given the thumbs up to explore the degree to which and the manner in which we will develop our hybrid and/or online courses. So what is new in my department in Spring 2009? Well, there will be some fully online courses (intro Italian I & II courses), the use of SL in another major elective course, and a hybrid course for FL teaching methods. There is one additional member of our department who will also be teaching a hybrid course for a further major elective course, but I am unsure of how she will approach it.

Given the array of courses and course designs, we must remember that as with all good teaching strategies, to understand teaching styles with respect to technological tools is just as important as appreciating different teaching styles and types of teachers; each one of us can all constructively contribute to the dialogue of this new direction for our college/university.

So I’d like to ask you about your experience with hybrid/online courses. Have you ever been a teacher or student of one? What would you rate positively? negatively? Any words of wisdom you’d be willing to share?

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?