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

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?

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

The inauguration

obama_inauguration_speechtoday’s inauguration left me speechless. So when I saw this graphic faciliation on Twitter I knew I had to share this image with everyone. There are many aspects of his address about which I could go on, but I will just highlight what I found memorable:

We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.


Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.


What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

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

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:

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!

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?

“election day” italia

today and tomorrow represent two anxious days of voting in Italy. comparing the two main candidates, leaders of the PD (democratic party) and PDL (recently formed people of liberty) respectively, La Stampa compares these leading candidates in a manner that shows perhaps there are some ‘differences’ between the two. How would you interpret these signs?

  

  
Veltroni images on left, Berlusconi on right

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. 😉