Following the auspicious footsteps of Read Gilgen I am here at the 60th annual University of Kentucky Foreign Language Conferencewhere I gave a keynote on the use of social software for teaching languages and culture. Kudos to Mark Laudersdorf of UK for organizing the Language & Technology “track” in this conference 2 years ago. And from the looks of it, the interest in this track is growing…(we were busting out of our room…)
Some interesting presentations that LLU reader might like to know about (sorry not to include them all…)
Friday p.m.:Reading and Writing with Technology
– The E-LRC created by Megan Mercedes Echevarra and Ignacio Pérez-Ibañez from the University of Rhode Island This is a Drupal-based site and created for language teachers as a place to share language learning materials. Teachers can create blogs and wikis for collaborative purposes (but please don’t set up a blog for your class to use here!). All you need is a valid email address and a user name and off you go. Note: they have a whole category on assessment tools (rubrics etc)! Megan and Ignacio welcome your participation! Please join them!
– María Fidalgo-Eick from Grand Valley State Univertsity (Allendale, MI) presented about using blogs in the L2 classroom. Some findings: In a control group of students (those that did not use blogs) the students stated that they knew 20% of their classmates. Those that used blogs, stated they knew 92% of their classmates. And that they can also recognize that information about their classmates in Spanish. That sticky question of assessment: Some people, she said, print out the posts (!) to grade them, María grades the posts based on rubrics she has created…and then quizzes them on the content of the blog. Her feeling was hat the language that was created in these posts was a mixture between formal and informal speech (perhaps because each student was assigned a topic about which to write vs a free writing assignment?). María mentioned a situation where a native speaker came in and criticized how one of her students was writing in the target language… and how she thought, I believe, that this would be a reason to limit the outside world access to the blog. (I am thinking this might be an example of a “teachable moment” but that’s just me) She does not comment on her students’ blogs.
– Teresa A. Antes of the University of Florida (yes, that University of Florida…the one that beat the Buckeyes) spoke about using Powerpoint in the first year classroom. She spoke about using a multimedia project as a final project in an intensive first year French language class. She cited Hirvela and Belcher (2001) and their study about how L1 students struggle to find their “voice and identity” in L2, and how multimedia can aid students to impart meaning in the L2. Christine Tardy (2005) in “Expressions of disciplinarity and individuality in the mutlimodal genre.” Computers and Composition v. 22 (319-336) also echoed this by saying:
“… for multilingual writers who often lack confidence in their language skills and may be hesitant to challenge generic norms in the verbal mode, visuals offer an alternative means of expressing one’s individuality” (p334)
Teresa talked about how multimedia formats also allow students ask students to think about their intended audience… an audience much larger than just the professor. The question of using tu or vous, for example. She also cited Matsuda (2003) noted the importance of “learner agency” (a sense of ownership) in these projects.
Teresa also talked about Andrea A. Lunsford’s “Writing technologies and the Fifth canon,” in Computers and Composition, 23, 169-177 (2006) notion of a “secondary literacy” being created by the use of these multimedia tools…”a literacy that is both highly inflected by oral forms, structures and rhythms and highly aware of itself as writing..” …” a looser prose style, infiltrated by visual and aural components to mirror the agility and shiftiness of language filtered through and transformed by diigital technologies and to allow for, indeed demand, performance” (170) that is “epistemic, performative, multi-modal, vocal…” In other words, the same writing that our students are used to seeing on the internet, and yet is not formal or informal if spoken. She also spoke about how students’ attention to the visual aspect of the project sometimes could limit the amount of language production.
– Claudia Kost from the University of Alberta: Collaborative Writing projects Using Wikis the Intermediate German classroom: 4th semester and 6th semester classes, students chose to write a collaborative essay using a wiki. Students were asked to write two wiki pages for their projects: one page for brainstorming (one group used MSN messenger and then copied it in to the wiki so the teacher could see) and another page for the wiki itself.
Results with one essay: 29 versions* of the composition… some grammar/vocabulary revisions, vocabulary changes involved rephrasing, word choice, spelling. Most of the versions were content changes until the last version where they made all of the corrections. Students ended up writing well over 500 words (the assignment was 425 words)
2nd group: 4 pages of brainstorming over 5 days, created a column to chart their changes and asking each other for help. This group had 41 versions very few revisions, and the final version had small revisions. Third group: no content brainstorming (the brain storming was about the assignment, not the task) one person wrote, the other person grammar checked. They also had over 500 words. This group had 19 versions* of the composition.
*Note: versions = saves…not necessarily changes to the content of the composition.
Students reactions: need to start earlier and to write faster (the assignment was given 2 weeks to completion), students prefer the wiki over sitting together at a computer….can “meet” whenever. “Much easier to catch my partner’s errors than my own” “Takes longer to work with a partner,” “hard to accept another person’s style of writing,” “different ideas of where the ideas would go” Findings: students focused not only on grammatical and lexical accuracy but also on discourse, discussed language and pooled their knowledge.
– To Blog or Nor to Blog, Effectively How is the Question: Sigrun Biesenbach-Lucas (Georgetown University,DC) and Don Weasenforth (Collin County Community College,TX) Presenters shared an extraordinarily exhaustive list of resources as well as information about a tandem blogging experiment between two ESL classes, one in Dallas and one in DC…Comments from here: these intrepid souls tried to read and grade and comment on every since one of their students’ blog posts…they even printed the posts out and attached evaluation forms for EACH post(note from here: how then does the blog differ from a “regular” writing assignment? doesn;t this just perpetuate the top down, one way model of teacher-student relationships vs student-student-teacher as facilitator model that bloggong can provide?)….teachers decided topics for the class and mandated a certain number of posts (otherwise “they would not have done it”), teachers corrected students posts… teachers’ evaluation of the project: over time there problems with students not taking the assignment “seriously”…the two classes did not get along well…a lack of social cohesion…why was this? (note from here: why not use the blog to resolve those disagreements…?) students viewed the blogs as a superfluous addition to the classes (was this because they were using the target language on a daily basis and did not need the communicative aspects of a blog as our L2 learning English speakers might?). Recommendations for blogging projects: “create separate blogs for separate topics” (note from here: yikes! what about using ONE blog and assigning categories to posts?) “give only the teacher administrative privileges to modify blogs; allow students the ability to edit their posts” (note from here: um…control issues?) Quote: “Blogging does not prepare students for academic writing” (Yes, this is where I launched out of my chair: please see Barbara Ganley’s students work…. and know that her writing students win Middlebury writing awards annually)