I’ve been looking at courses that are open to the general public for free as part of an upcoming presentation on open content. The idea is quite amazing. One “facilitator” is needed to organize the students and set up discussions. The rest of the course depends largely on the students themselves, though it usually consists of online group discussions, readings (recommended and self-chosen), and a final project that is peer reviewed. Example courses include the FacebUOC project and the Connectivism course from Downes and Siemens.
The Mixxer up until this point has focused on organizing single and isolated exchanges between one of our students and a native speaker. It seems the student would benefit much more if we could provide a system that encouraged this relationship to be maintained for the duration of the course, if not longer. Students often do friend their partner via Facebook etc., though no structure is given to encourage future meetings.
Beyond friending each other on the Mixxer and Facebook, I’m a at a bit of a loss. The current exchanges work, largely due to their incredible flexibility and reliability. By directing a student to work with an individual, both are mostly lost. Unlike the connectivism course, the language exchanges don’t scale very well. I could increase the flexibility and reliability by adding students to groups. The larger the group, the more flexible and reliable. However, the size is inversely proportional to the amount of language our students would use.
The key would seem to be to offer both sides an incentive and easy format to follow to continue the relationship, without it becoming a requirement for either. I’m very open to ideas if anyone has any suggestions.
The government has released some important exemptions to the copyright laws governing circumvention of digital controls. Main stream media is focusing on the “jail break” permission for cell phones. For those not familiar with the term, by default an IPhone will only run apps that have been approved by Apple and from their store. This creates their own very profitable ecosystem, which the pros and cons that come with any selective list of software, i.e. usability and quality versus choice and variety. Users who preferred the latter would “jail break” the phones or “crack” the device to allow it to run other apps. This is now legal, though I’m sure it still voids the warranty. Expect to see competitors to the Apple app market soon.
For educators, the more immediate benefit comes from the permission to rip DVDs for educational use provided it falls under fair use guidelines or the Teach Act. Up until now, even though it fell under fair use, the defeating of the copy protection was in and of itself illegal, which made for a rather illogical situation where the final product was legal but the only way of obtaining it was illegal. Keep in mind, this is still not carte blanche for educators and videos. Streaming entire films from a course management system is still illegal. If you’re interested in copyright permissions available to educator, the University of Texas has a fairly easy to understand description.
While putting together some notes on our introductory session for faculty in the Willoughby Program, I started making a list of recent class projects that make use of some of the technologies. These videos were created as part of the Mike Fratantuono’s class, “The Global Economy”. Students used IMovie to explain a topic of their choosing on globalization. We’ll talk about the assignment that was given to students, the training, and the rubric he used for assessment.
This is another example of how Google Books can dramatically impact traditional education. The effect of digitized texts goes far beyond access. By converting the text to a digital format, it opens up new possibilities for textual search and analysis. Read a the full description of the latest addition to Google Books here:
This blog will be moving next week to http://blogs.dickinson.edu/edtech. Hopefully with a broader topic, I’ll write more.
One of the great early benefits for language learning was the availability of authentic content. At first students could find newspapers from abroad, then radio, then other kinds of multimedia, and finally even connect and interact with people via blogs, social networks, and Skype. The challenge is no longer availability, but rather finding and organizing the content so that’s accessible and of interest to the students.
Pageflakes is an rss reader that allows you do this very elegantly. For those unfamiliar with rss readers, it’s bascially a way to pull in content from various sources to create a person portal page. I set up a series of these pages (flakes) for the intermediate German classes. Each page is for a specific city and this works well since the textbook is also organized by focusing on one of these cities for each chapter. What’s nice about the portal is that this information unlike the text is dynamic. Students living in these places blog about their day in the location, video clips from the city are shown as are newspaper articles and so on. You can check it out here:
Of course, if students wish to add content, that can also be added to the portal. I know professors have structured their courses at Dickinson before as a virtual or imaginary semester abroad with students doing everything from finding apartments to taking classes. This would provide students with real time content to create these stories and give them life.
Akiko Meguro combined the social networking site Mixi (http://mixi.jp) and the Mixxer (http://www.language-exchanges.org) to make communication with native speakers an integral part of her course. She uses the Mixxer to organize bi-weekly language exchanges via Skype for her students, then she has her students reconnect with their partners using the journal function in Mixi, the Japanese version of Facebook. This encourages the students to continue to meet with their partner outside of class and introduces them to an entire social network within the target culture as well. Many of our students continue to use Mixi after the course and once they’ve graduated. We had one language partner visit the class from Japan this year and we regularly hear of our students reconnecting with their language partners once they study abroad their junior year.
This video will give you an idea about the Skype portion. These are her slides about Mixi. Obviously Mixi is only for Japanese, but we can set up a similar interaction using the Mixxer and/or other localized social networks.
It’s a great way to introduce culture and prepare them for a study abroad experience. If you’re interested in doing something similar, please stop down and see me in Bosler.
UCLA announced the publishing of the “Language Material’s Project”. It’s a very well organized database of resources for language teachers of less commonly taught languages.
These searchable repositories aren’t as necessary as they once were with the rise of very large, public and international web 2.0 sites of links, pictures, news, video, etc. These crowdsourced sites tend to be much larger than academic repositories and are easily searchable by language via tags. For example, one can search Flickr or YouTube by keyword in a given language and find thousands of videos.
That being said, I think this project has some strengths that will appeal to language teachers. The organization by material type and language makes it easy to find quality resources on the topics common to beginning and intermediate texts. For Arabic they’ve also categorized the items by country of as standard Arabic.
If you’re looking for something specific, you’re probably still better off going to a more general site for authentic materials. On the other hand, if you’re starting your syllabus for next semester, it’s well worth the time to peruse the materials they’ve collected in the language. Odds are quite good you’ll find something (menu, brochure, simple online game) that can add to a class activity.
YouTube is looking to compete with other rising sites such as Hulu for the internet TV market. They took a big step today by signing a deal with Univision.
Wired on Univision and YouTube
There’s certainly no shortage of video on the web, and it may not be long before we begin questioning the need for satellite progamming altogether. In addition to having the videos available on any computer, they also become archived and searchable.
Twinity is pushing their 3D version of Berlin, and they’re taking advantage of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. They’re holding lectures, classes, and have recreated the wall in it’s original location. It is interesting to see the location of the wall in modern day Berlin. The world is still primarily populated by German speakers, so it shouldn’t be hard to start a conversation.