Carly Born (with Chico Zimmerman and Clara Hardy) recently participated in LACOL’s 2019 Language Jam hosted at Bryn Mawr College. 26 faculty and technologists from across the consortium attended.
The weekend centered on the CHIANTI project: a repository-like site for assignments and materials for instructors to share and use in their own classes, and a resource for students to complete tutorials on specific content areas in which they need extra help. Additionally, Carly shared an update on the development of the Language Dashboard Report, which is a Moodle report plugin intended to give faculty granular information on student performance on language placement tests, and Language Lesson. For more information on the projects demonstrated or on the Language Jam overall, please feel free to contact Carly (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
I’m already excited to be a part of the team hosting this Instructional Video Workshop at Carleton in late July! Attendees will not only take-way a concrete and replicable process for creating process, but they’ll create [at least] 3 Instructional Videos they can start using right away. The seats filled-up so fast, there is no doubt we’ll be doing more of these in the future! More information on the workshop itself is available here. And if you’d like to be notified when we host another one, please complete this short form. — dann
Dann Hurlbert, Carleton College’s Media and Design Guru provides an overview of Matt Bowman’s article in Forbes Magazine about video marketing in business. There is a reason businesses are using more video: it’s working. It can work well in education, too. Take a moment to reflect on Matt’s article — and nibble on the possibilities video can provide educators by watching this:
This Spring Term online teaching and learning is much on my mind.
I’ll be presenting at OLCInnovate 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee this April. OLC, Online Learning Consortium, pairs up with MERLOT (for those of you who remember this repository) for their big conferences. I’ve got a couple presentations but for this update I’m focused on the one titled “Is online teaching and learning relevant for small residential liberal arts colleges?” It’s in the session category ‘Conversations, Not Presentations’ which means I get to talk with attendees rather than at them and I’m hopeful for some interesting and useful conversation.
For the OLC conversation I’ll be pulling from my Carleton work with CUBE, Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience. CUBE consists of an online 6 week summer portion and a traditional Fall Term portion. Summer CUBE has two primary goals: 1) to strengthen the quantitative skills of incoming students and 2) to connect participants to the campus community before they arrive on campus.
CUBE in turn has heavily contributed to Carleton’s LACOL (Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning) work on the QLAB project and this will inform my OLC conversation as well. QLAB is the nickname applied to a multi-campus development and educational research initiative to assist our students with readiness for their quantitative work across the curriculum, and to investigate the role that online resources may play in this.
And all of this online teaching and learning work at Carleton is going easier for me because of my time at Georgetown University which was just prior to coming to Carleton. There, in my position as Director of Technology Enhanced Learning, I helped design and implement online courses and MOOCs, and in my position as adjunct professor, I taught an online course.
I won’t rely on my experiences alone though to pull off a good conversation at OLC! I’ll be tracking the current buzz about online T&L and that includes a few folks even talking about it in the context of small liberal arts schools:
Sharing the Bounty is a collaboration between professors at the University of Minnesota and Macalester College and the University of Michigan to develop an online language course for Hindi. As with other Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL), Hindi is not often taught due to lower enrollments and the lack of high quality language materials. So the team is planning to develop a new online textbook for this program. From what I’ve read, it sounds like they will be following a more content-based approach that will focus equally on cultural fluency as well as linguistic competence.
The field of foreign language education has often been targeted for these kinds of distance education programs, but as any language educator knows this is a difficult proposition. There is a natural fit for online grammar and vocabulary exercises, or viewing audio and video recordings of the language and culture in action. Foreign language educators have always been on the forefront of technology use even in face-to-face classes, bring records, cassette tapes, laser disks, computers and streaming video into the classroom in abundance.
But these are only part of the language teaching and learning puzzle. A critical component of language learning is language production. The students must have not just ample, but plentiful opportunities to speak and interact in the target language. They must be interacting with peers and their instructor in the language on a very regular basis, daily is ideal. Even with this component, it’s very difficult for many students to get through a typical first stage of language acquisition, known as the silent period , to the point where they are even mildly comfortable speaking in the target language. And so instructors must encourage and cajole, creating a comfortable and safe atmosphere for students so that they lower their affective filter  enough to start participating frequently.
The art of creating this atmosphere in a language classroom is difficult in a face-to-face setting, but seems overwhelming and nigh impossible when you take these interactions online. Anyone who has attended an online meeting or webinar can attest to how the different medium, though synchronous, creates an entirely different set of social interaction challenges. There is a slight time lag to synchronous interactions such that participants must tolerate unnatural pauses and frequent requests for repetition as everyone inadvertently talks over one another. And that’s even when the technology is working flawlessly!
And yet the opportunity to offer Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs) to those who are motivated to learn them no matter their proximity is very enticing. LCTL educators are often seeking higher enrollments both to maintain the program offerings and to create a better balance of interactions in the classroom. If we can overcome the interaction challenges in the synchronous online classroom, we could have students from different areas and more varied backgrounds in the same classroom. This fact alone gives students even more reason to speak to one another, promoting more authentic target language interactions in the classroom. It could be really great!
The Sharing the Bounty project will be one for language educators to watch closely. It could also be a model for how Carleton College and our LACOL partners approache our collaborations in all disciplines. I know I’ll be interested to see how they handle some of the issues specific to teaching language, particularly in their choices of technologies. But it’ll be exciting to watch!