Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Language Learning 2.0

In 2007, the Modern Language Association (MLA) suggested a radical shakeup of modern language provision. Horrified at the lack of language skills and the two-tiered language and literature divide in foreign language departments, the MLA proposed that foreign language programs should evolve into a more relevant and integrated language, literature and culture curriculum.

The conclusions that the MLA came to were directly reflected in much of the theory behind CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning), a student centered, technology rich learning concept that aims to provide learners with an authentic context in which to practice language skills. The MLA's propositions were also reflected in the new scholarship of teaching and learning that uses web 2.0 as a bridge to make the process of learning more adaptive, more significant and more relevant to students today. Consequently, the new language learning 2.0 encompasses technology enhanced learning with a focus on real life situations and scenarios.

What are these language learning 2.0 tools that are being used to integrate culture and language in a realistic way into the classroom? I will cover a few tools here, before exploring how we can support the successful integration of these resources in Spanish and Portuguese departments.

The first category of tools involves web 2.0 as place- the creation of a online, collaborative classroom or interactive learning community that facilitates student immersion in the language and culture. Blogs and wikis have been used with certain success, but cool kids today are looking at Ning, a tool used to create a group space or social network. Functioning as an online classroom, Ning (which is available in many languages) gives students the opportunity to participate in a Spanish context outside the classroom, as well as making it easy for students to create and explore language through a variety of different media formats, (for example, video, audio, images and texts.)

The second category is formed by digital narrative tools. These are web based, interactive tools used to create online stories and research projects such as webquests, digital stories and videos. Students have to research and role play a story or an event in the language or add images, captions and music to narrate an online event. For extensive projects, iMovie from Apple provides a professional tool, while Jing from Camtasia is a fantastic, free and easy to use screen capturing tool (which has lots of applications in libraries too). Photostory from Microsoft memoryminer and even slide show software are tools used for digital storytelling as they provide easy ways for students to upload images, captions and narration. Audio programs such as Voicethread or Audacity allow students to add voice recordings and comments to images. These tools allow students to explore and engage creatively with the stories, events and culture of a country through the language they are learning.

What can librarians do to support these learning activities? For a start, many of these activities need original, primary sources in the target language or culture, such as images, video clips and music. Excellent sources of cultural objects are found in library databases such as Artstor and Naxos Music as well as more specific web resources, such as the videos from Jesús Alonso Regalado's guide, Pandora online music or the Europeana digital library, to name a few. Additionally, as many students or even instructors have little idea about where to find these types of resources, particularly in a foreign language, a review of online search techniques can be very useful to students. Finally, students and researchers should be reminded of basic copyright rules when they are using these primary sources in their classes, particularly if they are looking to publish student projects.

Language learning 2.0 is creative and collaborative with a growing community. Websites such as Language Box hosts examples of successful uses of technology in the classroom and is a great way to keep up with the field.

Alison Hicks
University of Colorado, Boulder
alison.hicks @ colorado.edu

4 comments:

  1. Hi Alison ... great post. I'll have to take a look at the CALL program.

    You might also find the resources at http://www.thedigitalnarrative.com useful.

    There's also a recently created portal for building community in the classroom using digital media. You'll find it by clicking on the home page puzzle piece.

    Cheers

    Martin Jorgensen
    @mnjorgensen
    The Digital Narrative

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  2. Hi Martin- thanks for this! This is a new area of interest for me, sparked by attending the ALTEC FLTP program at the University of Colorado: http://altec.colorado.edu/fltp/index.shtml .
    I'm also fascinated by integrating the digital humanities into the classroom- from a digital library and an instruction viewpoint. Your blog will be very helpful, thanks!

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  3. Glad to see these postings here. They make more sense with the URLs than in the print newsletter.
    Adan

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