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 @

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Presidential message

I would like to use this space to tell about some of the discussions that took place in late November during the Fall meeting of the Latin America Northeast Libraries Consortium (LANE), hosted by Angela Carreño of the New York University Libraries. The meeting was noticeably different from previous ones because the group had previously agreed to dedicate most of the time to discussing new models and possibilities for cooperative collection development among the members.

During the day-long discussion, we learned about how small groups of libraries within LANE (Brown and Dartmouth, Columbia and Cornell, and BorrowDirect consortium members, for example) are currently exploring and even starting to implement new models of cooperation. We also took time to map the collecting areas within each institution that have or are likely to be adversely affected by budget cuts. The idea was that by identifying those areas and sharing the information, the consortium would be better prepared to coordinate future decisions about collection development priorities and directions.

We also discussed the impact that electronic books might have on our Latin American and Iberian collections, and how could those fit into new models ofcooperative collection development. It was fascinating to hear how some libraries are beginning to incorporate e-book collections in different ways. Some, for example, are encouraging and financially supporting emerging ventures in this area, hoping that their support will be an incentive for the development of better digital products in the near future. Other libraries are proceeding more cautiously and are concerned about costs aswell as about the effect that the trend might have on the future quality of their collections. Interestingly, what did not seem to be possible to answer at this point in time was whether e-books would represent a replacement or a supplement of print.

Additionally, we learned about the 'Cloud Library' pilot project currently being conducted by New York University and OCLC Research. The objective of the project is to explore the cost-effectiveness of sourcing a significant proportion of NYU's local collection through the combination of large scale digital repositories and off site, shared print repositories. We also heard about the impact that the recent study released by Ithaka S+R, "What to Withdraw? Print Collections Management in the Wake of Digitization" (available at ishaving in some libraries.

I describe the nature of these discussions to the broader SALALM community because the topics are tremendously relevant to the 2010 conference theme and I would like to encourage members to propose papers, presentations and/or workshops that relate to them. Something that became immediately apparent during our discussions was that more data and analysis are necessary to implement new cooperative collection development models that can both, sustain future research and teaching, and preserve the scholarly record. If SALALM, through its committees and its individual members can help to generate some of the data and the analysis that is relevant to Latin American Studies scholarship, the organization would possibly be making a very important contribution to the field.

Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez
Princeton University Library

Monday, January 25, 2010

Salalmistas/Lanistas in London

Patricia Figueroa (Brown University) visits colleagues Geoff West (left) and Aquiles Alencar-Brayner (right) at the British Library on January 12, 2010 (following a monumental snow fall throughout the UK).