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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Artists abound at the Language Center!

Last week, the Daily ran an article about our very own Chris Charbonneau, member of the Office Team at the Language Center. In the article, he tells the story of being an undergraduate artist at the U of M. You can see the full article online at http://www.mndaily.com/2010/11/09/artists-their-own-words?page=1

Since then, we also learned about the artistic talents of Multimedia Lab employee Paul Fosaaen, who currently has an installation on display at the Soap Factory's volunteer biennial, titled A Very Much More, featuring works from 54 Soap Factory volunteers. His installation, "Nous nous duchampons / we duchamp ourselves", focuses on manipulating everyday objects like plungers and toilets and finding humor in language. "Nous nous duchampons" features his own decorated plungers, including odes to Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, as well as works by his fiance and friends. The exhibit runs until December 5th. For more info, visit http://soapfactory.org

Please join us in applauding the artistic endeavors of our talented student staff!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Converse With Native Speakers Without Leaving Campus

A recent article in Education Week confirms what language instructors already know: that social engagement and live interactions with multiple native speakers are crucial to language learning success. Now instructors at the U of M can provide their students with exactly this kind of second-language practice, without leaving the U of M, via class-to-class exchanges.

In class-to-class exchanges, your students will meet virtually through computer technology with partners who are fluent in the target language and are learning English -- for instance, students in a French class at the U of M will meet with students in an English class in France. Students take turns conversing in both their own and their second languages. Classes can do synchronous (real-time) or asynchronous (recorded) video exchanges. Send a message to the Tandem Plus program at tandem@umn.edu and let us know if you're interested in establishing this exciting partnership for your Spring classes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tired of the old Italian curriculum? Avanti!

This fall marks the launch of a new curriculum in Italian at the University of Minnesota. The previous textbook, Prego is being phased out in favor of Avanti!, a new textbook from the same publisher (McGraw-Hill) that is more communicative and less grammar-focused, co-authored by Diane Musumeci of "performed culture" fame. The textbook is being adopted for use in Ital 1001 through 1003; other materials, still to be determined, will be adopted for 1004 starting in Spring 2012.

The new initiative exploits technology in its pursuit of a more communicative, student-centered approach. Student blogs, hosted as Moodle Forums, are an essential component of the courses. Even more stimulating is a pilot in two sections of Ital 1001 using Google Video to facilitate student-to-student exchanges with liceo students in Ancona and Ravenna, Italy. Because of the time difference, students use email to set up a time over the weekend to video-chat with their partner in Italy. The exchange, coordinated through professional contacts by Italian DLI Carlotta Dradi-Bower with a hand from Kate Clements, Director of the Language Center's TandemPlus program, is 50% in Italian and 50% in English, so that both sides benefit. Students, though beginners, are excited to discover that they can communicate successfully in Italian, and teachers are gaining skills in serving as coaches to prepare the students (theme-specific vocabulary, etc.) for the weekly exchanges.

The Avanti! materials provide cultural context for the content presented through web-based video (also available on CD-ROM). The workbook is accessed through Centro on the Internet. Students (and teachers) find the new culture-based approach challenging, but tests scores are high, even though exams now assess culture and content as well as grammar and vocabulary.