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Thursday, December 15, 2011

TandemPlus News

On Friday, December 2, TandemPlus hosted the second annual "Mocktail Happy Hour" at the Tea House Restaurant close to campus. Seventeen students attended the event and spoke languages like Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, and English. We discussed everything from linguistic similarities to culture to politics, all while enjoying a delicious variety of Chinese appetizers. This was the last TandemPlus event for the Fall semester. The Tandem team hopes that you will all join them again next semester.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Professional Development Opportunity

The TESOL Electronic Village Online is hosting 5-week professional development sessions on a variety of topics beginning the week of January 9. These sessions are free to ESOL and other language educators and are free. You do not need to be a TESOL member to participate in these sessions. One session that might be of particular interest as the University of Minnesota shifts from Moodle 1.9 to 2.0 is Moodle for Teachers.

For more information, and to register, go to the Electronic Village Online Call for Participation site.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Choosing a language podcast

Millions of podcasts are available through iTunes for language learners. With so many options, it can be difficult to find a good podcast, but by searching the right way you will easily find the podcast that suits your language-learning needs.

Beginner -- Go to iTunes Store/Podcasts. Click on Language Learning under Quick Links on the navigation bar on the right-hand side of the Podcasts page (Figure 1). Search for podcasts in the language of your choice. Most of these podcasts are instructional and suited for beginner to intermediate students.

Fig. 1
Figure 1.

Intermediate -- You can also find podcasts in your target language by doing a Power Search. Go to iTunes Store/Podcasts, and access Power Search either under Quick Links in the upper right-hand corner of the iTunes Store homepage or on the upper left of any store search results page (Figure 2). Then search for podcasts in the language of your choice. Your search will return only the podcasts in the target language. Some of these will be instructional, and some will not.

Fig. 2
Figure 2.

Advanced -- Go to iTunes Store/Home/Manage/Change country (on the bottom of the screen Figure 3); select the country of your choice. When this feature is enabled, iTunes will reflect the options for the country you've selected. Be ready! The language on the page will also automatically switch to the language of the country you've selected, too. Now when you click on Podcasts, you will find a huge array of content-based options, all in the language(s) of the country you've chosen.

Fig. 3
Figure 3.

Once you have found podcasts you enjoy, you can click on Subscribe to receive regular updates of these podcasts, which you can download onto your iPod or iPhone, and listen and learn on the go.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Green German Project Takes Off

The collaborators of the Green German Project have been busy this fall actively promoting the new course materials they developed for teaching topics related to sustainability.The website, from which teachers and curriculum developers can download the PDF learning modules, went live last week and can be found at http://z.umn.edu/greengerman. Included on the site are a bibliography, links to over 230 websites with authentic materials, a chart aligning each exercise with the National Standards, and a longer description of the project.

On Nov. 20, 2011, Charlotte Melin and Beth Kautz introduced the materials to an enthusiastic audience at the national AATG/ACTFL conference in Denver. Last month, Adam Oberlin and Beth Kautz introduced the materials to a local audience at the MCTLC conference, where their presentation was voted "Best of Minnesota." They have been invited to share their presentation at the March 2013 Central States Conference in Columbus, OH.

For information about other U of M projects linking sustainability issues and foreign languages and cultures, see this earlier blog post.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Hybrid French 1004 Class Development: A Conversation with Rick Treece

The French program debuted two sections of hybrid French 1004 this Fall semester. The five-credit classes meet three days per week, and have two online contact hours. Other language programs have also experimented with online learning, and Spanish has a long running hybrid 1022 class. French hybrid 1004 is distinguished by its incorporation of TandemPlus partnerships into the curriculum, as well as the fast pace of development. The majority of curricular development occurred over a single summer.

I spoke to the lead developer, Rick Treece, about the development process and plans for the future.

Students enrolled in the hybrid sections have a TandemPlus partner in France with whom they they communicate using Skype, and they are expected to complete seven activities during the semester. How will this opportunity enhance their acquisition of French, and their understanding of French culture?

There are three important benefits of the Skype exchanges:

1. Students in class speak for only a few minutes during a typical class session. And a disadvantage of small-group work is that weak students may have a too-sympathetic partner (who understands their English-influenced French too readily) while strong students may be frustrated by weaker partners who fail to understand their more advanced remarks. With TandemPlus partners who are native speakers of French, students get at least 15-30 min. per week of French conversation (often far more) in a situation that is far more authentic. This more than compensates for the speaking practice they're missing Tuesday and Thursday in class.

2. Research shows that language acquisition and retention are enhanced by the process of "negotiating meaning" in the target language in real communication. This is exactly what is occurring in the TandemPlus class-to-class exchange.

3. The over-arching theme of French 1004 involves comparing French and American cultures and their influence on personal identities. The Skype exchanges are based on detailed worksheets on which students prepare for their Skype sessions, take notes during the interview, and then follow-up on the personal and cultural insights acquired with meaningful Récapitulation assignments, which are evaluated with rubrics tailored to each type of assignment.

When students first learned that their sections would be partially computer-based, and that they would communicate with a partner in France, what were the general reactions?

General reactions were positive and even enthusiastic. Only one or two students said that they would have preferred meeting every day.

Did any students decide to switch to a standard section of 1004?

Only one!

Spanish 1022 has been offered as a hybrid-only class for several years. How were you able to use the experiences of the Spanish developers and instructors as a model, and what did you find was different when targeting higher-level students?

Because higher-level students bring more skills to the process, we thought that we could let them have more flexibility in their assignments, so we gave (or imposed) much less structure on the assignments than Spanish 1022 typically does. This has worked out for the most part, but in the case of at least one major large-group assignment, I think that we should have been more "hands-on" in the early organizational phases. But frankly, I don't think that the issue was lack of French skills, but rather just general generation of the escape velocity to get the project off the ground.

Spanish 1022 makes significant use of online exercises in My Spanish Lab, which is apparently quite good, but we found that the French equivalent was not up to our standards. The online substitute that we adopted, Tell-Me-More, is a bit pricey and has had a mixed reception from the students (and from us, truth to tell). We're meeting soon to decide on a strategy to tweak or replace it.

What has surprised you most about the Skype exchanges and the activities that students are doing as part of those exchanges?

I've been surprised to find that some students on both sides of the Atlantic simply fail to show up for their scheduled Skype sessions. Though overall the number is probably fairly small, every instance is a moderate to major irritant to the student inconvenienced by the missed rendez-vous.

Right now, Spanish 1003 is being developed as a hybrid class, and German is exploring options for hybrid development as well. How has this simultaneous development impacted French 1004, and provided opportunities for collaboration?

The coordinators of French, German and Spanish are meeting regularly to share updates on successes and challenges. In fact, our current French 1004 TandemPlus model was developed in imitation of one that Italian used last year, so we're all open to consideration of models and experiences from a variety of levels and sources.

Moreover, the Language Center Instructional Team addresses issues relating to hybrid-course development at our bi-weekly meetings. German, Scandinavian and Dutch liaison Beth Kautz and I will meet regularly with the Director this year as a particular task-group to foster hybrid-course adoption.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give a student enrolled in a hybrid language class?

Allow me to quote from a message that I sent to my students and posted on our Moodle site at the beginning of the term:
The student that will thrive in this hybrid setting is:
  • self-motivated
  • regular and disciplined
  • a good time manager
  • comfortable using the web
Conversely, this approach could be perilous for a student who:
  • puts off things to the last minute
  • relies on regular class attendance or personal over-qualification for the course level to skate by without doing much work outside of class
  • does not work well independently
  • is a technophobe
For more information on hybrid courses see this recent article on how sustainability content is being integrated into several classes, including lower-level hybrid Spanish.

Friday, November 11, 2011

New student-created art in Jones 135: Mi Casta Su Casta

Lead Multimedia Lab Attendant and Art History major Paul Fosaaen donated a painting to the newly renovated multimedia lab, Jones 135, and it was recently hung. Here is an explanation of the piece from Paul:

Mi Casta Su Casta for me stands as a testament to the power of inclusiveness over bigotry and xenophobia. Painted initially as an assignment for class, the painting itself developed into a response against a tradition in Spanish painting that arose in the 17th and 18th centuries. Casta paintings served as an attempt for the Spanish aristocracy to retain 'purity' of Spanish blood during a time of expanded colonization of Mexico. These paintings documented potential racial and cultural mixtures, essentially to prove to the Spanish that they had retained racial and cultural supremacy over the indigenous people in their colonies. My use of abstraction in Mi Casta Su Casta is not merely to deny visible reality, but also it asserts a sense of unity to further reject the intensive pigeonholing that occurred in Spanish Casta paintings. When abstraction allows for the disappearance of racial divisiveness, it also permits us as viewers to dream of participating in this vision. Mi Casta Su Casta becomes more than just a rejection of historical misdeeds, but it is a family portrait in which we all belong. The title itself, a pun on the ubiquitous mi casa su casa, declares that 'your caste is my caste' and that 'my family is your family.' Instead of imposing segregation and highlighting pejorative differences, Mi Casta Su Casta extends an invitation to all families and all people so that we may all feel at home.

Mi Casta Su Casta 2011
Van Gauguin (Paul Fosaaen)
Acrylic on canvas

Monday, November 7, 2011

LGTT 5101 Applications of Technology in Language Teaching

Two sections of LGTT 5101, Applications of Technology in Language Teaching are offered Spring semester:

5101-001 LEC , 01:25 P.M. - 04:10 P.M. Wednesdays, taught by Dan Soneson and Alyssa Ruesch

5101-002 LEC , 04:40 P.M. - 07:25 P.M. Thursdays, taught by Pablo Viedma and Zhen Zou

The course focuses on the use of technology in the service of teaching and learning languages. We demonstrate and employ various Web 2.0 technologies to reinforce the communicative focus of second and foreign language curricula. The course is organized according to the three communication modes of the ACTFL National Standards: interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. Participants will use computer technology to develop activities and tasks that address each of these modes.

The course is appropriate for graduate students and P&A's teaching in the various language programs. Both sections are 50% hybrid, which means that approximately half of the time they will meet online in lieu of classroom meetings. Please email one of the instructors or elsie@umn.edu for more information.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sustainability and Language Acquisition: Different Approaches to Integrating Academic Content for Different Languages

When the French, German and Spanish language programs had the opportunity to collaborate on the creation of sustainability-themed content for their courses, they jumped right in. However, curriculum developers from the three programs had a different visions for how the content would ultimately be integrated into their university languages courses.

This spring semester, University of Minnesota language students will have several new opportunities to learn about sustainability at the same time as they continue second language acquisition.

Part of the curriculum development was funded by Title VI to create Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum Content (FLAC) resources for K-12 and university courses. The team working to get these initiatives off the ground is:

Elaine Tarone (CARLA)
Patricia Mougel (French)
Charlotte Melin and Beth Kautz (German)
Susan Villar and Frances Matos-Schultz (Spanish).

Here is an overview of the two approaches the programs took for integrating academic content with second language acquisition, focusing on examples of classes offered Spring 2012:

French and German: Upper-level course enhancement and redesign
FREN 3022 The Language and Culture of Business in France
GER 3501 Contemporary Germany: Environmental Debates--Food, Energy, Politics

Patricia is currently teaching her French advanced oral communication class as a new content-based language course on the theme of water. For Spring 2012, Patricia is revamping her ongoing business course, integrating new content on sustainability while keeping the focus on business overall. In the course students will learn about and discuss sustainable business practices in France through case studies of businesses that have moved towards sustainability in terms of resources selection, product development, marketing and human resources management.

During Spring 2011, Charlotte taught a German course with an environmental literature theme. For Spring 2012, she has completely redeveloped an existing course on contemporary Germany. Students will be able to use this course towards the completion of the Sustainability Minor by petition. Here is the course description:

Public concern about environmental issues is driving social, political, and cultural change in German-speaking countries today--a trend visible in the successes of the Green party in recent elections and plans to decommission nuclear power plants over the next decade. This course (taught in German) looks at the ways environmental imagination is expressed through language and contemporary culture. We will examine the evolution of the environmental movement and European conceptions of sustainability through the lens of nonfiction writings, literature, on-line resources, and film. Historically, concepts of ecology arose out of early 20th century discoveries about interconnectedness, epitomized by the term Umwelt (surrounding world), which was coined by Jakob von Uexküll. In keeping with this systems perspective, we will study examples like food production, energy consumption, and urban design. To take into account the divergent opinions that surround these topics, assignments will include debates, expository writing, and creative projects that probe differing positions.

Spanish: Integration throughout the lower-level curriculum
SPAN 1022, 1003, 1004 Second-Semester and Intermediate Spanish

Spanish has begun integrating sustainability content modules into all of their hybrid Spanish 1022 and 1003 sections. The program also plans to integrate the content into hybrid Spanish 1004, once that class debuts. This means that as more Spanish sections switch to the hybrid format, as many as 900 to 1000 students will interact with sustainability content each semester.

Interested in learning more? If you are an advanced student of French or German, or a beginning student of Spanish, take a class Spring semester! Registration for FREN 3022 is open for students of French who have completed 3015 (3016 is recommended). GER 3501 is open for German students who have completed 3011W. All sections of SPAN 1022 are hybrid, as well as some sections of 1003. Contact the appropriate department for more information on these courses.

You can also read more about the development of the German class, and how some of the content debuted at World Languages Day at Elsie Speaks, and Charlotte wrote an article about her Spring 2011 class for Neues Curriculum.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


On Friday, October 21, Dan Soneson, Rick Treece, and Alyssa Ruesch from the Language Center, along with Marlene Johnshoy from CARLA traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, where we took part in the annual conference of the MidWest Association for Language Learning with Technology. This year the 2-day conference, which was recorded and available for viewing, was hosted by Clayton Mitchell at Drake University.

donquixote.jpg The conference began on Friday afternoon with two presentations from Winona State University. Julie Gonzalez demonstrated Windows Photo Story 3 as an effective tool for producing image-based video, and Armando Gonzalez talked about various tools for students and instructors to use to produce audio and video and to store their work on the Web. He highlighted Windows Movie Maker and Audacity, pointing to Irfan View as convenient and inexpensive storage option.

Highlights of the conference included the Friday afternoon presentation by Alyssa Ruesch and Marlene Johnshoy who presented their work in designing and conducting a fully online course for language teachers and administrators dealing with social media and its role in the foreign language curriculum. The course was offered by the Center for Advanced Research in Language Acquisition (CARLA), located at the University of Minnesota. This 9-week course offered during the summer of 2001 was extremely popular with 27 participants from around the world.

Antonia.jpg The course used a Ning as a management tool, and introduced participants to a variety of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and VoiceThread, and a newly discovered tool, called Wetoku, which allows two participants to carry on a video conversation remotely and records both sides of the conversation. Although the course involved a great deal of work and attention for the facilitators, there was a high degree of engagement and innovation on the part of the participants, and their assessment of the course was extremely positive. CARLA plans to offer the course again this coming summer, reduced from 9 weeks to 5.

Saturday morning included two very interesting presentations, one virtual and the other theatrical. Jeff Kuhn joined us virtually from Ohio University to talk about revitalizing and repurposing Hot Potatoes, the exercise creation software produced at the University of Victoria. He showed us how to embed a variety of interactive web media within a standard HTML page created by Hot Potatoes to provide guidance and assistance for students to interact with this media. These HTML pages can be uploaded to a Moodle course site, and with a Hot Potatoes Moodle extension can even be connected to the Moodle course grade book. Examples included embedding Google Earth, an interactive timeline illustrating immigration patterns, and even a Moodle course site itself.

Aldonza.jpgA lively discussion ensued.

The morning concluded with a highly entertaining performance by LC's Rick Treece and CARLA's Marlene Johnshoy. They addressed the topic of online machine translators, such as Google Translate, and illustrated through donning costumes depicting figures from Cervantes' Don Quixote various viewpoints on how language programs might view students' temptations to take advantage of these increasingly accurate translation services.

While the virtuous Don Quixote trusted in students' honor to resist this temptation or to avail themselves of it judiciously, Donna Alvera would ban the use altogether, Aldonsa would encourage liberal use, and Sancho Panza would try to find a middle ground.

sanchopanza.jpg Rick then shared some course policies on the use of machine translators in specific writing assignments and provided a few models for scaffolding assignments which would allow students to construct their production in stages, relying on authentic input and models rather than on translating from English to French, for examples. Saturday afternoon include three informative sessions dealing with the use of Audacity in developing Spanish pronunciation, administrative restructuring of the Language Center at Gustavus Adolphus College to increase student worker participation and responsibility in the running of the center, and an informative presentation on a cross-cultural international project in which roughly 30 students and their instructor at a law school in Omsk in Siberia are connected to three instructors in the United States.

The project uses WebX as a synchronous video conferencing tool. Jan Marston talked about the division of responsibilities among the four instructors, with one person serving as the room manager, another as the facilitator conducting the lesson. A third is the coach, who monitors the synchronous text chat, and the fourth is a kind of prompter to help keep the conversation going. The presentation clearly illustrated the need for support staff to facilitate the various aspects of using technology in such a project.

The MWALLT conference was an opportunity for us to connect with colleagues from around the region and to share ideas and experiences. We returned to Minnesota with fresh ideas and renewed vigor. We look forward to participating in next year's conference which will with all likelihood be held at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. We invite you to consider attending.

Monday, October 24, 2011

TandemPlus and the Multimedia Lab: Having an Awesome Autumn

Multimedia Lab
All work and no play?
Students enjoy the new lounge furniture in the Multimedia Lab

The Fall semester has gotten off to a great start for TandemPlus -- this is by far our biggest semester yet. There are 639 people registered, and 427 people have been matched for exchanges in 17 languages!

We hold many events for all Tandem participants, both matched and unmatched. So far we have hosted a kick-off party, and are currently planning a bowling night for all Tandem registrants at Goldy's Gameroom in Coffman Union on November 11.

Our Skype matches are growing and an interest in Tandem is spreading through our international partners in countries such as France, Japan, and Russia.

Our class exchanges are also growing. This semester we have collaborated with 12 universities overseas to bring language classes and students together through technology. Students are assigned partners from a class overseas and spend half the time speaking in both of their native languages, allowing them to practice their second language and gain cultural insight.

We are enthusiastic about the future of the TandemPlus Program and so excited to keep moving forward as the program expands!

The redesigned Multimedia Lab in Jones Hall is also having a great semester. Students are flocking to the new design, which features hexagonal computer tables which allow more collaboration between lab patrons while better utilizing the lab's available space. Students are loving the "laptop bar" where they can work and charge their laptop and portable devices, or even print wirelessly to the lab's laser printer from their laptops, while they enjoy lots of natural light from the west-facing windows overlooking Pleasant Street. Students are also using the lab's new sectional couch and tablet-arm chairs to study and relax. Lab use has increased greatly this semester, but don't worry -- we still have space for you.

We still are looking for a new name for this awesome study space, so if you have a suggestion, post it in the comments section of this blog post!

Upcoming plans for the Multimedia Lab include live international programming on the lab's two flat-screen TVs. We will have a full list of programming, including news, game shows, and movies, from around the globe, in a variety of languages. Look for this Spring semester!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tutorial - Observe, Message and Chat with Apple Remote Desktop

Remote Desktop IconHave you ever asked your students to do a web-based activity in the classroom only to discover later that they were hopelessly lost surfing the web? What if there was a way to quickly glance at all the students computers to see what they were up to? And better yet, what if there was a way to discreetly send students a message to help them get back on track? With Apple Remote Desktop, there is!

What is Apple Remote Desktop?
Apple Remote Desktop is a software that allows instructors to remotely view, communicate and control classroom computers. It's installed on the Instructor machine in Jones 10, 15 and 30.


How can I use Apple Remote Desktop to observe students?
Observe a single student
  1. Open Apple Remote Desktop
  2. Click "All computers"
  3. Select a computer
  4. Click "Observe"

Observe multiple students
  1. Open Apple Remote Desktop
  2. Click on "Status" to sort Available computers from Unavailable computers
  3. Select all Available computers (Use shift to select more than one at a time)
  4. Click "Observe"
  5. Select computers from thumbnails
  6. Click "Observe" arrow icon.

ARD_Message.png How can I use Apple Remote Desktop to send students a message?
With Remote Desktop, you can send one-way messages to one or many students at a time.
  1. Select computers
  2. Click "Send Message"
  3. Type in your message.
  4. Click "Send."
  5. Your message will appear on the students' computer screens.

ARD_Chat.pngHow can I use Apple Remote Desktop to send and receive messages from students?
You can also have a two-way chat message with one student (you can not chat with multiple students)
  1. Select computer
  2. Click "Chat"
  3. Type your message and click "Send Message"
  4. Wait for reply

Have you ever used Apple Remote Desktop in your classes? Share your experiences in the comments section!

What other tutorials would you like to see on Elsie Speaks? Leave us a comment, or let Alyssa Ruesch, Classroom Support Coordinator, know what questions you have about using technology in your second language class.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tandem Plus Fall Kickoff Event

Last Friday afternoon TandemPlus celebrated its sixth annual kickoff event. This year 125 American and International students attended the celebration in Nolte Center and enjoyed conversing in different languages, eating treats, and even singing songs. There are 571 students registered for TandemPlus this semester, making it the biggest semester yet! We hope to continue to grow the program and expand our international and community ties. Thanks so much for coming out to the event and for making the beginning of the sixth anniversary of Tandem a success!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Start Getting Excited for World Languages Day 2012!

Planning for the 9th annual World Languages Day is underway! The date is set for Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 and, similar to last year, the event will take place on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota campus.

World Languages Day is an opportunity for Minnesota high school students to explore some of the languages and cultures of the world and to experience life at the University of Minnesota. The event is intended for sophomore-level language classes, although other high school students are invited to attend, as well as teachers, counselors and parents.

This year we hope to once again offer the option of virtual attendance. Once we get a better idea of what the interest and expectation will be, we hope to create a virtual experience that will be enriching to high schools who are unable to attend the event in person.

We also hope to offer some new courses this year and we are always open to ideas, so please let us know if you have a suggestion for a new class on language or culture or if you would like to recommend a potential instructor. We are hoping to find an instructor to teach Hindi, Hebrew and a Native American language, since these subjects had to be dropped last year. We plan to offer a new panel class, which will focus on what college life and language study is like. Student ambassadors will lead the panel and allow high school students to ask questions that are relevant to them.

Interested in learning more? Read this summary of the 2011 event or visit the World Languages Day website.


Want proof of how much high school students enjoy World Languages Day?
This student, who attended the 2011 event, painted each of her fingernails as a different flag of the world!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Green Germany and World Languages Day: An Interview with Beth Kautz

Over the past year, a Green German project has sprouted and continues to grow. A four-person team, including a faculty member, an instructor, one undergraduate and one graduate student has developed course materials for 3xxx-level German courses, and learning modules for high school German classes.

In Spring 2012, Dr. Charlotte Melin will offer a new German-language course Contemporary Germany: Food, Energy, Politics, that students can use towards the completion of a Minor in Sustainability Studies as well as a Major or Minor in German.

beth_kautz Beth Kautz, Director of Language Instruction in GSD and liaison to the CLA Language Center, piloted some of this course content at World Languages Day (WLD) on May 17, 2011, with a short Green Germany class for high school students. German students from Lincoln High, in Thief River Falls, Minnesota attended this course virtually through AdobeConnect. The class was offered three times, and for two of the class periods, only virtual students attended but one class was a mix of 50% virtual students, and 50% in-person students (not from Lincoln).

By offering this course at WLD before the U of M credit-course is offered, Beth was able to acquire feedback from the students on their engagement with the material, as well as feedback on the effectiveness of the virtual course teaching methodology. The students' reactions to this course will be extremely beneficial for the continuing development of the Green German course curriculum.

I asked Beth to further explain the project, how planning and teaching a class virtually was different from teaching in a traditional classroom setting, and what she gained from this virtual teaching experience.

How did the idea for a class focused on the environment and sustainability develop?

There are three factors that came together. First of all, there was a personal interest on the part of Dr. Melin and myself in topics related to the environment and sustainability. Secondly, the topic is and has been very important culturally, politically and economically in Germany for decades. Finally, this type of course is a step toward offering more courses at the university that integrate foreign languages and cultures into various disciplines and content areas, a program known as FLAC (Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum).

How will a knowledge of the German language benefit those who wish to pursue a career in environmental science and sustainability studies

Germany is a world leader in research, development and use of renewable energies, including solar, wind and bio-mass power. There also are German architectural firms that consult all over the world on urban planning and design. Our students can help bring that knowledge to American companies and communities investing in green technologies and sustainability initiatives at the local, regional and national level.

How is the process of planning a virtual class different from planning a regular class?

By far the most difficult aspect is structuring opportunities to get feedback from the virtual participants. In a face-to-face classroom environment, I really heavily on visual cues and body language to gauge how well my students understand me or the task I have asked them to complete. When I see that students need help, I can walk over to them and address their concerns verbally with the support of gestures. In the virtual classroom, I made use of "polls," similar to a clicker-response system and group responses on the virtual whiteboard to get feedback from students.

How did you engage the virtual students, and insure that they didn't feel they were simply on the receiving end of a lecture?

In this virtual course, all the participants were together in one classroom in Thief River Falls along with their regular German teacher. I was the only one physically separated from the larger group. For several activities, I introduced a short video clip and discussion questions, which they then watched and discussed in small groups face-to-face in their classroom. After 10 minutes, we established contact again and they shared their insights with me and the whole group through a multiple-choice poll or written text on the group whiteboard.

What did you learn from this experience that will inform the development of the German credit course?

In the virtual class I taught, I used a variety of authentic German materials from the internet. These online materials are extremely helpful not only in explaining the basic concepts of sustainability, but also provide a very rich cultural context for exploring how concerns about food safety, the maintenance of nuclear power plants, the preservation of urban green-spaces, etc. play themselves out throughout society. As our project has progressed, we have continued to compile an extensive set of web links to videos, websites, images and interviews for 15 different learning modules. Through Title VI funding from CARLA, these materials also will be available to high school and university instructors throughout the country.

What piece of advice would you give an instructor interested in planning a virtual or hybrid class?

Keep your learning objectives at the forefront of your lesson planning. Ask yourself the same questions you would when planning any lesson: "What should students know or be able to do at the end of the lesson?" "How will I know that they learned it?" "What kind of support, information and instructions to students need before, during and after to successfully complete the task?" Then you need to think about which online tools best facilitate each of the those activities. In general, it requires more advance planning and preparation so that all the resources are available to students online and instructions are clearly understood without additional verbal explanation.

Thank you to Teran Pederson-Linn, recent CLA graduate and former Language Center staff member, for her work on this article.

For more information on World Languages Day, see this summary of the 2011 event.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Title VI LCTL Grant Application Fall 2011

Limited funds are now available for the purchase of materials to enhance the teaching and learning of Less Commonly Taught Languages (all those taught here at the University with the exception of Spanish, French, and German). The funding source is the Title VI Grant managed by the Global Studies Institute.

CLA language instructors may request funds to purchase materials to support the learning of their language. While the funds may reach to support a number of smaller purchase, the total amount for each language may not exceed $200. Please submit an application for each item you wish to purchase with these funds and provide as much information as possible.

Priority will be given to critical languages, and language programs that were not awarded materials funding Spring 2011.

Successful proposals will be for materials that students can use directly. Instructors may contact their departmental liaison or email elsie@umn.edu for advice.

The deadline for submission is Monday, October 31, and you can apply online.

Last spring, Title VI funding provided a wide range of language-learning materials, including book sets, language-learning software, and DVDs. Movies purchased on DVD include popular Bollywood films, the Russian Winnie the Pooh, two Norwegian horror movies, Portuguese films not yet released in the US, and much, much more. Materials were purchased for Hebrew, Hindi/Urdu, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian and Swedish.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CLA Language Center Open House

Tuesday, September 27LC Multimedia Lab
1:30 - 3:00 p.m.
Jones 110

SPY on your students' on-line, in-class work!
GATHER up to 30 students in one high-tech classroom!
SPRAWL OUT on our brand-new comfy lounge furniture!

Come see the newly renovated walk-in Multimedia Lab and digital language labs, and learn more about Language Center services and facilities. Beverages and desserts will be served. Optional tech training and tours will be available.

While you enjoy coffee, cider and cookies, learn more about the following:
  • Our completely renovated walk-in Multimedia Lab, Jones 135
  • Our renovated classrooms, Jones 10 and 30
  • New LPEs for critical and popular less commonly taught languages
  • And more!

TandemPlus Registration is open; more partner countries added

TandemPlus Fall 2011 registration began Tuesday, September 6 for both Face to Face and Virtual Face to Face exchanges. Students can be matched with a language partner either on campus or overseas at partner universities in Honduras, Germany, Israel, Russia, Mexico, and more.

Register on-line at: http://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/tandem/index.php

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New Computerized LPEs for Critical and High-Enrollment Languages

This year, hundreds of students of critical and popular less commonly taught languages will have access to the same computerized proficiency exams as students of French, German and Spanish. Exams for the following languages have recently been developed: Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and a second version of Spanish.

In late summer 2010, Monica Frahm, Testing Director, received an initial Title VI grant from the Institute for Global Studies (IGS) to begin development of new computerized Language Proficiency Exams (LPEs) for critical and high-enrollment languages. Prior to this major development project, computerized tests were only available to students of Danish, Dutch, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish. Since summer 2010, additional Title VI grant funding has been received, as well as funding from other sources, to continue development in multiple languages.

The LPE is one method that students can use to complete their second language requirement, and this test has several other purposes as well. It can be used to place students into upper division courses, and some language programs integrate the test into their curriculum and use it as their class final exam. Students who pass the LPE receive a text line on their transcript endorsing their language proficiency, and they can receive other documentation of language proficiency upon request.

There are four sections of the LPE: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. The LPE Development Team has created tests for the first three sections. The Speaking section for all languages is generally administered as a one-on-one Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), and it was not revised through this project. In most cases, development of the Writing and Listening sections went faster, and they were ready for piloting first. The Reading was generally completed last, as it is the most time-intensive section to develop.

In the past, LPEs were developed over the course of years and were often the product of a single, deeply committed instructor. The current project was different, because it formed a development team of instructors working on multiple languages simultaneously, under the direction of a single coordinator. The team, called the LPE Development Team, was able to collaborate and share resources. They also worked on a similar development schedule and with the same level of technical assistance and resources. This process allowed development to progress very quickly, while maintaining a high level of supervision and quality control.

Development has not always been easy, and with different schedules and the requirements of different funding sources, few developers have been able to stay with the project from start to end. However, the contributions of developers from different backgrounds, and with different skill sets, may have resulted in better tests for students.

All of the LPEs feature authentic materials, such as culturally-appropriate readings and audio recorded by native speakers, often in multiple dialects. The tests target the appropriate language level, and the test items cover a range of tasks, topics, and linguistic functions. The teams created the tests using a common test blueprint and are consistent with the programming used by other LPEs.

In addition to tests developed for languages listed above, the paper-based Hmong LPE has been incorporated into a computerized format for two modalities, and the third is under development this semester. There is also a new Finnish LPE in progress.

The LPE Development Team has been led by Coordinator Gabriela Sweet, who for over a year has corralled a rotating team of developers and juggled multiple languages, cultures, schedules, and deadlines. In addition to managing the development team and keeping the entire project on target, she has conducted stakeholder sessions with departments, taken advantage of any opportunity for piloting, managed to be friendly and cheerful, and amazingly enough, consistently greeted everyone in their native language.

The other core team member has been Lindsey Lahr, AV Tech, who has recorded and edited the listening sections, as well as completed all the multimedia work. Lindsey has been invaluable to the project in providing additional reviews and keeping teams on track and on schedule. Her creativity has given the new Reading exams, in particular, a very professional look.

Diane Rackowski, Technical Coordinator, has made an important contribution to the team's work by providing data after each piloting session, sometimes as quickly as twenty minutes after the session finished! Having these data enabled developers to analyze the performance of individual items and the test as a whole, and to then make informed decisions toward revision.

This project has been possible because of a large team of developers and instructors willing to review tests and contribute to piloting. A full list of developers is included at the bottom of this article.

As part of the piloting process, the team has surveyed students on their reactions to the tests. Students have reported that they enjoy taking the tests on the computer. From a survey after one of the new Reading tests: "I really like the way this test was set up and, in general, I feel the vocabulary was that which we had exposure to." And another comment: "I like the variety: some of the readings are articles, and some are actual pieces of literature."

Language instructors will have an opportunity to learn more about the the new tests at the upcoming Language Center Fall Open House, scheduled for Tuesday, September 27 at 1:30 PM.

LPE Development Team

Core Team:Gabriela Sweet, Coordinator
Monica Frahm, Principle Investigator
Lindsey Lahr, AV Tech
Diane Rackowski, Technical Assistance

Language Developers:
Arabic: Hisham Khalek, Sondes Wooldridge
Chinese: Ka Po Chow, Hao Ji, Liu Ya, Quan Jiahong, Andie Fang Wang, Zhen Zou
Finnish: Dan Karvonen, Jaana Viljakainen
Hmong: Maxwell LeYang
Italian: Cristina Cocchi, Anna Olivero-Agney
Japanese: Hiroe Akimoto, Michiko Buchanan, Sachiko Horii, Liu Ya
Russian: Sachiko Horii, Kateryna Kent, Marina Posse, Maria Schweikert
Spanish: Adriana Gordillo, Joanne Peltonen, Gabriela Sweet, Naomi Wood
Cross-language validation team: Kateryna Kent, Xinyi Wu, Xi Yu

Special Thanks to:
Instructors from the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures; Department of German, Scandinavian, and Dutch; Department of French and Italian; Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures; Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Follow Bethany's Adventures in Senegal

photo: View across the street from Bethany's hotel in Dakar, Senegal

Former Tandem Plus assistant Bethany Schowengerdt is studying in Senegal this semester, where she is learning French (and Wolof) and adapting to West African International Time ("WAIT") . You can follow her adventures on her blog, Bethany in Senegal. We will host a link to her blog on the LC home page.

Jones Hall small rooms now managed through Google Cal

The Language Center has moved all reservable small rooms in Jones Hall to Google Cal. These rooms are: 21, 25, 105A, 110D, 135B, 137A.

You can request a small room through our online request form.

We will reserve small rooms through Google, and "invite" you to the "meeting." Since the reservation will show up on your personal calendar, and you will receive reminder emails auto-generated by Google Cal, we will not send you an additional confirmation unless you request one, or there was not a small room available.

This procedure change is in place only for small rooms. Classrooms, media and equipment will still be reserved and confirmed through our internal reservation system.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Introducing the new Multimedia Lab

The Multimedia Lab in 135 Jones Hall was closed over the summer for some major renovation.
Language Center Multimedia Lab
The updated Lab is now open and offers the following new amenities:

  • Two lounge areas in which to relax, work, study, read, or watch multilingual TV

  • A "bar" where laptop and tablet users can work, charge their computers, and print directly to the laser printer

  • Six-sided worktables with 19 PCs and 14 Macintosh computers

  • Multiple areas for language-related DVD/internet viewing

  • A small room for collaborating, video viewing, using the flatbed scanner, and more

Mac computers in labAs before, the Lab offers high-quality, low-cost laser printing; computer use for 30 seconds or 3 hours; and of course, friendly and helpful assistance from Lab attendants.

The Lab is open Monday-Thursday 7:45 a.m. - 7:30 p.m., and Friday 7:30 am - 4:30 p.m. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

TandemPlus news

The TandemPlus website has been updated with more information about the popular virtual face-to-face exchange program, as well as a short video on TandemPlus.

TandemPlus Assistant Bethany Schowengerdt has left for a semester abroad in Senegal. She is blogging about her experience at http://bethanyinsenegal.blogspot.com/

Anna Kaminski is the new TandemPlus Assistant. Anna is returning next week from a study abroad program in Oman, for which she received a critical language scholarship to study Arabic.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Make sure your Fall 2011 course films are digitized

The easiest way to assign students to watch films in your classes is to have them digitized through the Digital Content Library (DCL). If you have not already verified that the films you will use this Fall have been digitized, now is a great time to check.

You can look search for films at the DCL website: http://dcl.umn.edu/. You can also search the Language Center database: https://filemaker.cla.umn.edu/LangCtr/findrecords.php. Any films in our collection that have already been digitized will have a direct link to the DCL.

We strongly recommend that any films available only in a foreign standard VHS tape be digitized (e.g. PAL, Secam), as there are few multistandard VCRs left on campus.

You can send requests for digitization to elsie@umn.edu. Please make sure to indicate when the film is needed for your class. The DCL requests as much lead time as possible to complete their work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jones Hall Wins Beautiful Building Award!

FM custodial staff person, Bette Durst, has won this year's Beautiful Building Award for Jones Hall. This is a very competitive competition -- think of all those buildings on campus -- and Bette, for her work at Jones, was selected.

Thanks to Bette, Jones Hall is always clean, clutter free and functioning well. Bette has gone beyond fulfilling the basic requirements of her position, communicating regularly with Language Center staff about potential issues and building concerns. In the years that she has been assigned to our building, we have viewed Bette as a true partner, and we know that she cares as much about our space and users as we do.

Bette and horseSo we congratulate Bette for winning this well-deserved award. We have been nominating her every year since 2006. We are glad that this is finally the year that her hard work, dedication and service to Jones Hall and the University of Minnesota has been acknowledged.

We are also saddened to report that Bette will be moving on to a new assignment in the Health Sciences buildings and leaving Jones Hall at the end of this week. We will miss her very much and wish her the best of luck on the other side of campus.
We also wish her many more enjoyable hours of vacation, where she can get the chance to spend some time riding her horse.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jones 10 Classroom Renovation Complete!

LC Classroom Support Coordinator
The Language Center Technical Team is very happy to announce that the Jones 10 Classroom will be back in service starting Thursday, August 4th! This classroom has been unavailable this summer while undergoing a number of major updates.

The first thing those familiar with the old Jones 10 will notice is that the old booths are gone! They have been replaced with tables arranged in a new open layout. This new layout places four tables in the center of the room with additional tables on the perimeter; accommodates 30 student computers (an upgrade from 24) and still appears spacious.

Jones 10 Classroom
The computers in the room have been replaced with new 20" iMac computers. Networking has been upgraded to provide service to the new computers as well as a new wireless access point which will improve wireless connection for mobile devices.

A new instructor desk has been installed. It has room for a document camera, controls for the data projector, easy connection for a laptop, zone-free DVD player, multi-standard VCR and shelf space where you can find the handy guide to the equipment located in the classroom.

As before, the MacDiLL audio lab software is available which provides an intuitive interface for instructors to pair students in conversation. Audio recordings can be easily saved by the instructor and listened to at any computer via a web interface.

And yes, the intercom is still active, as always, access to technical assistance is only a button push away!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fall 2011 Reservations, Classroom Renovations

The Language Center will begin entering Fall semester reservations on Friday, July 15. You may submit reservation requests before that date, and they will be held until July 15. To have the best possibility of receiving the rooms and equipment you need, please submit by 9:00 AM on that day.

We are pleased to announce that beginning Fall semester, we will offer three digital language lab classrooms with an open layout that will accommodate a minimum of 28 students. Over the summer, Jones 10 is being completely renovated and Jones 30 is being partially renovated to add additional student stations. Jones 15 was renovated last summer.

The total number of student computers available effective Fall 2011 are:

  • Jones 10: 30 stations
  • Jones 15: 28 stations
  • Jones 30: 29 stations
  • Jones 35: 24 laptop computers (we may be able to add additional checkout computers upon request)

Here is some additional information about requesting rooms:

  • Advance reservations always require a reservation form.
  • Please submit a form for each class section.
  • Each class is allowed to reserve up to 20 hours in Jones Hall classrooms.
  • Teachers of intensive courses may negotiate their needs.
  • Reservations of other equipment and media are unlimited in terms of amount and frequency (within reason).
  • Instructors must intend to use the technology they are reserving.

See http://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/in_reservations.html for details on policy, and to make an online reservation request.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rosetta Stone and Mac DiLL Server shutdown, Sunday June 12.

The Language Center will be shutting down the Rosetta Stone and MacDiLL Servers beginning at 2am on Sunday, June 12 through Monday morning, June 13. The servers will be shutdown due to a planned power outage for Jones and Williamson Halls by University Energy Management so they can perform electrical upgrades on Sunday.

Instructors will not be able to access MacDiLL recordings during this shutdown, nor will they be able to access Rosetta Stone. Access to MacDiLL recordings and Rosetta Stone will be available again on Monday morning, June 13.

If you have any questions, please contact the Language Center at elsie@umn.edu

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tandem Plus Summer Registration Begins June 6!

Learning a second language this summer? Planning on studying abroad this fall? Want to practice your language skills and learn about another culture right now? Register for the TandemPlus summer session!

Language learners are invited to join Tandem Plus this summer for second-language conversation and cultural exchange. Find out more at the : TandemPlus Website

World Languages Day Welcome Video News

Lindsey Lahr has produced alternate versions of the WLD welcome video at the request of Discover CLA.

A full-length video was re-cut to eliminate references to WLD, so that it could be used to promote language-learning at the U of M in general:

In addition, three short videos were produced that highlight unique language learning opportunities available at the university:

Living and Learning Communities:


Learning Abroad:

You can view the original video here:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

World Languages Day Featured on This Week @Minnesota

World Languages Day (WLD) was featured in the last-week's issue of This Week @Minnesota. The report features great footage of Kenichi Tazawa's class, Origami: The Japanese Art of Paper Folding.

You can view the entire video of This Week @Minnesota video here. The WLD section begins after 40 seconds.

A small correction to the report: there were actually over a thousand students present on the day, but not thousands. However, if you look at the event cumulatively over the years, thousands is correct.

Minnesota Public Radio covered the story as well.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Successful World Languages Day 2011!

This year's World Languages Day (WLD) took place on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011. The event was a great success, and very engaging for high school students.

This was the eighth annual event, and probably the most innovative since 2004.

Changes for this year included:

  • A compressed time frame, with five class hours instead of four.

  • A move to the West Bank. This change was necessitated by the absence of Northrop and Folwell, but we found the West Bank to be a convenient and accessible location.

  • A new option for students to attend virtually. Lincoln High in Thief River Falls was our pilot school, and three German classes from that school attended virtually. Beth Kautz debuted her new "Green Germany" class to this group.

  • An internally-developed welcome video directed by Lindsey Lahr, and featuring U of M language students. This video was played to enhance the live welcoming remarks, and serve as the primary welcome for students attending virtually.

You can view the video created for the Welcoming Remarks at:

Over 1000 high school students from a variety of diverse, metro public schools and several far out-state schools attended the event, along with some teachers, counselors and parents.

You can see a full list of classes, and the faculty, P&A, and graduate instructors who volunteered their time to teach at the World Languages Day site.

WLD is a collaborative effort between instructors, staff and students in several colleges and units including, but not limited to, CLA, OIP, CCE and Admissions. In all, about 120 people were on the West Bank helping in some capacity and we want to extend a huge thank you to all of our wonderful instructors, staff, volunteers and video talent, who contributed their time, energy and talent to the event.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Outstanding Student Employee Awards for 3 LC student staff

The Language Center is pleased to announce three recipients of the University's Outstanding Student Employee Award: Bryant Cotner, Anna Kaminski and Bethany Schowengerdt.  This award is presented to the top 10% of student employees at the University.  Each of these students played an integral part in the support of language teaching and learning at the University of Minnesota this past year.  

Bryant Cotner works in the Classroom Support area, where he has provided calm and competent assistance to instructors and students alike for the past five years.  In addition to troubleshooting issues in the classrooms, Bryant also served as our undergraduate computing specialist and helped to keep the computers at the Language Center updated and working properly.  He was also instrumental in the remodel of the Jones 15 classroom this past summer.  Bryant is graduating this spring; he will be greatly missed.

Anna Kaminski works in the Main Office area, where she is always eager to help university language instructors and students, however possible. Her enthusiasm and dedication to language learning is admirable and she has been awarded a well-deserved Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for Arabic and will be sent to Oman this summer for intensive Arabic instruction and cultural immersion. Although Anna has been with the Language Center for less than two years, it is hard to imagine the office running so well without her.

Bethany Schowengerdt is the Tandem Plus Assistant, where she helps connect language learners both on campus and around the globe. Gregarious, gracious, and unflappable, Bethany has been instrumental in maintaining Tandem's Face-to-Face, Class-to-Class and Guided Conversation programs and also helping launch the new Virtual Face to Face (aka "Skype Exchanges") this year. She is leaving to study in Senegal this Fall. We will miss her presence at the Language Center, but she's promised to keep us apprised of her adventures both in French and English.

Please join us in congratulating our undergraduate staff for their hard work and dedication!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The LC's Pablo Viedma is a super-estrella

The Language Center's Pablo Viedma was quietly launched to international stardom last fall when he was the guest host for the Spanish TV show Madrileños X el Mundo. Each week, this show on the Telemadrid TV station features Madrid natives (Madrileños) who are living in different cities around the world. In his 15-minute interview, Viedma, a transplanted Madrileño turned Minneapolitan, gives a tour of the U of M, the lakes, and downtown Minneapolis by day and by night; discusses reasons for Minneapolis's high divorce rate (it has to do with the long winters); and talks about life in the "coldest big city in the world."


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Funding opportunity for LCTL materials purchase

Limited funds are now available for the purchase of materials to enhance the teaching and learning of Less Commonly Taught Languages (all those taught here at the University with the exception of Spanish, French, and German). The funding source is the Title VI Grant managed by the Global Studies Institute. This year the Language Center is managing the distribution of these funds.

CLA language instructors may request funds to purchase materials to support the learning of their language. While the funds may reach to support a number of smaller purchase, the total amount for each language may not exceed $500. Please submit an application for each item you wish to purchase with these funds. The application deadline is Monday, May 2, 2011. For the best opportunity of receiving funds, please provide as much information as possible about the materials you would like to purchase, how they will be used and shared, and how they will enhance the learning of your language.

You can apply online

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shorten YouTube videos with TubeChop

Have you ever wanted to show just a short portion of a YouTube video? Perhaps you'd like to do an information gap activity in your class where groups of students would watch different portions of a YouTube video and then explain the beginning and ending of the video to each other. Or maybe you just want to be able to quickly bring up the relevant portion of a video, rather than waiting for the entire video to load.

In either case, it can be pretty handy to have only the portion of the video you need.  Enter TubeChop!  Just go to the TubeChop site,
enter the URL of the YouTube video you want to shorten, select the start
and end points and then chop! Voila! You have a shortened YouTube

After chopping your video, you can embed or link to it from your course website or blog. Here's an excerpt of a video Language as a Window Into Human Nature by RSAnimate that I chopped in TubeChop:

For more information about TubeChop, see TubeChop: The Educative Use of YouTube at the Educational Technology blog.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Anna Kaminski plans benefit concert: Friday, March 25

Student Office Assistant Anna Kaminski has planned a benefit concert for the American Refugee Committee on Friday, March 25 from 6-11PM at the Fallout in Uptown

This event, called the Heart Show, is sponsored by a U of M student group called STAND UMN and will take place at the Fallout Art Co-op (2601 2nd Ave S) in Uptown. This event is the first of its kind and is kicking off a new way to raise awareness and build a movement for Global Human Rights and Refugee Awareness. Local Bands Patch, Scotty Horey, Chrystal Odin and Le Cirque Rouge Band, and HighTV have designed their sets specifically around the stories of refugees and survivors that are sharing their stories from the Holocaust, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Interpretive Dance is also a part of the event and is choreographed by local Choreographer, John Mark. Local, Refugee, and National Artists are also exhibiting their work at this all encompassing show. Admittance is 8 dollars and all proceeds are being donated to the American Refugee Committee that is currently working on the ground in Libya, Sudan, Haiti, and most likely will soon be sending aid to Japan. Please make it out and support a great event and worthwhile cause!

You can learn more about this event at STAND UMN's Facebook event page. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=115041701906560. If you have questions, please contact Anna at kami0087@umn.edu.

ACTFL proficiency assessment workshop held over Spring Break

The Language Center sponsored a three-day workshop on language proficiency assessment over Spring Break led by Dr. Robert Vicars, an ACTFL certified trainer. The first two days focused on oral proficiency, and third day on writing. This professional development opportunity was offered primarily to support instructors of languages for which a new LPE is in development. A total of 33 instructors attended the workshop, representing the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hmong, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. The workshop was very well received, and some attendees expressed interest in discussing implications for the instruction and assessment of language classes. Anyone interested in participating in a follow-up event should contact Stephanie at treat002@umn.edu.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spanish program to develop second-year hybrid classes

Pablo Viedma and Frances Matos-Schultz were awarded a CLA-OIT Tech Fees Tools for Discovery Grant for the project titled From a Face-to-Face to a Hybrid Model in Second-Year Spanish: a Dynamic Template. They will be developing a hybrid second-year Spanish course to follow the very successful first-year accelerated one developed by Frances years ago. They will have a graduate student research assistant working on the project.

World Languages Day (WLD) 2011 class list now online

WLD is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17, and we are expecting approximately 1000 Minnesota high school students, including approximately 70 virtual attendees. Registration will open in two weeks, and the class list is available at http://worldlang.cla.umn.edu/. We are offering several new classes this year including Arabic Culture and Language: A Trip to Tunisia, An Easy Way to Learn Chinese Tones, Green Germany, Introduction to Icelandic, Latin Music, Dance and Food, and Fútbol is Played with the Feet!. A big thank you to all instructors who have agreed to teach this year!

Print from your laptop in the Jones Hall Multimedia Lab

It's late. Your language class starts in 10 minutes. Your essay is saved on your laptop, and you need to bring a printed copy to class. You forgot to bring a USB drive, and you don't have time to upload it to Google docs. Fortunately, you use the Jones 135 Multimedia Lab, and you know you can print wirelessly directly from your laptop. You cruise in, print your essay, and make it to class with moments to spare.

That's right -- the Multimedia Lab offers wireless laptop printing. Users first need to download the correct driver for their laptop from the Lab web page and carefully read the installation instructions. Laptop printing is available for most PCs and Macs with Intel processors and OS10.5 and above. Once the driver is installed, users print directly from their laptops to one of the Lab's two black-and-white laser printers, and pay for printing using value stored on their student ID.

Printing in Jones 135 is always a bargain -- 10 cents per page, single or double sided, from your laptop or from one of our PCs or Macs.

Software on Language Center Classroom and Lab Computers

Do you sometimes wonder why students and teachers use the computers in Jones rather than their home computers? What software and tools do these computers have that yours might not? Beyond obvious answers such as "big headphones and an external microphone for recording my voice," the classrooms (Rooms 10, 15, 30 and 35) and Multimedia Lab (Room 135) in the Language Center offer software programs for both novice and expert users that can be used for practicing particular language skills or developing multi-media class projects. These programs are updated and maintained by Language Center staff, so you always know you are working with current, (nearly) bug-free versions of the latest or tried-and-true software! If your students start a project in a Jones classroom, but don't have time to finish it during the class period, they can go upstairs to the Multimedia Lab and find the same software and tools needed to complete their projects.

Here's a sampling of what you'll find on our computers:
  • Sound editors such as Audacity or Garageband -- record your voice, and/or analyze and edit a voice or music clip. (Great for creating soundtracks, too!)

  • Video editors and converters such as Mpeg Streamclip, Handbrake, Windows MovieMaker and iMovie -- create, edit, and convert a movie to different formats.

  • Vocabulary and pronunciation trainers like ProVoc and Praat -- for more in-depth second-language vocabulary and pronunciation analysis.

  • Screen capture through Camtasia Relay -- record what you're doing on-screen, as you're doing it -- great for creating an instructional video.

For a complete list of installed software, see our new page on the LC website.

If you want to request additional software to be installed on Language Center classroom or lab computers, please fill out a Software Installation Request and bring the form, software and licensing information to our main office, 110 Jones Hall.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Two MacBook Air Laptops Now Available

The Language Center now has two very portable, lightweight laptops available for instructor checkout. They have excellent battery life, and project easily. You can reserve MacBook Air laptops and other equipment at http://languagecenter.cla.umn.edu/onlineReserve.php

TandemPlus: New Matching Option, Mid-Winter Mixer

Attention Spanish/Portuguese/French/German/Hebrew/Russian language students -- do you want to practice your second-language skills with native speakers, without leaving campus? The Tandem Plus program at the Language Center can help you with our new Virtual Face-to-Face program, which joins U of M participants with conversation partners in different countries. Participants meet on-line via Skype or a similar platform to practice their second-language skills with students at universities in Mexico, Honduras, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Russia, Germany, France, and Israel. To sign up for Virtual Face-to-Face, you need to register online for a Face-to-Face exchange through the Language Center:


From there, we'll find a partner for you.

Tandem Plus held a Mid-Winter Mixer on Friday afternoon, February 18. More than 65 Tandem Plus Face-to-Face participants and international students came to play English-language games, enjoy refreshments, and just converse. As always, it was great to see all the participants who make Tandem Plus so successful!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Anna Kaminski receives Critical Language Scholarship

Undergraduate Office Assistant Anna Kaminski has been awarded a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for Arabic. This competitive scholarship offers intensive summer language institutes overseas in thirteen critical need foreign languages for summer 2011. The CLS program is part of a U.S. government effort to increase the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Through this opportunity, she will be sent to one of five countries, Oman, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, or Egypt from June to August for intensive Arabic instruction and cultural immersion. Anna is a double major in Art and Global Studies.

MELP featured in the MN Daily

The Minnesota English Language Program was featured in the February 8 Minnesota Daily. The article highlights the growth that has occurred within MELP in the past 3 years, while underscoring the importance of welcoming international students to the U of M community.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The DCL: Planning ahead for media-rich courses

CLA language instructors: The Digital Content Library (DCL) is an efficient way to share films with your students. The DCL is pleased to digitize films, but as their services are growing in popularity, they would greatly appreciate as lead time as possible. The Language Center can help by submitting content to the DCL on behalf of language instructors. When planning classes that are media-rich, please contact your departmental liaison or email elsie@umn.edu to discuss your needs.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

iTeach Workshop - March 2 - Fair Use in the Second Language Classroom - Co-sponsored by the ESL Forum

The Fair Use Doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research[1]. Yet, knowing how to apply the fair use doctrine in the second language classroom can be quite confusing, both in terms of developing teaching materials and in providing guidance for student projects. Please join us as Nancy Sims, copyright librarian for the University of Minnesota, gives us some insights into the world of Fair Use for educational purposes.

[1] http://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/fairuse.phtml

Fair Use in the Second Language Classroom - Co-sponsored by the ESL Forum
Presenter: Nancy Sims, U of M Libraries
Wednesday, March 2
12:20 - 1:10 p.m.
Jones 35

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

iTeach Workshop - Feb 17 - Creating Accessible Course Materials

Creating Accessible Course Materials

Language instructors are constantly creating new course materials to make use of authentic resources. We create Word Documents and PDFs, and upload countless images into our Moodle course websites. But how often do we think about the accessibility of the materials we create? For many of us, it's probably not something in the forefront of our minds. Thankfully, the University of Minnesota has a new web resource - accessibility.umn.edu - to help instructors improve the accessibility of their course materials for the widest possible audience, regardless of ability. Please join us as Phil Kragnes of Disability Services and the Office of Information Technology shows us simple ways to improve the accessibility of the materials we create for our students.

Creating Accessible Course Materials
Presenter: Phil Kragnes, U of M Disability Services and OIT
Thursday, February 17
12:20 - 1:10 pm
Jones 35

For more information about the topic of accessibility in education, see these recent articles from The Chronicle of Higher Ed:
Universal Design, Usability, and Accessibility
ADA Compliance is a 'Major Vulnerability' for Online Education Programs
Colleges Lock Out Blind Students Online

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fasten Seat Belts: Quick videos to learn about cultural differences

Are you looking for a quick, cultural conversation starter for your class? Consider playing one of the videos found on Fasten Seat Belts. These online videos, which range from 20 seconds to a little over a minute long, provide some quick tips and expressions about cultural differences for some countries in Europe and Asia. Here is a sample video about table manners:

In addition to these short videos, there are audio clips that cover some basic expressions such as hello, good-bye, and numbers.

The audio and videos on this site were funded by the European Commission's Socrates-Lingua department and by the European Commission's Life Long Learning Programme in an effort highlight cultural differences and break cultural and linguistic barriers.

Thanks to Ryan at Language Lab Unleased! and Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers for the tip!

Jenise Rowekamp - P&A Audio Spotlight

Jenise Rowekamp, former director of the Language Center, and now a Teaching Specialist in the Minnesota English Language Program, was recently featured in the P&A Audio Spotlight. Listen to hear more about what Jenise is up to in her current role in MELP!

Monday, January 24, 2011

New at Tandem Plus Spring 2011

The new semester brings new excitement to the Tandem Plus Program.
We are pleased to announce the formation of Guided Conversation groups for Spanish, ESL, and Japanese. These groups, which meet weekly for 1 hour, are led by students who are either native speakers or are fluent in the target language, and include 2-3 participants who would like to practice their second language skills. The Guided Conversation Groups are theme-oriented, which means participants talk about topics that the group leader provides. It is a little more organized than having a "free conversation," but participants can still meet over coffee and relax. These groups will be formed and start meeting in the next few weeks.

Brand-new this semester is "Virtual Face-to-Face" pairings, which join U of M participants with conversation partners in different countries. The participants will meet virtually via Skype (or a similar platform) to practice their second-language skills with students at universities in Russia, Germany, Mexico, Honduras, and more. This is a great option for people who would like a conversation partner but don't get paired with one via our Face-to-Face program. To sign up for Virtual Face-to-Face, students need to register online for a Face-to-Face exchange through the Language Center.

Finally, Tandem Plus will be presenting at the Quality Fair on February 3 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Carlson School of Management. Stop by, say hello, and check out our poster presentation!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beverages with lids now okay in all LC spaces

Beginning Spring 2011, beverages with lids or other covers will be permitted in all LC spaces, including classrooms, small rooms and the Multimedia Lab. Open beverages and food are still prohibited. Keep a lid on your coffee and water, and bring it with you.

Half-price printing for double-sided jobs at the the Multimedia Lab

The Multimedia Lab staff in Jones 135 are pleased to announce that they now offer a discount on double-sided printing. The cost of printing is $0.10 per page -- either single or double-sided. This means students who print double-sided documents save 50% over the cost of single-sided documents! Go green, save some green!

iTeach Workshops and other Professional Development at the U

Language Center iTeach Workshops
This spring semester, the Language Center is creating customized iTeach Workshops for your department. If you and your colleagues are interested in improving your current use of technology, or would like to incorporate a new activity or project that uses technology into your course, the Language Center staff are here to support you! Please contact your language liaison or Alyssa Ruesch to schedule a training on the topic(s) of your choice. We are happy to conduct individual or group trainings at a time that is convenient for you.
Asian Languages and Literature: Zhen Zou
French and Italian: Rick Treece
German, Scandinavian and Dutch: Beth Kautz
Spanish and Portuguese: Pablo Viedma

Professional Development Opportunities at the U of M
University Technology Training Center
If you are new to Moodle or need a refresher, the University Technology Training Center (UTTC) offers comprehensive hands-on training. They offer 4 sessions: Creating Basic Course Web Sites, Assignments and Quizzes, Grades and Collaboration.
For more information:

Courses through University Libraries
The University Libraries offers a wide variety of training opportunities,ranging from presentations to help you understand the ins and outs of copyright, to productivity and collaboration tips when using Google. One session that should be useful for many language instructors is titled Can I Use That? Fair Use in Everyday Life
To register and see a complete list of courses, go to:  https://www.lib.umn.edu/services/workshops/registration

Workshops through the Center for Teaching and Learning
Just in Time Teaching
The Center for Teaching and Learning offers a variety of workshops throughout the semester to help keep you and your students engaged.  Re-invigorate your courses and teaching by taking one of these workshops!  See http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/index.html for more details.

CARLA Presentations

Challenges of Teaching Pragmatics to Foreign Language Learners: The Korean Example
Tuesday, January 25

12:20-1:10 p.m.
Jones 35
Presenter: Dr. Sang-Seok Yoon

"Foreign Language Activities" in Japanese Public Elementary Schools: 
A Critical Analysis of the New Language Education Policy

Tuesday, Feb 8
12:20-1:10 p.m. 
Jones 35
Presenter: Sachiko Horii 

Looking at Student Work to Facilitate Articulation from High School to College in Arabic and Chinese
Tuesday, Feb 22
12:20-1:10 p.m. 
Jones 35
Presenters: Ursula Lentz and Gaelle Berg

The Pedagogy of Improvisation: Teaching Our Learners to Express Meaning
Wednesday, March 9
12:20-1:10 p.m. 
Jones 35
Presenter: Patrick Scully 

From Communicative Competence to Integrated Language and Cultural Competence: 
Bridging Proficiency Levels and Disciplines

Thursday, March 24
12:00-1:00 p.m. (note time difference)
Jones 15
Presenter: Patricia Mougel

Heritage Speakers of Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) in the United States
Wednesday, April 6
12:20-1:10 p.m.
Jones 35
Presenter: Vichet Chhuon

Deconstructing ESL: Exploring the Consequences of an Institutional Category
Wednesday, April 20
12:20-1:10 p.m.
Jones 35
Presenter: Adam Rambow