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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.

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