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Monday, April 29, 2013

Congratulations to the 2013 SELP Winners

Did you know that the Language Center employs approximately twice as many undergraduate student staff as continuing non-student staff? Our undergraduate student staff provide primary assistance to students and instructors in public areas like the Main Office and Multimedia Lab, and also provide support to smaller teams like the Dev Studio and TandemPlus. The Language Center could not run without our dedicated and skilled undergraduate team members.

The Student Employee Leadership Program (SELP) provides an opportunity to recognize student employees who go above and beyond expectations in their work at the university through the annual SELPie awards for Outstanding Student Employees. The 2013 winners from the Language Center are:

  • Abdulkarim Maalin: Testing Assistant and Somali LPE Developer

  • Francisco Salinas Vega: World Language Day Assistant

  • Jessica Troyan: Classroom Support Lead Student

  • Henry Wahl: Main Office Lead Student

  • Alaina Witt: Dev Studio Assistant and AV Developer

Upcoming Participants' Choice Event ... and the Winner is: Ice Cream!

TandemPlus will hold its final get-together on the afternoon of Friday, May 3, 2013. The theme of this final event was decided on by Tandem participants, who overwhelmingly voted for an ice cream social. Participants will meet at Annie's Parlour at 313 14th Avenue SE in Dinkytown at 3:30 pm. We've reserved a private room for the event, which is open to all current TandemPlus registrants.

The event is limited to 40 people. If you are interested in attending, please email tandem@umn.edu to join the guest list.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

German Hybrid Development: The Digital Story So Far

This is the last of a series of articles on hybrid courses. The series began with an interview with Dan Soneson, who coordinates the Hybrid Working Group, followed by a Spotlight on Spanish Hybrid Courses and La Vie Branchée: French Hybrid Classes.

Hailley VT
Screenshot from a student's digital story.

German hybrid, first offered in Fall 2012 for German 1003, is the newest of the hybrid courses currently offered at the University of Minnesota. German hybrid is unique in that it integrates new technology such as Avenue, a video recording tool, VoiceThread for digital storytelling, special Moodle tools, and Wimba Voice Board.

In the summer of 2011, Beth Kautz, a German 1003 coordinator, participated in a hybrid course in Munich about teaching hybrid language courses. "This was a transformative experience for me, which led to a year of planning before actually developing the course in the summer of 2012," Kautz said.

A small team of graduates and coordinators received a "Tools for Discovery Grant" and funding from CLA, which allowed them to create new hybrid course materials.

Kautz said German hybrid developers created their own course materials based on reading texts, podcasts, and video clips from the internet. This development allowed the German department to offer two sections of hybrid 1003 in Fall 2012, and one section of hybrid 1003 and two sections of hybrid 1004 in Spring 2013. These hybrid courses met face-to-face three days a week and online two days.

New Technology

Developers experimented with different technology, including a video-recording tool developed at the University of Minnesota, called Avenue. Classrooms also integrated Moodle tools such as discussion forums, databases, glossaries, and polls, as well as the Wimba Voice Board.

Kautz said the highlight of the semester was using a tool called VoiceThread for digital storytelling. Students received instructions on using the technology. She described the project as an autobiographical essay about their youth experiences that have shaped their current educational and career goals. The student used personal photos and voice recordings to present their stories visually.

"Students focused on presentational speaking skills to make their stories engaging and easy to understand. All the digital stories were linked in a Moodle forum, where classmates could view and comment on each other's creative work... Students were able to complete the project on their own and we were all thrilled with the results! They took great pride in their stories and the sense of community was really strengthened by sharing them with each other."

    - Beth Kautz, German 1003 Coordinator

Instructor Feedback and Outcomes

Ginny Steinhagen, German 1004 coordinator, noted that hybrid instructors are learning the benefits of spreading out deadlines for student's feedback in forums, by allowing adequate time for students to respond to each other's posts.

Steinhagen emphasized the importance of instructor feedback for online activities in hybrid courses.

"In 1004, [Meagan Tripp, 1004 German instructor] has created some nice, quick Moodle quizzes that show us whether the students are understanding the reading or the grammar. As teachers, it is important for us to follow up on these quizzes (even if they are self-correcting) and comment on them in class. Integrating the hybrid day activities into face to face discussions continues to be a challenge."

   - Ginny Steinhagen, German 1004 Coordinator

Kautz added that there is great variation in how instructor feedback occurs and how students' assignments are submitted. "There are many possibilities and we are still figuring out what works best in which situation," she said.

At the moment, developers do not have specific data on student's performance comparing German hybrid and traditional face-to-face courses. Kautz noted that there are many variables to consider and considerations in terms of how to define performance. However, Kautz said, "I anticipate that students in hybrid sections will become more fluent writers through increased writing practice in online discussion boards, but that's a research project for the future."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top 5 Things You Didn't Know About the Multimedia Lab

The Multimedia Lab in 135 Jones Hall offers many amenities to users, such as Mac and Windows desktop computers, a laser printer, flatbed scanner, and helpful attendants available to answer questions. These services and products are available at most computer labs on campus. However, the Lab in Jones Hall also offers the following niceties which make it ideal for language-related learning.

  1. A reservable small room for individual or group work with Mac and Windows desktop computers, a large-screen TV with DVD player, and a collapsible table.

  2. International satellite TV in a variety of languages. (See schedule)

  3. Headsets and microphones on all computers, to assist with language learning (and homework completion).

  4. Laptop conveniences including a "bar" where users can work on and charge their own laptop computers, and also wireless printing from laptops to the Lab's laser printer.

  5. A sectional couch and many soft chairs for studying, working on a laptop, reading the Lab's multilingual periodicals, or relaxing.

As an added bonus, the spacious Lab also offers lots of natural light and a great view of the East Bank Knoll area. It is open from 7:45 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

TandemPlus Spring Pizza Party is a Success!

TandemPlus hosted its second pizza party of the year on Friday, April 5th. The Spring Pizza Party was enjoyed by all who attended. The event lasted from 4 pm to roughly 5:30 pm, with approximately 35 Tandem participants in attendance. Punch Pizza graciously offered free drinks and Tandem provided about two rounds of free pizza to those who attended. Participants had a great time chatting with one another about language and culture, as well as playing games of 20 Questions.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Classroom Support - Getting to Know Us

This Spring, 10 different student employees work in Classroom Support. They are available from 7:45 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Friday to help you with all your classroom technology and language learning needs.


Will Benton

My name is Will Benton. I am a Junior studying Linguistics and the History of Technology. I am also studying Chinese and am very interested in working in China, mostly as an English teacher, so i am also planning on minoring in Teaching English as a Second Language. This is my second year at Jones Hall and i hope to keep working here until i graduate.


Ruth Zwick

My name is Ruth Zwick. I am a sophomore majoring in Italian Studies and English. I am interested in teaching English in a foreign country, as I know others in the language center are, and am similarly planning on minoring in English as a Second Language. This is my first semester at the language center and I hope to continue working here while in school.


Jessica Troyan

I am Jessica Troyan, I am a sophomore double majoring in English and Spanish and hopefully a minor in technical communications. I have studied Spanish for about nine years and I plan on going abroad to Spain in Toledo this summer to study. I have worked in the LC for two years and hope to continue working here for two more years!


Brandon Adams

I'm Brandon Adams and am studying English, Jewish Studies, and Hebrew here at the university. I'm new to the Language Center this semester and I feel it's a great environment for what interests me the most! I absolutely love the study of languages and one of my life-long goals is to be multilingual in many languages. After my time here at the U I hope to work in humanitarian aid, particularly in the Middle East, one of my favorite areas of study. As I absolutely love the study of other cultures, I've found the easiest way to understand a culture is to study their language. One day I would like to teach in a university, but with so many different disciplines I'm interested in, I'm not sure what I would go to graduate school for. As I'm in my 4th semester of Modern Hebrew I am working on becoming more fluent and I hope to study in Jerusalem soon.


Miranda Moen

My name is Miranda Moen and I am majoring in Architecture and planning on minoring in Neuroscience. In high school I studied Spanish for 3 years and love learning about different cultures but don't currently study them in college. I have been here for 1 semester.


Andrew Swenson

I'm Andrew. I'm studying English. I've taken German classes the last five years and have visited Germany. This is my second semester at the Language Center.

Molly Schloesser

My name is Molly Schloesser. I am a sophomore here at the University of Minnesota. I am currently studying Family Social Science, with a minor in Family Violence Prevention. I am interested in studying Spanish as a potential minor in the near future. I just started here at the Language Center this semester (Spring 2013).


Keerthana Shankar

This is my second semester working at the Language Center. Pleased to meet you all! Although I am still undecided, I am considering an Asian Languages and Literature major in Korean. I was raised bilingual so my native language is actually Tamil. I've studied Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean; none of which I am fluent in yet, but hope to be!


Alli Shaw

My name is Alli and I am a freshman this year at the U. I am currently undecided on my major but I am taking classes that explore my interest in Psychology. I have taken six years of Spanish but have yet to take a language at the U, I am thinking about trying something new as far as the language I decide on. This be my second semester working at the Language Center.


Maxine Kobinski

I'm Maxine and this is my second Semester working in the LC. I am a double major in German and Linguistics, and minoring in ESL. I am interested in Travel and maybe teaching English in foreign European countries. I hope to leave for Germany and study in Berlin for a year, my application is pending so I guess we'll see!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

World Languages Day: Class List Now Available!

World Languages Day 2013 is just around the corner. You can check classes that are now available on the World Languages Day website. There is a selection of 41 classes this year, in 20 different languages. The courses are diverse and vary in themes. A virtual 360 degree tour of Vienna is featured in a German course titled A Virtual Walk Through Vienna. Students can play a fun quiz game about Swedish pop culture and find out surprising facts in Sweden: From Viking Raids to Rap Music. For a quick crash-course in Korean, there is Korean Alphabet in 40 Minutes.

Other courses focus on the influence of many different cultures in one language or country. The class "Parlez-vouz franglais ? Frenglish through the Ages" can satisfy student's curiosity about the origin of English and French words in each language. Students can learn about social and cultural issues related to U.S. Latino groups in United States Latino Theater: Human and Civil Rights.

Extended sessions will also be offered again this year for students wanting to learn about college, in So You Want to be a Millionaire: How Preparing for College Can Help!, Where in the World Will U Go? Study Abroad as a College Student, and U of M Admissions: The Inside Scoop... And there are many more exciting courses featured on the site!