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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Language Flagship Discourse Features PACE Project & Chinese Flagship

The Fall 2014 issue of The Language Flagship Discourse is now available. This issue features an article on the three recipients of the Language Flagship Proficiency Initiative, including the University of Minnesota PACE Project. A second article announces the new University of Minnesota Chinese Flagship.

Discourse is available online and paper copies may be picked up at the Language Center front desk in Jones 110.

Namaskāra* from the Multimedia Lab

The Multimedia Lab in Jones 135 offers an expanded lineup of live, multilingual internet TV shows, which now includes Hindi and Persian. Students can watch variety shows from Brazil, game shows from Sweden, or news from Korea on the wall-mounted large-screen monitor and listen through wireless headphones while relaxing on the Lab's spacious and comfortable couch or lounge chairs.

Please inform your students of this fun, authentic and relaxing language learning opportunity. The schedule is available online.

* That's "hello" in Hindi

TandemPlus Spring Kick-off & Orientation on February 4, Peik Gym

The TandemPlus Kick-off and Orientation Event has been moved to Peik Gym G65. It is still scheduled for Wednesday, February 4, 2015 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

The event is open to all TandemPlus registrants as well as interested students and community members. At the event, participants will be able to meet other Tandem folk, try out Tandem speed chats (such as Spanish-English, Arabic-English, Chinese-English, and just English), learn about Tandem Plus, and enjoy food and refreshments from Wally's Falafel in Dinkytown, courtesy of a generous Community Building Grant from ISSS. It's a great way to start the semester!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CARLA Saturday Language Teacher Workshops: Engaging Students with Language Learning through Technology

Special professional development opportunities for Minnesota language teachers!

Engaging Students with Language Learning through Technology: Focus on the Interpretive Mode

Saturday, February 7, 2015, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Today, authentic materials of all kinds (text, audio, video, infographics, images) that can complement our textbooks are readily available online, but most of them are not constructed with language learners in mind. How do we help our students work with and understand these materials? What kinds of tasks can we create that engage our students and pave the way for them to comprehend and learn from these materials? How can technology help us do this?

We'll talk about some of the pedagogy behind engagement with texts (Interpretive Mode), and then we'll show you some of our favorite tech tools. We would also like to know what you are doing to guide students through online materials. You will have opportunities for sharing your materials as well as for creating interpretive activities in the workshop. Bring an example of an interpretive activity that you have created and some ideas for text engagement that you'd like to create.


Engaging Students with Language Learning through Technology: Focus on the Presentational Mode

Saturday, March 7, 2015, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Technology is providing a number of tools to fuel our creative energy. Most of these tools can be used for presenting ideas and concepts using the target language. What kinds of projects can students complete that demonstrate their communicative competence? Focusing on the presentational mode of communication, this workshop explores a variety of presentational options available through technology.

Audio podcasts, digital stories, posters, brochures, comics, essays, advertisements, reports, video projects - all are options for students to produce presentations. We will introduce free and inexpensive tools your students can use to create effective productions and demonstrate their presentational competence in the target language.

Bring a theme or task you might ask your students to address in creating a multimedia presentation. We will brainstorm together project options that take advantage of various creative tools.


Both workshops are appropriate for foreign language and ESL teachers at all levels and the cost is $30 per workshop. Registration for the Interpretive and Presentational workshops are online only and requires a credit card. The registration fee is non-refundable. There are two location options:



Presenters for Both Workshops

  • Alyssa Bonnac teaches English as a Second Language in the Minnesota English Language Program at the University of Minnesota. She has given both face-to-face and online workshops about using technology in the language classroom.

  • Marlene Johnshoy is the Online Education Program director and web manager for the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. She has given numerous workshops on many aspects of web-based language teaching and learning.

  • Dan Soneson is the Director of the Language Center in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. He is currently the managing editor of the IALLT Journal for Language Learning Technologies, and has been a leader in language learning and technology for over 20 years.

Monday, January 12, 2015

CSCTFL Interest Deadline Extended to January 14

Thank you to those instructors who have registered interest to attend this year's Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (CSCTFL). The Language Center still has enough funds to cover the early bird registration fee for seven more P&As and graduate instructors from CLA language departments.

The theme for 2015 is "Learn Languages, Explore Cultures, Transform Lives." It will be held at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis on March 12-14, 2015.

CSCTFL is an annual conference that holds more than 200 sessions for world language teachers at all levels of instruction. Topics stretch from generating excitement over language learning to exploring the use of technology. More information about the conference can be viewed at http://www.csctfl.org. The conference was last held in Minneapolis in 2010.

Funding priority will be given to those instructors who have not previously attended a CSCTFL conference. If you would like to apply for this opportunity, please register your interest by January 14, 2015. If you have any questions regarding the registration process, contact Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

TandemPlus Spring Kick-off & Orientation Rescheduled for February 4

Do you know students who want to be bilingual or bicultural? If so, tell them about the Language Center's TandemPlus program, which matches people who are learning each other's native languages for a one-semester exchange of language and culture. Spring Registration will open soon at tandem.umn.edu. Anyone who is learning a second language is welcome to register, and participants who registered last semester and want a new (or additional) partner should re-register again this semester.

TandemPlus Spring Kick-off and Orientation Event has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 4, 2015 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., location TBA. The event is open to all TandemPlus registrants as well as interested students and community members. At the event, participants will be able to meet other Tandem folk, try out Tandem speed chats (such as Spanish-English, Arabic-English, Chinese-English, and just English), learn about Tandem Plus, and enjoy free snacks and refreshments. It's a great way to start the semester!

Spanish Certificate: Student Orientation, ACTFL Test Prep and Self-Assessment Workshop January 28

Students interested in pursuing the Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency in Spanish are invited to attend an orientation session to learn more about this certificate and to ask questions on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. in Jones 35.

The event will begin with general information about the Certificate program from Spanish Advising representatives. They will summarize the six Required Steps for the Certificate, including the ACTFL test of advanced-level proficiency, which is the capstone of the certificate program, and discuss how the PACE program will provide an opportunity for Certificate students to take the ACTFL tests at a significantly reduced rate.

Next, Language Testing staff will help students take the self-assessment and interpret their results. Students will also have the opportunity to demo the speaking section of the ACTFL test.

Registration for the event is not required. However, potential candidates for the Certificate are encouraged to fill out this short form to be informed of upcoming events and opportunities.

BOSSA Team Awarded CLA Outstanding Service Award - Ceremony January 21

Congratulations to the BOSSA Team which has been selected to receive a CLA Work Group Outstanding Service Award for academic year 2013-2014. Their project is a collaborative effort between the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies and the CLA Language Center. The BOSSA Team includes:

  • Sara Mack, Spanish 1004 Level Coordinator, Spanish and Portuguese

  • Anna Olivero-Agney, PACE Assistant Developer, Language Center

  • Joanne Peltonen, Testing Coordinator, Language Center

  • Diane Rackowski, Technical Coordinator, Language Center

  • Gabriela Sweet, PACE Sustainability Coordinator, Language Center

The five team members will receive their award at the CLA Staff Appreciation Ceremony on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., in Memorial Hall, McNamara Alumni Center.

How can students better understand what and how they are learning? How does the student become the center of the educational process? How can students become aware of how they are contributing to their own learning?

These are questions that drove the BOSSA (Basic Outcomes Student Self-Assessment) protocol, which involves students in the assessment of their growing language competence.

The self-assessment component of the Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency in Spanish provided a starting point for BOSSA, but the project goes far beyond the one-time self-assessment component of the Certificate. It aims at engaging students in the development of their language capabilities and cultural awareness as they progress throughout the language curriculum.

The BOSSA protocol begins with a class session in the computer classroom in which students produce and record responses to contextualized questions or specific prompts, including the task to tell a story based on a photograph and to ask a number of questions for a presumed correspondent. They then listen to their own recording and analyse their production using a rubric that mirrors criteria presented in the previous activity, discussing their impressions with a partner and then with the group as a whole. After producing oral language and discussing the process, students complete an online self-assessment instrument in which they evaluate how well they can perform a number of specific speaking tasks in the target language (using the activity they've just completed as a reference point, if they wish). Based on their responses the students receive automatic feedback, both in the online session and as email, which provides guidelines for improving in areas where students have rated themselves below expectations. In another computer classroom session the students complete a similar procedure involving writing tasks. This process is repeated at the end of the semester with the same tasks as at the beginning. In addition, students are asked to reflect on their own progress throughout the semester in a series of three reflection activities.

This project makes inroads into a number of areas of learning at the university and within CLA: it focuses students' attention on course goals and asks them to reflect on their progress in meeting those goals; it presents realistic expectations and helps students understand and modify their own expectations regarding language competence; it points the way for students to be proactive in their learning, articulating areas for improvement and presenting pathways to accomplish it; it involves students in their own learning and opens the way toward learner independence; and it asks students to analyse their own competence as it develops. The project is an excellent springboard for lifelong learning that has an impact beyond the classroom and the undergraduate experience.

Data collected from this project have indicated that regular and systematic use of self-assessment in the language classroom promotes learner autonomy and self-awareness. The BOSSA protocol provides a framework for students to actively experience what they will be able to do in terms of communicative competence by the end of the course (through completing the performance tasks). After reflecting on how well they could complete those concrete course objectives, students reported that they knew what they needed to do to improve speaking and writing abilities in the language. In particular, the students who completed the semester-long protocol registered a significant increase in this awareness over the course of the semester. Likewise, with regard to the group of students who indicated that they had made changes in their language learning practices since the beginning of the semester, data show a notable increase in reported self-awareness. The more students can actively reflect on the process of language learning, critically evaluating their target language proficiency with the goal of improving it, the more they understand that they can take charge of the process, making choices in how they engage with language practices in support of learning.

This project was piloted with six sections of Spanish 1004 in Fall 2013. It was so successful that it spread to all 19 sections of Spanish 1004. The momentum didn't stop with the Spanish program! The BOSSA protocol was taken up in Spring 2014 by fourth-semester sections of French, German, and Italian. The project later became the basis for a major component of the Proficiency Assessment for Curricular Enhancement (PACE) Project funded by The Language Flagship. A major thrust in the project is to establish a sustainable culture of assessment to continue once the grant period is over. The PACE Project plan is to extend the self-assessment process throughout the language curriculum, from first year through graduation. The basis for this sustainability effort is the student self-assessment protocol that was established during academic year 2013-2014 by this excellent team.