I’ve been thinking a lot about language learning lately. To what degree is being limited only to one’s native language a barrier/handicap to international travel and to international/cross-cultural understanding? Less than I thought.) Is there value in attempting to master another language? (Absolutely but there are constraints of time and pragmatics.) How good are extant software translation programs? (The applications are getting better and better but don’t believe all that is promised unless you—and the person you are communicating to—have a good sense of humor). Obviously the answers to these questions are not as simple as my parenthetical replies imply. However, I’ve been thinking deeply about these issues this semester as I’ve widened the horizons of my students and of me through creating a pilot virtual cultural immersion course. My thinking has been especially stimulated by the fascinating work of Ms. Irma Milevičiūtė and her International PenPals Club project in Lithuania.
I’ve travelled abroad three times and clearly am overdue to travel abroad again. While attending Howland High School in Ohio I traveled with the Spanish Club to Portugal and southern Spain. It was a whirlwind, two-week “tourist-oriented tour” with very little interaction with native speakers (Qué lastima!). At Oberlin College I experimented with different majors of study (English, then Communications, then Spanish, ultimately psychology—ah, the joys of a liberal arts education). While an undergraduate there I lived for a summer in Mexico studying at the University of Guanajuato. All my classes taken there (e.g. “Spanish Golden Age Theater”, “History of Mexico”) were taught in Spanish by natives, and I lived in a boarding house where no one spoke English (though I had an American roommate and a number of American classmates from several other colleges and universities). During my third year of graduate studies at The Ohio State University where I was pursuing Masters and PhD degrees in Experimental Social Psychology I joined my graduate school adviser, Tom Ostrom, who was a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Bergen, Norway for 6 months of research and study. Though I took a language course there (Norwegian for Foreigners)—and proudly possess a certificate for attempting to master the language, all my daily interactions were with English-speaking Norwegian faculty and students. The 6 months of study and travel there resulted in friendships which remain today, a much deeper appreciation of another culture, and a humbling of what I what I knew.
Unfortunately as a youth I almost had my interest in learning another language destroyed by the results of a misinterpreted psychological test. I recall being devastated by the experience of being told that I had “failed” a foreign language aptitude test. The “failure” probably was one factor motivating me to attempt to learn foreign languages in High School and eventually, to studying psychology (to better understand why children succeed or fail and the effects of labels on performance). In high school I took two years of Latin (thank you, Mrs Bode—Gratias tibi ago!) culminating with obtaining the highest score in the State of Ohio on a standardized test. Though, alas, I was not nominated for Pope nor have I yet traveled via Time Machine— the discipline of learning Latin and about the Roman culture was enriching and rewarding. It no doubt facilitated my two years of study of Spanish culminating in my achieving the highest score in the State of Ohio in that language. In both cases, though, it was a combination of excellent teachers, a supportive academic environment, an opportunity to learn about the culture and its literature, music, art, theater, politics, history, customs, and its cuisine that was vital to my learning. No doubt other factors contributing to my success were supportive parents, friendly competition with my Howland High school peers and my Big Sister, Connie Sue!
Good luck Beatrice, Kristijonas, Meda and Davidas in the international English language Amberstar competition whose results are due any day now. Thank you Katerina (from Kurgan), Hersonia (from Mexico), Reidar (from Norway), and especially Irma (from Lithuania) for your many acts of kindness, good humor, and inexhaustible patience with this curious professor as he attempts to become more globally educated and aware. Research shows that bilingualism has so many advantages over above the pragmatic. I am indebted to you for lessons learned and I admire, respect and envy you.
This course is designed to provide an interactive cultural immersion experience through the extensive use of Web 2.0 technology learning tools. The course emphasizes the significance of a cultural understanding in a technological and culturally connected world. Global connections provided will increase students’ understanding of European culture through studying social norms, history, and the impact of European culture and language on American political decisions. Drawing upon local and global resources students will interact with new cultures and practice world-wide communication.
Phoumany, Catrina, and Amy
Ryan, Liz, and Maxine
When I first saw the e-mail sent from Carroll about developing a class using technology, my first reaction was receiving two credits along with a piece of technology. Soon after Dr. Simpson approving to be the teacher of this technology centered CCE immersion, the six of us started to brainstorm some ideas for the course. I clearly remember deciding Europe was the way to go because we tried to determine what would be the place most students from Carroll would like to visit? This was affirmed by Dr. Simpson showing us an article that most Americans still want to visit Europe more than other countries. This set in motion the course developing process and how we were going to go about giving a European immersion experience.
This pilot course has been a great blessing in which I have been able to learn so much more about our neighbors across the Atlantic, not only through research but also the interaction with the people who live there. I have been able to broaden my horizon on how the rest of the world lives their lives in comparison to how our American culture lives. This experience would not have been possible without not only technology, but also how to use technology to its full effectiveness. I learned so many new forms of technology tools through Dr. Simpson or Jane Hart’s Top 100 tools for technology. These tools have been extremely useful in creating and experiencing a European virtual immersion. Such tools have been translators and movie makers to help translating information in different languages as well as editing movies filmed on this iPad. I have also used tools that I was completely ignorant about before this class such as Haiku deck and how to use Google drive and Twitter to their full potential. The Ipad I received for creating the class has been a small learning experiencing within itself. I previously have had an IPhone 4 and 5, and have learned how to use Apple devices, except MacBooks those are still a work in progress. Although iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches are all very similar there are still some minor differences that I learned while using the iPad. These tips were learned through experience and fumbling along with reading a book about 100 iPad tricks which refreshed my memory on some of the great uses of the iPad.
Technology has become such an intertwined part of our culture that we sometimes forget how such tools are taken for granted. The ability for me to write this reflection on this iPad uses an operating system which is somewhat 7 years old on an app, Evernote, which allows information sharing through social media or e-mail. I await the new technology that will bring all cultures closer together in the near future, and hope to see where this course goes in the future. This semester truly has been a creative, fun, and humbling experience to how the world operates and how it is rapidly changing.
Through the course of this semester, I had the honor of creating a pilot CCE course with my fellow STEAM members. It was quite the journey. We had our ups and downs. We had times we laughed and times we were just plain frustrated. No matter what, we trucked through it all and did what we could. For a group that was fairly on the bigger end, I think we did a great job. I think, now, we are all ready to return to normal activities in Dr. Simpson’s office and are ready to wrap this up. Maybe an opportunity will pop up in the future for us in relation to this, but for now, here is what I learned this semester.
I think one of the key words of the semester was “technology”. We learned about various forms of technology and learned how to utilize them to our advantage. We discovered what worked and what did not. Through this all, I think we can all agree that the university truly wants to embrace technology and emerge it more on campus. But, the reality of it is that this school is not yet ready for the shift! We did not even have the appropriate adapter for the presentation. Several times a year, major Internet issues arise. Carroll still has a long way to go. Aside from this, I learned of new forms of presenting and other tools that I was not knowledgeable or really understood before. Because of this project, I definitely am a huge fan of Google Drive. It is one of the greatest things ever in forms of collaboration. Also, being more knowledgeable of Learnist and Haiku Deck, convinced me to possibly use these in the future.
The other big thing I learned is that creating a class is hard! In one sense we did not meet our expectations because I think we expected to have every single detailed figured out and everything would be great. In reality, it is not the case. These types of projects, we learned, are constantly a work in process. You are going to come across complications and areas that had a bit of improvement needed. For example, we would have fared better knowing more foreign contacts, but we settled with what we had. Whoever wishes to maybe take this on in the future would be better off than we were in this area. We had multiple discussions about how we could provide the framework for this class but whoever decided to use our idea, might not like half the things we prepared and would just alter it to what they want. So, moral of the story is, creating a class is hard! I suppose, one day I may be in the position of creating lesson plans and exams and such, but it requires a lot of work. Your expectations need to be reasonable. Also, being all full time students on top of it, we were busy balancing the rest of our lives this semester.
Overall, this was an enriching project and a tremendous learning experience about everything. I could not have asked for a better crew to share this with. I am incredibly proud of what we had accomplished this semester. I cannot wait to see what projects we have in store in my final year in Dr. Simpson’s Office. I think we all deserve a well- rested, enjoyable summer now!
Throughout the development of this course we have encountered many challenges or difficulties, discovered new tools, and learned how to collaborate and compromise collectively as a group. I think one of the key elements I did learn from this course (or creating it) was time management. Every week I needed to make sure I produce some work to add to the course and I had to continue doing research that could be useful for everyone in our group. I not only learned about time management while working on the project on my own, as a group we had to compromise and find a time that would work out best for everyone. Other than time management I got the chance to learn about a lot of new technology tools, some that I have heard of through looking at Jane Hart’s Top 100 Tools while others I had never heard of before. Tools such as Learnist, Haiku Deck, Ning, and Google Drive were very beneficial to this course. I think it was great to find key tools that would be the most effective to creating this course, but these tools can even be useful for me outside of this project. I have also learned more about the utility of the iPad and how much I can really do with it. Sure many people know that there are lots of applications that one can download, but it is also about spending the time to look into those applications. I found a lot of background information on Switzerland through applications that covered current news, history, and cultural norms. It was very helpful to learn that there are many different applications and iBooks available to give background information and history about something before I even got onto the Internet and did a Google Search. This just let me know that there are a number of ways to do research, besides the library and the Internet, right on the iPad.
While I was doing research on Switzerland I learned a lot of information about the history, currently news, and most importantly the Swiss culture. I personally do not know a lot about Europe at all, besides what I have learned from various history courses since I have been in school. It was interesting to focus more on the culture and be able to compare it to American culture. This course idea is to help get students immersed into another country’s culture and I feel that I learned a lot about the country, and other countries from other group members, by taking the time to research and by trying to connect with the country, their culture, and the people of that country.
Overall I have learned about many different technology tools that not only helped me while working to develop this course, but these are tools that I can use for personal use or on other school projects. I have learned much more about Europe, especially Switzerland. I also learned from the challenges we faced while developing this course and researching, such as conflicting ideas and determining which tools would be beneficial to use. From those challenges I learned to compromise with one another and to choose solutions that would be best for the overall group and project, because we can not use every tool or website we come across.
The opportunity to design a cultural immersion experience through the use of technology tools was a completely unique and rewarding experience. I formed new connections with two alumnae, Amy Williams and Jenrette Nowacznski as well as Dr. Paul Rempe, an emeritus Professor of History and learned a great deal from these individuals. I was exposed to a variety of technology tools, including Google Docs, Ning, Learnist, Haiku Deck, Wikispaces, and became familiar with the use of these tools and learned the practical application in a course format. I have developed an improved set of research skills as well as interviewing abilities. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this project from the beginning and create a unique course for students in the future. Our work went beyond that of a typical classroom and I was able to interact closely with technology, my team and my contacts. I have learned a great deal about British history, social norms, and other aspects of culture like food and clothing as well as social etiquette. This course challenged me to think both critically and creatively to overcome potential obstacles and encourage students in the future to have as comparable travel experience to those who have the means or time to travel abroad. I have learned how to work closely in a team and collaborate. My team and I learned to help each other, to give support to ideas, work out problems together and above all, respect the contributions of all to create a multifaceted perspective on our project. Through this project, I have gained many skills with the support of my team and Dr. Simpson.
I was fortunate enough to speak with very well-travelled and well-versed individuals. I gained a great deal of insight through my many conversations with Amy Williams. She added a realistic perspective to the variety of information I was bombarded with via travel guides and videos like Rick Steve’s Best of Europe, BBC news and history, social etiquette guides, and other information on regional differences, clothing and food. I learned the difference between pubs and clubs, the practice of tipping, the social strength of afternoon tea, the effect of American influence, and even how English weather affects the daily lives of the people. Jenrette Nowcznski’s contributions further supported my understanding of British culture and social norms including the role of transportation and British style. Technology made these communications significantly easier and while we experienced problems with campus wide Wi-Fi, and adapters for our iPads, among others, they could be easily remedied by campus administrative support. Both as a team and individually, we were exposed to and later mastered several technology tools including our collaborative work area and communication boards, Google Docs and our Ning. I personally enjoyed the challenge of finding a new presentation tool, Haiku Deck which limits the number of bullet points on a slide show presentation to 5 and a title and shrinks the size of the text to fit on one line of the slide. I created a Haiku deck to experiment with its effectiveness of showcasing several key points in British history and shared the information with Dr. Rempe who gave me some very helpful feedback. I enjoyed working with Learnist as a space to present the information I collected through the course of the semester. It was very helpful to find a tool that will automatically embed videos, show the live site as well as allow commentary from both the presenter and viewers. I have worked with other presentation tools like Voicethread in the past but was limited because I could not embed videos or links to the presentation effectively.
Throughout this project, we encountered potential problems due to physical distance between our students and potential contacts as well as the barriers of time with a full time student’s schedule. I have developed the fortitude to balance many projects and complete them. This course has taught me that perfection cannot always be reached but that it needn’t always be. I have also learned to constructively apply honest criticism to my work which has enabled me to become a much better student and vastly increased my understanding on a number of topics. A major part of this course was testing our ideas in the context of a course and I firmly believe that this course can significantly expand student’s cultural understanding and expose them to new experiences and new people as effectively as physically traveling to that country.
Is it possible to substitute a course that is looking to achieve immersion with one that doesn’t actually have an immersion component, but is virtual? Since taking on this pilot program, this question has continued to come up for me. I have continued to ask myself if the course that we have designed has realistic and achievable expectations without the immersion component. After much reflection, I have come to the conclusion that, I do believe there is nothing like being fully immersed in a country and a culture, but I do find this course to be a practical idea.
This course is practical and realistic because by design, it looks at all of the same things that one would learn and encounter when immersed in a culture. The course may not have an immersion factor, but it does include interaction with a native. Something to point out as well, is just because one is immersed in a culture does not ensure communication with natives. The student has to want to interact with the natives, and I’m sure not all students are entirely comfortable with their language skills to do so depending on the country that they are visiting.
Piloting this course allowed each of us to study a country of our choosing, which I feel was extremely beneficial because the more you are interested in something, the more time you are going to spend researching. For me, I have always wanted to go to Italy, so researching Italy was the perfect choice for me. Not only has this course taught me more about Italy, but also it has increased my desire to travel both to Italy and elsewhere abroad and gave me a chance to learn different technology tools.
The technology component for this course was extremely important. With all of the new technology advancements it is crucial to stay update with technology. The course development consisted of many different technology tools, including Ning, Google Drive, Haiku Deck, and Learnist. Prior to this course I had not even heard of Haiku Deck or Learnist. After completing the course, I would now use both in my academics. Haiku Deck is such a nice alternative to a PowerPoint, that I know I will use it for presentations in the future.
Overall, this course was very beneficial. I learned a lot, from technology tools to about Italy in general. In addition, my desire to travel has also increased. Putting what we learned aside, it was a great way to collaborate with the rest of the team before we lose one of our team members this fall.
First, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Maxine Venturelli and I am currently a sophomore at Carroll University and majoring in Elementary Education. This is my second year working for Dr. Simpson as a research assistant. This year when the cultural immersion pilot project was first proposed by Carroll University I was unaware until it came up in a discussion at work with the rest of Dr. Simpson’s research assistants. I realized that only two groups of students would have the opportunity to participate in this opportunity and me being the worrisome person that I am did not know if we would actually get one of these two spots. As a team we crafted a proposal and submitted it for consideration. It turns out that we were granted a chance to create our own pilot course. Along with the project, we got to choose a piece of technology that each of us would be able to use to enhance the course, so we decided on the iPad. And so our journey began.
Personally, I was very excited to be given the opportunity to craft a course. Being an Education major, I took this as an experience that I could learn from in the future. Since I am early in the Education Program, I had some tools at my disposable and some knowledge from previous courses. I am really interested in how to best teach students and engage them in the learning process. Since I am so passionate about education, I set up an idea in my head about how I would like the course to look; however I had to compromise with the rest of my peers in creating the course. I offered my ideas and debated the prevalence of some of my ideas. A realization that I came to is that this is not my course, but our course. I learned that even once I enter the teaching profession I will have to work with my colleagues. Throughout the process, my peers and I faced some drawbacks, such as the Wi-Fi connections and a lack of materials that would make the iPads work throughout the campus, but we worked together to make the best of the situation. We only were able to meet together once a week because of our busy schedules, but we made sure to keep each other informed. I think that a large part of this project was learning how to work as a group and produce a product in the end showcasing our work. We ran into difficulties, but the important part is that we used our problem-solving skills to work out the situation. I have learned many things that I can carry with me into my future career.
Collectively, we decided to focus on Europe and delve into the cultures of individual countries. Individually, I chose to research France. I have been interested in France since taking a French language course in 6th grade and continued my French language learning throughout high school. I really wanted to try to branch off into all aspects of French culture in order to give students a taste of what life may be like in France. With the help of my iPad I explored apps that would help expose students to the French language, French news, and French music among others. Also, I took advantage of the technology resources that were introduced to me through Dr. Simpson as well as some other devices that I was familiar with. To display my research I chose to use Prezi and Learnist because I believed that they really were able to capture my research information into one place. I used other resources too, such as videos from YouTube, and a plethora of websites to find my information, and even had the opportunity to interview some French exchange students. The gathering of information was enjoyable for me and I was able to broaden my knowledge of France as well as presentation tools.
I would like to take this time to say thank you to everyone who made this possible. I am so thankful to be given this opportunity and to work with some amazing individuals.
Here is a very short “slide show” of my students’ presentation to 12 Carroll University faculty including one Skyping from France. Click the link below. I am blessed by talented students eager to learn and successful at learning.
Over the course of the last year my research assistant students and I have been experimenting with a number of video hosts (among them Vimeo, YouTube, and ScreenCast) and numerous screenshot/screencast applications (e.g. Voila, Camtasia, Jing, and Screenflow) and playing with Skitch. Sometime soon, after the semester ends on May 12, I’ll turn my attention to a thoughtful comparison of these tools. For now, here are some examples of their use by me and my students as we explored learning tools that might be useful in our “Pioneering a Virtual European Immersion Course” Project. For your amusement if not for your edification!
Influenced by technology learning tool visionaries such as Jane Hart and Michele Pacansky-Brock and by practitioners such as Susan Manning and Kevin Johnson, Steve Johnson, and Irma Milevičiūtė I have been focusing my attention this year on the viability of a new course that would incorporate such learning tools. How, though, does one decide which to use among the plethora of tools available and among the increasing number appearing? In my search to answer this question I initially drew upon three primary resources. Susan Manning and Kevin E. Johnson, in their valuable book The Technology Toolbelt for Teaching, suggest that among the things entering into one’s decision should be thinking through 1) what problems would be solved by using the tool, 2) the cost of the tool, 3) the “platform” which will be used, 4) the level of expertise needed for the user, 5) issues of accessibility for special needs students, 6) technical requirements, and 7) the reliability of the tool.
Steve Johnson’s Digital Tools for Teaching provided me a useful starting point for examining 30 e-tools (grouped according to appropriateness for the novice, the developing user, or the advanced user) for creating, collaborating, and publishing. Michelle Pacansky-Brock, in her superb book Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies organizes her recommended “toolkit” in terms of those which are essential, those which enhance or facilitate communication and content creation, and those tools useful for back-channeling and developing participatory learning.
For the past six years I have been intermittently exploring the Top 100 Learning Tools championed by Jane Hart. At the end of last year I experienced a fortuitous opportunity to focus on the usefulness of the tools. On April 26, 2012, a call for proposals was made university-wide to use technology to develop course materials and travel plans for Carroll Cross-cultural Experiences (CCE’s). On April 27, my six-member student-research team composed of Phoumany Phouybanhdyt, Ryan Waters, Catrina Duncan, Amy Peterson, Elizabeth Firkus, and Maxine Venturelli emailed me that they enthusiastically and unanimously wanted to rise to the challenge of creating such a course. In October of this year they were successful in being awarded the opportunity.
As my students and I have worked together on this particular project the following tools have proven most useful (and therefore “top tools”) to me. Lucid explanations for each of these tools can be found in Jane Hart’s pithy yet information-laden “Quick Guides.”
1) Twitter: I have become much more Twitter-literate having a good sense of whom I want to follow.
2) Wikispaces: Served as a first sandbox repository for collaboration for my student research team.
3) Ning: Though it is expensive, the return on my investment is having a controlled, (for now) FaceBook-like private environment which allows seamlessintegration of chat, videos, blogging, and other tools.
4) Google Docs: A place and means where my students can share with each other the results of their research efforts. They actually taught me its utility!
5) WordPress: My preferred platform for blogging (after evaluating six). I have been able to reach out via FaceBook and Linked-In WordPress connections to alumni, present and former students, new International friends, and trustees who shared an interest in our project.
6) Skype: One of several Voice Communication tools we have experimented with.
7) Ipad Apps: A plethora which I shall explore more fully in another post. Since each of my students was awarded an Ipad for this project, we have concentrated especially on making sure the tools we use have a “mobile” technology application.
8) Various Browsers: Safari, Chrome, and Firefox in particular. It was enlightening and frustrating to discover that not all apps or tools are equally friendly across all browsers. This was especially the case with Screen-casting software.
9) Epals and Edmodo: Though I ultimately found both too restrictive for my uses for this particular project, through them I became much more aware of the exciting and extensive uses of these tools by K-12 students—and I formed an especially enriched international friendship.
10. Diigo (especially for educators): I am daily informed of resources which have proven to be invaluable for this project.
Later this week my students will share a preliminary report of their research and I’ll learn which tools they found of most value for course creation and course participation.
In the near future I’ll post the 10 learning tools I definitely am going to invest considerable time into this summer if this project continues or if I am encouraged to continue my efforts.
How do I go about defining my “top 10 learning tools”? One answer is to identify which of the tools I use most often. Put another way, which tools have become so part of my academic life that I don’t notice their importance to me unless they are inaccessible? These would clearly be 1) Twitter (which I have finally discovered how to tame and put to use), 2) WordPress (to which I have converted), 3) Skype (about which I have much yet to learn), 4) Facebook (which I may soon abandon), 5) Diigo —through which fellow educators—especially K-12—continue to teach me), 6) Microsoft Word, 7) Ted (which amazes and inspires me—but which also often mesmerizes rather than encourage interaction), 8) my Ipads (and my increasingly expanding library of apps with unknown half-life), 9) Google Chrome (though I migrate across five or 6 different browsers depending upon the browser default of the computer I am using) , and 10) Survey Monkey.
Which learning tools are most likely soon to join the category of essential (and “invisible) to m ? My guess is that some of them be identified through the experiences of my students and others as I complete three research projects this semester (answering Jane Hart’s Top 10 challenge, completing my instructional/mentoring role of the Virtual Cultural Immersion Project and completion of my review of all the apps I’ve accumulated on my Mac and IPads).
I’ll address each of these issues soon in subsequent posts.
Still pondering; always learning. Your comments and feedback are most welcomed.