Tuesday, April 3, 2012

AAAL CALL wrap up

This is my final AAAL wrap up post, this time focusing on Computer Assisted Langauge Learning (CALL). There were a few interesting presentations (I guess for more CALL stuff I need to go to the CALICO conference) at AAAL on computer assisted language learning.

One presentation (from a colleague at UMass Amherst if I am not mistaken) focused on using WIMBA to teach Japanese completely online. David Malinowski from UC Berkely spoke about a collaboration between UC Berkely and Universite de Lyon II where undergraduate students from UC Berkeley were paired up with Masters students in France learning to become teachers of French (French as a Second Language), using Skype (and later on a homebrew system) to tutor students. Another presenter was presenting on the use of Blogs as ethnographic and reflective journals for students who were learning Spanish (in Spain) during a semester abroad program. The last presentation I went to that dealt with technology was one where (in a Japanese class) students were asked to create a digital story (1 per semester).

There were quite a few interesting things about all these, check out my live blogs on storify for more, but there is one thing that really stood out about the digital storytelling exercise. The student who was showcased created a video-game aesthetic story. She herself wasn't a gamer, but her roomate was, so she decided to pick up techniques from games to present her story (introduction of a somewhat obscure anime character to american fans of anime, in Japanese). This was quite interesting to see students pushing into different (linguistic) registers and learning on their own in order to create a better story - so in the end they don't just practice and learn the language from the book, but they extend and expand their various literacies. This was a nice project.

Another thing that stood out from the (again another Japanese class) were the off-screen activities of students. Students using WIMBA for tutoring were not visible to the instructor (they were just using the VoIP and whiteboard functions). Students however admitted that they sought help from more knowledgeable others when they were doing their exercises, and thus learning from others. This was quite interesting because, at least in my generation, the passing of notes in class, or wispering some help to your neighbor was a no-no. This sort of in-class (and out of class) peer scaffolding has been shown to be beneficial.

As an aside, I was really surprised that many of my fello attendants (linguists and language teachers) were so overwhelmed with technology. They were amazed at tools like edmodo (which have been out for a while) and I kept hearing comments like "where do you find these things?" or "How do you know what works?" Well, you find things by subscribing to educational technology newsletters, blogs, RSS feeds and participating on twitter. You also find these things by talking to your friendly instructional designer and/or instructional technologist. It amazed me that people didn't think of us (instructional designers) when thinking about their classes. We could be such a great asset. I wonder where the problem lies - is it bad communication on our part? or is it blinder on theirs?

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