Thursday, February 25, 2010

Στο Τρέξιμο! (on the run?)

As we all know some expressions don't translate. From now until Spring Break I am, as the Greeks would say, στο τρέξιμο - meaning very very busy! If you've been following my twitter stream, you probably know that I just finished round 2 proof-reading of my capstone project for the Instructional Design degree. I still need to commit the changes to the electronic version, print it out once more, get another set of eyes on it, look at the proposed changes, commit any of those to the electronic version, and then send the file off to the printers for binding. Printing a color version is going to be expensive! Lulu says that even a soft cover perfect-bound printing will be about $30 per book or $40 for a hard cover (and I need at least 2 to give to my advisor, and 1 to keep) Eeek!

Of course, I still need to finish the rough draft of the article that I want to publish (based on my Academic communities of practice presentation), I still need to work on the group project due on March 14 for my CBT class, and ongoing journals and critiques for my other two classes. In other words: Στο Τρέξιμο!

Now, so long as I get the capstone all squared away, and I can make headway with that article...I will be in excellent shape! The two following weeks though, I will have no social life :-) ... I only need to find some time to watch Battlestar Galactica! (after all, all work no play make jack a dull boy)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Semiotics - in practice

A while back I had posted a picture of a road sign (probably also from the failblog) which showed male genitals and a big giant NO to spanking the monkey. At the time I wondered what exactly could have driven the polish government (or private company for that matter since I don't know if this is a national road sign) to create such a prohibition. Was spanking the monkey while driving such a huge problem that it endangered people on the road? Who does that?

Anyway, this week on the failblog, a similar photo of a road sign, this time from Italy. This sign warns motorists that there are prostitutes ahead. Now the road seems straight, which means that you won't be coming around a bend and BAM, vehicular accident because of stopped vehicles of people gawking at prostitutes, or because humans at the side of the road showing off their wares. This brings me back to semiotics.

I've never studied the topic, however I would LOVE to take a course in semiotics (perhaps once I graduate and all my requirements are met - at this point I am doing all core courses). I would also love to have been a fly on the wall at the ministry or town hall meeting where this sign was designed, proposed, and finally implemented. The history of the sign is more interesting than the sign itself.

Updated blog post to correct typos...note to self-read before publishing...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cold, Hard Empiricism

OK, I figured that since today is a holiday, and yesterday was Valentine's Day, a little humor (courtesy of xkcd) is in order :-)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Outsourcing Language Learning?

I was reading this article on InsideHigherEd the other day about Drake University's "Outsourcing" of language learning. In short they replaced formal classes lead by tenured faculty (or just faculty who had second language acquisition experience) with the following:

small discussion groups led by on-campus native speakers, a weekly session with a scholar of the language, a one-semester course on language acquisition and the use of several Web-based learning technologies.

In other words, lower paid undergraduate or graduate students from abroad that probably have little experience with actual second language acquisition.

I don't doubt that a learner, when immersed in a foreign language and foreign culture situation can pick up conversational skills. For this I would go back to the learning-acquisition hypothesis --> Acquisition being a "natural" and subconscious process of picking up certain information while Learning being a more structured way of picking up information where you actually have to think about what you are picking up, how it works, and how to reproduce it.

You might be able to justify the methodology Drake is using if you are strictly a follower of the acquisition model. This however does not work for two reasons.

1. Universities are places of higher learning. There is nothing wrong with conversational skills in a foreign language, however I should hope that if you are paying money for a university level education in a foreign language that you are getting the benefit of someone who can help you attain a certain degree of mastery.

2. This model completely ignores the Learning aspect of the learning-acquisition hypothesis. Some structures NEED to be learned. They can't just be acquired. By having people in small talk-circles you are sabotaging a student's learning by not providing an expert in the "classroom". I can be the best speaker of Enlish or Greek but that doesn't mean I can teach others the language without any special training. I can speak Greek to you until I am blue in the face, that doesn't mean that you will pick it up.

Even if we are limiting ourselves to conversation, conversation is a very complex social activity. People make judgements about you from what you say and how you say it. In order to make language learning a successful endeavor for students you need BOTH acquisition AND structured learning to take place so that when they walk out the door they don't make a fool of themselves ;-) Saying "I speak little [inset language]. Please I can haz coffee with milk?" only gets you so far. In the beginning it might be cute - but from what I've seen, people do get tired of it, and mock you behind your back.

Drake program - FAIL

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Week 3 of 13!

OK, so Week 3 of 13 is upon us! This is quite a busy semester! I am working on furiously on proofreading and editing my 100+ page (single space) capstone project - I could trim about 7 pages or so of just pure theory at the beginning, and about 10 pages of justification of why I used certain things in my design document, but that's half the fun of the project ;-)

In other areas, weekly article critiques for my sociolinguistics course and almost weekly journal entries from my communications class. I think I've gotten into the groove of these two courses so by Saturday afternoon I can have most work done and enjoy a few hours of TV watching on the weekend.

My online class is an unknown at this point since we are a week off from my other classes (so it's actually week 2 of 13 as far as online is concerned), so I guess I have not yet found my rhythm.

I have to say that I am enjoying my face to face classes (sociolinguistics and communications theory) MUCH more than I had anticipated. Good instructors!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Where to go for food?

When I was an undergraduate, and I had more disposable income, I did actually spend a lot of my disposable income in eating out. As a grad student (with considerably less disposable income), I tend to bring food from home. The above comic put a smile on my face because it reminded me both of my undergrad days and the current grad days. I have to say that the "cost" curve on this is a little off for my day to day reality. Packing food from home is at least 5 time cheaper than the cafeteria food ;-)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Liars, Damned Liars and Statisticians

Pretty funny! (I wonder if the writer was looking at the Massachusetts Elections when creating this)