Monday, April 30, 2012

Wow, our first citation!

A weird thing happened the other day. I was on my Google+ profile, looking to get the URL for my Google Reader Shared Items. By mistake I tapped on the URL for my google scholar profile and I noticed that one of my articles had a citation. A citation? A citation! For one of my co-authored articles? It seemed so!  But who would cite us?

Don't get me wrong, I believe that the quality of the work I put out, and the quality of work that my collaborators put out, is exceptional. On the other hand, I am a young academic and I really don't expect anyone to be citing us this soon. The paper that was cited was our recent IRRODL paper on Using mLearning and MOOCs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education and it was cited in Levy & Schrire's The Case of a Massive Open Online Course at a College of Education.

I have to say, in addition to excitement (about getting cited), I also had a small degree of paranoia.  I know my information is out there, heck I maintain  various public profiles including Google+,  LinkedIn, Scribd and Google Scholar; and if you Google my name the first 3 pages are about me (it seems so anyway), so I don't know why I was initially treating this as a "who's looking for me? what do they want? get off my lawn!" case ;-) Perhaps I need to go back and recenter on the good things of humanity, and try to ignore any imagined cyberstalking :-)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's the start of a new MOOC!

Well, actually, it's the start of two new MOOCs!

I know that Change11 and DS106 are still going, but change11 seems to be on life support. It seems to me anyway that the same 4-5 people are posting, and even though there are interesting people in these final weeks, most people have moved on, which is too bad. I still read the daily digest, and those 4-5 people post some thought provoking stuff, but I just have nothing to add to the conversation, so I lurk :-)

With DS106 I don't feel that creative (which is a bummer), so I've resolved that once the summer comes and I have more mental bandwidth (too many work projects taking up space now) I plan on doing two challenges every week and work through the assignments in the summer months. I've wanted to get a podcast off the ground for a while, so doing something for DS106 should kill two birds with one stone ;-) Anyone interested in doing a "MOOC Talk Weekly" with me? LOL :-)

Anyway, so what are these two new MOOCs that I've jumped into? The first is the fslt12 MOOC that I've seen advertised around change11; and the second is Blackboard's MOOC (yes, the LMS juggernaut is doing a MOOC) with Curtis Bonk (that name sounded familiar,and then I realized I've read some of the stuff he's written).

fslt12 hasn't started yet but I decided to join early so that I can get acclimated with the materials and processes before if kicks off in a few weeks. The main audience for this MOOC are people who are teaching in higher education. It's part of a grant (from what I remember) and there are tutors available to guide those who are in need of certification to teach (I think it's a UK requirement). I opted to not go for certification because I think that there probably are colleagues out there that need it (whereas for me it's a badge for MOOC completion), but I guess I reserve the right to pursue certification if enough tutors are available :-) it should be interesting. Here is the URL with course info:

The MOOC facilitated by Curtis Bonk and Coursesites focuses on design, instructional technology and learner motivation. This MOOC is currently in week 0, introductions and getting th lay of the land for the course. Two days into Week 0 and there are over 300 introductions. I don't know if this is considered massive, but it seems like a lot of discussions to go through. In MOOCs like change, where gRSShopper is used to syndicate posts, I feel like I can pick and choose the posts that I read and comment. With LMSs and discussion boards I feel like I really need to read everything. This is just a frame of mind that I need to break and disallow. I had the same issue with LAK11 (also hosted on Moodle, like fslt12). I think that ach week I will pick 10 interesting posts (based on title of discussion board post) to read and comment back to. If I don't see anything catchy, I will just pick 25 at random to read and pick 10 to respond to.

The blackboard MOOC also has a badge for completion. It uses Blackboard Learn's adaptive release system (along with honesty from participants) to award a badge after certain key things are done each week. I am quite interested in this since it's the first open badge implementation that I've seen. To check this course out see here:

Both course are 6 weeks long which is good for me. I am really feeling the fatigue with change11 being 36 weeks long. I wonder how well mid sized MOOCs would be received (8-9 weeks in length). I consider a longer MOOC to be 12-13 weeks in length, or the length of an American higher education semester.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Free Course: Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online success

I am not sure if this counts as a MOOC, we'll see :-)

In any case, I got this notice through the other day (I use coursesites to teach my research methods course this semester), and it seems interesting - at least I am curious about it.

Here's the link to register for the course in case you are interested.

Free, Open Course With Dr. Curt Bonk: Enroll Now

Please join us in CourseSites  for a unique opportunity to learn with Dr. Bonk -- and from each other -- in our first open course focused on increasing student engagement and motivation online. We know your time is valuable and limited, so in this course you choose your level of participation. Whether you simply drop in or fully engage, we hope to see you online!

Course TitleInstructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success
Description: Motivating students and creating community within blended and online learning environments are crucial to academic achievement and success. This open course will provide both theoretical concepts and practical tools for instructors to improve motivation, retention, and engagement within blended and online courses.

Course Objectives
  • Identify and apply relevant motivational strategies and instructional techniques
  • Construct thinking skill options for different types of learners and subjects
  • Design and share innovative thinking skill activities as well as unique cooperative learning
  • Map and apply instructional models and ideas to online learning tools
Course Duration:  April 30th- June 4th ( A total of 5 weeks)

About Dr. Curtis Bonk

Curt Bonk is Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University and President of CourseShare. Drawing on his background as a corporate controller, CPA, educational psychologist, and instructional technologist, Bonk offers unique insights into the intersection of business, education, psychology, and technology. A well-known authority on emerging technologies for learning, Bonk reflects on his speaking experiences around the world in his popular blog, TravelinEdMan. He has coauthored several widely used technology books, including The World is Open, Empowering Online Learning, The Handbook of Blended Learning, and Electronic Collaborators. Dr. Bonk also will be a featured speaker at BbWorld 2012 in New Orleans!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Goal Setting in MOOCs

Last week I had a conversation with Lou McGill, a researcher collecting data for the Change11 MOOC. Our conversation was quite interesting and it seemed to be revolving around learner self-awareness and goal setting. I did take th change MOOC survey, but I have no idea what my responses were when I took it - it seems like such a long time ago (I know I have a copy of the responses, I am just too lazy to look them up).

In talking with Lou, I am wondering what sort of goals (or non goals) oth participants of MOOCs have. For example, none of the MOOCs I've participated in (except for DS106) we're MOOCs where I explicitly set goals for myself. I participated (and continue to participate) out of curiosity about the topic and the medium. If I get something out of it (in tms of declarative knowledge) OK, if not, that's OK too, because I will probably get a lead on an interesting research article to read, or I will interact with interersting people.

I look forward to reading what comes out of this research. I am really curious how much motivation to participate has waned over the past few months. Is this MOOC is too large to be successfully (a little pun there on "too big to fail"). What sustains participation in MOOCs, especially those that are so long, or as long as a college class? I wonder how gRSShopper data correlates with the narrative data collected by Lou.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Programming vs Technology

Recently I read an article on the Chronicle of higer education on Program vs Technology. It was interesting, I'll give it that. It's just that recently (last couple of years) geeks both the blogosphere and the twittersphere seem to be longing for a time when computer science was taught in all of our schools (high school and specifically in this article University), and we've moved away from a "computer science for all" approach, or we've severely dumbed it down, by introducing those silly office applications. In a previous blog post I also had commented on a similar story lamenting the fact that schools weren't teaching kids programming language in school and the author had taken so much away from learning a programming language (BASIC I think) that it's inconceivable that kids aren't taught programming (now if only I could easily find that blog post).

In any case, some of these commentators and bloggers are clamoring for a time that didn't exit. I am fairly young, about a dozen years since I graduatd high school. We had computers, and we had computer science courses, but these were electives, they weren't required courses. Just as there were elective courses in computer science back then, so th are now. Even in college, I was a computer science major and we didn't have non majors in our courses. Computer science was not a requirement.

Even when I mention that students ought to have a required ICT course for those pesky office applications, I get resistance because no one wants to extend the time to graduation, and no one wants to cede a course from their department in the general education curriculum - but everyone seems to lament the fact that undergraduates (and grads!) don't know how to format a paper, use excel, make a good presentation, use a computer effectively or troubleshoot basic things.

Universal computer programming isn't the answer. If anything should be universal, it should be 4 years worth of a foreign language so that students leave college multilingual. Just adding another requirement for graduation, like computer programming, this means that you'll get 2 semesters worth of computer programming, which in my opinion is about as useless as 2 semesters of a foreign language. Sure, you get some idea about a language, and it affects your cognitive processes, but you can't really use it. If there were a required ICt curriculum it wouldn't be programming.

Thoughts? Comments?

Friday, April 13, 2012

On Learning Analytics & Assessment

Yesterday and the day before, the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) was hosting a spring focus session on learning analytics.  I have to admit that drew me to this talk (in addition to being interested in analytics of course!) was the talk that George Siemens presented at this ELI to kick things off.  The first day was quite productive, but the second day I had too many other commitments to attend to and could not attend for most of it.

One of the back-and-forths that I had on twitter my colleagues was about learning analytics and assessment.  A fellow colleague seemed to be very certain that learning analytics could be used for assessment, and I disagreed.  It's hard to carry on a meaningful debate in 140 characters, so I thought I would write a quick blog post about it. And who knows, perhaps I mis-interpreted what my colleague was saying!

First I think it's good to start off with a few definitions so that we are all on the same page:

Learning Analytics: Learning Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. (source)

Assessments: Assessments are activities that learners undertake to demonstrate their competence on a (or a set of) course or module learning objectives.  There are various types of assessments, but two most common ones are:

  • Formative: formative assessments are done throughout the duration of the course
  • Summative: summative assessments are done at the conclusion of the course (think: final exam)
The key thing here is that what is assessed is the learner's ability/knowledge after the course. You are NOT assessing the effectiveness of the course.

Assignments: Assignments are activities, that are ungraded, that are meant to help students learn what they need to learn and/or give students adequate opportunities to practice so that they can acquire and perfect those skills.  Assignments might be readings, ungraded tests, and discussion forums.

So, where there was a bone of contention (or at least it seemed like it) on our twitter interactions was around Assessment.  It seems to me that people wanted Learning Analytics to function as an assessment tool. Even though I talked about grading as being fundamental to Assessment, I got back a response that this type of assessment (graded) was Summative, but they were thinking along the lines of formative.

This confused me a little, because it seemed like they were mixing assignment with assessment, then taking this understanding of assessment = assignment, and applying learning analytics of those assignments to see how students were doing in the course. At this point we weren't talking about two terms, but three (and in 140 characters that's not easy)  Furthermore, a couple of days removed from the discussion, it seems to me that this person was probably wanting to assess the effectiveness of the course by using learning analytics, but that (if we go by the definition above) is not the goal of Learning Analytics.

Taking a step back from this, it seems to me that before we (as individuals, institutions, programs) commit to learning analytics, we need to figure out what we want to do. What sort of information do we need?  How can we get this information?  Is this information Learning Analytics (as defined above) or something else?

At the end of the day, I still feel confident that Learning Analytics  Assessments ≠ Assignments

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On alignment and assessment

This week I am taking part in a Quality Matters workshop on Applying the Quality Matters Rubric.  One of the videos that we're given was this pretty funny video on alignment and assessment.

I think anyone who is interested in teaching, or anyone who wants to be an instructional designer, should view this first and use it as a mini case to point out what's wrong :-)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What's in a name?

Every time I want to write something about the topic of "what is a MOOC," another interesting post comes up! To date I've read posts by Jenny (including the 3-4 posts that she references in here post), Stephen, John and Osvaldo. Most of these retweeted since they were quite interesting.

I don't think, personally, that there is much poi t to debating what is a MOOC. Taking a page out of Stephen's talk, I think that the MOOC is fundamentally about education, self-directed education. Sometimes there will be content, and lots of it (AI) and other times there won't be top down content (PLENK), but somewhere, somehow there will be some interaction. Even in Connectivist MOOCs we don't always see interaction from a lot of people, given how many lurkers there are. So, in the end, it's not a black and white scale for content and interaction, but rather it's one large swath of gray!

Osvaldo had mentioned that maybe we need another name for MOOCs, or at least the original idea of a Connectivist course, given that the term MOOC has become en vogue and has been co-opted by commercial interests. Perhaps this is true, but the cynic in me believes that no matter what new name is chosen, if commercial interests see money or fame in it, they will co-opt those new terms as well and then we will be looking for yet another term to differentiate ourselves (and in that wake we will have a ton of confused MOOCers).

I tend to see MOOCs as the massive online open equivalent to on-campus courses. Just like campus courses MOOCs could potentially take on many characteristics. In on-campus, in person courses, you could be bored or inspired when sitting in a large auditorium lecture where you have a one-way broadcast of information and you are chastised for talking or chatting or passing notes to your neighbors.

At the same time, in the same university you may have a seminar course where the students are in charge of leading discussions. Sometime those seminars have specific topics and specific readings to be covered by the student presenters who often bring their own lived experiences and thoughts into the presentation, another's times the seminar has a broad topic, and the students are in charge of presenting (and assigning to their fellow students) the reading material. The role of the instructor is purely a guiding one in this context.

These, of course, aren't the only two ways of conducting a course on campus, there are many more permutations between these two extremes. The same, I think, is true with massive online courses. Some will be instructivist in nature, others will not, and others will be a mix of pedagogies. Just as there is need to specifically state the pedagogy type in an on campus class, so, I believe, it's not necessary to state the pedagogy in a massive online course. Would itbe helpful? Yes it would, for some Learners anyway.

In the end, renaming Connectivist MOOCs to have more specific names places too much emphasis on the delivery, and not enough on learning. If I've learned one thing as a linguist, it's that language changes, and the term MOOC, despite it being quite young, it has already changed from its original meaning. Now we should focus on learning :-)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The point of college and liberal arts education

Finally catching up on some Change11 stuff! This past week I've been thinking about a post by bioram on cognitive dissonance on liberal arts education. It seems like the topic has been quite popular in the past couple of weeks because another blog post came out from a student who decided not to go to college (because he wasn't sufficiently challenged), a blog post on the Chronicle on whether someone should pursue a B.A., and finally an episode on a television lawyer show (Harry's Law) regarding a student who moved out from his parents home because they were forcing him to go to high school when he was making more than $70,000 making "some twitter app."

I think that if people don't want to go to college, it's perfectly fine. If you are one of those few well positioned and talented individuals that can make over $70,000 on the web be my guest. In this case, however, I see college of a sort of insurance. If your startup goes belly up, or decides to sell the company for a ton of money and the new owners lay off half the employees, you may be out of luck! Sure, there is always a possibility that someone may snatch you up, but if you are sending out resumes, without a high school diploma (or GED) or college diploma, your chances are considerably less as far as HR departments are concerned.

Now for the rest of us who didn't (or won't) be making $70,000 on some internet startup, college, and a liberal arts education are important - however the benefits are never clearly articulated. This is both a problem with academia, and the job market. From the job market perspective (at least in the last 20 years, maybe more) there's been an expectation that people go to college and for them to get trained (not educated) to work in a specific sector. Usually these are the professional degrees: lawyers, doctors, accountants and so on. This expectation has also trickled down to other degrees as well, but not all degrees are professional degrees. Not all degrees have a one-to-one correspondence with a profession - and this is where we get into trouble. This is also where people get snarky and say "get used to saying 'would you like fries with that' if you get a [INSERT DEGREE] degree." This is not healthy for anyone involved.

Some undergraduate programs (like Northeastern University, if I am mistaken) do require all of their undergraduate to undertake a mandatory one year internship before they are eligible to graduate, it's part of their coursework. This way, regardless of your major, you have working knowledge of the working world and can figure out how the stuff you learned fits in with what you want to do. I think that this is a model to emulate. Sure, this will add another year of study, and most of the schools are reluctant to do this (since the climate in the US happens to be of the "be done sooner" variety) but I think it would be immensely beneficial.

Now, academia (and K-12 education) also has a role to play in this, and they are culpable as well. When I was an undergraduate I had to take a whole lot of general education requirements. Some in the arts, some in the sciences, some in the social sciences. I was told that "it would come in handy when I was at a dinner party and I needed to be able to talk intelligently about XYZ." Now, this was making a few assumptions:

  1. that I would want to attend or host dinner parties
  2. that their variety of liberal arts education was the only way to do things
  3. that I wouldn't be able to talk intelligently about things if I didn't take those courses.

For what it's worth, I did enjoy some of my "rounded education" courses as a undergraduate. Art History does come in handy, so does English (despite the typos I make, I think my thoughts are coherent enough on these blog posts). Philosophy was interesting, but I remember no specifics - at the same time, I think that learning how to argue a point was a better skill.

Academia's issue is how they articulate the importance of a liberal arts education. It is important, but they frame it in terms that they understand - not in terms that are relevant to us. Sure, as we grow up we do attend dinner parties, and we do want to get the respect of our peers and not sound like fools. At the same time, when kids go to college the don't care about dinner parties or corporate events. What they want is a degree to get a job. If you frame liberal arts education as getting a leg up when applying for jobs, and making it relevant to their finding-a-job frame of mind, the rest will follow (or so goes my theory).


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?

Monday, April 2, 2012

AAAL, Research from down under

Despite the couple of mis-steps (i.e. hand wringing sessions) there were a lot of great presentations at AAAL this year. There were a couple of presentations that I attended that dealt with the learning of native languages of Australia by the natives themselves. The people presenting were from the University of Melbourne - it seemed like a delegation, or at least a group of colleagues that work together frequently.


These researchers were looking at three sites in Australia, but for the purposes of the presentations they only focused on one site, the Yakanarra Community (which I tried finding on a map, but I was having trouble even locating it). So this community isn't that old, it was founded somewhere in the 1980s and it brought together a number of Walmajarri speakers. The fascinating thing was that within a generation or so the Walmajarri language was replaced by an English Creole (Kriol) which is what the speakers speak today, but there isn't a standard variety of this Creole.

Some of the creoles are closer to English while others closer to the native language. Also, due to the fact that this population of people have children at a young age, teenagers are parents, 30-40 year olds are grandparents, and the 50+ are great grandparents. It's the 50+ generation that would have retained Walmajarri, however (from what I gathered) life expectancy is low, so there aren't that many of them?

Another interesting thing is that Kriol is the children's native language, but the teachers that the Australian government sends to those parts are not familiar with the Kriol so they have a hard time with teaching. The home language is Kriol, but the language of instruction is English - no wonder there are problems! Despite the 4+1 deal that teachers get (go there, teach 4 years, have 1 year paid time off) due to the remote location, most teachers only last six or so months. This isn't good for the children, and it's also not great for the teachers themselves (leaving feeling like failures). A little better teacher prep, it seems to me, would go a long way.

Other interesting facts gathered from side conversations: Australia had something like 200+ native languages, however at this time only about 20 or so have made it. Usually these are the languages of groups of people who were big enough in number to survive. Languages of smaller groups of people died out. Another interesting thing (a bit non sequitur) was that in New Zealand, Maori is spoken througout the island, while in Australia lots of languages flourished. Granted Australia is bigger, but still, it's an interesting thing to consider.

I'd be interested in keeping up with this group of researchers and these studies - the aboriginal languages (and Creole in general) is quite interesting.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hand wringing at AAAL

I guess I will start with the "m'eh" of the conference considering that we can only go up if we start at the bottom (and it just so happens that one of the first session I went to was one of these two).  So, I think this was partly my fault for not really reading the abstracts prior to going to the sessions (mostly going by the title), and even when I read the abstracts, not really looking up things I was unfamiliar with (thinking that I would pick stuff up in the session.

The first session that was a bit  "m'eh" for me was:
Title: Native or Non-native: “That is the question!” or “Is that the question?”
Abstract: NNESTs find themselves in a profession wherein (a) NESTs are perceived as idealized language teachers, and (b) there exists an untenable causality between nativeness and pedagogical competence. Utilizing labeling theory, the current study aims to foment a move from a polarizing “either/or” to a “both/and” wherein professionalism will be redefined.
Now, what I thought I was going in for was some research showing that Natives and Non-Natives teachers are equally good at teaching language. It's not their "nativeness" that makes them good teachers, but their command of the materials, pedagogic knowledge and so on. The one gem out of this session was that indeed most teachers of English are non-native speakers, and there is research that shows that there is no deficit in the abilities of non-native speakers when it comes to teaching language.  That's where the gems end.

It seemed to me that the non-native speakers that teach that were presenting and those who were in the audience (and there were quite a few of us) were suffering from professional angst. The "what if my employers don't think I am a good teacher because English is not my native language." Apparently there is discrimination around this, with employers preferring native speakers without any shred of evidence on the superiority of native speakers. OK, sure, but this isn't a linguistic issue, but rather an HR issue, it's a discrimination issue, and it should be treated as such.

There was an audience member who shared an anecdote that a potential student shied away from their class when they found out that the teacher was a non native speaker. In a subsequent semester when this non-native speaker was the only game in town for Part II of the class, and the student had no other choice, the student had an "aha" moment where they understood that this teacher was pretty exceptional regardless of their native language.  You know, biases like these might exist, but we ought to be going out an showing that we are just as good as native speakers, and if people don't want to believe us, let's not wring our hands - it's their loss.  No need to feel inferior or adopt a "woe is me" attitude - which is the vibe I got from the session.

Title: Problematizing the construction of US Americans as monolingual English speakers
Abstract: The presenter problematizes the discursive construction of US Americans as monolingual native English speakers, which normalizes and solidifies the ideology of English monolingualism as part of the US identity. Then she explores how changing such discourse is needed for successful policies and practices that promote and support multilingualism

The second session also seemed promising, but it failed me.  The main theme was the monolingual US American, but then the speakers brought in the notion of immigrants, or second generation, or third generation who speak English, plus a home language, and perhaps something they learned in college, so the Monolingual American is a myth.  OK, I agree, but the session then is not about monolingual Americans but rather what it means to be an American. I am an American, but most people tend to think of me as "Greek." When people think of Monolingual Americans, at least from my experience, they think of the archetypical white-anglo-american, and even then it's a certain socioeconomic stratum of white-anglo-america.

I was interested in this discussion of what it means to be American, but the discussion moved onto a debate of the terms Monolingual, Bilingual, Multilingual and Plurilingual.   I really could not believe my ears when the meaning of Monolingual and Bilingual was debated.  Sure, Monolingual has been co-opted in some cases to mean "english only" - but that is not the case everywhere. Monolingual means speaking one language period.  And again, just because bilingual has been co-opted in some cases to mean English-Spanish, it doesn't mean that we need to stop using the term in its entirety.  People who speak two languages are bilingual.  The main #facepalm moment was the suggestion that we might not want to use bilingual and multilingual because bi- means two and multi- means many and people might feel inferior if they only speak two languages - oh...#facepalm.... WTH? It's like I jumped into some PC (politically correct) twilight zone.

Some audience member suggested a new term plurilingual to potentially remove stigmas for the bi- and multi-, and some suggested not using English as a Second language because it might not be indicative of the actual language that students are learning (it might be their third of fourth for example).  It is true that people who've had more than one second language are generally better able to pick up more languages because they've developed their meta-linguistic competence, but this terminology silliness needs to stop.  If we dump terms because they've been stigmatized and co-opted, we will keep dumping words ad infinitum because the power structure will keep stigmatizing and co-opting whatever we come up with.  The main idea here is to fight the power and reclaim the meaning of mono-, bi-, tri- and multilingualism.

OK, so there are my rants for the "m'eh" sessions.  Coming up in another blog post (soon), my learnings on Australian indigenous languages! :-)