Student taking notes while video conferencing

Event Recap: Geddes Spring Faculty Showcase

Geddes Language Center featured four faculty projects in its Spring 2017 Digital Faculty Showcase. Each faculty member displayed their recent and developing innovations in digital-based teaching practices.

Flipping a Portuguese Language Class

Celia Bianconi, senior lecturer in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and Adel Faudetzinova, lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences, gave the first presentation: “Converting the Face-to-Face LP123 to an Online Course.” The class is an intensive Portuguese language course, worth 8 credits and typically occupying 2 hours each day, for 4 days each week. Bianconi and Faudetzinova wanted their students to be able to learn on their own schedule, so even commuters and students with busy schedules could participate.

The game plan:

Student taking notes while video conferencing

  • Use Zoom to bring the class together for a group meeting every 3 weeks
  • Promote Skype as a tool for peer collaboration
  • Assign learning modules in MyPortugueseLab
  • Use Google Docs as the primary document-sharing and collaboration platform
  • Connect students to online dictionaries and pronunciation websites

The team found that even though students are mostly “digital natives,” they still run into problems and confusion with technology. Bianconi and Faudetzinova wrote careful documentation for using the required platforms on Blackboard. They also organized their material on Blackboard by the week the students would need to access it. As a result, they established a rich course structure that can be recycled and updated for future semesters.

Flipping a Spanish Language Class

The second presentation, “Flipping First Semester Spanish using Instructional Videos,” was given by Borja Ruiz de Arbulo Alonso, lecturer in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Ruiz said, “I’ve noticed, and you probably have too, when students prepare at home, class time is a lot more useful, it’s a lot more meaningful, they get more out of it.” His goal was to make his students more prepared to engage and participate in class.

Ruiz created video lectures explaining Spanish concepts. He showed an sample video in which he is shown on screen explaining the Spanish verb “ser,” alongside a diagram. To check for comprehension of the concepts, Ruiz assigns low stakes assignments on Blackboard for students to complete after watching the videos.

Creating a MOOC on Chinese Pragmatics

Liling Huang, lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences, gave the third presentation titled “An Open Online Learning Course of Chinese pragmatics for Learners of Chinese.” She began by explaining pragmatics, and how failing to learn pragmatics in a foreign language can harm personal interactions in that language. Students must not only learn how to use the foreign language, but also learn how to change the way they use that language depending on the context, and to follow conversation rules. For example, in Western culture people are accustomed to accepting compliments directly. In Chinese culture the appropriate response to a compliment is to scale down the praise, or say something equivalent to, “I am not qualified for that compliment.” Despite the obvious need to teach these kinds of cultural expectations, few language curricula include deep exploration of pragmatics.

Animated character saying: "No thanks, I don't want to bother you so."In order to teach pragmatics, Huang wanted to demonstrate real-life interactions. She created animated videos on Animaker of characters who overcome cultural disconnects. She showed a short, animated video where an American character feels rejected because his Chinese friend denies his dinner invitation. He later discovers that it is typical in China to say “no” the first time an invitation is extendedAnimated character saying: "In China, if someone invited you to dinner, even though you would accept the invitation eventually, you were supposed to say NO first.", as a way to avoid inconveniencing the host. Huang alsouploads conversations acted out by her students or friends, as well as excerpts from TV shows and films, and tasks students with identifying characters’ relationships and other details about the situation. Additionally, Huang used QuizCat and Easy Test Maker to create online interactive quizzes.

Animated character saying: "OH YEAH! Terrific!"Perhaps the most impressive item in Huang’s library of teaching resources is an interactive activity with voice recognition technology. A character (voiced by one of her students) poses a question or starts a conversation, and the student responds out loud. The voice recognition software evaluates their response, and if it is acceptable, the character speaks back to them.

Huang’s stockpile of digital teaching tools exposes her students to a wide range of well-made, reliable resources. The information in them is rich and multifaceted, with audiovisual components favorable to knowledge retention. In addition to these innovations in her current courses, Huang is working with Amber Navarre and the Office of Distance Education to create BU’s first online language course in Chinese.

Using ePortfolios to Assess Russian Language Learning

Svitlana Malykhina, lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences, gave the final presentation: “Russian Digital Portfolio.” Malykhina recognized a number of shortcomings in advanced students’ performance caused by the limited contexts in which most students study foreign language. In order to overcome this limitation and close gaps in students’ vocabulary and cultural knowledge, she used a Geddes mini grant to adopt Digication for her Russian language course.Students in the kitchen talking and eating with a Russian family

Because Digication is a platform conducive to multimedia content, Malykhina could create a broad range of engaging assignments. She had her students create a guide to a city in the style of Vladimir Nabokov’s short story “A Guide to Berlin” (1925). Her students conducted interviews with Russian people in Boston, and acted out a play in Russian. She showed student interviews with Russian musician Boris Fogel, Doctor of Science Mikhail Fedorovich, and a scene of her students sharing a meal with a Russian family while discussing cultural identities. Digication gave Malykhina a format for bringing her students out of the classroom and having more meaningful interactions with Russian speakers.

Click here to view videos of the presentations.

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