Lingt

Lingt is a web based language learning tool for teachers. It is being beta tested, so there are a few bugs. Lingt allows you to make assignments that incorporate voice, video, images, and text. Students can then complete the assignments (oral and/or written); the teacher can then review student responses.

I signed up to demo Lingt and created a listening assignment and a speaking assignment, both in Russian, here. The editor is easy to use, but doesn’t allow for much flexibility in formatting. Recording audio prompts is simple as well, but there is no sound editor, so I had to record my prompts over and over many times until I was satisfied. The assignment editor allows you to embed YouTube videos, which is great for listening exercises. The text editor leaves much to be desired; font, text size and other formatting options can’t be changed from the default. Also, it would be nice if there were more response options besides just writing and voice (e.g., multiple choice).

Still, Lingt is a better tool for creating speaking exercises than anything I’ve seen. Here are some of the possibilities beyond what I explored in my example assignments, given in the Lingt FAQ:

  • Dialogs: Follow your voice recordings with voice prompts to simulate dialogs that you invent yourself or that you take from your textbook.
  • Pronunciation: Record your pronunciation of key vocabulary or phrases and prompt students to repeat what they hear. Encourage them to listen to their recording and compare with your own.
  • Dictation: Record your voice and prompt students to type what they hear.
  • Video commentary: Have students react to a video in real-time to approximate real immersion.
  • Translation: Prompt students to translate to or from the foreign language. Use any combination of text and voice to have students speak their translations or type out a translation to your inserted text.
  • Reading: Insert a short story or primary source and prompt students to read it.
  • Culture exercises: Use maps, menus, signs, or other primary sources in the foreign language and prompt students to interpret and give their opinion. Insert videos to introduce students to songs, commercials, or TV shows from a foreign country.
  • Visual interaction: Present images and videos to students and prompt them to interpret or describe what they see and hear.

To open a demo account, sign up on the Lingt homepage; I received my login information within a week.

Mindmapping with Cmap

I’ve been using the program Cmap Tools lately to create professional looking mindmaps. Here are a couple I’ve made for teaching Russian – I grabbed some grammar explanations (from Schaum’s Outline of Russian Grammar) and dictionary definitions (from Rambler) to create these mindmaps.

Use of the particle “бы” in Russian

Some prefixed forms of the verb “давать/дать”

Cmaps is a program that you can download and use on your computer; a good online alternative (no downloads required) is bubble.us.

Lingro

I recently discovered that Lingro now has clickable translation service available for Russian. You can type in the name of a website and Lingro will allow you to click words and have a translation pop up. What’s more, you can save these words into word lists and use Lingro to quiz you on the words via flashcards. Also, the site indicates that there are more vocabulary games on the way.

Like any automatic translator, the translations are hit and miss; nevertheless, this is a great tool for Russian language learners. The interface is attractive, clear and efficient. The wordlist feature is extremely useful; the conscientious learner should be able to make good use of it.

Russian Culture in Language Podcast #1 – Bribery in Russia

For one of my CALL classes at the Monterey Institute, I created a podcast, “Russian Culture in Language,” in order to assist English-speaking intermediate and advanced level students of Russian in better understanding Russian culture and how it relates to language. The podcast consists of a conversation between an American and a Russian on a Russia-specific cultural topic. The first topic I chose was “Bribery in Russia.” The podcast is supplemented by a PDF with the phrases mentioned in the episode; listeners should take note of the cultural background given in order to use the phrase list as a resource.

Special thanks to Elena Ilina, whose voice you can hear along with mine in this episode!

Listen to podcast mp3

Download supplementary PDF

Exploration of Croquelandia: a Virtual World for Learning Spanish Pragmatics

CROQUELANDIA – WHAT IS IT?

from Julian Lombardi’s blog - http://jlombardi.blogspot.com/2007/11/croquelandia.html

“The University of Minnesota Croquet team led by Julie Sykes and Liz Wendland has developed a Croquet-based collaborative simulation of visiting another culture and using another language. It was developed as part of a grant to use Croquet as a teaching tool for Spanish Language Pragmatics. The simulation provides learners with a place to gain knowledge and practice language skills in a safe and non-threatening environment. Within this simulation they call Croquelandia, learners are able to collaborate with other learners or even native language speakers within the context of the world. The video trailer was filmed entirely on location in Croquelandia and edited by one of the multi-talented undergrad programmers at the U of M.”

CONVERSATION WITH JULIE SYKES

On November 11, 2008 I met Julie Sykes virtually in iChat to talk about Croquelandia. Here is a summary of some of the questions and answers from our conversation.

Q: What are the features of Croquelandia?

A: Realism of Second Life plus MMOG (massively multi-player online game) aspect; ten quests (half focusing on requests, half on apologies); audio and text chat.

Q: How did you incorporate the use of Croquelandia in your Spanish classes?

A: It was built into the curriculum; replaced a traditional web quest.

Q: How much time did students spend playing Croquelandia?

A: 1-17 hours over the semester, depending on the individual student.

Q: You’ve been recording data in Croquelandia as part of your dissertation research; what exactly are you looking at?

A: Learner behavior in the environment; learner outcomes (metapragmatic and discourse abilities).

Q: Biggest challenges and rewards you’ve faced in doing this project?

A: Challenges: huge time investment; also, undertaking such a project is impossible by yourself. Rewards: student response has been great.

Q: What would you improve in Croquelandia?

A: Make quests more difficult; add more functions besides just requests and apologies; integrate voice recognition instead of just multiple choice text response; have learner-created content; make the environment more complex in general.

Q: What would you tell someone looking to create their own Croquelandia-esque environment?

A: Find a good programming team that’s interested in educational technology; play more games (Julie is working her way up in World of Warcraft); think like a game designer. Duke University is a leading institution in this area.

PLAYING CROQUELANDIA

Julie Sykes gave me access to Croquelandia in order to explore the environment. Here is a rundown of the game play.

× Choose from two modules: requests and apologies. There are several quests in each module.

× To move your avatar, use the arrow keys.

× To travel to other areas in Croquelandia, click the car. A map will come up. There are four locations: the plaza, the market, your family’s house and Professor Sanchez’s office.

× To talk to people, click their avatars and they’ll begin to speak. Julie recorded native speaker unscripted discourse for use in Croquelandia. In order to hear them talk, you have to be at a close enough distance.

× Items are planted throughout the environment; hold your mouse over them, and if a pair of eyeglasses pops up, you can click them and read them. These include: quest prompts, notes on Spanish pragmatics and culture.

× To begin a quest, find the right notecard or object. You won’t be able to respond to other avatars until you have begun a quest. Then, you will only be able to respond to those avatars that are a part of your quest.

× When you begin a quest, a notecard pops up that tells you what you need to do – who to find and talk to.

× Example quest: you need your book to study for an exam, but you lent it to Maria. When you talk to her, you found out that she lent it to Pablo. When you talk to Pablo, he says that he doesn’t have it. Finally, you have to talk to your professor to see if you can borrow his book.

× To check your quest progress, click on the star. A menu will appear showing the quests and your progress.

× When you click on an avatar that is part of your quest, they will start speaking. A transcript of their utterance appears beneath the main screen.

× After the avatar is done talking, a window will come up with response choices. The response possibilities are grammatically correct but pragmatically different.

× The outcome of the conversation depends on your responses. To get a different outcome, you can reset your quest in the quest menu.

× As you complete a quest, notes appear on the screen after you finish each step. They comment on others’ attitudes towards your interaction as well as instructions on what to do next. At the end of the quest, an assignment prompt is given (e.g., write a letter to a friend talking about your experience in the market, and give him/her advice on what to do in such a situation).

× In order to complete a quest successfully, you must choose the responses necessary to accomplish your goal.

WEB RESOURCES

University of Minnesota Croquet Project

Background on the Croquelandia team and project; includes trailers

http://croquet.umn.edu/

Croquelandia: Helping Learners Develop Authentic Intercultural Communication Skills in a Synthetic World

Presentation at the Educause Educational Learning Initiative (ELI) 2008 Conference by Julie Sykes, Liz Wendland and Peter Moore from the University of Minnesota

http://croquet.umn.edu/pdfs/eli_croquelandia.pdf

Croquelandia: The Next Best Thing to Being There”

University of Minnesota article by Cristina Lopez

http://dmc.umn.edu/projects/sykes/

Julie M. Sykes’ Blog

http://www.jmsykes.net/

Notes on Croquelandia

Entry from Carly Born’s (Carleton College) blog

http://connect.educause.edu/blog/cborn/croquelandia/46057

The Croquet Consortium

Information on the Croquet open source software development environment

http://www.opencroquet.org/index.php/Main_Page

Livemocha

Livemocha is an online language learning community where users create profiles and connect with each other to learn and teach language. Users get points for completing Livemocha’s language courses, uploading written and oral language samples, connecting with other users, and evaluating others’ language samples. There are four levels of the Russian Livemocha course; these lessons are Rosetta Stone-esque (pictures + audio, with matching activities). The translations aren’t always great (мясо = steak?). Also, in the lesson I did, they teach the words spinach, yam, cauliflower, and celery, which are uncommon in Russia. The narrator even says the English words aloud, which seems unnecessary. And, like Rosetta Stone, the photos aren’t culturally relevant. In the grammar focused lessons, the tasks consist of direct, word-for-word English-to-Russian translation of such captivating phrases as: “What did he do? He went to the office.” Perhaps the language courses for other languages are better; I wouldn’t recommend the Russian ones however.

The social network component of Livemocha is much more interesting; users can browse profiles of native Russian-speakers, add them to their friend lists and live chat with them – Livemocha supports text chat, audio and video. Also, users can upload flashcard sets; I found one covering Russian interjections and another with Russian rhetorical questions (e.g., “Кого я вижу?,” “Представляешь?”).

This site would be useful for Russian language learners wanting penpals (e-pals?), since they can match themselves up with someone who matches their interests, and Livemocha’s scoring system makes it easy to see how active someone is in the community. This is something I wish had been around when I was first learning Russian!

WebQuest

From the WebQuest.org site:

“A real WebQuest….

  • is wrapped around a doable and interesting task that is ideally a scaled down version of things that adults do as citizens or workers.
  • requires higher level thinking, not simply summarizing. This includes synthesis, analysis, problem-solving, creativity and judgment.
  • makes good use of the web. A WebQuest that isn’t based on real resources from the web is probably just a traditional lesson in disguise. (Of course, books and other media can be used within a WebQuest, but if the web isn’t at the heart of the lesson, it’s not a WebQuest.)
  • isn’t a research report or a step-by-step science or math procedure. Having learners simply distilling web sites and making a presentation about them isn’t enough.
  • isn’t just a series of web-based experiences. Having learners go look at this page, then go play this game, then go here and turn your name into hieroglyphs doesn’t require higher level thinking skills and so, by definition, isn’t a WebQuest.”

The site has a database of various WebQuests, sorted by language, learner age group, and subject. Unfortunately there are no Russian WebQuests, but the foreign language ones could be adapted for use in a Russian classroom.

This Spanish-language WebQuest could be adapted – instead of Spanish-speaking countries, students would research Russian-speaking countries, which is great because Russia always gets all the attention! Students should have some knowledge of other former Soviet countries. This activity is particularly communicative, because students are given the task of persuading their classmates that their virtual trip was the best, in addition to researching the individual countries. You could even have students do a PhotoStory of their virtual trip, using CreativeCommons-licensed photos… particularly enterprising students could Photoshop themselves into the photos! For lower-level students, simply having them point out the main points-of-interest and other basic features like climate and demography would be sufficient, since persuasion might prove to be difficult at those levels.

Other WebQuest ideas: have students research Russian figures, then do a mini-performance as that figure (a reading of poetry by Pushkin, a video of Alla Pugacheva, etc.) – they could dress-up as the figure or simply show a related clip of some kind.

Perhaps another WebQuest could utilize this Russian Virtual Train site. Students would have to go through the train, taking notes on the virtual conversations they encounter, talk about pros and cons of taking the trains (or comparison of train vs. plane, etc.). You could also have them use the Internet to find and book a ticket on a Russian train. That would be a great exercise because that’s something they will likely need to do when they are in Russia. This could be a whole unit on travel in Russia, complete with role-play scenarios (asking the stewardess for tea, buying a ticket at the station) and relevant clips from movies (Вокзал для двоих and many others).

Seesmic

Thanks to fellow classmate’s blog post I’ve decided to post about Seesmic. It’s a video conversation; like a video blog, where fellow users can comment on your video post by posting their own video. More and more I realize that I need to get a webcam – it’s necessary for Seesmic.

An idea for using this in the language classroom: have the students post a video of themselves speaking the target language (maybe give them a specific topic to inquire about), and respond to any responses they get. I just did some digging to see if there are Russian-speakers active on Seesmic – I only found two! So in my case, to use this in a Russian class, I’d need to recruit some Russian speakers to get on there.

Watch Erin’s Seesmic post about language learning and Seesmic here.

Post other ideas about using Seesmic for language learning!

Wordle

I discovered Wordle today and have been playing with it like crazy. It allows you to toggle the format quite a bit; also it works with Russian (and a bunch of other languages)! Anyway I’m trying to figure out how to use this for more than just fun. Here’s one I made with a famous poem by Pushkin.

Pushkin poem

Maggie Harnew posted some language teaching ideas on her blog which seem very cool, plus a follow-up post with suggestions from others. I really like the idea of using it as a pre-reading task, to familiarize students with the vocabulary and to get them to make inferences about the content of the text to be read.

One idea I had was to make Wordles of songs sung in class, then have the students guess which Wordle goes with which song.

I also looked at this music video that was linked to from Maggie’s page; doing something like this for introducing lyrics to a new song in the target language would be a lot more visually interesting than your regular, linear sheet of lyrics.

After you’ve played with Wordle for a few hours, which you inevitably will, let me know if you have other cool ideas for using it in the language classroom.