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April 4, 2011

This past weekend I spent a beautiful Saturday indoors at the Northeast Association of Language Learning Technology (NEALLT) conference. The reason for my attendance was largely the technology. However, having a back ground in languages was helpful as well. Here a few thoughts and impressions:

  • While I thought that Second Life was passe (like Friendster and MySpace), apparently I am wrong. Many profs are using the platform for online language learning. However, I’m not sure of the direct applicability to my own courses. (Virtual vaccination with Jenner is the best I can think of so far.)
  • Any kind of online learning requires a balance between open inquiry and monitoring. Students are generally apt to multitask when placed in front of a computer and specifically susceptible to temptations of certain sites (e.g. shopping in Second Life).
  • Students have a tendency to doubt they are learning if you are using unconventional models. Gloria B. Clark and Martha Strickland gave an excellent presentation on how students expect flashcards and grammar drills in languages. Send them off to chat with a native speaker in cyberspace, and they don’t think it is learning. Take away: be intentional with your pedagogy, explain up front how this unconventional approach helps reach the course’s goals.
  • Microsoft’s Photo Story is a great technology for making clips that might actually do somethings better than Apple’s equivalents (*gasp!*).
  • No single package or platform does it all. Even those universities who have bought all the bells and whistles for Blackboard are still having students using other platforms (i.e. Adobe Connect, Facebook, Second Life).
  • No one tried to convert me. No one preached at me. Everyone seemed to know how to use the technology. AND, the wifi was free. SBL take note: this is the way to run a conference.

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