Sunday, October 19, 2014

Birthday research project: Follow up study

Four years ago, I counted how birthday greetings reached me. This year, I replicated this study. Let's look at the results:
In 2010:
Twitter - 6
e-mail - 2 (spam e-mails congratulating me were not counted)
physical co-presence - 1
telephone - 1
Xing private messages - 1 (spam PMs were non counted)
Skype - 1

In 2014:
Twitter - 0
e-mail - 1
physical co-presence - 1
telephone - 0
Xing private messages - 1
Skype - 0
Facebook private messages - 10
SMS - 1 (+ 1 spam mesage)
text messaging (not SMS) - 1
snail mail - 1

Quick summary:
Twitter is dead. Long life Facebook!
OK, OK, let's try again:
Online services that send "birthday reminders" to people (Facebook, Xing) increase the number of birthday congratulations sent through them.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dogma 95 - instructional video edition

Imagine, you were to create an instructional video.

Imagine, too, that it must not be longer than 30 seconds.

30 seconds, that's about three to four sentences. What can you explain in just three or four sentences?

Tellagami is an app that allows you to record a message (by speaking or typing) that will then be turned into a 30-second video of an avatar 'speaking' that message. You need a cellphone, a quiet place, and a fairly good internet connection, and you can create a mini-instructional video in about 5 minutes, including the time it takes to upload the video to YouTube.

  • You can choose between speaking yourself or typing your text and have it read by the software. 
  • You can use different background, including photos. 
  • You can "draw" on the background, too - though what you can do with this is very much limited by the size of your screen - my attempts to write "negotiation" by hand on my smartphone weren't very successful. 
  • It's quick and easy to learn. 

  • The software offers male and female characters, and characters of different skin colors. But there is only one body shape for each gender, and dress-choices are strictly gender-specific (This also applies to the extra items you can buy in-app). 
  • The software adapts lip-movements to fit the speech (more or less), and throws in random gestures. 
  • You cannot change those to fit your message, though. When I used it, I would lose all data/recordings whenever the phone went on standby - which it did quite often while the video was rendered. It's a good idea to change the "wait till standby" times while working with Tellagami. 

Here are the results of my little experiment - please share any "Gamis" for educational purposes you created in the comments!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Speaking practice with apps

Just a silly little video of how you can use apps for speaking practice in foreign language learning:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Passive blogging

This blogpost comes with homework: Before you read on, please write a Clerihew. You don't know what a Clerihew is?
"The first line is the name of the poem's subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced. The line length and meter are irregular." (Wikipedia)

Now, don't dawdle your time - strirctly NO googling - just start writing.

Have you done your homework? Then read on:

Imagine the homework had instead been complemented by a few examples, such as:
William Labov,
as cool as the 'Hoff, (*1)
asks about the fourth floor,
no more.
Would this have made task any easier?

As part of my research on use of blogs in schools, I interviewed a range of teachers who had used blogs in class. You see, blogs aren't a dominant medium for youth in Germany - and this a euphemistic way of putting it (cf. JIM study). Accordingly, teachers reported having had to start 'from scratch', by explaining what the word 'blog' actually means. Interestingly, not all teachers actually showed examples of blogs in this process.

If you did your homework above, you might agree with me: Passive blogging, i.e. simply reading blogs, can be a helpful element in blogging instruction. One teacher in my sample actually had a really nice way to combine the two: he used a blog to explain blogging to his learners. But showing exemplary student blogs, both created in school and out of school (free range blogs), or even science blogs dealing with relevant subject area, might also be interesting options.

* Sounds like a VERY forced rhyme? Not if your native language has final obstruent devoicing ;)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Three stories about audience

As part of Coursera's Digital Storytelling course, I have created this little video about the role of audience in blogging, specifically blogging in educational contexts. The video is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I do think that audience conceptualization and audience management are two major problem areas in blogging-assisted learning that would deserve much more attention.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Beyond CALL - delicious language learning

CALL stands for "Computer-assisted language learning". The "computer" in "computer-assisted", though, should be considered more of an acknowledgement of the history of CALL than as a statement that limits CALL to clunky machines standing on desks: CALL has long included mobile devices of all types and shapes. With the "internet of things", the realm of CALL is continuously expanding. Why should we only learn with things that have a screen, when everything in our environment can be used to foster language learning? The future is now, after all!
An example: "a word a day" email services and Twitter accounts have long been popular among language learners. Whenever you check your email in the morning, or glance at your Twitter timeline, there is something for you to learn.
But aren't there better ways to serve up some delicious learning?
I believe that computer-assisted, food-based learning is the answer. We need toasters that create some tasty vocab drills! And why hasn't anybody used chocolate 3D printers for educational purposes yet?
The future of language learning will be delicious!

Life, Language and E-Verything

So Long, and Thanks for All the Ghoti.