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In this section your will find tutorials on how to use technology in your classroom.
Below the list of entries.

Technology Review and Tutorial: LINGT Editor
MaxAuthor - a free multimedia authoring system for language instruction
How To Make A Thematic Screen Saver For Your Personal Use Or As A Class Project
Podcast with me


Technology Review and Tutorial: LINGT Editor
by Thomas Braslavsky, NCLRC/The George Washington University
Originally published in the NCRLC Language Resource, May 2009

Many teachers have encountered challenges in assigning oral homework. Some have difficulty ensuring that students indeed practice, while others find they have trouble evaluating students’ progress. Having students use tape recorders to record their pronunciations can get bulky and inefficient to grade, and few easy-to-use alternatives exist in aiding the process.

Enter MIT graduates Scot Frank, Chris Varenhorst and Justin Cannon, who formed the company Lingt Language in order to create online tools for language teachers and improve the classroom dynamic. Their first project, Lingt Editor, is an online program found on their website (lingtlanguage.com) that tries to make it easier to assign, complete and grade oral homework.

Currently in its beta stage, the Editor is free to teachers willing to try it out in their classes. The Lingt website mentions that what the company currently wants is feedback about the tool, including suggested improvements and ways to improve its use in the classroom. With this in mind, I decided to give the Editor a try. I signed up, got my password by email and got to work.

After you enter the website and sign in, the Lingt Editor demo front page comes up. On this page, you can “create” a class and then assignments for that class. When you click on “create assignment”, you must first configure your microphone (just by clicking twice on a dialog box that comes up) and then move on to designing the assignment. The pane starts out blank, and there are various features you can add including text, voice recordings, images and YouTube videos. For student responses you can add written prompts and voice prompts. The layout is incredibly easy to use; just click the clearly visible feature buttons or drag them over to the section of the page where you want something to appear.

Voice recording on Lingt Editor is simple, as well. There is no need to install any programs, and all you need is a microphone. You click on the “Voice” bubble, wait for it to load and then speak into the microphone. When you’re finished recording, click on the bubble again and it stops. After this, you can listen to the recording and redo it if necessary. This simple, digital layout beats the constant rewinding involved in using a tape recorder.

Teachers can use the Editor to create all sorts of assignments. On my assignment, I gave written and spoken instructions, asked students to translate written words into spoken form and a spoken passage into writing, and gave a poem to be recited aloud and recorded. From pronunciation practices to spoken dialogues and readings, translations to cultural interaction, the Editor is quite versatile in its uses. It seems to fit one of Lingt Language’s core values: “Technology is an enabling tool.”

When you finish creating your online assignment, with a couple clicks of a button the assignment is assigned to the class of your choice (teachers of more than one class can rejoice; Lingt Editor allows you to have multiple classes under your name). The assignment then goes up on your personal teacher page, which has an easy-to-find URL. Students can then access your posted assignments on this page.

When completing assignments, students follow the teacher’s provided instructions, watch posted videos, write in dialogue boxes and record their own voices. Recording for students is the same as for teachers – students click on a speaking bubble, record and then listen and try again if they don’t like it. This feature allows students the opportunity to keep practicing their verbal skills and to submit only the pronunciations they feel are their best.

After students finish the assignment, they submit it and then type in their names and email addresses. Right after a student submits an assignment, the teacher can grade it. The online review tool is very easy to use. It shows all the questions and a particular student’s responses. A teacher can listen to the student’s verbal responses and read written ones. Then, the teacher can make written or oral comments on each response, giving the student feedback on what s/he has done well or can work on. Once a teacher is finished with feedback, a copy of the comments is sent to the student. This is a great system for giving students constructive criticism, and it still allows you to determine your own grading scale and standards.

Another impressive feature is Lingt Community. This is a section of the Lingt website on which teachers share assignments with each other. You can add your own assignment to the public database, or search for others in the database. Teachers who like an assignment can add it to one of their classes. Lingt Community can build interaction and cooperation between teachers and allows for free exchange of ideas.

For all of its advantages, there were a couple of areas of concern in the Lingt Editor. The right technical settings are key to using the online tool. As I had a problem with my Flash settings, Lingt Editor crashed once on my personal laptop. Also, the Editor requires a good microphone in order to work well. I used a headset with a mic and it worked perfectly. However, a lack of such hardware may make it more difficult for students to complete assignments at some schools.

Overall, I found the Lingt Editor to be a very helpful and user-friendly solution to the oral assignment problem. You can view the sample exercise I created on Russian Personal Pronouns: http://lingtlanguage.com/takeassignment/4424111772488/ With no big hardware like tapes needed and no major software to download, it is an enticing tool for the language teacher who is concerned about students’ learning of oral skills. Although it’s necessary to ensure that all students have the right technical settings on their computers – and it also may be necessary to train students before actually using the Editor in order avoid confusion – once they have everything, the Editor is a very useful teaching tool.

In March, Lingt Language was selected as one of Inc. Magazine’s “America’s Coolest College Startups” of 2009. The Inc. website had a poll for its readers’ favorite startup from the list. As of publication date, Lingt had over 180,000 votes – over 100,000 more than the next highest company. It’s not hard to see why so many people are receptive to Lingt’s idea of improving language teaching. Once the Lingt Editor becomes more widely known, this tool has the potential to improve the success rates and simplify the lives of countless language teachers.

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MaxAuthor - a free multimedia authoring system for language instruction
Originally published in the NCRLC Language Resource, June 2007

scott_brill

The University of Arizona Computer Aided Language Instruction Group (UACALI) has produced a free for non-commercial use multimedia CALL authoring system. MaxAuthor has been under development for over a decade and was used by authors nationwide to create the Critical Languages Series CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs. Without any programming, MaxAuthor lets you create language instruction courseware for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and 44 other languages. Completed courseware can utilize audio, video, footnotes, and graphics. Student activities include MaxBrowser, Listening Dictation, Pronunciation, Multiple Choice, Vocabulary Completion, and Audio Flashcards. Lessons can be delivered via Internet or MS-Windows. Improvements are being made to MaxAuthor with funding from the US Department of Education and the National Association of Self Instructional Language Programs (NASILP).

"Anyone with moderate, general computing skills should be able to author lessons in a short time. Indeed, after giving an hour introduction to my research assistant, she was able to create basic MAX lessons. I began authoring lessons after a short orientation session. I find the hyperlinking feature easy to use and convenient in providing graphics and notes. I have found the program to be very stable. Since installing it about a year ago I have had no major problems, and yet to have a crash. " - Professor Dana Scott Bourgerie, Director of the Chinese Flagship Program at BYU.

MaxAuthor has been used by the US and Canadian Foreign Service Institutes, the American Institute in Taiwan, the Defense Language Institute, several Native American nations, and has been downloaded by thousands of instructors worldwide.

You can download MaxAuthor from our website at http://cali.arizona.edu/docs/wmaxa/ and also see exercises created with it, tutorials with video, a manual, and many other helpful tips. The MaxAuthor download includes the MaxBrowser Student Interface which is how your students interact with the lessons you create with MaxAuthor.

MaxBrowser™ Student Interface

You can watch a video tutorial of MaxBrowser™ here.

maxbrowser_interface

MAX Browser™ Quick Reference

  1. Like the Back button on an Internet browser; allows return to previous page or activity.

  2. Three views of the text: Word, Sentence, and Footnote (here footnote view is selected). When an underlined word or phrase is clicked, you hear the native speaker...or see the footnote content if that view is selected.

  3. Click All Play to hear the segments (word or sentence) starting from current position.

  4. For computers with microphone: Record your own voice. Recording continues until Stop button is clicked.

  5. After recording your voice in word or sentence, click to play back; then compare your voice with native speaker's.

  6. Stop any audio, such as All Play or Record.

  7. Try one of five exercises to test and improve your knowledge of the lesson:

    1. Fill-in-the-Blank
    2. Multiple Choice
    3. Listening Dictation
    4. Flash Card Exercise
    5. Pronunciation

  8. Help explains button or menu function.

  9. Footnote window. Drag separator bar up or down to resize footnote window.

  10. A Word or Sentence that you can click on to hear spoken word. Click left mouse button to hear the native language and right mouse button to hear English translation (when available).

  11. Video Footnote Indicator The icon indicates on attached video. Green underlines or icons indicate attached footnote.

  12. Footnote window for easier access. Footnotes may be textual, graphic, audio, or video, or may access another lesson (a hyperlink).

How to Create a MAX Lesson with MaxAuthor

The author records separate audio for both sentences and words and has the option of recording audio in the training language only, but can also record translations or paraphrases in up to 5 other languages or dialects. The author can either manually define the word and sentence boundaries or let MaxAuthor choose the boundaries automatically. We have 5 tutorials with video to show you how to create lessons.

MaxAuthor works just like a text editor with tools that add audio and exercise material; there is no programming or scripting necessary. The tools within MaxAuthor let you play, record, or edit recordings. When the Record All menu choice is selected, MaxAuthor sequentially records each word or sentence. When a lesson text is comprised of multiple occurrences of the same word, you have the option of using the same recording for each occurrence to avoid re-recording the same word.

Once you record audio for your lesson, the student can immediately use MaxBrowser Dictation, Pronunciation, and Audio Flashcards. By adding more information to the lesson such as multiple choice questions and multimedia footnotes, you can enhance the richness of the student's interaction with the lesson. It's up to you, the instructor, to decide how much time you want to invest in your new lesson. You can create a CDROM or DVDROM which contains a series of MAX lesson for your students. Several Native American groups have done this, including the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Internet Delivery of MAX Lessons

If you'd rather deliver your lessons on the Internet, MaxAuthor gives you that option. There are many example lessons on our website. For example, María Palacios de Erickson, Santa Monica College, created a lesson called "Verbos" that you can try out.

Why use MaxAuthor?

While there are several authoring systems available to create CALL courseware, MaxAuthor embodies a combination of features not available in any other system. Its primary advantages: 1) ability to handle many Less Commonly Taught Language (LCTL) writing systems, including some with complex fonts and keyboard mappings (e.g. Mandarin and Cantonese Romanization), 2) deployment of courseware either on MS-Windows or the Internet, 3) ease of capturing and integrating audio recordings of every word and sentence into the courseware, 4) specifically designed for creating CALL courseware with built-in templates for many common language learning activities such as fill-in-the-blank and listening dictation, 5) free for non-commercial use. MaxAuthor version 3.0 (now in development) will allow the creation of lessons in many more languages, including Kurdish and Arabic.

References

Bangs, Paul and Davies, Graham, "Introduction to CALL authoring programs", retrieved 5/31/07 from http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod2-5.htm

Stevens, Vance, "Authoring Tools", retrieved 5/31/07 from http://www.geocities.com/vance_stevens/authorng.htm

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How To Make A Thematic Screen Saver For Your Personal Use Or As A Class Project
By Sheila Cockey
Originally published in the NCRLC Language Resource, October 2006

The ubiquitous screen saver could use some individuality!  Enough of the canned programs provided with the computer, or the not-quite-on-the-mark purchased programs.  To decrease the boredom, many computer operators use their own photos, especially as wallpaper on the desktop.  This is a project that will teach you how to make a thematic screen saver with any number of pictures that will rotate according to your choice of time and sequence.  Combining known skills in a unique fashion, this is an easy-to-accomplish way to banish the mundane from your computer screen.  Once the imagination is stimulated, other ways in which to use thematic collections of digital images will become obvious.

A very successful project for a class, it permits students to pursue their own interests, while relating them to the language and culture they are learning.  It also requires that each image be properly cited, thus stressing the importance of giving proper identification of sources.

Once a theme is determined for the screen saver (my first one was waterfalls), the next step is to locate possible images.  Images can be selected from personal picture collections or from the Internet, searching the image files available there.  I keep a document with a thumbnail image and source information for each image allowing me to find it again if I need it for something else.  The selected pictures should be of a size and file format to maintain good resolution when they are enlarged to fit the screen.

As pictures are selected, whether from the Internet or personal files, follow these steps to save the images:

  • Create a folder for you images
  • Right click on the picture
  • Click on “Save picture as”
  • Browse to where you will save the image
  • Paste the image
  • Name the image appropriately
  • Save the picture as a .jpg or as a .gif file

Now that all of the images are collected, open each one in an image editor, and make a label on the image that identifies what it is and where it is located.  If this is a classroom project, the students might be required to include bibliographic information, in the form of the URL, as well.

Using the image-editing program, the next step is preparing the image for use in the screen saver program.  Many possibilities are available, ranging from the easy to the complex.  Paint Shop Pro is my choice when working at home.  At school as a student project I use a combination of Microsoft’s Paint (found on the computer at Programs/Accessories/Paint) and a program provided by our IT person, ImageBlender, from Tech4Learning.  ImageBlender is an easy-to-use, inexpensive program.  

Using an image editor allows the placement of text on the image and the altering of the image itself.  These editors have options for varying the picture, cutting, or cropping the image, changing the edges, or working with artistic effects.  Students become so involved with tweaking and playing with the images that it is necessary to keep an eye on their progress and set a firm time schedule.

Save the images in a screensaver folder created on the hard drive in My documents/My pictures.

To watch your screen saver in Windows XP, 

  • Right click on the desktop
  • Click on Properties
  • Click on the Screen Saver tab
  • Using the drop down arrow, select “My Pictures Slide Show”
  • Set the time for how long before the screen saver starts
  • Click on Settings and make any changes you wish
  • Click OK
  • Preview and then apply.
  • Click OK

Voilà!  A custom-designed gallery of meaningful images has usurped that boring screen saver that came with the computer!  I found the idea to be addictive, and ended up creating several thematically based sets, each one designed to coordinate with a lesson.  Since the computers are always on in the classroom, these constantly changing images provide visual reinforcement of the topic being discussed in class.

If this becomes a student project, reserve the computer lab for two sessions, one at the beginning to introduce the project and get them started on it, and one at the end to display and share the various programs created by the students.  The actual creation of the screen saver can be done as a homework assignment to be completed over the course of a week.  Some themes my students have chosen include: architecture, statues, roller coasters, hats, shores, sports figures, butterflies, reptiles, islands, fish, horses, churches, soccer jerseys, animals, stained glass, musical instruments, cars or transportation.  As you can see, the variety is infinite.

Hints for assigning this to students.

  • Emphasize that the images need to be physically large enough to cover the screen without losing resolution quality.
  • Require that the theme be related to the language and culture they are studying.
  • Require a proper bibliography documenting the source of each image.
  • Set a firm time line and stick to it.
  • Provide a rubric at the outset of the project.  My rubric includes theme, documentation on image, separate bibliography, and selecting the correct number of images (12).
  • The documentation on the image must have an identification of the picture including the name of the site, where in the world it is, and the URL.

The process outlined above certainly uses familiar techniques.  It is hoped that article has provided a stimulus for using known skills and techniques to create a new product.  Enjoy your personalized thematic screen savers!

©2006 The National Capital Language Resource Center


Podcast with me!

You may be asking, ok, what’s a podcast? Or how do I conjugate the verb, to podcast? If you’ve just come back from a stint in the jungle for the Peace Corps, I’ll share with you the definition from my students’ favorite resource, Wikipedia:  “Podcasting is the method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio programs or music videos, over the Internet using either the RSS or Atom syndication formats, for playback on mobile devices and personal computers. The term podcast, like 'radio', can mean both the content and the method of delivery.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcasting

“Podcast” is a blend of the name for a portable MP3 player, the Apple iPod, and the verb ‘broadcast.’ Content can be downloaded to an iPod and made more portable, but you don’t actually need to have an iPod to enjoy viewing, listening to, or producing podcasts. You do need access to a computer and the Internet. Like the familiar format of TV series, podcasts are often delivered in short episodes connected by a particular theme. Radio programs and even some TV programs are now available as podcasts. They have the special quality of being ‘pushed’ to the viewer – you don’t need to seek out new episodes once you have subscribed (see more on that aspect below), so all you have to do is press a play button and you’ve got the content of your choice.

I’ve been wanting to put a podcast up on our website for a while now. I finally got all the pieces in order and did it in one afternoon this week. There are a lot of how-to guides online for this, so I’ll try to make this one in plain English and will keep it specific to the new Apple software, since that’s what I used to create it. Specifically, I will be referring to functions that are only in the iLife '06 suite. ($79.00 or $59.00 with the Education discount) Many schools are using Macs for video and audio editing these days, as the software is simple to use and the various programs are integrated with each other. Thus music files, video files, and images can all be brought together in a variety of programs to make a multimedia product.For information on how to download podcasts in Windows Xp, read the Microsoft site. To use Quicktime to create on a Windows machine, read this.

Back to the basics of podcasting. There are three things you’ll need to be able to upload a podcast:

  1. An audio or video file. See our April 2006 issue for a discussion of audio editing programs and blogging sites. http://nclrc.org/readings/0604tb.html#tech You can also get a tutorial on Apple’s website on using Garage Band to make audio podcasts. http://www.apple.com/support/garageband/podcasts/  This file should be relatively short, at least for your first attempts at podcasting. For video, a minute ot two is good. Audio can be longer but anything over 5 minutes will take a lot of space and may not be listened to anyway. (think of how long you listen to a longer piece on NPR, for example. Their pieces are about 10 minutes at the most.)
  2. A location online where you can store this file. This could be your own website or space allotted to you by your Internet service provider, or a free site such as Our Media http://www.ourmedia.org/ The file should have a web page associated with it, which you can create with a blogging site such as Blogger. http://blogger.com. You can get instructions on how to set up a blog here: http://www.blogger.com/signup.g

  3. A means of syndication, or promotion, of your podcast. This is offered by services called aggregators, such as Feedburner. http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/podcasts  Your podcast is called a ‘feed’ and these services are the equivalent of a magazine subscription service that delivers the feeds to your desktop on a regular basis. One program that you have probably heard of that uses aggregators is iTunes, which collects podcasts for you to listen to at your leisure. You don’t need to worry too much about this – the process of promoting your podcast will only take a couple of minutes, and is free. Feedburner also provides statistics about your blog, such as how many subscribers you have.

Making a video podcast
You will start your podcasting project with a video or an audio file. This month’s podcast uses video from a graduation that you can read about in our feature story. I imported the video from a camcorder into iMovie HD (v. 6.0.2), in which I then selected short clips, no more than two minutes long, as the things I wanted to share via the podcast. To break off a clip, play to the point you want to begin, then pause the video (you can use the cursor keys to move very slowly through the video and get to the point you want).

screenshot

Go to the Edit menu and choose “Split Video Clip at Playhead” or press the apple key and ‘T.’ You’ll see a line marking the spot like this:

Do the same thing at the end of the clip and drag the section to the Clips Pane (If you can't see it at the left side of the window, press the menu tab for Clips as seen here below:

menu_shot

The clip must be moved to the ‘Clips Pane” of iMovie to separate it from the other video on your timeline (the lower part of the screen. See the screenshot showing various clips in the clip pane.)

screen1

With the desired clip selected, go to the menu at the top of the screen and select “Share.” If you move the cursor down to the bottom, you will find a general option, “Share…” which will pop up a box showing all the options at the top. Choose iWeb and make sure the box that says “Share Selected Clips Only” is checked. Choose “Share for Video Podcast” and then click on the blue “Share” button.

screen2

Now, thorough the magic of Apple’s integrated software, you’ll see that iWeb is opening up and you will find that your video clip has been put into a web page. There will be a title on the page, something like “My Podcast.” Select the title and type over it with your own catchy but informative title. You’ll also see some text that looks like Latin, which you can also select and type over to add your own description of the podcast.

mypodcast

You’ll notice that there are buttons on the page which say “Add Entry” or Delete Entry.” These are to make a new page with other files, such as audio files you have saved to iTunes or video that you have elsewhere.
Once you have the text the way you want it, save the page, and in the File menu, choose your publishing option. If you have your own website, you’ll want to choose “Publish to a folder” and select the folder where you store your website files on your computer. If you have a .Mac account, you can publish it there. You can also choose to “Submit Podcast to iTunes” from the File menu.
Here’s how our podcast page looked in iWeb:

podcast

Upload the folder you’ve created for the podcast (there are a number of files and a subfolder named “Site” in this folder), and then copy the URL (select what’s in the browser’s address bar, then use CTRL+C or Command+C). You’ll need this to publicize the podcast.
Once you’ve got the podcast online, you will go on to the promotion step: go to feedburner.com and enter the URL. You’ll have to register to be able to access the statistics for your site.
Now, have fun by sending the address of your podcast to your students, colleagues, and friends, and see how many of them subscribe!

Do you have a favorite podcast you use for foreign language learning or teaching? Let us know by emailing us.

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®2009 National Capital Language Resource Center

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