Language Learning and Technology (EDER 669.79)

January 24, 2015

U of C logo - 2015This winter I am so excited to be teaching Language Learning and Technology for the Master’s of Education program at the University of Calgary.

Here’s the course description:

This course has been designed for students who want to learn how to combine a face-to-face language teaching approach with the use of technology in their present and future careers as language teachers. The course will cover both theoretical and practical issues in teaching second language and the use of new technology to support and enhance the learning process.

A special emphasis will be on combining both face-to-face and the use of technologies in and beyond the classroom walls to enhance the second language learning process. Although the course will address the different technologies (Web 2.0 technologies (e.g., blog and wiki; audio and video podcasting; online video; mobile tools), mobile technology (e.g., mobile phones; MP3 players; digital cameras; camcorders), and other type of interactive technologies), the focus of the course is on the pedagogical and practical aspects of integrating new technology to face-to-face language teaching. The course is open to present and future second language teachers at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary level. The course also invites language teachers with limited knowledge of the target language to learn how to enhance their language teaching by integrating blended teaching into their practice.

We are two weeks into the new semester and I’ve been working with an excellent group of students who are actively sharing their ideas and experiences about teaching languages with technology. I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester brings!

Here’s a copy of the course outline.

Here’s the reading list for the course.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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Op/Ed: Modern foreign language programs don’t prepare students for the work force – The University of Alberta example

August 19, 2013

Warning: This post may offend literary scholars and literary theorists.

One of Canada’s most reputable institutions of higher learning, the University of Alberta, announced today that it is cutting 20 arts programs. Languages and culture programs are taking the brunt of the cuts. Included in the cuts are undergraduate major programs in classic languages, Italian, Russian and Ukrainian. A full list of the cut programs can be found here.

For years I’ve said to my colleagues that languages programs that focus mainly on literature and culture are doomed. I agree that there is immense value in learning literature and culture, but the reality is that it won’t get you a job — unless you want to become a literature professor.

Employers looks at people with literature degrees and ask themselves, “What can you do for us?”

I remember sitting in a department meeting 15 years ago asking if we could incorporate courses in foreign languages for business and commerce?

My colleagues who were literature experts hissed at me. I became an instant heretic. The suggestion was tantamount to treason in a department where the senior professors were literary scholars.

I was proposing specifically that we incorporate language and culture courses of a more practical nature that students could use as viable and marketable professional skills to position themselves for success in the global job market.

Consider the difference between these two scenarios:

Scenario #1:

Prospective Employer: So, I see you did a major in Italian. Tell me more about that.

Italian major graduate: I learned about Dante, Petrarch and major Italian literature, along with grammar, structure and syntax.

Prospective Employer: How would you use what you learned on the job?

Italian major graduate: I’m not really sure…

This is the reality of most modern language majors today. They learn about literature, culture, art and history, but without concrete skills that are easily transferred to the work place. Employers can’t make those links either. The value that languages major brings to an organization have never been made explicit.

(In case you  think I’m exaggerating about the kinds of topics Italian majors learn about, I took my example from the current University of Alberta web page on Italian studies course offerings, though I suspect the web page will be defunct before too long…)

Scenario #2:

Prospective Employer: So, I see you did a major in Italian. Tell me more about that.

Italian major graduate: Unlike traditional programs in modern languages, the one I took was modernized to include courses in Italian business language and professional culture. The courses I took introduced me to fundamental business language in Italian so I can converse more easily with clients, as well as understand how business is conducted in Italy, including cultural norms and social expectations in the Italian workplace. I also took courses in current issues that included a survey of key political and economic factors that allows me to understand the situation in Italy today, as well as where it is headed tomorrow.

The value that this graduate would bring to an organization is much greater. It is difficult to internalize the nuances of foreign business practices. It goes beyond knowing how to dress or greet one another. The subtleties are vast and almost impossible to learn without guidance — for any foreign culture.

I say this as someone with two degrees — a bachelor’s and a Master’s — in literature. I loved studying literature. It goes without saying that we need to teach students critical thinking skills and that learning about culture is important to understand the human race. I learned first hand what it meant to live under the poverty line for a number of years in my adult life. My degrees in literature did not prepare me for the work force. I had to learn to market my skills in other ways. Only then was I able to pull myself ahead of the low-income cut-off (LICO) line. It was a long road and one that my colleagues with full-time tenured positions as literature professors are unlikely to understand.

The days of the self-indulgent scholar are quickly coming to an end. The romanticized version of a scholar puzzling over pile of ancient texts is quickly fading. I’m not suggesting there is no value in learning ancient texts and literature. I’m saying that surrounding yourself with ancient texts is not a viable career option for most language and culture students of the 21st century.

For years literary theorists in institutions of higher learning have stubbornly refused to entertain the idea of expanding modern language and culture programs beyond literature. We could call it professional hubris. The repercussions are that modern foreign language programs are now being cut. It makes me feel sad, but I can’t help wondering if international language programs that focus solely on literature and art aren’t doing a disservice to their graduates?

Imagine what would happen if we taught our students how to navigate cultural differences in the workplace, adapt to global professional environments and learn basic workplace vocabulary, rather than literary terminology. Imagine how we could help our students understand clearly and explicitly the value their foreign language and cultural skills bring to an employer, regardless of whether that employer is corporate, government or non-profit.

It’s not about selling out to corporate consumerism. It’s about giving our students professional opportunities outside the literary realm. There are more jobs outside the literary realm than inside it. Why wouldn’t we want to create opportunities for our students to be successful in other sectors, too?

What’s your take on all this? Should foreign language programs that focus on literature, art and culture be saved? What needs to be done to revitalize and revamp foreign language programs to make them more viable?

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


How will Alberta’s second language students ever achieve proficiency?

March 11, 2013

SLIC logoLate last year I had an article published in the peer-reviewed journal, Notos, which is published by the Second Language and Intercultural Council (SLIC) of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. With permission of the publisher, I am sharing the abstract and article with you:

Abstract

Students of second and international languages in Alberta do not receive sufficient hours of instruction through formal classroom time alone to achieve distinguished levels of proficiency (Archibald, J., Roy, S., Harmel, S., Jesney, K., Dewey, E., Moisik, S., et al., 2006). This research study uses a constructivist approach (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Twomey Fosnot, 2005) to explore what is meant by proficiency and expertise in terms of language learning, by applying what has commonly become known as “the 10,000-hour rule” of expertise (Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R., & Tesch-Romer, C.,1993; Ericsson, K. A., Prietula, M. J., & Cokely, E. T., 2007; Gladwell, 2008).

Alberta’s French as a second language: Nine-year program of studies (Grade 4 to 12) is considered as an example. This paper argues that dedicated, self-regulated informal learning is necessary to supplement classroom learning in order to achieve 10,000 hours of dedicated practice necessary to develop high levels of proficiency or expertise, according to the definitions offered by American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Recommendations are offered to help learners and parents understand critical role of self-regulated, informal learning in achieving language proficiency.

Keywords

second language, international languages, Canada, Alberta, 10,000-hour rule, expertise, proficiency, ACTFL, Common European Framework of Reference, CEFR, expert, self-regulation, formal learning, non-formal learning, informal learning.

Citation

Eaton, S. E. (2012). How will Alberta’s second language students ever achieve proficiency? ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, the CEFR and the “10,000-hour rule” in relation to the Alberta K-12 language-learning context. Notos, 12(2), 2-12.

If you are interested in a copy of the full article, please contact me.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Spanish for Dentists: 6 Great (and Free!) Resources

February 13, 2013

Teeth - smile - smallI unexpectedly had to go to the dentist this week when a filling broke in half and part of it fell out. During my visit, my dentist was telling me about her plans to take her entire team to Guatemala next year to do some pro bono work in poor communities there.

She asked me if I had any resources on Spanish for dentists. I set off on a bit of a quest. Here are six wonderful, free online resources that I found to help English-speaking dentists and dental hygienists learn the basics so they can communicate with Spanish-speaking patients:

  1. English to Spanish Phrase Guide for Dentists – http://www.deltadentalins.com/dentists/guidance/english-spanish-phrase-guide.html
  2. PracticingSpanish.Com – Spanish for Dentists – http://www.practicingspanish.com/dental-exam.html
  3. Spanish for the Dental Office  – https://www.aetnadental.com/AD/ihtAD/r.WSIHW000/st.35410/t.706081.html
  4.  Spanish Words and Phrases for Dentists – http://www.artofteeth.com/files/Spanish_for_Dentists.pdf
  5. Spanish Guide of Dental Terminology – http://lrc.wfu.edu/community_interpreting/extras/editeddental.pdf
  6. English-Spanish Dictionary of Health Related Terms – http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dept/spanish/engspdict.pdf

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Update: April, 2017 – This blog has had over 1.5 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!


UNESCO’s free advocacy kit for promoting multilingual education

October 24, 2012

UNESCO multilingualism Sarah Elaine Eaton blogUNESCO has a number of initiatives on the go to promote multilingual, bilingual and mother-tongue education. They have come out with a new advocacy kit designed to help raise awareness about the importance of multilingual education. The toolkit is for:

  • education practitioners (teachers)
  • education specialists (learning leaders)
  • policy makers

The kit is a 109-page free, downloadable .pdf. It is very cool. Get yours here.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Living, loving and learning languages – An appreciation event for language teachers and literacy tutors

March 23, 2012

Today at the University of Calgary I’m doing a presentation for language teachers and literacy tutors. It is not a research talk, but rather an appreciation event that takes a light-hearted look at teachers, tutors and other instructors who work in informal, non-formal and formal language learning contexts and how we can build the profession — and help our students — by collaborating, rather than competing.

If you are in Calgary, please join us!

Language Research Centre, D-419

University of Calgary

2500 University Dr. NW

Calgary, Alberta

2:00 – 2:55 p.m.

View this document on Scribd

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week(s) (Feb. 23 to March 4, 2012)

March 5, 2012

I am behind with posting some of my favorite resources. Here are my favorite resources of the past couple of weeks, curated from my Twitter account.

Ed tech resources

Technology tools for Education Majors – Prezi

18 Free Screencasting tools to Create Video Tutorials – Web Design Blog

Seriously good resources for Screencasting – Timo Ilomäki ‘s Library

How to Build Rapport With Online Teachers – by Jennifer Williamson

Fluidsurveys – Online survey tool

7 Resources for Teaching and Learning Anatomy & Physiology – from FreeTech4Teachers

7 Strategies to Make Your Online Teaching Better – Inside Higher Ed

Literacy and languages resources

Teacher resources – Noodle Tools

The Best Apps for Learning a Foreign Language – Mobiles Please Blog

The 100 ‘Greatest Books for Kids’ – USA Today

Spark Enthusiasm – Movie and video resources for teaching Spanish

Livres audio gratuits à écouter et télécharger – Free audio books for teaching French – http://www.litteratureaudio.com/

English as a second / additional language (EAL) and related resources

Canadian Newcomer Magazine – Lots of resources and info for New Canadians

Understanding Different English Accents – Daily English Activities Blog

General education resources

40 Alternative Assessments for Learning – by Charity Preston

Differentiated Instruction – Teachers Offer Help and Resources – Teachers.net

30 Online Multimedia Resources for PBL and Flipped Classrooms – 21 Century Ed Tech

Social media resources

TweetChat – An easy way to follow Twitter chats

Related posts:

Dr. Sarah’s favorite news of the week (Feb. 6-12 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 30 – Feb. 5, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 23-29, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 16-22, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 9-15, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Jan. 2-8, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 25, 2011 to January 1, 2012)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 18-24, 2011)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 11-17, 2011)

Dr. Sarah’s favorite resources of the week (Dec. 4-10, 2011)

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


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