Are productivity apps more hype than help? (Temporary post to be completed)

My friends and family often call me “Messy Marianne”. It’s not that I am unorganized or even chaotic, it’s juste that I keep forgetting where I put my keys (or phone, bank card or glasses), what to do first when I have plenty of things to do and I always feel under pressure! This is the reason why I was curious and clicked on the article from the BBC. I thought: “After all, this website is known to be serious, I could probably learn something!”

Here’s the link to that article for other curious people: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34506590 .

Have you ever heard of productivity apps before? I’ve never heard of it and therefore, I’ve decided to download one of those apps and use it for a week.  I also suggest organized people to try the app and give me their feedback, to see the differences there might exist between messy people (me) and organized people.

Let’s start! Choose one of the apps the BBC article mentioned:  Evernote, Pocket, Swipes, Humin or Boxer. All these apps have been 2015 Webby Award winners and nominees.

Done?  Perfect! Now first before using the app: write down your weaknesses in terms of organization, efficiency, plans, cheklists or whatever you use to keep organized (at least have the impression to be organized). You should also write down what you want to improve thanks to this app or what you expect from this app.

This is temporary post which will be completed in one week (3rd November 2015). See you guys, really hope someone’s interested in trying this!  My personal opinion on the article will also be written next week.

Evaluation of games for language learning purposes

I’ve analysed in class today the website digitaldialects.com and see the potential it has for language learning. But I’d like to remember that it’s not because you use technology that it helps you for language learning, you have to do something to reach a certain level of interaction.

Just have a look at this website and choose a language you want to learn/ practise or whatever. You’ll quickly see that the site offers a wide range of languages: 77 different languages and there’s also Irish which surprised me! I never thought Irish could be learned through technology, to be honest.

I’d like to talk about the limitations of digitaldialects.com and then I’ll go on with the benefits, which are numerous according to me.

Once you’ve chosen the language you want to practise and you’re about to start an exercise about fruits and veggies for example, there might me something distracting you. Exactly, advertising everywhere! Does it be on the left, on the right or under your vocab exercise, there are a few ads at the same time. They probably misunderstood the difference between entertaining/diverting and distracting… This was my first impression but then I went a bit deeper in my reflection and thought it could probably be a website created by Babel, another language learning site because most of the adverts were about this other language learning website. Smart from me, isn’t it? Afterwards, I went through a few exercises in German ( quite childish because of all the pictures) and being bilingual in French and German, I realized there was a mistake in the gender of one word. This is just intolerable,  you just wonder if you can really rely on it or not? Moreover, I tried to come back to a homepage to choose another language and there isn’t any homepage you can come back to. These were the only limitations I’ve found for this website.

But on the other hand, there a many benefits of this website which makes me forget about the negative things and let me arguing that digitaldialects.com has a real potential for language learning. First, you have to choose your level, which is a good thing, it’s suitable for any level. Then, there are many differents types of exercises for different skills: grammar, vocabulary, listening (not every language), spelling+ pronunciation,… and all of these are animating, entertaining. An important aspect is also covered: feedback. The website put a green tick when an answer is correct and a red cross when it isn’t AND gives you the right answer. For languages as German, they also give the gender. Oh, I forgot to say that before each exercise, a list is given to the learner to let him reading through and try to memorize it once before starting the exercise. The two last benefits are for me: the bookshop they offer with different kinds of books for language learning and the famous blue thumb, with which you can recommend the website to friends on Facebook, another aspect of interaction.

To put it in a nutshell, I really think this webiste could help a language learner but it might be suitable for younger children. The solution I could offer would be to repurpose a game or else to language learning in order to make a website more suitable for the level and age of languages learners at university. Hope you enjoyed reading and don’t hesitate to speak your mind!

Interaction through technology

I’ve been two afternoons in the library trying to write my first essay in English (whcih is not easy at all when you find yourself unable to write your thoughts in a foreign language…) and read a lot about interaction through technology.

First of all, I was surprised when in the lecture we talked about interaction but then I read a bit more about it and it conviced me. As Blake says in Brave New Digital classroom, technology and foreign language learning, “After all, computers are not human and cannot interact with anyone in the sense that two huma beings can. Nevertheless, Reeves and Nass (1996,5) have convincingly argued the following: people’s interactions with computers, television, and new media are fundamentally social and natural, just like interactions in real life.” Do we really feel like we’re interacting with the computer in a real social manner? If you’re not sure, just have a look at the book mentioned before, it’s really interesting! But this question wasn’t the purpose of this post. In fact, this morning I was wondering what are the positive and the negative impacts of technology on social interaction?

Here’s a picture that shows my first thought about the impact of technology on our daily lives:

people-on-their-phones

In fact, many of us are literally addicted to their phone, especially smartphones since it’s possible to have internet wherever you want and to use it as air. But on the other hand, just think about email, instant messaging, Skype,… I think we’re lucky to have all this to communicate with friends on the other side of the world! The next time you go to a restaurant or hang out with your friends, observe how many people are occupying their phones, tablets, and/or computers instead of engaging in a conversation. How does that make you feel?

In many ways technology has enabled us to strengthen relationships by keeping in contact with old friends, colleagues, and co-workers. What would we do if we could not find old friends from high school through Facebook? Technology has even provided opportunities for students all over the world to receive an education online through CALL for example, while still maintaining work schedules and family.

If technology was taken away from you, how would you feel? Personally, I would have the feeling that something is missing due to technology now being a necessity in our everyday life. But I can’t deny that once I am on holiday, I’m so happy and relaxed being without a phone for the whole summer, really!

If you have any interesting observations, thoughts, or comments about my post, please feel free to comment. I would love to hear other people’s opinions and perceptions about the positive and negative impacts of technology. And here‘s an article about the same subject.

Critical thinking

Based on the tutorial I had yesterday in Language and Technology and precisely Martin’s proposition of an expansive view of digital literacies, I see digital literacies as  the ability to use digital tools in an appropriate context in order to create media expressions, to communicate, in short: to enable consctructive social action, not only technical skills. I put something in bold just to say that you have to take in consideration cultural and intercultural literacy (what’s acceptable and what’s not in a given society). I want to add that you also have to adopt a critical thinking when you’re searching for something on the internet (for example). You need to filter and decide what’s useful for you and what’s not.

You’re probably thinking: “Why is she writing this?”  My purpose is simple, dear reader, I just want to show you two websites and to ask you which one could be the spoof one and the other the real website. It’s like a little game for those who study French or at least, understand French.

Here’re the links of both websites:

http://legorafi.fr

http://lefigaro.fr

In order to help you choosing which one is the spoof website, I give you differents criteria you could use:

  • the layout
  • the content
  • style of language
  • URL
  • links to other websites

This is a small exercise you can use for all websites you have a look at when you google for something. It can help you do adopt a critical thinking. There are soooooo many students who don’t really think when they cut and paste something from the net and then, they write an essay or else and realize a few hours before giving in their paper that they aren’t logical in what they say, that something is wrong.

Language-learning takes considerable effort and time

And what if having access to the right program could really make a huge difference?

First of all, you have to know which kind of learner you are. To discover your learning style, I give you the same test I had to take in a tutorial two weeks ago: http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html

Knowing which kind of learner you are is really important. It can help you to save a lot of time while studying but also to be more effective in general. For example, I know that I am a visual learner. This is why I print basically all slides in all my classes and highlight key words, rewrite and summarize how I understand things,… It seems to work since I never had problems since I’ve entered college. BUT personalising  your learning and especially your language learning has also disadvantages. In fact, there’re some teachers who want things to be done in a certain way and not another and it might be difficult to adapt yourself to the teacher’s demands if you’re used to work as you like. And according to Dr Ferler (in “Learning styles”): “When mismatches exist between learning styles of most students in a class and the teaching style of the professor, the students may become bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about the courses, the curriculum, and themselves, and in some cases change to other curricula or drop out of school.”

This is why it is important to get out of your comfort zone and try to reach the balance between the active and the reflective learner, sensing / intuitive learner, visual / verbal learner, sequential / global learner.

Then, you can look for a program that suits you best. Take in consideration different factors like the following ones:

-personal support? => Are you looked after by a qualified tutor?

-quality you can rely on? => For those who want to improve their German level for example, the Goethe Institute is the world’s leading provider of German language courses.

-suitable for every level? => whether a beginner or an advanced learner, own learning rhythm to fit in with your other personal arrangements,…

– certificates? => Are they internationally recognized?

-courses materials? Are they regularly reviewed and revised? Or whether you prefer online or with textbooks, CDS an so on.

These are only a few criteria I took in consideration while evaluating a CALL package. Other criteria could be: learner control, practicality, language learning potential (rapid learnign success?) , error correction and feedback, language skills, authenticity,….

I hope you will succeed in finding the program that suits you best!

The best way to learn a language?

I’m bilingual in French and German and I’m convinced that the best way to learn a language is to be surrounded by the language.

When babies learn a language, they have to hear the words and understand them before repeating after their parents. I think it’s nearly the same for grown ups although it’s more difficult to acquire a second language.

I’m an Erasmus student here at UL and I’m convinced that I’ve learned more about the English language in these 4 weeks than my whole exam session in may this year. The reason is simple: I’m really surrounded by the language and I’m practising it all the time. I’m not only speaking to people in English, I watch the telly, hear the news in the morning, have Irish roommates (so lucky to have the opportunity to ask them for the meaning of irish idioms!), live in the culture itself. Even when I’m doing my shopping on saturday morning at the Milk Market, I learn a lot! All this to say that to learn a language, long vocabulary lists don’t really work on the long term. You really have to practise every single day.

But wait, how can I keep improving my English level once I come back to Belgium?
And there I come to language and technology! Without entering in deep explanations (which I’ll do in another post!), I’d just written a short list of 5 things you can do to improve your English (or other language) while using technology:
-As a student in translation in my home country, we’re always told to find synonyms. Once you have a basic level of English, explore the different ways you can say the same thing. This makes your English more interesting to the listener and it shouldn’t be too difficult for you because you already know the basics. You can easily practise it with line games for children on the internet.

-Unlearn your mistakes. You probably make the same grammar mistakes over and over again and you’re also likely to find them on the internet. Good thing because you’re able to identify them! Use English tests results as a study tool. Go over your mistakes and choose one or two that you want to focus on. When I had to define my level in English before coming to Ireland, I had to take an online test. Here’s the link, if you’d like to know your level in English: http://erasmusplusols.eu/assessment-test/

-Make use of the internet in general. It’s full of resources to help you learn: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/   But watch out, there’re also many mistakes! It’s up to you to be critical enough to judge the accuracy of the webiste.

-Idioms can be difficult to memorise, but they are great fun to use and they’ll make your English more colourful. You should try to organize idioms in themes. I found  a blog of a lady who teaches English through her blog and she made this great post about war idioms used in business English, really interesting! http://englishwithatwist.com/2015/09/22/business-is-war-lets-explore-10-war-idioms-used-in-business-english/

-When I cam here, I realized how English textbooks are often different from the way people casually speak. To learn casual ‘slang’ watch movies! Yesterday I watched “The reader” with my roomies. I understood almost everything and I’m really proud of it! It’s the proof that we also learn passively during the day (this is going to be the subject of another post too!).