The Austin College French program is in a unique position to incorporate digital pedagogical methods and tools into its current curriculum, as the two new faculty members will be rearticulating curriculum goals and student outcomes beginning in Fall 2016. Our proposal involves a wide range of courses in the program, from French 101 to upper-level seminars, including pedagogy in the Jordan House. While our scope is wide, our goal is specific: to enhance traditional aspects of classroom encounters through the use of digital, collaborative tools. As we develop courses for the program over the next three years, we will be thinking digitally, using networking platforms to multiply moments of learning and collaboration between students. This proposal is intended to be a road map to incorporating digital technologies in the classroom at the ground level and to help the French program build on the technological progress of other programs at Austin College. We will focus on three main skills found throughout the foreign language curriculum:
Through the use of Annotation Studio, students will be able to share, in real time, their thoughts on literary and cultural texts. For language courses, students and faculty will use these annotation tools to elucidate difficult passages, expressions, and words in an unobtrusive and participatory way. For example, language students will be asked to gloss particular phrases or words with the help of online dictionaries such as wordreference.com, or to give their responses to small bits of text or video. This annotation software will also supplement traditional “reading response” papers or on-line discussion posts.
Google Docs will be used to promote student-to-student collaboration in language classes. With Google Docs, students can request feedback on writing assignments from the professor or from peers during class, leading to more productive classrooms. For situations where students are asked to write and them perform those texts – such as small-group skits – open digital documents also allow other students to access the texts before their performance. This will lighten the burden of following along with their peers as they present in a foreign language, leading them to feel more comfortable asking questions and engaging with material.
Oral Expression and Production
Language classrooms work at their best when students produce the most amount of the target language. Fora such as Vimeo offer opportunities for students to interact orally outside the classroom, in either scripted or spontaneous ways. In particular, we will implement a system in the Jordan House where French-speaking residents will upload a weekly diary to a specific channel, either by themselves or with a partner. In CML-based coursework, students will upload responses to readings, will answer open questions posed as a part of coursework, and can respond to each other, even across classes.
By making the channel Austin-College-wide, upper-level students will have the opportunity to take an active role in the education of students in lower-level courses. Advanced students will create videos for oral comprehension (such as a spontaneous conversation in the cafeteria) or for explaining vocabulary (such as a student giving a tour of his or her car or home, “a day in the life”) or certain grammar concepts. Students and the instructors can also add subtitles to these videos, creating a bank of videos that reinforce comprehension in a way that goes beyond fill-in-the-blank exercises.
Overall, the goal can be described as not making the French program paperless, but aiming for it to be paper-“less.” While many of the above initiatives will replace pen-and-paper work, they are globally conceived to enhance and support the way students traditionally encounter and perform classroom activities. Other ways that we envision reducing paper waste is encouraging students to render written work digitally, and to grade and comment on those works through Microsoft Word’s commentary tools, and to use Moodle’s quiz-making tool as a way to create handouts and review sheets. We look forward to working closely with other faculty in and outside of the Classical and Modern Languages Department and learning from the Digital Pedagogy projects of others as we build technology into the French classroom.