The Instructional Technology Center picks faculty each semester to be our "focus". Thus we like to call this feature of our website the 'Focus on Faculty''. They are chosen based on their use of technology and how they incorporate that technology into their teaching.
This semester we've chosen three instructors from the Department of Modern Foreign Languages for their innovative use of Wimba Voice Tools.
Dr. Daniel J. Nappo
Assistant Professor of Spanish
Chair, Department of Modern Foreign Languages
Dr. Robert D. Peckham
Professor of French
Director, Muriel Tomlinson Language Resource Center
Kyoko A. Hammond
Lecturer of Japanese
1. Do you think using technology helps you teach better? If so, how?
Nappo: Absolutely! Using the voice technology of WIMBA allows me to evaluate student pronunciation of Spanish in a very convenient manner. Before, something as important as stressing the correct syllable would be discussed in class with a minimum of focused attention. Now, I can send my students a voice email of me reading a set of minimal pairs (saco, sacó), and they can send me their recording for evaluation. Even more sophisticated exercises, like a phonetic transcription, is easier with this technology. The students are being instructed in accentuation and pronunciation better than ever before.
Peckham: Our department transformed courses meeting four hours per week, serving about 75% of our students to four credit hour courses meeting three hours per week. Student use of appropriately designed technology through our lab program fills the gap. Tapping into the tutorial possibilities of technology, motivated students become independent learners.
Hammond: Yes, "a picture is worth a thousand words," or maybe I can also say "music is worth a thousand words." I like to have access to visual aids or audio material in class whenever I want to use it. Also, technology allows me to give more creative and authentic assignments. I should also add the convenience of it. For example, students can get necessary material from Blackboard.
2. Is there anything at UTM in regard to technology that you would like to mention that makes a difference for you as you do your job?
Nappo: Apart from the previously mentioned WIMBA voice tools, I must say that Banner is a very useful system. I can hardly imagine how advisors were expected to track a student 's progress in his or her academic program before. It's so easy to simply type in a 960 number and see the entire academic history of a student. Confirming attendance and entering grades could not be easier, either. I really appreciate the fact that I can change the language in Blackboard to Spanish. I wonder when we'll be able to do that in German, French, and Japanese.
Peckham: The ITC introduced me to the multi-function Wimba voice tools, and although I am currently using only one of four functions, this application launched from Blackboard has eliminated the need for aging and unreliable analog equipment. It allows my students to make recordings from computers with microphones and an internet connection instead of a single tape recorder occupying a room which should be used for tutorial groups. It also allows me to evaluate them on any connected computer without having to haul around a tape recorder. Since I can send out a text to be recorded early, students can send me back a trail run for feedback.
Hammond: I appreciate to have my own laptop computer. Also, it is very helpful and convenient to have a computer, DVD, VHS set ups in classrooms. I would like to add that courses/workshops available to learn or get help to use a new software, etc. very regularly.
3. What are some current things that you are doing with your courses and your students that you are particularly proud of and want the campus to know about?
Nappo: As a complement to the normal writing we do in our Spanish Advanced Composition course this semester, I 've set up a forum (foro) in Blackboard and each week students write informally about many different topics related to our grammar and readings. More importantly, they communicate with each other and with me in cyberspace. This is really how students communicate; I'm afraid that the days of several papers - or worse, one big term paper - is just about over. Those assignments have their place in the curriculum, no doubt about it; however, if an instructor really wants students to produce written language, there's no better place than in a forum or blog. By using this technology, instructors are going to where the students are. This kind of writing environment better reflects the context in which we in MFL would like students to communicate. After all, we ask them to use the language during class while they talk about everything from their plans to "what would they do" in certain situations. Our method has been to get them to communicate in a meaningful manner and most of the grammar will take care of itself.
Peckham: Our use of Wimba will expand to include other functions, all of which may be integrated into a tutorial system we are developing for courses labeled 111-222, (beginning with French) called "Learning Objects".
French Learning Objects
Here students access help through resources paralleling specific topics in their textbooks. The link is at the bottom.
SAY IT RIGHT IN FRENCH!
focuses on pronunciation, offering, among other aids, several text-to-speech links so that as students create specific sentences they will be repeating in class, they can hear them pronounced with good pronunciation, intonation and rhythm. All of this is still under development.
Hammond: I enjoy using Wimba. This is a great tool for language teaching. Also, this is not about technology, but the first annual Japanese speech contest will be held in April at the Vanderbilt University. About 7 students are interested in participating in the contest. I believe that this will be a wonderful experience for my students to use the Japanese language they have been working on and also to meet students from other universities and start a net-work among them.
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