Technology Integration within the Modern and Classical Languages Department

Last semester, the Modern and Classical Languages department worked with ATDL to create a workshop, offering faculty a “small taste” of how they can assimilate with hybrid courses in the future.  The workshop began with an interesting presentation titled “Migrating My Course to a Hybrid Learning Environment,” and was followed up with valuable copyright information and a rubric with assigned point values from  Next the MCL faculty were given an overview of the variety of communication tools available through Blackboard (Bb) such as Collaborate, Kaltura Media, and Blogs/Wikis.  An integral piece of language learning is utilizing class time to practice speaking it; these tools will help to fill that void.  A couple of professors were kind enough to share their feedback about the workshop below:

Professor Shenk commented “I really liked the hands-on part, working with Kaltura and setting up a Wiki. For languages, audio/visual recording possibilities are a key element, and the simpler the tools are to use the better, (as well as easy to access, such as through Bb), that’s what caught my attention about the Kaltura.  I’m planning to have my students submit their beginning-of-the-semester recording for their linguistics analysis in SPA 380 this fall through Kaltura.”

Professor Caballero stated “I think it was a very helpful workshop in many aspects.  I learned a lot about a few programs I was unaware of and now I want to use them in my classes, especially in my Conversation class. In that class, the students have to create a video in pairs, and I think the tools that we learned about in the workshop would help us get things done more quickly, and in a more useful manner.  By uploading their assignments onto Bb, students would be able to compare the quality of their recordings, and share their opinions through “Discussion Board” to learn from each other.  Prior to this workshop I was doing all of the uploading of student recordings myself, and it was very time consuming.  I always think about how to incorporate technology into the classroom more and more.  This new generation of kids is so used to it, that the transition from using (iPhones, videos, etc.) outside of classroom, to inside the classroom would go smoothly.  The whole presentation was great, as were the presenters.   I liked the fact that we were allowed to create new things on our own, which is better than just listening and taking notes.  I am definitely going to apply these tools in my courses next semester.”

Although faculty have been using Blackboard for a while, time constraints and uncertainty can prevent people from examining some of the newer features available.  After seeing these tools demonstrated, it opened up peer discussions about how to incorporate them into the pedagogy.  Faculty could leave the workshop with new skills and implementation ideas to develop over the summer.  Sometimes people don’t know what questions they will have about a tool, until they’ve had time to use it.  Therefore, we plan on having a follow up workshop with ATDL to provide any additional support that maybe needed.

Creating and Learning with Video

Did you know…

  • Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 4 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube
  • 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 53 countries and across 61 languages
  • In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views or around 140 views for every person on Earth (YouTube Statistics, 2013)

How can we leverage this societal fondness for video within our educational institutions?

Shay David, the co-founder of the open-source video and rich media online platform software Kaltura states:

“In the education space, video is a critical tool for catch-up services, as well as for distance learning – for mothers who must miss classes because their kids are sick, for example. They can watch classes remotely or watch recorded versions of the lectures later. Video is also a great tool for collaboration among class members — many of whom may be located in different geographic areas.”

SJU’s Blackboard online course management system offers a couple different video tools for both faculty and students. First is “Kaltura Media.” In order to improve the performance of video files within our Blackboard courses SJU has implemented Kaltura, a video hosting service available from your course Tools menu. Here you can upload digital video files that can be embedded in your courses. Kaltura’s excellent streaming media service has eliminated the frustration of video loading too slowly in SJU Blackboard courses.

The second video tool is “Blackboard Collaborate,” an easy-to-use web conferencing environment that combines the best features of Elluminate and Wimba Classroom: two-way voice communication, multi-point video, built-in phone conferencing, interactive whiteboard, application and desktop sharing, rich media and breakout rooms. Best of all, Collaborate provides the opportunity to record an online group discussion and have that video file archived within your course to view as needed.

Equipped with a webcam and microphone, Kaltura Media and Blackboard Collaborate can enable faculty and students to fully express their creative styles!  “Video texts, as opposed to written or audio texts, provide rich and authentic input environments as they offer learners the opportunity of observing the dynamics of interaction (discourse modes, gazes, gestures, registers, paralinguistic cues, etc.) in context.”  (Dolors Masats, 2009)

The Modern and Classical Languages Department currently requires students to submit digital audio files for assessment, but what could video add to the learning experience?  Consider one of Dr. Zmurkewycz’s Spanish classes in which students must practice participating in a job interview.  These rich media tools would allow students to record their interviews outside of class, so that class time could be spent reviewing feedback and corrections.  Video also allows students to view the use of proper and improper gestures within the culture they are speaking.  For example, comfortable “personal space” varies between cultures. In Latin America, people stand much closer together than Americans do when having a conversation.  Recorded video of a “Spanish” interviewer getting closer to an American interviewee, could help the teacher and student to see if the interviewee was unaware that they were backing away during the conversation, and allows them the opportunity to correct it.  That interviewee could have been perceived as “stand-offish” due to that mistake, and it could cost him/her the job.

If you are interested in learning more about using “Kaltura Media” and “Blackboard Collaborate” within your own courses, please do the following:

  • Log into MySJU ( )
  • Click on the School Services Tab
  • In the “Employee Training” area locate “ATDL Workshops”
  • Click on the plus sign next to “Blackboard” to view the available workshops.
  • Click “Register” and sign up for one of the many courses titled Creating Rich Media for Online Use

Joanne Piombino, Duane Glover, and Karl Platzer are also available to assist you with bringing out your creative side!

Please click on the links below to see some more imaginative ways to engage student learning through video.

Spanish II Commercial

Spanish III Commercial – Magical Mustache

You Tube Statistics. (2013, March 21). Retrieved from You Tube:

Dolors Masats, M. D. (2009, July 8). Exploring the Potential of Language Learning Through Video Making. Retrieved March 4, 2013, from

Shay David, P. (2013, February 27). Video Technology Advancements Facilitate New Education Models. Retrieved from Cengage Learning:

Appsolute Fun by Joanne Piombino


As a person who only speaks the English language, I found the free Google Translate App very intriguing.  After watching this video I couldn’t wait to give it a try!  There are 57 languages from which to choose, and I decided to translate from English to Spanish.   It was so cool to say a sentence in English and have it repeated in Spanish!  Although it sounded great to me, I decided to check its accuracy with a Spanish speaking faculty member Theresa Zmurkewycz.  I excitedly spoke an English sentence in into my iPhone and played the Spanish translation to Theresa, she responded with a confused look and asked “What is that?” I explained to her what I was doing, and she mentioned that the translation didn’t make sense, so we did some experimenting.  What we discovered was that the app translates only literal meanings when using speech recognition.  This causes problems with the translation because it cannot pick up the context or tense within the language.  Although, we did find that the translation accuracy was more reliable if I typed the sentence into the app instead of speaking it.

Next I decided to check and see if the translation results were the same in reverse, Spanish to English.  When Theresa spoke a sentence into the phone in Spanish, the translation problem remained.  Theresa spoke in Spanish “When should I come to your house?”  The English translation we received was, “Anything when you come into your home quillo.”  We thought we might need another translating tool to explain that one to us! travel

The Google Translate app is free, and it will work better if you remember to type in the words you’d like to translate. When deciding upon the translation tool that’s best for you, keep in mind the issue of Wi-Fi.  Translation tools that require Wi-Fi can limit usability depending upon your location, and roaming charges could apply. If you desire a more accurate gizmo, and don’t mind paying up to $99 for them, check out the following link. 2013 Top Ten Best Translation Software Reviews



Another fun App that might bring out the artsy side of your personality is the Half Tone App.  This app costs 99 cents and it allows you to turn photos into comics/postcards, and it allows text editing within those photos.  The photos can be chosen from those stored on your phone, or you can take a new photo within the Half Tone App and start creating your comic immediately.  Please click on the following link to see a demonstration on how this app works: Half Tone App Demonstration



Digital Recording Tools ~ Modern and Classical Languages

The Modern and Classical Languages department has various ways of assessment using different forms of technology.  The Language Specialist project developed by Professor Ewald requires students to interview a project partner who did not speak English before 18 years of age.   This exercise provides an opportunity to apply linguistic concepts and terms obtained from their course to analyze a specific language, and compare it with English. “The goal is to become more knowledgeable of a language system that is presently unfamiliar to the student.” (Ewald)  After the first interview the student writes a short report of the interview primarily on language-related issues. Throughout the course they have ongoing conversations and interviews with their project partner about his/her experiences learning English, and about various characteristics of this person’s own native language.” (Ewald)

Hand held recorders are an excellent tool for interviews because they give students the ability to review an interview multiple times, while compiling data for a report.  Recorders permit freedom from taking notes, so students can observe facial expressions, hand gestures and other visual elements within conversation.  As stated in the syllabus for the “Language Specialist Project” conducted and developed by Professor Jen Ewald “Do not write a “transcript” of this interview; rather, report on it and analyze it, incorporating examples of what your informant said to illustrate your analysis.”  (Ewald)

In the article “Digital Audio Recording and its Applications within the Foreign Language Classroom” Schwenkler writes:

If students have access to mini-disk recorders or stand-alone laptop computers with microphone hook-ups, they can interview their classmates or community members.  Students can record native speakers’ voices, to use in focusing on   their own pronunciation and how it can improve.  Students can interview native speakers about their opinions, experiences, or for information about their home countries.  This information can then be presented in a multimedia PowerPoint or Photo story presentation with visual images, maps and graphs to accompany the audio files. This is taking digital audio recording to another level in extending the interactive, communicative web and bringing more people into the learning community.  Students practice speaking with native speakers and interviewing others, key interpersonal skills in the target language. (Schwenkler, 2008)

Two other forms of digital recording applications utilized within MCL are Garage Band and Audacity.  At the beginning of the semester language professors give students a “Baseline Oral Evaluation” to assess their competency from the beginning of the semester until the end.  Students are presented with questions from either a PowerPoint or orally by their professors, students must respond by creating an audio recording for assessment. Students create audio clips using the applications Audacity or Garage band while wearing a headphone/microphone set.

As Schwenkler states:

Digital audio recording is a useful tool in foreign language classrooms where a primary goal is for students to practice speaking the target language, hear how they sound, and improve their speaking proficiency.  By recording themselves speaking with the software, students’ original language production is recorded, and students have the opportunity to go back and hear their selves speaking. Now students are able to reflect on their accent, grammar, fluency, intonation, etc. This tool can serve a variety of purposes, including self-assessment, group work, dialogues, links to culture, and teacher assessment.  (Schwenkler, 2008)

The Modern and Classical Languages department is developing their 21st Century skills by integrating various forms of technology into their classrooms.  These audio recording applications add a stronger component for assessment and review, both on the teacher and students side.  The MCL population also utilizes recording exercises through various online “Language Labs” even when technology glitches have created challenges.  Embracing the learning curve, MCL faculty has resolved to teach students in a 21st century fashion by creating a more engaging atmosphere, and thereby meeting students’ needs.

Works Cited

Ewald, D. (n.d.). Language Specialist Project Syllabus. PA.

Schwenkler, C. (2008, October 19). Digital Audio Recording and its Applications within the Foreign Language Classroom. Retrieved October 24, 2012, from Connexions: