Learn a new language with Babbel (not babelfish)

July 17, 2008

I think this sounds like a really interesting way to learn a language — social networking & multimedia style! Mashable has a good overview & review here:

Babbel is the latest site to teach new languages through a social Web-based immersion program, where the majority of the content is packaged into lessons created by Babbel. So far, languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, English, and German are supported. Each lesson package contains material pertaining to a different theme, such as travel or business, so you can learn a series of words and phrases within context.

Although I do like that the information is presented in multiple ways as it SHOUlD create a richer learning environment appealing to a variety of learning styles, I didn’t find a lot in the way supporting documentation, research, etc. on the site. It seems to be all about language and play… but hey if it works (but how will they know?)

I also wonder if they will expand to other languages — seems like kind of a short list, hmm?

Educational uses for social networking sites

July 6, 2008

First-of-Its-Kind Study at the University of Minnesota Uncovers the Educational Benefits of Social Networking Sites
University of Minnesota News (06/19/08) Badaracco, Luisa

University of Minnesota researchers have determined the educational benefits of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and also found that low-income students are in many ways just as technologically proficient as their more advantaged counterparts. The researchers found that 94 percent of students in the study used the Internet, 82 percent used the Internet at home, and 77 percent have a profile on a social networking site. Students said social networking sites taught them technology skills, creativity, being open to new or diverse views, and communication skills. Data was collected over six months from students in 13 urban high schools in the Midwest. In addition to the initial surveyed students, a follow-up, randomly selected subset were asked questions on their Internet activity while they used MySpace. University of Minnesota learning technologies researcher Christine Greenhow says students that use social networking sites learn and practice the kinds of 21st century skills that educators say are needed to be successful. “Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content, and thinking about online design and layout,” Greenhow says. The results show that social networking sites provide more than just social fulfillment or professional networking and have implications for educators, who have an opportunity to support what students are learning on the Web, Greenhow says. The study contradicts a 2005 study from Pew that suggests a digital divide is forming in which low-income students are technologically impoverished.

More at Univ. Minnesota News

Second Life — Resources for educators and more

April 20, 2008

Very nice annotated list of articles relating to educational uses of second life, second life and pedagogy, as well as second life resources of a more educational nature.

Another very useful resource of a more broad nature is the official second life blog;
the blog covers just about everything including lots of howtos and tutorials.

Also, John Lester out of Linden Labs (second life’s company) maintains a resource list at del.icio.us — lots of good and interesting stuff there. If you use del.icio.us, you can add it to your network or well, just bookmark it.

Nex Gen Learning Spaces or Why Classrooms are so oldschool

January 20, 2008

A little hard to follow (looks to be pdf of a ppt) although listening to the accompanying mp3 while viewing the pdfs is helpful.

Lots of the campus as “thirdspace” stuff and interesting statistics about use of technology. Webster’s presentation on the Research Library as Learning Space, is kind of interesting.

I realize the focus is Nexgeners, but it does make me wonder a little about nontraditional (UN-nexgeners?) students or those who aren’t as socially oriented…

The University of Queensland (Next Generation Learning Spaces project) conference on learning spaces are available at:


Virtually vague – secondlife, opensim, and other stuff

November 29, 2007

It’s certainly easier to pretend to make art or to speak the truth than to actually do either.

–NPR, Are we not gamers?

Although my computer more than meets the requirements for secondlife, it’s very jerky. Graphics card, maybe?

I’ve tried secondlife a few times now, the first time was when it was kind of the shiny new thing on the web. This latest time, I wandered around orientation island for a while, got really lost (I think I was standing in the middle of the ocean?) , got bored and gave up. Maybe it is that I didn’t understand exactly how to interact with the software (needed an instruction session, I suppose) or perhaps, it is just that this format doesn’t appeal to me.

In spite of all of the web stuff I do and have participated in, I don’t consider myself a gamer. It really doesn’t appeal to me (although I have played some games online or via a standalone machine -xbox, etc.). NPR has an interesting article about the diminishing distinction between gamer and non-gamer.

SecondLife feels very ‘gamerly’ to me. I also dislike the ‘real’ money involved. I don’t fault SL for trying to make money – hey, it’s their product! I am interested in the educational applications of secondlife. How are educational institutions using secondlife and other sim environments? Are these successful projects?

Are their implications to teaching, conducting research, or otherwise engaging students in SecondLife? Yes, says Michael Bugeja of the Chronicle.

When it comes to Second Life, we’re not only talking about money. We’re talking about whether you as a professor or administrator will be held accountable for introducing your students and/or employees to a virtual world that accepts little responsibility for anything that happens among avatars, including online harassment and assault.

Enter into the mix the opensource virtualworld product, OpenSim, aka OpenSL. Will educational institutions and organizations embrace opensource virtual worlds?

Will one day in the future, instead of typing into a search engine, I will virtually walk up to an information desk and ask for help? Will I be able to do that, or will I be stuck in search engine city?

Students’ use of technology

September 19, 2007

An interesting article on how college students use technology (alot but using specific tools for specific tasks; with 98.4 % of surveyed students owning some type of computer…)

Instead, students appear to segment different modes of communication for different purposes. E-mail, Web sites, message boards and Blackboard? Viable ways of connecting with professors and peers. Same for chat, instant messaging, Facebook and text messages? Not necessarily, the authors write, because students may “want to protect these tools’ personal nature.”

…but is it because students do not expect their instructors to be in those social spaces, or do they truly feel that those spaces should belong to them?