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TELL @ Colby - Winter 2003

Digital Audio Recording [top]

Early this semester, Professors Jon Weiss and Nathalie Drouglazet began a pilot project in French I and II through which students submitted voice recording assignments via email. Digital recordings are higher quality than cassette tapes, and can be copied, stored, and transferred just like any other digital medium.

Though the advantages of the new technology are considerable, the process is surprisingly easy. Using microphones plugged into the LRC computers and a simple software application, students record assignments designed to test their oral production.

Although the Tandberg audio stations that use cassette tapes still get regular use in the LRC, the primary source of Tandberg usage, Kim Besio'sChinese class, is now switching to digital.

If this technology sounds interesting, it can easily be incorporated into any language course with very little work on the part of the instructor. Interested parties are welcomed to schedule an appointment with the Language Technology Consultant to discuss possibilities and get a demonstration.

Barbara Nelson Awarded MERLOT Editors' Choice [top]

Many in the Colby community have been aware for some time of Barbara's remarkable skill in creating dynamic online learning tools.

This past September, for her online module Ojalá que llueva café, she received international recognition as the MERLOT Classics award winner for Exemplary Online Learning Resources in World Languages, and winner of the Editor's Choice award, one of only three such prizes awarded across all disciplines.

Congratulations Barbara!

Poetry in the Language Curriculum [top]

In a spontaneous convergence of methodology, faculty teaching French, Italian, and Russian have all begun using poetry via digital media to augment their teaching repertoire. While the use of poetry in the language classroom is nothing new, and many of Colby's veteran faculty have been honing students' skills with poetry for years, we have been exploring new technological opportunities this semester.

Inspired by the advances with the digital audio assignments, faculty members recorded their own voices in the LRC, and these audio files, accompanied by text and even ../images, were then mounted on the QuickTime Streaming Server, a network server whose sole purpose is multimedia delivery.

An exemplary project is Jon Weiss's rendition of Le Pont Mirabeau by Guillaume Apollinaire. Proper intonation, pronunciation, and comprehension of fluent speech can be a challenge for language students of any level. This project allows us to juxtapose accompanying text with the audio to assist students through difficult passages. Jon's selection of an accompanying image provides a locus for the passage, allowing the listener to imagine the distraught writer peering down into the River Seine.

Others who have used the Virtual Listening Lab to incorporate poetry into their lessons include Allison Cooper, for whom language assistant Simone Rui recorded an excellent reading of Corrado Costa; Valentina Saltane recorded a number works of Russian poets for Julie DeSherbinin; and Andr≥ Siamundele and Nathalie Drouglazet recorded readings from Senegalese poets Birago Diop and L≥opold S≥dar Senghor that will be featured in a upcoming website on Francophone Africa, pending copyright permission.

A pioneer in pairing digital media with poetry, and someone gifted in incorporating culture into language study is Adrianna Paliyenko. It would be remiss not to credit her website 19th Century French Women Poets in reference to use of this method at Colby.

Two New LRC Services for Colby Faculty [top]

  • Taping SCOLA broadcasts
  • Online Syllabus Creation

SCOLA broadcasts

As many of you already know, Colby receives foreign language news broadcasts from SCOLA twenty-four hours a day. In the interest of making this resource more readily available to the faculty, the LRC will, by request, record up to four broadcasts per week for each Colby-taught language.

Two tapes will be used for each language. When one tape is full, the faculty member will be notified, and the second tape will record the broadcasts that transpire while the first tape is being reviewed and used.

To see a program listing go to and keep in mind that the times shown are for the Central time zone, so one needs to add one hour for Eastern.

Online Syllabi

More and more faculty are making use of online syllabi in the form of web pages. An online syllabus can serve as an electronic backup to a printed syllabus, or can be utilized as a course management tool, with external links to online media, discussion forums (c.f.), etc.

The LRC lab monitors are currently in training to produce web pages, specifically syllabi, using the html editor Dreamweaver.

This Spring, we will be accepting syllabus submissions from foreign language faculty for Fall 2003 courses and converting them to web pages.

Submissions must be in Microsoft Word format, and submitted by March 1st 2003.

Digital Whiteboard for CJK Stroke Order [top]

Many of us have envisioned the potential of digital whiteboard technology for education. While most of these applications revolve around written text capture and conferencing, we have invented a method to use a digital whiteboard in conjunction with other software to produce a durable multimedia asset for the language lab.

We in the LRC began a project that used the playback feature of Virtual Ink's Mimio board to create short movie clips that demonstrate stroke order for Chinese characters with the possibility of adding a built-in audio track of native speaker pronunciation. A firm grasp of stroke order is important for success in Chinese and Japanese, and is typically a challenge for American students.

Each movie clip corresponds to a specific Chinese character and is less than thirty seconds in length. The final product is streaming video that the student can play repeatedly, and halt the sequence to review a particular section of writing the character. Tamae Prindle began embedding these files into her in-class PowerPoint presentations this past Fall, and Kim Besio will use them this Spring. Any faculty member interested in seeing how the Mimio board works is welcome to come to the LRC for a demonstration.

LRC Online Forum for Faculty [top]

In the Fall ITS Newsletter, we introduced the new online forums, offered as a replacement for the older guestbook scripts that were used to extend discussion outside the classroom, electronically. Online discussion can be a valuable addition, especially when incorporated as part of students' participation grades.

While Ira Sadoff did a commendable job in singing the praises of the new forums, it is worth reiterating how painlessly they can be created. Faculty need only make the request and ITS staff (namely Keith McGlauflin) handles the rest. A new forum can be set up with just 24 hours notice. Its success of course depends on the faculty moderator and the students, but thanks to an intuitive graphical interface, no technical know-how is required.

The language faculty are welcomed and encouraged to log onto a new LRC discussion forum, designed just for them, to facilitate a cross-departmental discourse.

You can go to the forums index page at
or directly to the LRC Forum at

Film Projects [top]

Student projects utilizing Apple's iMovie to produce short films for foreign language classes continue to grow in popularity. Tamae Prindle joined the ranks of the faculty incorporating such creative projects into the curriculum with her Elementary Japanese class, and Allison Cooper in Italian plans to this Spring.

The greatest benefit of this type of assignment is the sheer enthusiasm it generates. Student receptivity has been remarkable, as they invested great amounts of energy (and often a comedic flair) in post-production editing, improving their language skills along the way.

Genres of the Fall Semester film projects include suspense, martial arts/action, spagetti western, B-horror, and of course comedy. Many had a great time working on these projects including this writer.

The LRC lends Sony digital camcorders to students and faculty for three-day periods for these projects. We recently implemented an online checkout system to streamline the process.

Our editing and post-production assets include, Apple iMovie, Final Cut Pro, QuickTime Pro, digital-to-analog (and vice-versa) conversion to produce VHS tapes, and a DVD burner.

This Fall, Faculty members from several different departments used LRC cameras to tape oral exams and presentations, a method that allows instructors to focus on eliciting good dialogue from the students, rather than being bogged down with simultaneous note-taking. Response has been very positive.

Due to increased demand, we will be conducting a workshop (date TBA) on video camera basics. Attendance is required of all those wishing to tape classes this coming semester, though a proxy, such as a Language Assistant, would suit. The workshop will be a painless half-hour, and assumes no technical knowledge whatsoever. If any faculty member cannot attend, make-up dates can be arranged as needed.

New in the LRC [top]

Display Case

The glass display case by the entrance to the LRC in the Lovejoy 4th floor corridor was a welcome addition this year. The first display was Jackie Tanner's collection of children's clothes from around the world, followed by a Santa Claus exhibit, in all his various international incarnations. In January we continue the holiday theme with a Valentine's and New Year's display, including a ceremonial kimono on loan from the East Asian Studies Department.

In February, the German program will organize a display, followed by the Russian Program in March.

We welcome any other volunteers who might be interested in offering personal collections, or collaborating with others on a theme. Ideally exhibits should be international in character, and departments other than foreign languages are welcome to contribute.

Software for Chinese

PC computers in the LRC lab now feature the latest version of the popular NJStar word processor for Chinese (v.4.35). Students may be interested in downloading a 30-day trial version from the NJStar website.

Another recent software acquisition is Learn Chinese from Modern Writers : An Interactive Multimedia Language Program published by Columbia University Press. This program allows intermediate and advanced students to learn about Chinese culture, history, and literary discourse in the target language. Video clips with accompanying transcription and workbook exercises make for a powerful learning tool.

LRC Recommended Online Dictionaries

Harper/Collins Bi-directional Dictionaries (150,000 entries)
Extensive online dictionary has Spanish, Italian, German, and French versions.