Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Linguistic Landscape project

This past academic year, my colleague Dr Leticia Villamediana González and I conducted a project with our students entitled Spanish Linguistic Landscape, using Twitter as a mean for an effective communication.

Our goal was to go beyond the walls of the classroom and make our students aware of the presence of Spanish around us and how this presence is a fantastic opportunity for incidental language and culture learning. To achieve this, we asked our students to post pictures about any input in Spanish found in their everyday lives and to reply to some of these questions:

What is it?
Where did you find it?
Why is it in Spanish?
What did you learn?

Twitter was a great tool for this project, we believe that the 140 characters limitation made students focus on expressing their ideas accurately and precisely in the target language. Also, students were using their Spanish language for real purposes and not only in exercises in a classroom. Likewise, Twitter enabled them to foster a critical analysis of the Hispanic world, to communicate and interact with the world and to get to an unlimited source of Spanish language and culture. Thanks to this social network, students interacted with native speakers, used their language abilities in context and controlled their own learning.

I am now conducting an empirical study about this project that will hopefully give us information about how students perceive Spanish in the UK and its possibilities as an additional source of input for language and culture learning. Stay tuned for the results!

Raquel Navas
Teaching Fellow in Hispanic Studies. School of Modern Languages and Cultures. University of Warwick

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Online Activity

As part of the project I have been looking into the activeness of staff members at Warwick on social media sites, with a focus on Twitter. After having researched different accounts and how staff members use them in terms of the topics they tweet about and their relevance to the subjects they teach, I found that some were more active than others, whether it be when writing their own tweets or retweeting other people’s messages.

In a conversation with Teresa, we discussed the concept of students contacting their tutors through their social media sites, and the responses they get. For example, a prospective university student who wants to find out more about the course they are planning on undertaking in a particular institution, or a current student who may be confused about a deadline or the homework set. The tutor may decide not to reply to messages, as it is a personal choice as to whether they use their social media accounts to reply to a work-related message. On the other hand, they may view social media sites such as twitter as an effective way to communicate with colleagues and students. Personally, I would message a teacher using Moodle or email, which is specifically university related. However, if a prospective student wanted to use social media to find out more about a course before coming to university, I think that this would be appropriate as it is an effective way of getting in touch and introducing yourself to a tutor before coming to an institution. For my business, a dance school, I have an Instagram and Facebook page which some pupils use to ask me questions, if they are unsure about which uniform they need to wear for a particular class, or if they are unsure about what time their class is, for example. I sometimes get messages on my personal accounts, which I always reply to anyway, however the separate business page usually keeps my personal life separate from my professional life. As many of my students and their parents are on social media, I tend to be quite closed on these forums and am careful when sharing photos and updates.

Teresa discussed the way in which, when approached about achieving badges, only one of the users replied or acknowledged the message. This led to us thinking about the amount of professionals who have accounts on sites such as this, but rarely use them and therefore do not tweet themselves or pick up any messages sent on the forum. There is the question, therefore, of why they have these accounts in the first place. It may be that they are encouraged to create accounts by the institution that they work for, or it may be that they do not understand how to use the platform effectively and get the most out of it. It may be that they do not have time to use the sites, or that there is another site which they prefer to use. Finally, they may not have time outside of the institution sites to use other forms of communication such as social media.

For those who do use the sites, it is also interesting to look at how open they are online – this is linked in with the conversation which I had with Clare Halldron. We discussed how everything that we put on the internet then stays on there, even if we try and delete it. Nowadays, potential employers look at prospective employees’ online media accounts to check their usage and see if they are suitable for the role that they are applying for. Some people prefer to keep their lives very private, and will only use their accounts for professional purposes, whereas some may not use it for their professional lives at all, and use it as a forum to connect with friends and family. There are those who use it for both reasons. It is interesting to think about the reasons for which one may use social media – different people may use them for different purposes. Personally, I use social media sites for non-professional and professional purposes. I use my accounts to connect with friends and keep in touch with people; however I also have multiple accounts so that I can promote my business too. I own a dance school and therefore use Facebook and Instagram to promote the school, using photographs from classes and shows that we do. I also use it to put up messages about class times and other news that I may need to get in touch with parents about. It is also a way for parents to contact me as well as via phone or email. The more I use these sites, the bigger a following I get, and I have had new people join the school after seeing my pages.  I believe that social media sites used for professional purposes are more and more common, and often replace the formal website that most businesses would usually have, as they are cheap and easy to use. However, this means that we have to be more careful about what we share on them, and think about who could be viewing content. The privacy settings can control this to a certain extent, however it is important to bear in mind that both staff members and students could be viewing each other’s updates.
Grace Bend - School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Random acts of kindness

Today saw us visiting some of Warwick's many researchers and support staff to share the message of open educational practice.  We hope many of them will read this blog post and engage with the resources and the network we have created.

We have an open G+ community where you can find out about research in open education, connect with other open practitioners both at Warwick and beyond and engage others in raising your online presence to increase the impact of your work.

There are #knowhow web pages on the Learning and Development site here at Warwick pages to offer tips and tools for open practice online.

You can also connect with us on twitter by searching the #wihea #knowhow hashtags.
If you have wildflower seeds from our project (a native UK meadow mix which will entice bees and butterflies wherever you sow them) we'd love to see a picture of them when they bloom. Just share them openly online (twitter, instagram wherever you choose) using the tags so we can find them.

Have a great summer folks!