Project Report By: Catherine Ostrow, French, Wesleyan University
I am writing to report on the Pilot Project of digitized French in Action material used in Fr. 106 (section 1) this semester. (Spring 1998)
This is an experimental project and we should thus expect some negative comments. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that having gone through this experiment allows us to greatly improve further digitizing of material.
The first few lessons were digitized by Hendrawan Kartika Ô01. I believe he did his best to produce a good quality product. I had decided that he should create three files, each file containing the material corresponding to each part of the lesson covered in class. It was quite clear that having no knowledge of or familiarity with the French language rendered his work more difficult. I helped him by showing him where to divide the material. For technical reasons the analog material had to be used to created the divisions and the transfer on the digitized files was not precise enough, leading to somewhat incorrect division of the material. Not being familiar with the language, Hendra was in no position to evaluate the sound quality o of the digitized material. At times words or sentences were blurred, the musical background was overpowering and above all the sounds range (from low to high volume) was very limited. Anyone who has taught a foreign language knows how important these factors are.
The following lessons were digitized by Agnes Hendarmin Ô00. I had recommended that she do the work as she is quite familiar with the material from taking the course last year. Agnes did a wonderful job: the lessons were correctly divided in three files and the sound was slightly improved. Nevertheless we did run into many problems, at times it was impossible to access the material, or to simply access Falcon. These problems had a negative impact on the students. Some students resent using computers and this was for them a green light to go back to the analog material. I had to beg for their patience and understanding.
At mid-semester, I asked my students to fill out a very short survey about their experience with the digitized material. After reading their comments, I acted on what was under my control. they had made a point and I agreed with them that each lesson should be divided into five files instead of three to give them more flexibility when using the material. Agnes changed the files for the existing digitized lessons to be used and followed the same format for the lessons which had not been digitized yet. Each FiA lesson starts with a very long comprehension question type exercise covering the new vocabulary and grammatical structures found in the lesson. This exercise is now a file by itself and it can be used at any time for reinforcement or just before the quiz as a review. The second file contains the material the students need to work with before they can look at the printed material (the first exercise being included). The third file contains everything that needs to be done for the first class. (the fourth file is what needs to be done for the second class and the fifth file has the material for the third and last class of the lesson). The lessons used i in the second part of the semester now contain 5 files. I believe this is the format that we should be using.
This report is not the place to elaborate on eery comment I read or heard from the students (as I know some fo the comments will no longer be relevant once we have the new Language Lab). Nevertheless, I would like to mention that sometimes it took the students (or myself) a long time to download the material and I regret that during the course of this semester we did not have a chance to experiment with a prototype lesson containing a digitized video and the type of practice exercises where students can hear their recorded voice. I am very well aware that it is only a matter of time before we do this.
I would like to thank the CTW Committee for accepting my participation in the Pilot Project as it gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the use of digitized material and its implications in foreign language teaching.
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