Notes from initial meeting of the Languages Group

The Languages Advisory Group met on February 24, 2009. The agenda included the topics Brigitte collected from faculty, a review of the Academic Technology Assessments, and suggestions for future meeting topics. Themes in “Classroom Issues” and “Tech Assessment” overlap significantly.

Attending: Co-conveners Bryan Carson (LIS) and Brigitte Humbert (French), Tom Beyer (Russian/FLAC Rep.), Tom Moran (Chinese), Stefano Mula (Italian), Enrique Garcia (Spanish), Larry Yarbrough (Religion/Arabic), Joy Pile (LIS), Shel Sax (CTLR/LIS).


Round-the-table intros

Bryan offered an explanation of charge and function of the Advisory Group and referred faculty to the blog for more detailed information. He emphasized that the Groups supplement rather than replace the individual Liaisons for departments.

Language Advisory Group – meeting agenda for 2009-02-24

Topics gathered from faculty before meeting

  • Smart classrooms and the special needs we have when teaching languages in them (particularly the ability to move about the room as we teach rather than stay stuck behind the console)
  • Funds for buying books now that the College is trying to save money. The professor is concerned that many important contemporary French texts need to be purchased to complete our collection, but doesn’t know if new budget constraints will allow it.

Classroom Issues (discussion)

  • There are special needs for Foreign Languages – professors cannot be stuck behind the lectern.
  • Screens cover the writing surface – (“write-on-the-board” button — program the touch screen button to raise screen, switch input, bring up lights, whatever else to allow using the whiteboard.) (note: this theme recurs in other Div. meetings.)
  • Storage – cupboard for props, maps, etc. – maps: possibly web-based, projected.
  • Idea of dedicated classroom is not realistic, particularly when class size can push one into another location
  • Bryan mentioned that no more smart classrooms will be added to the current inventory, as a budget reduction. The focus will be instead on maintaining and upgrading the ones we already have.
  • Not all classrooms have a computer, so carrying a computer and other stuff can be an issue, particularly for small physiques/women/older instructors.
  • There are no computers in smart classrooms in Atwater, Freeman, Cooke
  • Sunderland 110 needs renovation
  • Need to rethink the components in our smart room – do we really need DVD players when can play them from a computer
  • Can we simplify our classroom configurations to minimize components and requisite faculty training
  • Issues about bringing in personal computers to class and issues of printing and registration on the network
  • Issues with Mac projection – and dongle. Can we have a dongle (set of dongles?) in every room?
  • Stefano asked if faculty could have a choice with the type of machine they receive from the College. Many faculty members may not need as heavy or powerful a machine for their classroom use. The problem arises with the training the Helpdesk staff to support computers. The more different types of software and machines there are on campus, the more difficult it is to have staff who are trained in an ever broader array of tools to troubleshoot.
  • Idea that instead of giving everybody the same computer, we give each faculty a dollar amount and then faculty could augment
  • Some faculty would like cheaper computers and be able to specify what it is that they want, rather than have the make and model dictated to them.
  • Discussion about a recent e-mail saying not to put anything personal on a College machine. This issue/policy is totally unrealistic – there is no separation between life and work.

Book-buying Issues (discussion)

  • Joy explained that departmental allocations have for the most part evolved into a single large pot of money. Although the book funds have been decreased by 5% this year, faculty should continue to send their requests for books, DVDs and music to Joy and she will facilitate the purchasing of materials.
  • There was a discussion of e-books, and a request that they be available to more than one user at a time. The cost of textbooks is becoming prohibitive. Faculty hope that e-books might help mitigate textbook costs for students.
    1. Depts completed 2007-08: Chinese, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish & Portuguese.
    2. Depts scheduled for 2008-09: French, Italian, Arabic
    • Bryan recommended Moodle for Stefano Mula’s and Sandra Carletti’s online workbook exercises. They could use the existing Moodle online testing instance to create new modules. Shel suggested that Joe Antonioli’s Digital Media Tutors could help faculty accomplish such projects over the summer.
    • Bryan announced that there are now 3 classrooms with dual projection capability – Library 201, a classroom in Axinn, and one in Hillcrest.
    • Bryan mentioned a several go-links: go/mls for the master location schedule, go/scheduling to schedule a classroom, and go/software. Faculty were assured that the software list will now be updated more frequently.
    • The faculty representatives were all aware of the MiddMedia server, which is taking the place of Muskrat, but several said the space allocated was not large enough. They were advised to request more space from Joe Antonioli.
    • There was a discussion of acquiring language lab software, so that students, particularly in Chinese could listen and playback their own pronunciation. Shel mentioned that there is some on the market for around $10,000. If the departments split the cost among all ten languages taught at Middlebury, it might be possible to jointly purchase this, even in this more financially constrained environment.
    • Issues/future of e-texts and e-books
    • Language labs and “lab-like” solutions
    • Check out Wimba as a possibility if each department would be willing to chip in.
    • Stefan will contact Alex Chapin about the online testing module Moodle RE: 2nd-year Italian exercise (Mula/Carletti).
    • Schedule next meeting for exam week (per group consensus).
  • Academic Technology Assessment (announcements and discussion)

    Topics for Future Meetings

    Action Items

2 Responses

  1. For e-textbooks see Coursesmart, which is an E-textbook initiative by 5 publishers that offers e-versions for about 1/2 the cost of the print. I don’t know how well known this is among students, but besides saving money, students could save paper by downloading or reading textbooks online. They claim to have over 5,000 textbooks so far and are growing. Here’s the link:

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