Overview: Over the course of several semesters, Senior Language Lecturer of French, Aline Baehler, has enhanced FREN 30 – Composition and Conversation, a bridge course between intermediate and advanced-level French courses.
Professor Baehler has used Google Apps and other interactive tools to create opportunities for intermediate-advanced learners of French to use language skills in a realistic, experiential way, and strengthen existing grammatical knowledge.
Course Innovation: In this video, Professor Baehler speaks about a role-playing project in her intermediate-advanced French course. Students create fictional characters and collectively construct a vibrant apartment building in a francophone city of their choice through text, conversation, and multimedia. By navigating daily life through the eyes of native speakers, students have authentic ways to explore culture, history, grammar, and vocabulary in the target language. This innovation addresses the difficulty in providing students with immersive experiences in the target language and culture.
Another challenge of bridge language course is having time needed to review content learned in lower-level courses, while also expanding linguistic skills. To this end, Professor Baehler has developed two interactive, open-source tutorials that guide students through grammar and writing activities.
- Capsules de grammaire: provides students with grammar and vocabulary practice
- Papiers-Mâchés: scaffolds students through the writing process
In both platforms, students receive automatic feedback and can go through the materials at their own pace.
Instructor and Students
- Google Sites: Google Sites is an easy-to-use website creation tool, that integrates with Google Drive content, multimedia embedding, and allows for collaborative exchange. You can also have page-level permissions, so that a student or group could have edit access to a section of the site, while the entire class can view that section. Since NYU is a Google Apps school, you can quickly create a site by going to http://sites.nyu.edu, and giving a Google Group tied to your course roster access. One upcoming feature is more template options, which will make it a nice alternative to WordPress.
There were several positive outcomes to stem from this project.
Reflect the experiential act of language learning: Learning language is a social act, and creating a community where students can share and develop their language skills in a supportive environment reflects the reality of learning another language. The Google Site also allows students to use language in a highly contextualized way, since they are using French as their fictional character. An example is the male student who created the character of a 77 year old Parisian woman, and had to navigate the virtual world through the perspective of his avatar.
Create a participatory environment: Professor Baehler created a participatory environment where the instructor and students were full participants. Instead of completing assignments for the professor, students and professor had a collaborative role in building the online world.
More integrated curriculum: Professor Baehler found it easier to tie in discrete aspects of a foreign language curriculum since the virtual environment required students to use grammatical, semantic, and cultural knowledge in an authentic way.
Increased motivation: Professor Baehler found that students were more engaged with the language and sought out ways to showcase and use their linguistic knowledge. Students collaborated and could be creative, adding images and rich background narratives for their fictional characters.