Why no Gaeilge keyboard Apple?

Now, I know Irish is a ‘minority’ language (that is NOT a euphemism for dying by the way), but is it too much to ask that everything I type is not auto-corrected to English?

Being part of an Irish speaking group chat and trying not to reply to a message with some random English word that your phone auto-corrected which makes the sentence lose all meaning stuck in the middle of it is quite the struggle.

Every ‘ansin’ is corrected to ‘and in’ and every ‘ann’ is changed to ‘Ann’. This becomes quite funny when instead of saying ‘I’ll be there’ you end up saying ‘I’ll be Ann’.

Some other funny ones I’ve encountered recently include ‘Íosa Criost’ being corrected to ‘Iowa Cruise’ and ‘Nails are Claire’ instead of the name of our capital city.

I know I could just turn off auto-correct all together but my English may suffer. To make matters worse, I have a French keyboard as well which is similar to the English one but with some letters rearranged. So sometimes my English is auto-corrected to French or I type a random ‘w’ thinking I’ve gone onto the emoji keyboard.

Surely there’s a better way? Maybe I should just take more time when I’m typing…

Anyway, enough #firstworldproblems for one post.

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There’s no ‘i’ in team (or ‘we’ either)

While exploring the corpus of English Journalistic writing on sport, I came across something interesting. While you often hear supporters referring to their team as ‘we’ or ‘us’, it appears journalists remain detached, even when they are writing in the Irish Independent or Irish Examiner about the Irish team. All of the results for the concordance of ‘we’ were quotes from management and players and not just general description or a match or analysis. Take a look for yourself.

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Just something interesting I noted in my use of AntConc to analyse this corpus.

All of the PLEs please

A definition of a PLE is offered by Connie Malamed :

‘a self-directed and evolving environment of tools, services and resources organized by a person seeking a way to accomplish lifetime learning, to create, and to connect with others of similar interests’

Colloquia is an example of a PLE that I discovered and it looks like it would be useful for teachers to set up for their classes to share ideas online. I could imagine this being more useful for a maths subject (for sharing solutions) than for a language class but an interesting concept nonetheless.

Some twitter conversations that I have previously stumbled upon are #edchatIE and #LangChat. These are aimed mostly at teachers from what I can see but there are lots of helpful links for independent student learning as well which I have used before.

Personalisation seems to be the main buzz word in the realm of PLEs, with a huge emphasis being put on the ability to customise your online environment. For example, if you want all your social media timelines in one place, netvibes seems to be a great option. In my opinion, it’s too overwhelming for personal use but for a business it would be quite convenient.

Digital Literacy and the Great Divide

—Martin (2005) proposes an expansive view of digital literacies as:

“the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyze and synthesize digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action; and to reflect on this process.” (p. 135)

The three most important parts of this definition for me are, in order of importance:

1. attitude and ability

2. appropriately use

3. constructive (social action)

I have chosen these three because my understanding of digital literacy is based mostly around these concepts. I personally see attitude and ability as key because if you need to approach a task with the appropriate skills and mindset. ‘Appropriately use’ is important to me because misuse of technology could result in the task not being completed properly. I chose constructive social action because, in my opinion, if you are digitally literate then what you do should be useful or constructive, especially in a social context.

So which of us are digitally literate and which or us are not? Is it a generational thing or is it a skill to be learned?

In a previous blog post I mentioned how I didn’t consider myself to be part of this technology generation or as Prensky (2001) put it, the ‘digital natives’. There was no iPhone thrown into my cot to keep me quiet unlike nowadays when two year olds have constant access to their favourite cartoon. How could we possibly be in the same bracket as them?

I think that digital literacy is a skill and like any skill, there are multiple levels. We all know our parents, in general, aren’t considered as ‘digitally literate’ as us and we can all testify to this with our own stories about a parent sitting helplessly in front of the computer and asking for help for something we would consider straightforward. I truly believe though it’s not that they aren’t capable of developing the same skills as us, more so that most of them don’t really need to. We’ve had to learn these skills to keep up with our social lives and our education and if they were in the same position, they’d be able to do the same.

The Great Divide may not be so Great after all.

What type of learner am I?

So I did an online test and found out that, as a learner, I am significantly more reflective than active, more sensing than intuitive, more verbal than visual and finally more sequential than global.

After some reflection, I realised just how accurate all of the statements are. I am definitely a more verbal learner because sometimes I just need a teacher to speak and explain something to me. If I was given a text to read and someone explained the same text to me verbally, I’d remember much more of what was said than what I read myself. I definitely couldn’t consider myself a visual learner. At school, teachers always pushed us to draw spider web diagrams for essay plans but I always ended up writing bullet points and lists. I’ve accepted at this stage that I’m not an artist and as much as I wanted to, I could never quite figure out how to get the information I wanted to get down into nicely drawn bubbles and arrows.

I am also definitely more sequential, reflective and intuitive. I remember details very well but sometimes miss the big picture unless it’s explained to me. Dealing with concepts and theories is something I’ve had to do quite a bit at college especially since I am studying politics which is full of abstract theories. It always helps if there is some event in history with which I can connect an idea. I definitely need something to happen in logical steps and if it doesn’t, I’ll actually need to put it in logical steps myself before I can understand it. I know from doing maths at school that I don’t really see the solution until I’ve completed all the steps I need to get there. It’s all about process for me.

Many online SLA resources are designed with a certain type of learner in mind. So, back we go to the French games website I mentioned in my first post.

http://www.french-games.net/frenchtopics

The games on the website above are clearly targeted at visual learner which is perhaps why I said in my evaluation of the website in my first blog post that I couldn’t see myself getting much use out of it. It is full of pictures that match with words and this is not something that I would find helpful – I just wouldn’t remember random pictures and associate them with words although I’m sure this would be extremely useful for someone else.

So why should we personalise our language learning? For me, it’s all about efficiency. If I learn things the way it suits me best, I’m going to learn it more quickly. However, that is not to say we should cast the other methods aside. It would certainly be a disadvantage to become a one-dimensional learner, because some learning goals may not be achieved properly through one certain method. For example, it would be difficult to insist on using visual aids to learn aural French. In my opinion, an open mind is key and though it may seem unnatural or take longer, learning something in a different way can be helpful too.

Le Spotify Français

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My French teacher for fifth and sixth year was very helpful when it came to showing us how to do things we were already doing mais en français. As a result, we were given a cd of French music (Mr. Shneebly style, I know) to listen to over the Christmas holidays in fifth year and ever since then, French music has been a constant on my playlist. It may seem a little strange to non-language learners because you’ll be playing music in front of them and suddenly they ask you what’s going on and you haven’t realised you’re singing along to a song in a language they don’t understand.

Most French music is very similar to what’s in on the radio in Ireland – in fact, they listen to all of the chart music we do and their Top 40 is simply supplemented with the French offering to the pop music world. This makes the transition easy and pain-free (don’t think you have to start listening to a whole new genre). In fact, there’s even a song half in French featuring a familiar Ed Sheeran chorus (Reuf – Ed Sheeran ft Nekfeu).

So where can you find all of this music? The internet of course! Spotify is something I use on a daily basis and it is fantastic for keeping up to date with the latest French releases. They have an entire playlist dedicated to the top 50 streamed songs in France which is updated each week from which you can pick and choose your favourites and make your own playlist. You’ll soon discover artists you like and learn the words to their songs without feeling like you’re studying a language.

Keep an open mind and give it a go. Slip some Stromae and Fréro Delavega in between your Calvin Harris and Ed Sheeran and you’ll have French stuck in your head before you know it.

‘Lack of computers in schools may be a blessing – OECD report’

The above is an Irish times headline from Tuesday September 15th 2015. Certainly one to catch the eye. Aren’t computers supposed to be making us smarter?

This article is based on the findings from a PISA study in 2012 and fifteen year old me was chosen as one of the objects of this study. Funnily enough, I remember completing all of the questions asked on paper because, ironically, we probably didn’t have enough computers in our school for everyone to complete the tasks.

I don’t remember much about the study apart from that I went into it thinking I’d be asked to attempt leaving cert standard maths (still not having finished third year) but instead was given very manageable maths and English comprehensions and a LOT of questions about my computer use. I remember ticking the lowest box for almost every question.

Using computers in conjunction with my education was something I barely knew was a possibility as a third year. In a school setting, computers were for teachers and not students as far as I was concerned and at that most teachers avoided theirs like the plague anyway. Doing maths in particular on a computer was a concept I couldn’t even imagine (bare in mind this was before I was exposed to the joys of Project Maths). Pen and paper was the only way. It’s interesting that the results that the OECD present for Ireland reflect a similar sentiment. The computer use in the Irish school system is very low compared to our International peers.

However, our maths ability is quite high, so the traditional way in which we are teaching our students maths is working. Or so it would seem to suggest. In my opinion, whether or not technology is an aid depends entirely on the people using it. We used to think everyone learned in the same way but have since discovered some people are visual learners, others auditory, others kinaesthetic etc. Some people may work well with technology and some may not. It certainly has its place in a learning environment but it will show varied effects among students, especially among our generation who spent at least the first ten years of our lives without access to computers at all. Maybe the next generation.

The article from the Irish Times is here.