Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hey dude! Do you like You Tube?

Hello everyone,
this is my last post this semester, but I really want to keep on blogging in the future! I really like it and find it very useful, especially if it's done in English! And of course I'm really proud to have my own blog and use the Web pretty well, which I believe is really important nowadays.
By the way, in our last class with Sarah we started to explore You Tube as a tool that can be used for language learning. Well, to be honest I didn't include music in my PLE mindmap because when I listen to English songs is usually to relax so I don't pay much attention to the lyrics. Of course there are exceptions because if you really like a song, you definitely wanna know what it means! Anyway, I must say Sarah's lesson this week helped me change my mind about music as a learning tool. I realized there's so much material on You Tube that is extremely useful to improve one's listening skills! Well, in a way I knew about You Tube's potential already, but I'm starting to look at it with different eyes only now. Apart from the well-known music videos, there's also comedy, short films and sketches on You Tube, which are really good fun and of course a good way to better your listening and learn more about other cultures! For instance, I found Katherine Tate's video terrific! She's a really good comedian, and I'm planning to watch other videos in which she stars.
I believe fun should always be an essential component of language learning because it would make the whole thing much easier and more pleasant, dont' you think?
Bye now!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wanna know how I learn languages? Check out my PLE!!!

Hello everyone!

This is gonna be my last post I guess, and I'm kind of sad because my 'formal learning' is nearly over! Even though I'm tired now, I'm sure I'm gonna miss my university years! However, I won't stop learning languages, I'll just do it in a different way, and I really hope to keep making progress!! This week I want to spend some time talking about language learning and my experience of building a mindmap of my Personal Learning Environment. I knew something about this topic already because we've been talking about it a lot with our ESL teachers at university. I think it's really useful every now and then to stop and think about our language-learning methods. I reckon that exploring the different ways in which we approach languages helps us find our strong and weak points and set new learning targets for the future. Personally speaking, it was really nice to see the great number of tools we have at our disposal to improve a language, be it our mother tongue or a foreign language.
I divided my map into 5 main sections: paper material, on-line material, listening, writing and speaking. Under paper material I grouped the most common tools I've used for formal, traditional learning (grammar books, textbooks, dictionaries), plus other written sources I normally use to improve my reading skills and vocabulary (i.e. newspapers and magazines). I dedicated a whole section to on-line material in order to highlight the importance the Web has for language learning nowadays. So, I included blogs, wikis, social networks and e-journals just to give a few instances. The listening section is about radio and TV as the main tools I usually resort to in order to better my listening comprehension. In the same way, I listed a few things that have generally helped me make progress in writing. Finally, in the speaking section I grouped some alternatives that have proved to be very helpful for bettering my speaking and fluency with specific reference to foreign languages. For instance, I included tandem learning, occasional contact with native speakers and experiences abroad.
To conclude my post I want to say that it was quite easy to think about what I usually do to learn languages because it was all about focusing on my personal experience. However, it took me some time to organize all the material in a logic and coherent way because many of the tools I had included in the map can be exploited in different ways; so, it wasn't very easy to class them. Anyway, I enjoyed doing this activity a lot and I' m gonna keep my map in mind and see if I make any changes in the future!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Excuse me? Can I have my privacy back please?!?

Hello everyone!
I want to open this week's post by saying that I am really interested in the topic of privacy rights and the Internet mainly because the Web has become a widely used tool nowadays, but many people don't know how to use it properly.
We all know that the Internet has a lot of advantages: for example, it is an incredible source of information and is a very good learning tool as well. However, there are also many risks related to an unaware use of the Internet: for example, what happens to personal details people put on the Internet? Are they kept secret or is it possible to have access to them? The article about Facebook and Privacy rights was really thought-provoking! I have a Facebook profile, and when I decided to join the social network I didn't think about what could happen to my personal information. Giving personal details, indeed, is something that people are frequently asked to do on the Web. Moreover, websites' administrators put emphasis on the fact that your details are in safety and won't be shared with anyone else. Is it always true? The answer is we don't know. This is why it's necessary to think twice before doing such things.
Are there any possible solutions to the problem of privacy violation on the Internet? I guess the only option is to be very careful when communicating any personal information to strangers. It's impossible to avoid the Internet because it's very useful nowadays, but it's fundamental to use it critically. In other words, when surfing the Net it's important to skip unreliable sources, whose content is dubious. Moreover, it's always good to read everything very carefully, the same as if you were to sign an agreement! And what about copyright infringement? Well, I believe the same rule applies! Always be careful when publishing your pictures or pieces of writing on the Web because many people could use them inappropriately and without your consent.
As a conclusion to my post I want to warn everyone against using social networks like Facebook. I learned that even if you decide to delete your profile in the future, it won't be the same for your personal details! They will be stored somewhere we dont' know, by someone we don't know. So, please guys: keep on using the dear 'old' emails and phones!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

How to go mental trying to write references!

Hi all!

Here I am again. This time I want to write something about the often annoying experience of writing references at the end of a text, be it an essay, a dissertation or anything else. In all honesty, I find the whole thing of reference styles kind of boring. I can't actually explain why, maybe it's just a matter of laziness. As a matter of fact, when one has to write a reference list, one needs to be very precise and pay attention to a lot of details. First of all, once one has chosen the most suitable style to them, it is important that they are coherent and don't change it all the time. What I find most frustrating about writing references is that, regardless of the style one chooses, there are specific rules to follow and it's often difficult to put them into practice. I think this is due to the fact that there are so many different types of sources that it's almost impossible to class all of them. So, it happens quite frequently that there isn't a specific rule to follow and one has to guess and try to understand which specific type the source at issue belongs to. Personally speaking, I really find it difficult to quote articles in journals or periodicals. There's so many details to include, and each piece of information follows its own criteria that it's very easy to go mental!
I think it's very important to try and look beyond the difficulties involved in writing references, and think about the importance of learning how to quote sources properly. I'm specifically referring to academic writing where everything is given great weight, not only the content. This might sound weird to us Italian students because, generally speaking, we aren't used to paying so much attention to details. I guess this is not the case of American students given the great number of websites on referencing styles provided by American universities. Well, I think the only solution is to tuck up our sleeves and start working hard! SOMEBODY HELP US !!!!

What is Google Docs?

Hello everyone!
On Wednesday during our English class with Sarah, we learned about a new Web tool (another one!) called Google Docs (I guess these Google fellows have found the right way to make money!). I had never heard about Google Docs before Wednesday, and I must say Sarah's lessons are very useful because we keep on discovering new things! Anyway, I've done some search on the Internet and I've learned that Google Docs enables one to create new documents from scratch or by using a template, and then store and organize them as one likes. The application accepts different formats, such as DOC, XLS and RTF. Documents can then be viewed and edited by more than one person at the same time. However, not everyone can have access to your documents. As a matter of fact, Google Docs is an invite-only service. This means that only people you have sent an invitation to will be able to view and edit your documents, sharing them with other invited users only.
Last but not least, once you have created a document, guess where you can post it? Surprise, surprise.... on your BLOG!!!! It's great for bloggers like us, isn't it?
I believe this application could be very useful to any kind of learners, especially in those cases in which these are required to do group works and complete a task together. As a matter of fact, students using Google Docs could easily share documents relevant to the task they need to complete, and all work on their task at the same time. This would certainly facilitate the whole thing and make them save a lot of time!!! Wouldn't that be fantastic?
Honestly I don't know if I'm going to use Google Docs a lot in the future, but it's been worth learning how to use it anyway!
Bye now!

Monday, April 20, 2009

About my research article again!

Hi all!
Today I'm going to write another post about the research article I found on the Internet a few weeks ago. This time again, we were asked to answer a series of questions on the topic "how to make a piece of writing readable". Our task was to reflect on our article's structure, logic, cohesion, clarity and coherence. These are the essential elements every text needs to have in order to be easy to follow by its readers. Here I'm going to focus on structure, logic and cohesion.
First of all, I want to point out that my research article follows the so called hourglass structure. There is indeed an introduction where the author outlines her main ideas and topics covered in her paper ("This paper aims to examine aspects of the relationship between tourism and place identity in rural Ireland. (...) Through a case study it is argued that the impact of tourism must be understood in terms of the new social relations which emerge (...)" ). After this introductory part there is the body, where the writer provides evidence to support what she stated at the beginning. So, a wide range of explanatory words are used: because, firstly, secondly, on the one hand, on the other hand. Finally, the paper ends with a conclusion summarizing what has been shown in the study, thus reinforcing the initial thesis ("through the case study it has been shown that, the result is that, in summary").
The article is logic because it contains arguments to support the author's thesis. Consider, for instance, the following sentence: "(...) tourist imagery 'plays a significant role in providing a native self-image' because firstly, Irish people have been exposed to tourist representations over a long period of time; and secondly, there has been a high level of contact between tourists and locals (...)". Here it's clear that the sentence starts with the main idea followed by two arguments to support it. The same happens in the following example: " (...) the relationship between tourism and place identities can be conceptualised in terms of social relations. On the one hand, changes to place identity occur as groups, institutions and individuals act to commodify resources (...). On the other hand, resilient existing social relations influence the degree to which commodification for tourism takes place".
Finally, the paper is also cohesive since ideas in the text are closely connected to each other, as this sentence shows: "Whilst identities may be in a constant process of flux and change, there are also elements of continuity (...)".
To sum up, my brief analysis of the research article I chose has concentrated on some of the basic features that make a piece of writing readable and easier to follow: structure, logic and cohesion.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Referencing styles!

Hi ya!

As part of e-tivity 6, we were asked to go on the Internet and read about two different referencing styles: APA (American Psychological Association), and MLA (Modern Language Association). I spent some time exploring the two websites, trying to find similarities and differences between them. One basic difference that immediately got my attention was the format used to write the title of books or other written sources, such as journals or magazines. On the one hand, APA wants the title to be written in italics, without double quotation marks; on the other hand, MLA style recommends avoiding italics and underlining the title instead. Another important difference concerns the way to cite one or more authors on the reference list. According to APA, one should write the author's surname first, followed by their name's initials. In case there are two or more authors, their names have to be separated by a comma, and the last item preceded by ampersand. MLA, on the contrary, says not to abbreviate the names of authors, and to list them starting with their first name, except for the first author. What's more, there should be 'and' and not ampersand before the last author's name. The year of publication comes immediately after the author's name in the APA style, whereas in the MLA format, it's written at the end, after the publisher's name.
Thinking about the reference style I used when writing my BA thesis, I can say it was a sort of mix between the two formats. I actually followed my supervisor's instructions, without applying the rules of international formats like APA or MLA. So, on the reference list the names of the authors had to be written in full, starting with their last names. After that came the year of publication and the title of the source in Italics. Finally, place of publication and publisher's name. Everytime I quoted a new source I needed to write all the details not only on the reference list, but also in a footnote. Then, for further references to the same source an in-text citation was enough. Unlike APA and MLA formats, for in-text references I was asked to write the title of the source, followed by the year of publication and the relevant page number(s). Finally, as for web sources, I didn't need to write the date of publication or last update, but only the date of my latest access to the source itself.
I personally prefer the APA style because it's more coherent to what I've learned so far in terms of how to write references. I reckon that, unlike MLA guidelines, the APA Formatting and Style Guide is easier to learn and put into practice.