11 August 2013

"Eu gosto de abacaxi" : Genius Hour Experiment, part 3

It turns out that reading and writing Portuguese is not so hard to figure out on my own. I did, however, need some help figuring out how the heck to say what I was reading and writing. Not having the benefit of either a guide-on-the-side or even a sage-on-the-stage as students usually do, I turned to the latest thing in language learning: apps. I started with Duolingo and Busuu, both of which gave me insight into what is and is not useful to Genius Hour project progression.

Duolingo
I have got to say, I am not a huge fan, and I do not wish to imitate this app's structure as I seek to supplement my students' personal vocabulary lists. Sure, after completing "Basics" and "Basics 2" I enjoy wandering around saying "Ela é uma menina" and "Eu bebo leite," but I don't think I'm any better equipped to answer my questions--much less ASK them--than I was before. And while I can pronounce mulher and even maçã with confidence. That is to say, I can put some letters with their sounds--SOME--and I can speak, but I still can't converse. Unless you want to talk about who eats bread or pineapples. Seriously. Duolingo taught me "pineapple" before even a single interrogative.

Still, I've got articles, both definite and indefinite, plus subject pronouns pretty much down, and that will be worth something come blogging time.

So Duolingo lessons:

  • Do provide multiple opportunities to hear the same word in different sentences. 
  • Do connect hearing the words with both the spelled out words and visuals.
  • Do get question words in as soon as possible.
  • Don't provide vocabulary input without a goal or purpose beyond just saying stuff--have relevant conversation topics to guide progress.
  • Don't expect people who are not already motivated to learn to care about points or spouting nonsense in the TL for its own sake.

Busuu
This app I like a little better, if only because I was taught "thank you" before "milk." The other cool thing was the almost immediate chance I had to put what I learned to the test. Mind you, if I hadn't done a half hour of Duolingo first, I might have had a harder time "introducing myself to the Busuu community." And I made a couple of mistakes when I did anyway, seeing as I tried saying things I hadn't actually seen used yet. How did I find out about my mistakes? Near instantaneous feedback from native speakers! It wasn't exactly interpersonal, but it was kind of like a personalized real-time WordReference for what I was trying to say!

Thus Busuu lessons:

  • Do structure tasks for students to be able to create with the language (beyond the blog posts) and get feedback.
  • Do provide feedback from native speakers whenever possible. 
  • Do provide feedback beyond the mechanical, getting at communicative intent.
  • Do model conversation structure as early as possible. 
  • Do consider multiple modes, input and output in designing series of tasks.
  • Don't evaluate vocabulary or structure usage before multiple exposures in multiple forms (written, spoken, read, heard).
Previous Genius Hour Experiment posts:

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