What was your initial idea for the project and why was there a need for this particular material?
My initial idea was to make use of material that I had written over the years. It was my intention to present students with information about Norway not normally found in textbooks. Norwegian textbooks tend to be attractive, (colourful illustrations etc.), but the content is often extremely dreary, and of little or no interest to people studying Norwegian outside Norway.
How were the materials made?
With the technical help of Chris Dillon the material was put onto wiki pages. I found the UCL wiki very easy to work with. The material was subsequently cleaned up and links were made from grammatical explanations to relevant texts and grammatical exercises. The major challenges were to present the material in a systematic manner. This work is still not finished.
Description of the material:
Evaluation of the material and the project
I must admit that I found student enthusiasm rather disappointing. They did not use the material, i.e. they did not post me exercises on the pages assigned for student work, even though I strongly encouraged them to do so and we practiced it in Language Space. When asked, their conclusion was that using the material and Language space in general made a nice change, but all in all they preferred the old fashioned class room approach.
I enjoyed working with the material and the aim is to develop it into an on-line text book with grammar and links to relevant texts and exercises. As the same text often contains several grammatical problems, different grammatical explanations will have links to the same text. I will also use other materials to encourage students to write things in their assigned space.
In their evaluations, students seemed to favour the old fashioned approach. Also, I strongly believe in the value of oral work and free expression. Being an experienced language learner I know that speaking a new language is actually much more difficult than writing it.
I have enjoyed working on the project and I will keep working on it to perfect it. However, to me there is an element of using technical equipment, i.e. computers for the sake of it because this is now all the rage of our time.
I forgot to say that students used to enjoy my texts very much. The texts and exercises always worked very well when used the old-fashioned way. The students would laugh at the stories saying: 'did you write this?' or 'you wrote this, didn't you?'
However, when the material was transferred to the wiki the students appeared less enthusiastic. Thinking about it now I realize that it wasn't the material itself that was the problem. Possibly the students would have felt more enthusiastic if I had been more in command on our visits to LS. They must have noticed that I was outside my comfort zone, and therefore could communicate no great enthusiasm.
Sibylle was a great help and support and I don't know what I would have done without her.
The students were definitely on my side though. Once I used an ordinary black marker pen on the sophisticated electronic board by mistake. I only noticing what I'd done when I was half way through a word. The students became quite hysterical digging out tissues and wanting to help wipe it off before it dried. Fortunately there was a bottle of cleaning solution at hand and I managed to wipe it all off. Big sigh of relief all around. That was when it dawned on me that they really were on my side. What I'm trying to say is this: The problem was neither the material itself nor my relationship with the students. It was the fact that we were all on unfamiliar territory and that the students must have picked up on me feeling insecure and out of my depth.
I'm glad we are having this communication. It has brought me closer to realizing why the wiki material did not appear to be as successful as I had hoped. It wasn't the material, it was the unfamiliar environment and technology.
Another thought, the present generation of youngsters may be less enthusiastic about computers than your generation. For them computers have always been there, which is why they might be less excited about them. The sense of wonder and exitement is gone.
How to use the materials
I told the 1st years in particular to uses it for revision and to post it to me for marking and comments, but none of them did so. This led me to believe that the material is perhaps better suited to good old-fashioned paper. Next term I'll spend a couple of LS sessions to better familiarize students with the material than I did this year. Actually I felt nervous and not very confident about the Language Space technology. Predictably this must have been reflected in my teraching in LS. It was after all a huge and difficult step away from what I had been doing for years. In addition there was your talk about finding new ways of teaching, which I took mean using technology with which I felt uncomfortable.
The future of the Norwegian wiki
Tidying it up and making it more coherent will be the next step on my project.
For the coming year I shall make use of LS, but the main bulk of my teaching will be in the old fashioned way where I feel confident and in command. Of course, given time I shall feel more confident in LS as well.