Andiamo in Italia & Ritorniamo in Italia
ITAL 205-206 and ITAL 270
What are the courses "Andiamo in Italia" & "Ritorniamo in Italia" about?
"Andiamo in Italia" and "Ritorniamo in Italia". are two multimedia interactive projects, which offerd geographical, cultural and linguistic information about different regions of Italy. The idea of providing our students with these tools came to us a few years ago when Vassar College received a Mellon Grant for developing language-teaching technologies. At that time we were looking for ways to inform first year students about our Summer Program Abroad in Siena (Italy). In December 1999 we presented to the Vassar Williams Mellon Consortium a proposal for a virtual trip to Italy, which included two separate phases, "Andiamo in Italia" and "Ritorniamo in Italia". "Andiamo", which is designed for our first year students (Italian 105-106-107), is now a web site based on images, texts and audio material. "Ritorniamo" is instead a DVD, which contains video clips of four different locations in Italy. Each clip includes a script, score, and linguistic and cultural information. It is being implemented in our advanced language course, as the textbook for the course (Italian 270).
Being modeled on the Vassar College Summer Program in Siena, the project is based on a real experience, and the itinerary follows the actual trip. Our students arrive in Rome and spend a couple of days visiting the city. Then they move to Siena where they attend a five week intermediate Italian course. The University of Siena offers to our students its teaching, housing and dining facilities. While in Siena, the students take a weekend trip to Venice and Padua, and a one day trips to Florence and other areas of Tuscany. At the end of the five weeks, they return to Rome and visit the Vatican City. There is a website on the subject here.
The geographical itinerary of the website includes three units devoted to the linguistic and cultural study of the several locations visited during the Vassar Summer Program, plus a fourth unit containing political and geographical maps of Italy. A fifth unit is dedicated to our JYA in Bologna (E.C.CO., Eastern College Consortium). Each unit is combined with the review of a grammatical rule, a vocabulary for reading comprehension, and an audio segment for listening comprehension and phonetic exercises. As the trip proceeds so does the grammatical complexity, which never exceeds the elementary level (i.e. two semesters of instruction at Vassar), and is always integrated in the regular course work. The project's goal is to take our first year students for a virtual journey that some of them may actually take the following summer.
The DVD: "Ritorniamo in Italia" The DVD contains four video clips filmed in each one of the major locations visited during the program (i.e. Rome, Siena, Venice and Bologna). Each clip is related to a different linguistic area of Italy, and includes a video script with geographical, cultural and historical information, and a musical score. In particular all of this data can be divided in three pedagogical levels:
The DVD contains four video clips filmed in each one of the major locations visited during the program (i.e. Rome, Siena, Venice and Bologna). Each clip is related to a different linguistic area of Italy, and includes a video script with geographical, cultural and historical information, and a musical score. In particular all of this data can be divided in three pedagogical levels:
How does this particular software tool enhance your teaching goals? Why is it better than other technologies or artistic techniques?
For the implementation of both "Andiamo" and "Ritorniamo" a classroom with a computer with a DVD player and Internet access, a screen, and a projector are sufficient.
In the Beginning Italian courses the "Andiamo" site substitutes for all the textbook's cultural readings and for some grammar exercises. It also allows for in-class phonetic exercises, which before were only available in a language lab setting. The audio recordings of all of the texts in "Andiamo", which are done by native speakers, let the student have a first approach to Italy's exceptional linguistic variety. The unity of the site's topics, i.e. a virtual trip, enhances the students' interaction and comradeship, which are in turn reinforced by in-classroom games, like the "Palio of Siena" simulation race, whose description is an integral part of the site.top
The Student Response
How have your students responded to your use of technology?
Generally students have responded very well to the use of the website. Since there are so many ways of using "Andiamo", students like the possibility to work at home where they have more time to listen to the assigned segment, to improve their pronunciation skills, and prepare for in-classroom phonetic drills. In particular, the audio segments are a great tool not only for pronunciation drills, but also for the oral part of the final exam. Students appreciate being tested on a text they can prepare so well they end up memorizing. Students have been so appreciative of the great variety of information that the site provides that, in the past three years, further material has been collected by them. Soon, thanks to the help of the Media Cloisters, we will be able to add the collected material to the site (see above).
Last but not least, because "Andiamo" is part of the Italian 105-106-107 syllabus, students appreciate the opportunity to learn about our summer program from the very beginning. There is no doubt that the web site has been of invaluable help in presenting the program, and consequently students' enrollment has steadily grown to today's maximum allowed number of 20 participants.
As for the "Ritorniamo" DVD, it is the textbook for the Advanced Composition and Oral Comprehension course (Italian 270), which has been tailored, mostly but not exclusively, to students returning from the Summer Program in Italy. At present, because the course is offered only in the fall of each academic year, the DVD has been implemented only once (fall 2004). A first students' response has been quite positive. The four video clips allowed the students to revisit and reflect on their recent experience. They found the video clips' dialogues with their juxtaposition of the phonetic text and its correspondent Standard Italian version very useful to understand the linguistic peculiarities and evolution of the Italian language and its dialects. The DVD's cultural readings, some linked to the dialogues, some introduced separately, deepened their knowledge of Italian urban history and traditions. Also the DVD format led the students to use interactive technology for their term or final projects.
What are the challenges you faced teaching this class for the very first time?
We believe that the major challenge with technology is the need of constant maintenance and updating. For example, when we started with our project, film clips were still difficult to watch online, and that is why we opted for a DVD format. An adequate technological support should resolve any present and future problem.
Are there any new directions you would like to explore next Spring, other new things you would like to try out?
After three years of implementing "Andiamo" and one year of "Ritorniamo', we realized that we had created an incredibly valuable and flexible tool, ready to use and allowing almost endless "variations on a theme", i.e. assignments of grammar exercises, phonetic and vocabulary drills, maps studying, web navigation, oral presentations, etc. Even though "Andiamo" is still a "passive" tool, students have already started to make their own additions to the site. Precisely because we felt the need to make these additions part of the site, we proposed to the Media Cloisters Steering Committee to enhance "Andiamo in Italia". In the spring 2004, our proposal was approved. In order to improve the look, feel, behavior, and speed of the site, we felt it was necessary to revisit and revise it entirely. Although "Andiamo" is a great and invaluable tool, after three years of implementation, its limitations are more evident. For example, all of its texts are currently embedded in images. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, text-size scaling for viewing the site projected in class, or copying and pasting the texts for studying purposes. Therefore we have suggested replacing the "Andiamo" text with real text. This small change will also reduce download times, allow for easier and more useful printing, and permit speech synthesis. Another suggestion we made was to allow for content management, i.e. addition or manipulation of content, by either faculty or students. We think it would be particularly motivating if the students could contribute to the site by adding photos and texts of their own.
Some technological problems are also plaguing "Ritorniamo". Such problems have been addressed to the college Technological Support Services and should be solved soon. Due to the recent implementation of the DVD, more time and assessment is needed before ideas of further development can be formulated.
The "Andiamo"/"Ritorniamo" project has been an incredible opportunity also for the instructors. We have learned about web page designing. Together we have written the texts and grammatical tables, selected images, edited audio segments, addressed copyrights issues. We have acted as a team with colleagues of other departments, in particular with Philippe Roques of the Film Dept., who filmed all the video clips, and with the curators and students in the Media Cloisters. This kind of collaboration has certainly enhanced the final result of the project. The project has also been a very meaningful experience for the Italian Department. During the past three years, the implementation of the "Andiamo" site in our four sections of Beginning Italian has enhanced departmental collaboration. Different instructors have worked together toward a common goal, sharing ideas, responsibilities, and developing a common assessment of the site's pedagogical effectiveness.