Thursday, December 10, 2015

German Media and the Refugee Crisis

Bild cover, Aug. 29, 2015
Courtesy Bild

Recently, I helped an honors program student in my upcoming GERM 2020 course design an independent research project. Since he will be studying at the University of Aachen next academic year  and since he hopes to join the foreign service later, I suggested he develop a project on the Syrian refugee crisis, its global context, and the role that the city of Aachen is playing as it develops. He will contact (and hopefully volunteer at) a refugee shelter in Aachen, but while he is gathering background information about the social, political, and cultural impact of the crisis, I'll be sure to share this article with him:  

Unfortunately the article is not in German, but it does explore how the cultural institution (for better or worse) that is Germany's Bild newspaper is shifting with popular opinion.

Any other suggestions for where my student should start with this project?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

STEM Teaching MOOC complete, Achievement unlocked

I might have to print this out and hang it in my office. 

I just received an electronic certificate of accomplishment for completing "An Introduction to Evidence-Based Undergraduate STEM Teaching". It was a great experience on a number of different levels:

First, I wanted to investigate the learner experience and the pedagogic structure of a MOOC. I will be teaching an online version of my general education course (GERM 2520 German Culture and Civilization) this coming spring, so this course offered many insights into both sides of the online delivery model.

Second, I saw this course as a great opportunity to learn more about instructional methods in the STEM fields. Having left science, math, and engineering behind so long ago, I was curious to see how STEM educators today prepare their students for the real-world application of course content. Unfortunately, most of my STEM colleagues I told about the course here at Tech were not able to complete it along with me, so we did not get to discuss methods or to collaboratively create learner experiences. Nevertheless, my colleagues (Chem Engineering, Geology, and Physics) and I did find time to have an hour-long discussion about the most valuable parts of the course which might have inspired them to take this course the next time it is offered.

Third, I wanted to insure that my instructional methods still reflect the best practices across the disciplines. I am constantly on the lookout for professional development opportunities like this, especially since we haven't had a teaching workshop here at Tech for a while now. Years ago, a course design workshop at the University of Virginia inspired me to adapt Eric Mazur's ConcepTest model to my humanities classroom, and I continue to find ways to integrate similar tools into my classroom. The ConcepTest model remains invaluable to me as a formative assessment and peer instruction tool, and it was vital to my flipped classroom (GERM 1010) this past semester  Once I receive my course evaluations, I will be able to share some of my methods and results. Look for that in a future post.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Happy Ghosts of Seminars Past

Student-designed promotional flyer for our production of Woyzeck (Spring, 2010, University of Virginia's Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures). I remember how matter-of-fact the students were in justifying their gestures in this image. By the end of the semester (when this picture was taken), they and all the other student actors knew their characters so well. 
While freeing up space on an old USB drive this morning, I found this artifact from my years as a lecturer at the University of Virginia. In this upper-level course, we analyzed and then produced one great staging of Büchner's Woyzeck. The one post-dramatic choice that all the students felt comfortable with was beginning and ending the performance with the same scene, ("ein guter Mord, ein echter Mord").

As our performances made clear, so many students made such large strides in this course. I can't tell you how many times initially timid students tell me in their final reflective essay that they wish they had tried out for a larger part. The experience gave them so much more confidence in their German, as a similar experience at the University of South Carolina had for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Culture in the Classroom: Die Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert

Whenever it is rains heavily in Cookeville, every student tends to drive, which means that parking is even harder to find for everyone. Given that I knew today's torrential rain meant many late students, I decided to use this situational factor to their benefit. 

My 1010 students and I visually interpreted Heinrich Hoffmann's "Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert." Discussing weather was key to chapter 1 of Treffpunkt:Deutsch, so the first phase of our discussion was a great review of those previous communication goals. After we described how the first image constructs the idea of bad weather, I asked "Soll das Kind im Regen spielen? Warum oder warum nicht?". This engaged questions of recommendation/suggestion, which we've been trying to apply in class and differentiate from other modal constructions. I find that students tend to understand that they should use "sollen" to communicate recommendations/suggestions, but they rarely do this without direct prompting. Luckily the next two images in Robert's story demonstrate why he shouldn't play in the rain. 

 Actually, in the future and in more advanced classes, I could foresee using the stories out of "Struwwelpeter" to teach modal constructions. Given that the text and images are on wikimedia, this should be simple to integrate into a future textbook. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Butler University - German Language, Literature, and Culture: Getting Started

Over the weekend, while looking up a former colleague from my graduate student days at the University of Virginia, I stumbled upon this page of links (and even media), curated by subject librarian Franny Gaede. I found her collection to be such an excellent resource for students of German language, literature, and culture at all levels that I tweeted her out of the blue. Someone finally did all the hard work and collected (and organized) the best resources on the web. And today, I told my students about the site. Brava!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mahlzeit! A German Brown Bag series - “Der Tatortreiniger” (Crime Scene Cleaner)

Please join Tech's German Club tomorrow for another installment of Mahlzeit! A German Brown Bag series. We’ll watch an episode of the very popular German comedy series “Der Tatortreiniger” (Crime Scene Cleaner)—see the flyer for more details. Some light snacks will be provided, and you are encouraged to bring your lunch to eat while you watch.

We hope to see you Tues, Oct 27, between 11:10 and 11:45am in OKLY 212. More installments of Mahlzeit! will take place throughout the semester (each featuring different TV shows), so if you can’t attend next week, you will have more opportunities in November and December. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Progress Report "Deutsch interaktiv - Einführung" iBook Part 1

It's been over two years now that "Deutsch interaktiv," the interactive textbook I planned, produced, and co-authored for the American market, has been available on iTunes. The "Deutsch interaktiv" iBook series was initially a side-project, a pedagogic experiment in a new medium--more a hobby than anything else. Back in 2011, I assumed that so many textbook publishers would be rushing to the new format, but, as things stand now in 2015, no major foreign language textbook publisher that I know of has made the leap. I assume it is because of Apple's price cap and an unwillingness to develop intellectual property for a medium that has no secondary market. (More on that gap in the market in Part 2 of this post.)

Anyway, part of my morning routine includes checking how many German language learners across the world have downloaded the iBook, and I am continually surprised and humbled to learn that at least a few people find the book each day.

You can find the free extended introduction to the "Deutsch interaktiv" series by following this link 
The daily download record of Deutsch interaktiv-Einführung (July '14-Oct '15)

I have noticed of late how more learners in Germany are downloading the iBook and its later chapters. Although I have no way of knowing, I hope that the iBooks are helping the many migrants who are undertaking the difficult journey from the Middle East to Germany. I've been talking with some publishers and other pedagogues about crafting a curriculum designed especially for migrant students. Some options already exist, and from what I have seen, they are effective enough, so I hope they support Germany's many new citizens.

Karoline von Günderrode's English #wiki WiG

from Twitter

October 24, 2015 at 06:31PM
via Arzillo Official Site