Rosetta Stone and brains

I have posted the following question on other platforms and am still looking for an answer. Any ideas welcome!

I’d like to know how the brain copes with learning words in different languages that are connected to the same picture.

Imagine: you meet someone and they tell you that they are called Helen. Your brain stores that information. Puts a name to the face for you to remember. The next time you meet that person they say that they are called Megan. It’s difficult to change that information in your brain and remember that the person is called Megan and not Helen, right?

I think it’s the same with pictures. So if you see a picture of a blonde girl and are told that means “flicka”, your brain (hopefully,  if your memory works well) recalls “flicka” when you see that picture again. How will your brain cope if next time you see that picture it means “ragazzina”? Will you be able to memorise both words, flicka and ragazzina? (Both words mean “girl”, the first one in Swedish, the second one in Italian.)

I’m sure there is research out there about how the brain copes with connecting words to pictures, but I am stuck on how to find relevant research and could do with someone pointing me in the right direction. Help?


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#LUBSENHANCE2018: exploring the impact of non-traditional learning spaces on student education

On Monday I attended a conference on teaching spaces, Enhance 2018. I have tweeted during the day, but here are my other notes…

Keynote: Alejandro Armellini, University of Northampton

  • Ask: How can we make x work for students?
  • New Waterside campus:
    • 24/7 learning commons
    • Flexible use of space
    • Personalisation: no lecture theatres
    • No staff offices
      • Better space use possible
      • What is good use of space?
      • No right to a desk
      • Nobody has offices – there are only hot desks in VC office
      • Private spaces for everyone to use, some bookable
  • Student teacher contact wanted
  • Formative feedback central to teaching
  • Using the Active Blended Learning (ABL) approach: face to face collaboration, student centred, changemaker attributes
  • ABL not in addition to teaching but standard approach to learning and teaching at Northampton
  • Dimensions of sound pedagogical “blend” in blended learning
    • Variety of delivery
    • Include all the best bits
    • Informal
    • Social
    • Internal-external
    • Practical, real life
  • Sense making essential, as it’s part of scaffolding
  • “content is not king, what students do with it is”
  • Challenges
    • Pedagogic
    • Workload and space,e.g. timetabling
    • Digital fluency
    • Communication

Bronwen Swinnerton, University of Leeds: collaborative lecture theatres

  • Review of the new collaborative lecture theatres at Leeds
  • A success, e.g. good relationship between use and confidence, except for the interactive whiteboards
  • More flipped learning taking place
  • Possible need for additional staff training and review of workloads
  • Need for additional timing/planning

Norma Martin Clement, University of Leeds: collaborative lecture theatres

  • Case studies of the new collaborative lecture theatres at Leeds
  • Collaborative activities take longer, e.g. set up, debrief
  • Added value by having a second member of staff in the room (“winger”) – mostly not recognised in workload model though
  • Teacher more vulnerable than in traditional lecture theatre; teacher and students learning together/from each other
  • Students’ work now (potentially) part of lecture capture record: double vulnerability
  • Groups in different pods not necessarily interacting with each other (pod to pod)
  • Accessibility issues
  • Institutional factors holding back change – e.g. relying on early adopters who are keen to invest additional time etc – resource implications
  • Timetabling concerns – uncertainty
  • Managers have to support and facilitate – advocate?
  • Need to be realistic
  • Additional training needs
  • Institutional recognition required

Damian McDonald, University of LeedsSoD TEALS

  • School of Design classroom re-design
  • TEALs = technology enhanced/enabled active learning spaces
  • Holistic approach needed, not just technology but to include furniture, accessibility, etc.
  • No student input so far – feasibility

Alice Shepherd, University of Leeds

  • using simulation in a business module, in 6th year: ProSim Advanced from Edumundo
  • Heavy on assessment on purpose
  • Some group work in set sessions, some independent study time

Richard Tunstall, University of Leeds

  • Discovery module
  • Simulations,workshops to back up simulation
  • Different spaces used for same module
  • SimVenture Evolution
  • How to add competition – use to explain concepts
  • Chance for flipped content

Staff development team, University of Leeds

  • Academic practice
  • Helping staff use learning spaces better and designing learning experiences
  • Curriculum design works best if done collaboratively
  • Learning design family tree – see slides
  • ABC approach: see creative commons materials
  • 6 learning types: acquisition, collaboration, discussion, investigation, practice, production
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Learn a language

As I am working on some ideas on how to get people more involved with language learning, here are some articles that I have come across that suggest how to get the most out of Rosetta Stone and other programmes:

Rosetta Stone: 7 tips for learning a new language

Rosetta Stone: Top Ten language learning tips

Babbel: 10 Tips To Learn Any Language From An Expert

PCMag: 5 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Language-Learning Program

I’m currently looking at Rosetta Stone for work purposes, but if course there are many other resources you can use as well/instead.

The main things to remember:

  1. Find your motivation. Remind yourself regularly why you are learning.
  2. Make time and manage your time. Create a habit.
  3. Set goals.
  4. Reflect on your learning. Is what you are doing working for you?
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

And if you like cooking, try the Languages Kitchen for recipe ideas.


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Rosetta Stone – we’re back!

Right, so I’m looking into getting the most out of Rosetta Stone again, after a few weeks off. Not necessarily for myself but for other language learners and considering pros and cons, so with a slightly different focus than before.

If you (or your institution) use it, please get in touch and tell me how/for which purposes it is used.

If you (or your institution) have use it in the past, please get in touch and tell me how it was used and why it isn’t used any longer.

I am planning to develop a full survey but will probably use this primarily for my own institution (if you work where I work – please also get in touch).

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Here are my notes from this year’s Innoconf:

Conference slides can be found here.

Welcome and first keynote

After a warm welcome to Liverpool (thanks, Open Day people!) and the University of Liverpool, the first keynote speech (From new literacies to transmedia literacies) was delivered by Carmen Herrero, who talked about fostering participatory cultures in language learning and teaching in Higher Education . She passionately introduced us to transmedia storytelling, and several projects where language practitioners come together to share their ideas, knowledge and materials, such as FILTA and FLAME. She also introduced us to the new trends of “Study Tubers“, students who share how they learn and thereby support others. Some of the channels she (and her daughter) follows are:

There will be a conference on New Approaches to Transmedia and Language Pedagogy soon, and you can apply as a research assistant right now (closing date: 2 July 2018).

Parallel sessions

Individual presentations will be made available, so I will only note down the main things I took away. The full programme and abstracts can be found on the conference website.

Learner behaviour and beliefs about giving and receiving feedback within the busuu language learning app, by Fernando Rosell-Aguilar

  • peer feedback encourages critical thinking because students need to deal with own and others’ work, being exposed to alternative approaches to a task
  • peer feedback can be unproductive, e.g. when cultural differences are not acknowledged
  • OpenLearn course: How to learn a language
  • apps can offer risk-free self-assessment but automated feedback may not alwqays be authentic

Improving feedback through computer-based language assessment, by Elena A. M. Gandini & Tania Horák (University of Central Lancashire)

  • developed own EFL exam that tests all four skills to guide pre-sessional and in-sessional offer
  • I wonder if this could be bought in instead?

First Year Undergraduates’ LInC project (Learning Independently and Collaboratively), by Géraldine D Enjelvin (University of York)

  • from autonomous learning to independent and collaborative learning
  • peer feedback is key!
  • tone of feedback is important: be clear but not blunt
  • tutor gave online feedback as well
  • developed critical thinking and employability skills
  • a module runnining over two terms can negatively impact on student motivation – emphasis needs to be on the journey/the learning (to learn) curve

Student-led grammar revision project: Empowering Level 1 Spanish beginners’ students to facilitate their own learning, by Nadezhda Bonelli (University of Sheffield)

  • start from ab initio – up to A2 by end of Year 1
  • project: students to deliver a presentation about a grammatical structure to Year 9-11 students at local schools
  • tutor feedback but not marked (assessment = pressure)
  • trust the students – you can!
  • chance to get less priviledged schools involved and show what university life can be about

Challenging, supporting and empowering students in multi-cultural, multi-lingual IWLP beginners’ classes: T&L responses to Internationalisation, by Alison Nader (University of Reading)

  • involves all four skills
  • mix of students: different year groups, backgrounds, study routes
  • this project looked at how to best support non-native English speakers learning French, and how (if) assessment can address interculturality
  • developed a new module that included workshops for listening and speaking practice, if students needed it in addition to the original module
  • original module now includes more independent study
  • new project: student involvement in curriculum development
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Rosetta Stone – fifth update

Really not motivated to log into Rosetta Stone again. I think I’ll borrow some films instead to listen to Swedish. Sorry, I guess the motivation was never strong enough to sustain this…cropped-daffs.jpg

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Rosetta Stone – fourth update

I have logged into Rosetta Stone this lunchtime to give it another go and see how much I remember. Turns out I recognised more than I though I would (which made me feel nice)!

I have experimented with skipping some of the units in Lessons 2 to 4, and completed the review sections. I have been able to match most pictures to vocabulary, which means that I recognised words and phrases from earlier sessions, even if I could not actively use them. Some words and phrases I could also guess (colours, sky, sunshine, I am, we are), but that’s surely no the way to do it!

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Rosetta Stone – third update

I cannot remember a lot of Swedish at all… I can remember that I have previously learnt about men, women, girls, boys and fish, and that I have learnt that they can swim, run, eat, drink and even drive cars and ride bicycles, but the only sentence I can create with any confidence is “fisken simmar” (The fish is swimming). I thought I knew how to say “the women are swimming” but I got it wrong because the plural for “women” is “kvinnor”, not “kvinnar”. You can see where this is going… and this is BEFORE logging into Rosetta Stone today.

I wonder…

Perhaps Swedish isn’t the language I should be learning at this moment in time, as I lack the passion for the language (remember: I was considering Maltese – because I like going to Malta, eat rabbit, enjoy sunshine, and am fascinated by the structure of the language). There may be other reasons why it isn’t working out; have a look at “The many reasons (32 so far) why we DON’T succeed in learning languages” by Benny Lewis for some. Hmm.

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Rosetta Stone – second update

I left a week between Rosetta Stone sessions to see how much I would remember and how easy it would be to carry on with the programme. Before today’s session I could only remember “de simmar” – they swim – and that I had been told the words for various people and activities, such as cooking, drinking and running. By the way, if you want to read more about forgetting, try:

Ridgeway, K., Mozer, Michael C, and Bowles, A. 2017. Forgetting of Foreign‐Language Skills: A Corpus‐Based Analysis of Online Tutoring Software. Cognitive Science. [Online] 41(4), pp. 924-949. [Accessed 10 April 2018]. Available from: 10.1111/cogs.12385

Anyway, I re-started in the Reading section of Lesson 1. Using the tool that lets you listen to a native speaker and shows you how your own pronunciation compares really helped to get back into the swing of things, and I could continue with the chapter quite easily. I felt like I had to shout at the microphone sometimes but that may have been because of my local audio setup.

Unit 1: Lesson 1: Writing

This section started with the same matching exercises the reading section had just finished with. At first I was a bit disappointed with this but it all became clear a few minutes later when I had to copy out the phrases that had been repeated.

I like that there is an inbuilt keyboard, or you can use the one that is attached to your computer.

I would have liked a bit more of a consolidation section before starting the next unit, but it turned out to be fine.

Unit 2: Core lesson

In this section we are introduced to vocabulary relating to food, transport modes and animals, using the words we already know from the previous sections, e.g. “the boy eats bread”. New words are introduced with  clear pictures, which is helpful, after some of the earlier picture clues were not always obvious to me.

Towards the end of this section I wondered if I had lost the necessary concentration, but persevered to get to the end of the section. Turns out I had definitely lost concentration as it became clear that the programme was teaching me to say “not”, as in “he does not sleep”. For a few minutes I had thought it might mean “afterwards” but looking back that would have been far to advanced! I should have stuck with modelling German grammar, which would state “der Junge schlaeft nicht”. So English seems to have interfered with my logic here!

During a break from the programme (but not having paused it) the microphone picked up sounds while I was talking to a colleague (in English) and I passed some tasks without actually trying. A bit unfortunate and confusing.

Learning outcome

From my point of view the key to using Rosetta Stone is patience and not trying to guess what it is teaching until it becomes really obvious. I find this difficult and would be intrigued to know if someone who has not learnt languages before would experience similar issues.

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Swap your papers now!

A bit of a random post but I have finally managed to write down what I have talked to people about for a while now…

One day I would like to attend a conference where nobody presents their own presentation but where everyone hands in a memory stick with their presentation saved on it when they arrive and later pick a memory stick from a hat. That memory stick then contains the slides they will present.

The idea behind this is PowerPoint Karaoke, an activity that invites improvisation and fun. During PowerPoint Karaoke participants deliver presentations that are timed and that they have never seen before.

This way

  • slides need to be clear and to be structured in a way that is clear to everyone, not just the person who created the slides
  • nobody is an expert and therefore some nervousness of presenting may be taken away
  • new viewpoints may be introduced

I suggest that each presentation is followed by a Q&A session that is led by the person whose presentation was shown (the “expert”). This would allow the experts to clarify anything that was missed out or was interpreted wrong.

Who’s with me?

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