Archive for November, 2009

LLC staff site now features a Wiki

… thanks to Blackboard.

Create a PowerPoint slide with a timer from template for a timed audio recording exercise

If you require an audio recording exercise, where you allot to students a longer period of time for a free-form response, possibly to a visual cue, here is a demo screencast, based on the teacher.pot powerpoint template collection: powerpoint-timer-slide.wmv.

Quia Audio Files in Internet Explorer contains “Play audio” links to mp3 audio.

You may experience this, when you first try to access the audio with Internet Explorer.

If you cannot read the instruction in the information bar, resize the window so that you can, like here:

After clicking “trust Microsoft” and  “Run ActiveX” in the following dialog, the “Internet Explorer cannot display this webpage” may appear. Ignore this, close the window and reopen it by clicking again on the “Play” link  in the parent window.

This time you will (hopefully) see this:

You need to do this only once  – per PC? per user? Let me know in the comments.

Collaboration using MS-Office and Network Shares

Accessing: We set up collaborative editing on a number of MS-Office files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint for starters) on network shares.

These files function like files on your computer’s C: or D: (cd) drive. C: (and H:, S:) you can write to, while D: (and M:) you can only read from. Details, including students’ access, below:

Mapped as for

Staff (including LLC staff) can

Student can

Language services use
















sensitive exam files; internal documentation & management (hallway.ppt, channel55.ppt, Sign_In_Sheet.xls)





No (admin only)



LLC: (large) multimedia files (to be moved into Blackboard content system)








Student audio recordings

\\resman\Student Saved Work\



  Only current user

  Only current user

  Only current user

  Only current user

Personal home drive


If you do not see the M: and S: click drive , click , paste “\\resman\Student Saved Work\Admin\conf\ms.vbs”, click .

To access the files quickly, you can click , click , paste the path to the file, click . Alternatively, browse  to the folder with the file like to any other folder on your PC, starting from “My Computer”. Repeat access from the office computer is easiest if you create a shortcut to the file, by right-click-dragging the file onto your desktop (do not create a copy, it will get out of synch and be useless for collaboration).

You can also access the files from home if you follow the instructions here. I have not thoroughly tested this, but my installation on MS-Vista, after the initial setup, defaults to a web-interface view which allows reading the files, but, unlike VPN connections I have used, not editing.

Searching: Search files like you do on your computer.

Editing: Files are unlike those on your C: or D: drive insofar as other people can open them also. If somebody has a file open and thus locks you out of writing to it, simply come back later when she has closed it.

The Excel Sign_In_Sheet.xls is a “shared” spreadsheet, in the sense that you will not be locked out while lab assistants have it open (which is always during LLC opening hours). However, you may get conflict messages if you try to save edits (which you normally would do not need to do, just viewing), like demonstrated here: excel_shared.wmv.

If you use regular (non-shared Excel)  MS-Office Files, you may see such a warning message:

If you clicked “Notify”, you will eventually be prompted to open the file in read-write mode, and your changes will be saved, if you colleague did not update the file (otherwise you will have to save under a different file name and later can use tool “compare and merge” to merge changes). 

For PowerPoint, you may see this:

If you clicked “open” ”read-only”, you will see a reminder:

It is probably easier to close the file and try again later, to see whether your colleague is finished with it.

Blackboard: Discussion board: Unread posts

  1. The Blackboard discussion board is designed for busy people keeping track of large constituencies – some classes have 1 instructor, 100s of participants and discussion board assignments….
  2. One of the most useful features is when you enter the discussion board, there is a shortcut to the “Unread Posts”, like marked here:
  3. If you click on this number of unread posts, you are taken to an overview page (sorted counter-chronologically be default; not threaded, but you have plenty of other display and management options), which you can skim for new developments, as well as use to manage your posts:
  4. Examine the top menu for options. You can either for individual posts click “mark  as read”, as you read each one. Or you can use the “select all” tool and the “mark all as read” button in the top menu to clean up your board. Once you leave, your discussion board home page should look like this:

Presentation on Time-stretched Audio and Personalized Provision in Instructor-led Digital Audio Labs @ Nerallt/Neallt 2009, Yale University, New Haven, CT

The pervasiveness of networked digital media – new delivery forms for digital TV and radio by the traditional media industry, as well as new content providers using pod- and tube-casts -, owing to an ever more powerful, robust and – partially as an overhang of the bubble – abundant technical hard- and software infrastructure, has also revitalized – and poured substantial new resources into the modernization of – the older concept of the language lab. Computerized classrooms with network and multimedia facilities, basic classroom management systems and centralized databases, with some interfacing to serve as learning material repositories or portfolios demonstrating learning outcomes, have become a common underlying fabric for many of the constituents’ learning environments. The recent freezing up of the resource flow can serve as a wakeup call to remind us both of the critical “What is the benefit, or return on investment?” and of the original promise of e-learning: increased efficiency. On the one hand, scaling through crowd-sourced or automated sourcing and reuse of materials has become a pressing need in rapidly expanding second language programs like English and Spanish that new technologies can help meet. On the other hand, widely differing learner proficiency is increasingly a problem when trying to form classes in the shrinking programs of other languages, and personalization of learning provision is increasingly expected in an environment shaped by “long tail”-economies. This paper will evaluate common practices in SLA that have served as workaround, recapitulate a number of different time-stretching algorithms, summarize existing software solutions and introduce a new option which is based on MS-Windows Media Encoder’s time-stretching and pause detection capabilities. Finally, the presentation will exemplify instructor-led utilization of this simplified and/or automated time-stretching of authentic materials, with more teacher-control and a more realistic output than that built into current media players, as a – not exclusive, but valuable – step towards more comprehensible input of level “i+1” in a more personalized language learning provision.

Slide Deck: plagwitz_timestretching_audio_nerallt09.pdf

Sanako Lab 300: Pairing and some basics

In the spirit of ‘Better improvised instruction and information distribution than failing classes in the lab”, I recorded a 1-on-1 instruction on how to pair students, including some other basic Lab300 features into a 5-minute screencast with voice over  (open with Windows Media Player): sanako-lab300_pairing-and-basics.wmv

For an overview, see the following table of contents (when reviewing the video before starting your class in the Lab, search your webmail for the link to this instruction.)

  1. Not shown: teach students once and for all: always log in first;
  2. Grouping setup pane (all into L, then into A, excluding unused seats);
  3. Pair discussion setup pane (button: select for manual pair select mode);
  4. Not shown: teacher should use button: duo launch to facilitate student control of audio;
  5. Within group A pane , teacher uses button:transfer, changes program source to audio cassette:
    Pair discussion setup pane : “re-pair”, using button:cancel all, button:random to have Lab 300 software choose pairs;
  6. Within group A pane , teacher uses button:headphone for talking to group (not shown: remember to undo when finished!)
  7. From classroom layout: teachers clicks student icon to bring up student pane;
  8. From student pane, teacher views student screen, listens to student (or pair), uses student button:intercom for talking to student (or pair);
  9. From top menu: Other / thumbnail view of group: teacher brings up Mosaic window, to monitor (“police”) entire group screens; translates what you see to individual student, and uses button:lock (keyboard, screen or both) to prevent students from not staying on task [Demo this in first lab class to your students, using the screen projector , and hopefully they will hopefully stay on task];
  10. From menu: Other/ thumbnail view of group, teacher brings up Mosaic window and double clicks student screen to control individual student computer (e.g. to close a web browser – another way to police, less effective, but possible; better used for collaboration) . [Better policing options can be set up in the using the Lab300 web browser).