SLP Workshop Addresses Innovative Pedagogy in a Digital Age

IMG_1923Colleagues from 7 GLCA institutions met for a weeklong GLCA Crossroads Shared Languages Program (SLP) workshop at Denison University.

Arabic colleagues Hanada Al-Masri (Denison), Kelly Tuttle (Earlham) and Basem Al-Rabba (Oberlin), German colleagues Lee Forester (Hope), Elizabeth Hamilton (Oberlin), S. Marina Jones (Oberlin) and Gabriele Dillmann (Denison), Japanese colleague Noriko Sugimori (Kalamazoo), Spanish colleagues Teresa Herrera (Allegheny) and Marta Sierra (Kenyon), our GLCA colleague Simon Gray (Program Officer), and our colleague Cheryl Johnson, Instructional Technologist at Denison, collaborated to discuss sustainable solutions for the challenges the languages are facing and how the SLP is positioned to address those.


Gabriele, GLCA Consortial Languages Director, organized and led this workshop, assisted by Denison’s Arabic professor Hanada Al-Masri, with the idea that community building and collective brainstorming are primary for the success of our inter-institutional collaboration. Invaluable new ideas and inspired thoughts intensified the discussions and produced results that will no doubt strengthen the Shared Languages Program and garner wider appeal in the near future as it addresses contemporary issues in pedagogies and the status quo of language programs under pressure.



Some of the highlights of the SLP are: 

Great benefits for students who

  • have special needs, learning disabilities, or require accommodations beyond what a traditional classroom environment can offer
  • want to continue with their studies beyond the first or second year language courses offered at their home campus (e.g. Arabic, Russian, Japanese)
  • want or need to learn a language not offered in their home institution such as Hebrew or Russian (in the near future)
  • need to double up to complete their major or minor but experience a lack of courses to choose from at their home campus
  • have run out of options of courses to take on their home campus, especially for their major
  • need to take a directed studies because of under-enrollment in an upper level course
  • have a time conflict with the course offering at their own college and default to their major often leading to dropping their language studies altogether
  • need to take a directed studies because of lack of course course offerings, which often becomes a chronic situation
  • have a particular subject interest that no one program could accommodate 
  • would like to benefit from a global course connections course component
  • are interested in exploring new pedagogies with digital technologies in a virtually interactive environment 
  • are not able to go study abroad but would like to meet new people with similar interests outside of their very small language program
  • eventually with the success of the SLP may minor or major in a language that currently offers no minor or major (best example: Arabic)
  • learn more than the language itself, e.g. communicate effectiveness, dialog etiquette, digital etiquette, intercultural communication, participation as a member of a learning community

Benefits for faculty who 

  • are one-man or one-woman programs and miss having a like-minded colleague for the exchange of ideas and concerns
  • are concerned about under-enrolled classes and fear of cancellation
  • with the advantages the SLP affords may be able to expand their (Arabic) program to a minor or major even with one home institution factually member
  • wish to expand their facility with digital pedagogies
  • seek professional development that no one campus can offer
  • want to join the discussion on ways to address the future of our discipline
  • wish to teach a course outside of their language program but “cannot get away”
  • have numerous directed studies students due to some of the reasons mentioned above (usually without any compensation)
  • are limited or at a loss on how they can accommodate students with certain disabilities to help them learn

The following important discussion points in terms of our rapidly changing teaching and learning environment in the age of digital pedagogies encompass the following affordances and challenges for the SLP and beyond:

  • broader flexibility for student learning addressing differences in proficiencies and pace in a digitally enhanced classroom
  • addressing learning disabilities such as limited sight, hearing, or mobility limitations with technologies in the digital teaching and learning environment
  • rethinking grades and grading in digital learning communities
  • enhanced schedule neutrality, e.g. negotiating variances in semester and quarter system campuses from one institution to the next; allowing for religious holidays
  • greater credit hour flexibility, e.g. half course vs. full course for students who wish to continue practicing their language skills but cannot take a full course due to other academic commitments
  • offering beginning level language instruction for lesser taught languages (Arabic)
  • student learning communities across institutional boundaries
  • rethinking task and testing design; e.g. proficiency-based assessment strategies
  • rethinking “academic dishonesty” in a digital environment and turning the negative into a positive by integrating “cheating” strategies as learning opportunities with new pedagogies
  • keeping students connected to their home campuses
  • enhancing the role of the home campus mentor
  • optimizing teaching and learning strategies for an ever-changing student body and culture in our technology-driven world
  • building bridges between the generational culture of teachers and the generational culture of students
  • preparing our students professionally for the digitally progressed learning and teaching environment of the next younger student generation whose teacher they will be
  • increased interoperability, e.g. standardization, undercutting silo effects; e.g.: standardizing learning Arabic via the Integrated Approach; teaching German with a balanced approach of structure/grammar, natural acquisition, and culture)
  • SLP as a useful partner for other on-campus programs (e.g., international studies) that require language and cultural knowledge of regions outside of the US
  • post-grant compensation and reward structures and models; e.g. course release time for research by sharing students; time vs. pay

One radical idea that came up, I wish to highlight separately:

In the (near) future could we conceive of GLCA institutionalized language schools, that is, one GLCA school may specialize in/will be the locus of a certain language such as e.g. Russian or Hebrew with students taking these courses remotely from any of the other GLCA schools? 

The workshop also featured an overview of digital tools for language pedagogy as well as several sessions of hands-on training to learn how to effectively use these applications and expand existing facilities with digital technologies. These tools and their application in language teaching and learning will be discussed in a separate article and posted to the SLP website.


For more information or to express your interest in the Shared Languages Program please contact Gabriele Dillmann [] or use the message box below.


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