by Jean W. LeLoup & Robert Ponterio, SUNY Cortland
Please cite as: LeLoup, J. W. & Ponterio, R. (1994). "FLTEACH: What is it and do I need it? Using Electronic Mail for Professional Development." In V. B. Levine, Ed. _The Possible Dream: Meeting the Challenges of Change_. NYSAFLT Annual Meeting Series 11: 37-54.
With the twenty-first century rapidly approaching, the expanded use of technology in every aspect of life is a given. One of the most pervasive technological advancements to date is the use of electronic means of communication, e.g., the Internet. Because communication is the primary thrust and emphasis in foreign language (FL) teaching, the ramifications of this technology for us in the profession are far-reaching and exciting. At this point, some FL professionals have merely stuck their toes in the surf, others are wading in knee-deep, and some are already swimming full out in these electronic waters. Others, however, have yet to come to the beach. The sun is not going away, and neither is technology. It behooves FL professionals to "suit up" and explore the endless possibilities available to them now through electronic airways that will enhance their knowledge, their professional development, their teaching, and consequently the learning of their students.
One way to do this is by subscribing to FLTEACH, the Foreign Language Teaching Forum. FLTEACH is a Listserv list that was founded February 1st of 1994 and is running on a computer at SUNY/Buffalo. A Listserv list is an ongoing electronic discussion carried on between and among people with similar interests. In this case, FLTEACH is intended to serve as a forum for communication among FL teachers at the elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels. Its audience includes methodologists, university supervisors, cooperating teachers in junior and senior high schools, student teachers, and all language teachers involved in developing or implementing a FL curriculum or engaged in the certification process. Although the initial focus of the list was on language teaching in New York State, FLTEACH has developed a much broader base. Teachers have subscribed from all over the United States and from several foreign countries. Even in its infancy, the list has evolved into a tool for discussing issues, raising concerns, and solving common problems that are germane to the FL community at regional, national, and international levels.
This article will indicate the rationale for and goals of FLTEACH, as well as enumerate many of its uses thus far and possibilities for uses in the future. Information to help get started using FLTEACH, including necessary support systems and the procedure for subscribing, will also be discussed. Finally, some sample dialogues from the list will be offered as an example of what a FL professional can look forward to as a member of FLTEACH.
Many FL professionals in New York are familiar with the report known as SUNY 2000. The major thrust of this report focuses on college entry-level knowledge and skills expected of all entering freshmen. This document sets forth lofty expectations from disciplines across the curriculum, including foreign language. The task force responsible for drafting this report, while recognizing "the growing importance of the ability of communicate well in a second language" (SUNY, p. 27), also notes that "foreign language instruction in the United States is woefully inadequate to meet these needs" (SUNY, p. 27). As partial amelioration of this situation, the report makes a strong recommendation for close collaboration between FL faculty at the secondary and tertiary level. Implicit here is the need for articulation between these levels--precisely the goal of the teleconference "Bridging the Gap," in which FL professionals from both levels participated in October, 1993. Many downsite areas for the teleconference have continued with numerous follow-up meetings in an attempt to facilitate this articulation, to the end of effecting the SUNY 2000 goals for foreign language.
Another important initiative in New York State directed at the advancement and coordination of standards in FL curricula is the work of the Board of Regents Committee for Review of Curriculum and Assessment for Languages Other Than English (LOTE). The Interim Report of the LOTE Committee (Benitez, et al., 1993) espouses many of the same goals as SUNY 2000 in terms of FL curricula, and once again articulation is viewed as a necessary component to ensure success. Taking articulation as a basic premise of both these documents, the teleconference was an initial step toward bridging the gap in communication among FL professionals. But, as Jeffries avers, "a gap still does exist" (p. 7). It is wide, and many FL educators need to be brought together to close it. New York is one of several states that has a mandatory FL requirement at the secondary level. As such, the goals of these documents have implications for every school district and many universities and colleges in the state. The implied number of FL practitioners involved is vast. How can the profession best initiate a dialogue among these educators and foster communication that would lead to the desired articulation?
It was in light of the impetus of these documents and the teleconference that the idea for FLTEACH was conceived. It fills a void, as no prior list expressly addressed the FL educator community across such a broad spectrum. It also provides a useful service to the FL profession for many reasons. First, because it disseminates messages so quickly a "list" is a most expedient way to initiate contact and spur discussion among FL professionals that can eventually lead to more communication at all levels and, hence, better articulation of FL curricula and goals. Next, the technology for such a list already exists, and access to electronic mail is increasing daily. Also, the New York State FL professionals are a ready-made clientele with their common professional interests and aims. In addition, it makes good sense to pool and share resources instead of constantly "re-inventing the wheel." Coordination of preservice FL teacher education, leading to uniformity in expected professional knowledge base and skills, is another benefit that can result from the list. Finally, the list can provide a network of moral and professional support and stimulation such as that obtained by conference attendance, but on a much more frequent basis. Thus, with these reasons and many more, FLTEACH began as a fledgling in February of this year and has grown steadily ever since.
The goals of FLTEACH are as numerous as the reasons for its existence. They have also changed and expanded since its inception. A summary of the principle goals of FLTEACH reiterates the threads of its rationale. Primary is the emphasis on overall increased communication among FL professionals. The benefits of daily or weekly contact in a productive forum with one's colleagues are endless and only limited by one's own imagination and participation.
Parallel, of necessity, to the goal of expanded communication among professionals is an increase in the access to electronic media by elementary and secondary teachers. Tertiary faculty typically have relatively easy and free access to electronic media, but practitioners at other levels are not generally so fortunate. Obviously, if any articulation and coordination is to take place, all levels must be significantly represented. Also, the increase of technology awareness on the part of FL practitioners can only enhance their teaching and effectiveness as educators (cf. Knight, 1994). Use of technology by FL professionals can also lead eventually to better training of their students in the use of electronic communications across the curriculum.
Coordination, convergence, and perhaps consensus in preservice FL education is certainly a major goal of FLTEACH. ACTFL has indicated teacher education as a priority in this decade (Knop, 1991; Sandstedt, 1991; Strasheim, 1991). In general, FL methods courses appear to consider much of the same knowledge base as important (Grosse, 1993). How much better would preservice training be if it were coordinated and improved by collegial sharing of resources and materials?
The articulation so necessary to a smooth transition for FL learners between educational levels can only be improved by the proverbial right hand knowing what the left hand is doing. FL educators participating on FLTEACH can discover what their counterparts are doing in many different areas, and all can capitalize on shared information and ideas. A sampling of the exchanges on FLTEACH (see Appendix C) provides a good example of the types of dialogue, information exchange, and general collegiality on the list.
The first requisite for joining FLTEACH is to establish an Internet or a Bitnet connection--i.e., access to the electronic pathways that connect the world. Such an account must carry electronic mail (e-mail) but might also provide access to other services. In addition, to use the account the subscriber needs a terminal or computer connected to the service, for example via a phone line and a modem or on a Local Area Network (LAN) in a computer lab. Currently, some NYS Regional Information Centers are making Internet e-mail connections available to school teachers in NYS. For example, FL teachers in the Central New York region can contact the Learning Technologies Department (315-433-8312) at the OCM BOCES for information. The amount of support furnished by BOCES typically depends on agreements with local school districts. It can range from provision of local access, software, and training.to computers and modems. Other possibilities include commercially marketed access nodes, such as CompuServ, Delphi, Genie, or America On Line (AOL), which charge for their services.
Once an electronic (Internet or Bitnet) connection is established, subscription to FLTEACH is relatively simple. The directions are given in Appendix A. A welcome message is the initial mailing and contains useful information for participating on the list, as well as various options that members may choose. These include receiving messages in a daily batch, searching archived materials, and stopping and restarting mail before and after vacations. Subscribers are also asked to fill in a brief template for biographical information that is made available to the entire list. In this way, members can pinpoint others of similar interests, projects, and languages, as well as geographic proximity. Logs of all messages sent on the list are available to subscribers so periodic absence from the list does not preclude remaining apprised of pertinent information.
Once subscribed, members may participate freely in any number of ways. Some participants post frequently or even regularly, while some opt to glean whatever appeals to them from the daily interactions without making their presence vocally known. Internet "stage fright" is a real obstacle for many people, and learning the protocols and basics of "netiquette" takes some time and effort. Nevertheless, little or no e-mail acumen should not be a deterrent to participation: members of FLTEACH cover the spectrum in terms of electronic sophistication. The list co-managers encourage postings from all who wish to join the discussions, and they are happy to provide technical assistance to do so when needed. They can be contacted at the e-mail or regular mail addresses listed in Appendix B.
FLTEACH is useful to FL professionals in a myriad of ways. It is a method of participating in professional development from many perspectives. Frequent postings of conferences, seminars, and workshops keep members current on what is available for them to renew or acquire new professional skills and knowledge. FLTEACH is also an "on-line" consultant for any questions FL educators may have regarding teaching methods, ideas for varying presentations, ancillary materials, theoretical concerns, and even queries stemming from personal circumstances (e.g., on whether and how to raise children bilingually).
FL teachers who use technology to enhance their teaching are serving as role models for their students, all of whom will need to develop this competence for their future. For those students who will go on to become FL teachers in their own right, an excellent example is being set by the teachers who open their eyes to the wonders, advantages, and possibilities of technology in the FL classroom. FL teachers can discover links to target language (TL) resources, countries, and colleagues that will broaden their knowledge base and provide a method of infusing a TL reality that is motivational and meaningful to students.
A cursory sampling of topics that have been broached on FLTEACH during its first four months will, perhaps, give an idea of the breadth of information available to members. It will also hopefully generate new thoughts for and uses of FLTEACH for the future. The following list of topics serves as an index to many subjects that were discussed to varying depths and degrees on FLTEACH. A few excerpted dialogues have been included in Appendix C to provide an idea of what some typical exchanges and postings might resemble.
The range of topics is wide, from information about student trips and recommended sponsors to esoteric theoretical discussions. Requests for opinions about FL software, textbooks, summer immersion programs, and language camps are posted and answered regularly. The ACTFL Articulation and Achievement Learning Outcomes Framework is another topic that has appeared, along with extensive discussions about articulation between and among levels of FL teaching, placement at the college level, and many of the concerns voiced during the "Bridging the Gap" teleconference last October. Another extensive and technical discussion centered around the parameters of the ideal language laboratory. Concerns about shifting FL enrollments from one language to another have been addressed. Considerable discussion ensued following an inquiry about when and how to begin FL instruction to young children. Many members participated in a lengthy dialogue centered around Krashen's "Pleasure Hypothesis," an idea presented at the Northeast Conference in April, 1994, in New York City. Methodologies and their application to the classroom have also elicited numerous comments--from Counseling Learning to contextualization.
Frequently, subscribers will request assistance in planning and presenting projects in their FL classrooms. One such example is a request for help and ideas on producing a play with students (see Appendix C). The responses to this posting were quite numerous, varied, interesting, and exciting. Often responses to individual requests are summarized and re-posted on the list for the benefit of all members. One subscriber, Don Houghton--who is also the editor of a FL newsletter, "Tongues Untied"--frequently makes use of the list to solicit input from FLteachers on a wide range of topics of interest to his readers. Another service of FLTEACH is to take material that is of potential interest to many members and archive it for future reference, such as a "how to" paper on e-mail pen pals, written by one member, Adolph Hofmann.
Perhaps one of the most successful aspects of FLTEACH is the diversity of its membership. Although it began with the intention of serving the particular audience of FL teachers primarily in NYS, it has very rapidly grown to have a national and even international base. FLTEACH also happily has members from all educational levels, a characteristic that can only aid in its goal of articulation (see Appendix C).
Through using FLTEACH, the foreign language educational community has an opportunity to become a more integrated, cohesive group in terms of professional goals, aims, and direction. Continuous contact with colleagues on the list will inevitably result in a better-informed and prepared cadre of FL practitioners that can further the objectives of foreign language education in local, regional, national, and international venues and at all educational levels. Though initial access and acculturation may be a challenge, the ensuing rewards will more than make up for that first "cold splash." Many members claiming little to no previous technological or e-mail acumen testify to becoming total converts and wondering how they ever managed before. Other subscribers have indicated how useful to and how much a part of their professional life FLTEACH has become. Hopefully this article has piqued interest and given a cogent response to the title inquiry. Final words: Come on in, the water's fine.
Benitez, R., Bloom, M., Champagne-Myers, M., Crooker, J., Díaz, J., Evangelista, A., Hancock, C., Hooper-Rasberry, G., Jeffries, S., & Lambert, R. D. (1993). _Communication Skills for a Changing World. Interim Report of the Curriculum and Assessment Committee for Languages Other Than English_.
Grosse, C. U. (1993). The foreign language methods course. _Modern Language Journal_, 77(3): 303-312.
Jeffries, S. (1993). SUNY and SED aim at new standards for language instruction. _NYSAFLT Language Association Bulletin_, 44(5): 1, 3-5, 7.
Knight, S. (1994). Making authentic cultural and linguistic connections. _Hispania_, 77(2): 289-294.
Knop. C. K. (1991). Reaction: Preservice and inservice teacher education in the nineties: The issue is instructional validity. _Foreign Language Annals_, 24(2): 113-114.
Sandstedt, L. A. Reaction: Foreign language teacher education. _Foreign Language Annals_, 24(2): 109-112.
Strasheim, L. A. Priority: Teacher education. Preservice and inservice teacher education in the nineties: The issue is instructional validity. _Foreign Language Annals_, 24(2): 101-107.
_SUNY 2000. College Expectations: The Report of the SUNY Task Force on
College Entry-Level Knowledge and Skills_. October, 1992.
Shortcuts: Beginning of Article or References or Appendices (A, B, C) or Return to FLTEACH main page
TO SUBSCRIBE TO FLTEACH, FOLLOW THESE DIRECTIONS:
Send to Internet LISTSERV@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU
Put nothing in the subject line.
The body of the message should contain the following line only:
SUB FLTEACH firstname lastname
(Example: SUB FLTEACH JANE DOE)
Then send the message. Be sure not to include a signature.
Co-managers of FLTEACH are:
Jean W. LeLoup & Robert Ponterio
Dept. of International Communications and Culture
SUNY Cortland P.O.
Cortland, NY 13045
Address any concerns to the co-managers at the addresses above or to
Subject: Hello and help?
I am a sixth grade teacher at Pleasant Hope Elementary. I am currently taking a class at MSSC in Joplin. One of the class requirements is to make a culturgram on China. Could you help me?
Thanks for your time and eyes,
Pleasant Hope, MO 65725
********** Subject: Introduction
I am Michael Seifert, a German teacher in a large suburban school in Omaha, Nebraska. As a first year teacher, I look forward to reading suggestions from those with experience. I am very interested in using technology in my instruction.
********** Subject: Re: Introduction
one of the hardest things for me as a beginning German teacher years ago was to find suitable materials, realia, etc. Fortunately, today travel is easier and more is available. If you are not already a member, join the AATG. They provide a wealth of material at low prices. So does the Goethe Institut. I also highly recommend Inter Naciones. Their material is free and wonderful...just slow in coming.
I'd be interested in hearing what materials others use in their advanced courses. We more or less create our own "books" at this level, which is great but also challenging. So much of the non-edited literature is still so hard for the kids (and much of the 20th century lit isn't very uplifting), as are German magazines. By February each year I feel that I've already used every good idea I ever had. Anyone out there with some peppy fresh ideas??
Lee's Summit High School, Division I.
400 East Eighth Street
Lee's Summit, Missouri 64063
********** Subject: Eval. of FL teachers
Don H. raised a matter that concerns many foreign language educators, that of administrative evaluation of FL teachers. I raised this question on a K12 admin list and responses were very interesting. First, only a couple FL teachers replied. Second, administrators replied and most said they felt able to evaluate the teachers. If I were asked to evaluate a teacher of advanced math or even beginning physics/chemistry, I honestly do not feel that I would have anything constructive to add to what was already occurring. I suspect this is true of administrators who evaluate teachers of FL. Many administrators who are talking about reform, restructuring, performance assessment, etc., are unaware of the fact that our discipline has been ahead of the ballgame for quite some time. This makes me wonder about their understanding of such issues as notion-functional syllabus vs. grammar-translation syllabus. How can they guide, encourage, offer support without knowing the methods issues, let alone the languages we are using.? Using "friendly critics" from the universities as evaluators might raise the level of professional discussion and may provide teachers with some worthwhile suggestions. How do other FL teachers feel about this? I know for many of us it is threatening because we no doubt make mistakes. Patricia Vigini email@example.com
********** Subject: Re: Krashen's 'Pleasure Hypothesis'
To: Don Houghton/Tongues Untied. (and others interested)
Now that we have the "pleasure hypothesis" out of the closet, what do we do with it? If I didn't have to "evaluate" people all the time, I'd be even more satisfied with teaching Spanish than I already am.
How do we reconcile providing our students with pleasurable experiences in the process of learning another language with having to "grade" them at various junctures?
Dept. Mod. Langs. & Classics
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47305 - 0465
317 - 285 - 1364 (personal office phone)
317 - 285 - 1361 (central office phone)
317 - 285 - 8980 (FAX)
^^ The first two characters are zeros.
********** Subject: Re: teacher training
Thank you for the opportunity to provide some feedback for FL methods courses. I have been a cooperating teacher for the past five years with student teachers from SUNY College at Geneseo. We are fortunate to have had the same person teaching the methods courses and supervising all of the student teachers in foreign languages. This is a real advantage because she sees what is happening in the classroom and has been able to modify the methods accordingly.
Specifically in answer to the questions you posed:
1. What do the practitioners feel needs to be covered in a FL methods
a. Specific activities to teach speaking, listening, reading, writing, and culture.
b. Lesson and long range unit planning for communicative instruction.
c. The structure of the NYS Syllabus Modern Language for Communication.
d. Testing, including the structure of the Proficiency and Regents exams.
e. Classroom management techniques with emphasis on prevention.
f. Record keeping information.
g. Using authentic documents to teach the five skill areas.
h. Using a textbook series and ancillary materials successfully.
i. Teaching grammar in communicative context. (Why keep it such a secret?)
j. Using technology including how to use a FL word processing program!
l. Attitudes of professionalism, responsibility, care for details (like accuracy)
2. What is typically NOT covered that should be?
3. What is covered but not sufficiently? I think that all of this stuff is mentioned, but specific techniques are sometimes lacking. Much of the strength (or weakness) of a student teacher depends on the teacher's previous experiences working with students. I find that the most successful student teachers have had experiences working with groups of kids (as opposed to one-on-one tutoring) in Sunday School classes, summer camp counseling, scouting park programs or other group recreational settings. The STs must have a repertoire of strategies that they can employ when a student is not on task. Students need to know more than how to introduce new vocabulary and to do a TPR lesson. They need experience organizing a sequence of activities to instruct to an objective, especially grammar lessons. They seem to be too bound to the textbook as opposed to teaching the concept through a variety of means. Student teachers seem to sense that authentic documents are important, but they don't know how to use them for communicative activities and that one authentic document is useful for more than one activity.
4. What areas do you feel need the most emphasis? Considerable emphasis needs to be placed on long range (unit) planning, testing, and teaching activities which actively involve students. Less time needs to be placed on the "fad du jour" like Madeline Hunter, Authentic Assessment, and Cooperative Learning.
5. How to CTs view the STs that are assigned to them in terms of preparation, ability, etc. The student teachers I have had have, by and large, been well prepared because of the excellent relationship that the college supervisor has built with the area cooperative teachers. She is active in our local language Associations and observes each student teacher eight times during the semester. She knows what we expect and need from our STs so that we don't lose valuable instruction time. The only student teacher I ever had to fail was one who did not have sufficient grasp of the Spanish language to teach it. His accent and pronunciation were atrocious and he did not put in the time necessary to plan correct lessons. His handouts and lessons contained many errors. He did not hear student errors to be able to model correctly for the students. He should have never been allowed to student teach with Spanish that deficient. I'm not expecting Ricardo Montalban or Montserrat Caballe....I make mistakes when I speak at times. At least I can hear and correct mistakes as I make them.
6. In what areas do new FL teachers feel particularly well prepared or ill-prepared? They seem to know TPR and some hands on approaches. They know the theories of language acquisition and humanistic education. Where they fall flat is applications of the theories; on fitting those parts into a unified whole - whether it be a lesson plan or a unit plan. For example, what to do after you've introduced the vocabulary. They don't see the "big picture" of what we try to do in a week, a month, a year, three years. Testing is also a weakness. They need to understand the whole evaluation process and how homework, quizzes, tests, and observation fits into the evaluation as a whole. They need to learn how to manage a testing situation and how to administer individual speaking tests to students. They have to know what to do with the other 29 students while you are talking to/testing/reprimanding one student.
Thanks for listening.
Spanish Teacher @ Perry Jr/Sr HS
33 Watkins Ave.
Perry, NY 14530
Subject: Re: Methods rather t...
I'm a first year teacher this year and, even as I teach the material for the first time this year, I am trying to think of better more "real" ways for my students to use Spanish next year. Being at a high school with limited technological resources, I could never link with schools in other countries through the computer. However, I had thought about establishing some sort of post card exchange with high schools in other countries. This year I had my students exchange "post cards" with another teacher's Spanish students -- and they LOVED it. I think they would benefit even more from receiving post cards (with pictures!) from other countries. I would appreciate any suggestions concerning how to set up an exchange of this sort. Janet Baron
Subject: Re: Plays in secondary schools
Has anyone out there had any success in putting on plays in language classrooms? Have you used pre-existing plays or have you done your own? How did you manage to include all of the students in the play production? Did you take of some time form the normal curriculum to practice, or did you practice outside of class?
I am particularly interested in finding a French play that could be put on by seventh and eighth grade French students. I'd like to get each kid involved (A total of 20-30 kids), and I'd like it to be something that would appeal to their maturity level. I would plan to put it on before the rest of the student body and parents and teachers.
Are there any ideas out there as to a play that would be interesting for this age group? Any ideas on organizing the practice and teaching of lines?
I've been a lurkeuse for some time on this list, and I'd like to say that I've enjoyed following the discussions and that this type of exposure to others in the field is wonderful! Keep up the good work everyone!
Stephanie Alcorn, Sacramento
Subject: Re: Plays in FL classroom
WOW! David's description of the play production he participated in at the Concordia Language Villages was great fun to read and full of very good ideas!. Thanks, David! (I'm sending this message to the group and not just to David because maybe it's more fun to be thanked in public and to encourage all of us to share excellent ideas like his.) J. Kuehl Westside High School Omaha Nebraska ps: Thanks also to the person who asked such a good question to begin with. :-)
Subject: Re: Plays in FL classroom
I have produced several French play performances in the context of a diction class here at the Univ. of Tennessee-Martin. One combination might be particularly good for the suggested context. _La Farce du Cuvier_ (3 characters) and _Le Pate et la Tarte_ (4 characters) could accommodate a class of 20 or so students in the following way. Each actor would have an understudy/coach responsible for cue practicing each part (think, pair & share). There would be one costume and one props person per play as well as one production assistant and one "souffleur" (total=22). If you perform for a small audience, you might after the last play (_Le Pate...) invite the audience down to taste the wares of the baker (another task for a few students=baking). These farces have simple plots, and with the right combination, you could perform them for people with very little knowledge of French.
TennesseeBob Peckham firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: One foreign language in lower school
An important discussion has been prevailing in our k-12 school about the benefits of teaching a single language to a class from k-6th grade instead of flip-flopping between two languages every year or so. Of course, in the past, this was done in order to cater to those parents who wanted specifically French or specifically Spanish taught to their children. The language department has since put our collective foot done and has stopped this pedagogically insane practice. Yet, the problem still remains, Some students are forced to take French when they'd rather be taking Spanish and vice versa. Our language department has since had to come up with very persuasive reasons why it is better to stay with one language and one language only throughout K-6. Of course we believe that A child is learning how to learn a language at this time and once s/he has a firm footing in the first language, a second language will be infinitely easier to learn.
My request of the members of FLTEACH: Please post your opinions on the advantages of teaching only one foreign language at a time in the lower school and also, add specific advantages of learning French and of Learning Spanish.
Thank you!! Stephanie Alcorn, Sacramento (But soon to be from Palo Alto)