Final Language Learning Log Reflection - Granata

Editors note: How was I supposed to add the "red" for "Control of Conventions"? Highlight every punctuation mark in red? I wasn't sure so I did not add the red.

 

Final Reflection | After reviewing your work over the past few weeks, what are you learning about what it means to learn a new language? How might your experiences learning a computational language inform your teaching practice? (350-500 words)

 

The acquisition of language, as described by Saffran, Senghas and Trueswell (2001) is a challenge comprised of discovering the internal structure of a system comprised of thousands of units generated from a small set of core materials. These units are then able to be assembled into infinite combinations. However, only a subset of these combinations results in success (Saffran, Senghas, & Trueswell, 2001). As language learners, this is the process that must be assimilated to successfully communicate. Learning a new language, whether it is for communicating human to human or human to computer, involves a series of steps and a lot of practice with more experienced communicators. For english language learners in the classroom, this experience can take the form of listening to peers communicating, watching videos and television in the new language, or just practicing conversations with bilingual friends to learn syntax and colloquialisms. Similarly, learning a computer programming language requires patience, practice, and a set of competent tutors be they in the form of videos, books, or in person. With practice and diligence, the new language can be assimilated readily.

 

Having practiced, learned, and fought through some tricky code sets over the past month, I have created a short animated game with Processing 3, and through this experience I have gained a new appreciation and empathy for the ENL students in my classroom. For example, as I wrote in my log for March 8, “once again, it strikes me that if a student learning a language tries to complete work in the new language before assimilating the arsenal of verbs, nouns, and adjectives, then making himself understood will be much more difficult. In this week’s iteration of coding, I found that I had so many things I wanted to do, that I knew I was close to being able to do, but I did not have the correct terminology or software knowledge to make it work. This is similar to a student trying to describe their past weekend, but only have present tense verbs to work with. Most of the meaning comes across, but the native speaker will have trouble deciphering the intent of the non-native speaker.”

 

Similar to my students, I struggled with learning the new vocabulary such as “function”, “void”, and “PVector”. Just when I thought I had mastered these vocabulary words and meanings, I attempted to compile them into a comprehensive set of coding instructions only to receive error messages about my syntax. I learned, slowly at first and then with steadily more speed, to include my semicolons and curly brackets, and when to use empty parentheses and when to fill them. These slow steps, with multiple iterations and tests and adjustments, resulted in the final product.

 

Translating this experience to the classroom, I can only imagine the exhaustion I would endure if I was forced to do these same actions, and face the same frustrations, every single day of the week for at least six hours a day. Yet this is exactly what we expect our ENL students to do when they arrive in our classes.

 

I found helpful tutors in the form of Github.com, and the Processing.org website, which helped me reform my syntax and use my newly emerging vocabulary, and teachers have a responsibility to provide similar forms of assistance for their students. For example, in one of my classes I have a student who arrived from Guatemala not speaking a word of English, but fluent in Spanish and Mam (a native language in Guatemala). This student did not suffer from lack of intelligence, just lack of vocabulary! So we worked together to create our own mix of spanish and english to be able to communicate basic instructions, and each lesson I taught I had translated into class notes for the student to be able to follow along at their own pace. As the weeks went by, his language skills improved steadily with the constant practice, and so we have slowly been weaning ourselves off of the class notes and into proper communication. I am impressed each day not only with his improvement in speaking and understanding our language, but most importantly, with his perseverance.

 

Similar to my students, I must continue to practice these skills if I am to attain any level of proficiency. As a teacher, I give my ENL students extra time to process my instructions or questions, I offer all my lessons in multiple languages in the form of class notes, and we use a lot of sign language to confirm understanding of directions and instructions. These small efforts on my part serve to create an environment where ENL students can thrive, secure in the knowledge that they will be successful in my class despite the language barrier. I am grateful for the chance to explore computer coding in the form of language acquisition, as it offered me the chance to reflect on the challenges so many of my students, and their parents, face on a daily basis.

 

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito

      Suzie,

      Your final reflection is very rich with insights and a clear articulation of your process of learning Processing.

      I was particularly struck by your using the experience to develop a deeper empathy with your ENL students. It will be interesting to see how this develops and evolves for you over time.

      I was also struck by this:

      I found helpful tutors in the form of Github.com, and the Processing.org website, which helped me reform my syntax and use my newly emerging vocabulary, and teachers have a responsibility to provide similar forms of assistance for their students.

      It would be interesting to diagram the network of resources and mentors you developed and to see how that also evolves over time. This is work I am in the midst of studying with students.

    Computer Science for Teachers Spring 2019

    Computer Science for Teachers Spring 2019

    Here is the online home for CS for Teachers at Pace University for Spring 2019.

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