Virtual Italian Language
Virtual Italian: A Web Baesd Method for Learning the Italian Language
When Judy Raggi Moore, PhD originally came to America from Italy, she was surprised to discover that many of the people she met knew little (or nothing) about Italy. She was consequently inspired to teach Italian language and culture in a manner she describes as "authentic." As the program director of the Emory University Department of Italian Studies, she strives to create a unique learning experience for her students by heavily integrating the study of culture. In most foreign language learning programs, students begin studying culture only after first mastering the language. However, most college students are only in a language program for a maximum of 2 to 3 years. According to Moore, this time constraint means that in her program, she cannot delay the introduction and study of culture for her students. Thus, the Italian Virtual Class (IVC) was born.
The Italian Virtual Class is an online method for teaching Italian language and culture. The whole project is a virtual text that utilizes written, oral and visual narrative. In addition to the text, there are cultural videos and photographs detailing the various facets of Italian life. The resources available to students in the IVC are the result of 10-15 years of data collection that continues to be updated constantly after every summer. The videos range from shots of everyday life to exclusive interviews with native Italians. There is an extensive database of exercises that begin at a very simple level and eventually require the student to employ complex analytical thinking about everything from the separation of church and state in Italy to the role of the U.S. in Italian culture. As Moore explained, "language has the benefit of humanities content but definitely has a scientific study approach."
For the past 27 summers, Moore has led a summer language and cultural immersion program with her students that will provide a "physical journey through Italy across regions and across time." The objective in creating the IVC was to harness the learning and enthusiasm that occurs during the summer program and make it available to students independent of any actual travel to Italy. As a result, the IVC now serves as a supplement to student learning in the classroom that can fill in the gaps left by a lack of firsthand experience in Italy.
This project has provided a unique opportunity for collaboration with other universities. Moore is frequently approached by colleagues that want to be a part of the IVC and has developed a relationship with professors from Eastern Illinois University and University of North Carolina – Charlotte. This summer, students from Eastern Illinois University will even be participating in the summer immersion program.
Moore credits the Office of Technology Transfer with being extremely helpful and creative throughout the licensing process. As an innovation in a humanities field, there was no precedent for the work that needed to be done. Raj Guddneppanavar senior licensing associate in the Office of Technology Transfer, has worked with Moore since 2007 to make the IVC available to other Italian Studies programs. "It has been a pleasure working with Judy and helping implement her vision on Italian language teaching methods. We have been able to mature the project from a self-printed textbook with online material supplementation to the current fully immersed online learning experience" said Guddneppanavar. Moore has a vision for the future of the IVC that involves using more interactive technology to provide students with more "intuitive and sensitive" critiques of their work. She hopes to allow students to be more autonomous in their studies while providing them with feedback that goes beyond whether their responses are simply correct or incorrect. She once again finds herself on the frontier of creative technology and hopes to gain more knowledge on how to further develop the IVC in this manner.
The amount of time and energy that Moore has and continues to dedicate to the IVC is astounding. She cites student learning as the force that drives her passion for this project as well as her work as an educator. The moment when she can actually see student excitement shine through always makes her hard work on developing the Italian Virtual Class worthwhile.
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