Plug-and-play activities for your classroom

Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT or other “AI” Chatbots can produce coherent and grammatical text, but does this make them good proxy conversational partners for students in language courses? I recently led a roundtable discussion on some of the problems and possibilities my elementary French students and I experienced when using ChatGPT to practice written conversational French. Below are some (anonymized and paraphrased) chat logs from the chatbot conversations, as well as student commentary.

My elementary French students had the option to complete certain “partner chat” activities using ChatGPT. They prompted ChatGPT to “write like a first-year French student”. Hilarity ensued:

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Hey all! It’s been a while since my last post, but that’s been largely due to my latest projects which have just launched: an open online course called The Senate and the Roman Peoples: On Diversity in the Ancient Mediterranean and its companion podcast, Ancient Problems, Modern Solutions.

The Senate and the Roman Peoples: On Diversity in the Ancient Mediterranean

This 5-week, 50-hour course is for classics instructors, classics students, or newcomers to the ancient world who are looking for a more rounded picture of the peoples of ancient Rome. Learners will engage with both primary and scholarly sources which emphasize both the social diversity and inequity of Roman society, with an emphasis on questions such as:

  • What were the ethnic, racial, and class distinctions made by the Romans? Where did these distinctions come from, and how were they cemented in law/custom?
  • Who called themselves Romans? Who was allowed to call themselves Roman?
  • When Rome expanded its territory through conquest, whom did the Romans assimilate? Whom did they enslave?
  • Why is it important to teach about the social diversity of the ancient world and the ancients’ methods for social classifications?
  • What are the ramifications of uncritically teaching about inequity in the ancient world?

You can enroll in the course for free via Carnegie Mellon’s public-facing Canvas LMS.

Ancient Problems, Modern Solutions podcast

I developed the SPQR course alongside a limited-series podcast called Ancient Problems, Modern Solutions, which you can listen to wherever you get your podcasts. I spoke with some guest experts about a few different topics. The first three episodes, which were subsidized by Carnegie Mellon University, include:

  1. Teaching Latin inclusively
  2. Queerness and Relationships in the ancient world
  3. Ancient ethnonationalism and its modern legacy

Check out the first three episodes and see if you like the content! I’d love to keep working on the podcast, and if you’d like to hear more, you can support it on Patreon to help fund future episodes and get access to an exclusive subscriber Discord server.

If your work is relevant and you’d like to be a guest on the podcast, reach out to me via email and we’ll see if we can make an episode work!

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While role play activities are a popular mainstay in language textbooks, I’ve always been dissatisfied with how shallow they can be. In this post, I’m going to compare the traditional role play activity found in American language textbooks to Robert Di Pietro’s (1987) Strategic Interaction scenarios. I start by defining each of these activities before discussing what happened in my French classroom the other week when I ran a Strategic Interaction activity, and drawing some conclusions about the two different activity types.

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I always love to incorporate the wider world of Francophonie into my French classes. One of my go-to assignments is a Francophonie research project. I’ve run variations on this theme across all levels of French study, and I’ll make a separate post about the whole project itself, but I wanted to share a supplemental assignment which incorporates digital literacy skills and some elementary coding.

For French I, the base project involves researching a country (location, capital, leader, languages, foods, etc.), which students then present in front of the class in French, while the rest of the students filled out a little passeport I had them assemble. One quarter, I brought my students into the library, to visit our learning technologist, who walked us through an “hour of code” exercise: digital postcards.

Here’s a sample of what a simple one could look like, using some C0-licensed pictures of Paris:

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My school's learning technologist directed me to VidCode's "Bestie Greeting Card" activity. Students learned some JavaScript, uploaded some videos and pictures of the countries they researched, and created animated, digital postcards for that country.

Some of my students got really creative, incorporating background videos, multiple images and filters, etc., showcasing pastoral countrysides, urban landmarks, and local delicacies from the countries they researched!

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