Category Archives: News

Basic Excel for teachers

On Wednesday, October 12, I held a workshop on Basic Excel skills for teachers and researchers, with the following description:

Do you use Excel as a grade book or for data collection? In this workshop, you’ll work with Excel hands-on to develop basic skills, such as quickly copying numbers down columns, keeping headings visible at all times, and sorting columns in the most convenient order. If you consider yourself an Excel jockey, this is not the workshop for you–but if you need basic tips and tricks, you’ll find them here.

Feel free to access the handout, with animations of how to do each task within Excel.

Betsy Lavolette

Betsy Lavolette is the director of the Gettysburg College Language Resource Center.

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Presentation created with Articulate

Articulate – Software for created flipped classroom lessons

In October, I gave a workshop on how to create interactive video lessons using an application called Articulate Studio 13. This software is a plug-in for PowerPoint, so it’s easy to learn to use. Above and below, you can see screenshots from a lesson that I created using Articulate, and you can view the whole lesson on my personal website.

We’ve recently seen some examples of how professors at Gettysburg College, e.g., Tim Good, are flipping their classrooms. I won’t go into detail here about why you might consider flipping your language classroom, but one area where it I think it can be highly useful is grammar instruction.

Why flip a grammar lesson?

It’s often useful to teach grammar via students’ first language. One reason for this is that the vocabulary needed to understand a grammatical explanation in the target language is often much more advanced than the grammar point itself. On the other hand, teaching grammar in English disrupts the flow of the classroom in the target language. One way around this problem is to move grammar instruction outside of class time using a flipped classroom model.

Using Articulate, you can create presentations with animations, which may be superior to text for explaining certain grammatical concepts. You can also add voiceover, videos (e.g., of yourself via webcam), and quiz questions. All of this may lead to a more engaging experience for students–and frees up time for using the grammar communicatively during class.

Do uncountable nouns have singular or plural forms? Click yes or no.
Screenshot from Articulate lesson

 Basic steps to creating an interactive presentation using Articulate

  1. Create a PowerPoint.
  2. Add animations.
  3. Add a script for voiceover in the notes section.
  4. Record the voiceover (Articulate -> Record Narration).
  5. Sync the animations with the voiceover (Articulate -> Sync Animations).
  6. To preview, publish as Web (Articulate -> Publish).
  7. To add to Moodle, publish as LMS (SCORM 1.2). When the publishing process finishes, click “ZIP.”
  8. Add ZIP file to Moodle as “SCORM Package.” Select “Appearance” -> “Display Package in new window” for best viewing results.

Where is Articulate available?

You can download a free 30-day trial of Articulate. The full version is also available for use by any Gettysburg College faculty member (language or non-language) in the LRC, 107 Breidenbaugh Hall. Contact the LRC director, Betsy Lavolette, for more information.

Betsy Lavolette

Betsy Lavolette is the director of the Gettysburg College Language Resource Center.

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Spot It! New LRC Game

Do you like fast-paced language learning games for you and up to 7 friends?

Then check out Spot It!, the newest game available in the LRC. Spot It! comes in Spanish, French, Italian, and German, and Chinese and Arabic versions of the game are currently being made by LRC employees.

There is one and only one similarity between every pair of cards. Be the first to spot the similarity between two cards, whether its the same symbol, the same word, or a word corresponding with a symbol, and you get the point! A guide showing the correct word-picture combinations are also available.

The words/items used are very common (i.e. cat, window, boat, car, etc.), making this a great game for beginners to learn different nouns or for more advanced students to review old vocabulary.

New Game at the LRC: Letter Dice

letter dice

Ever wanted to play scrabble, bananagrams, or boggle in another language? With Letter Dice, you can do all three! Shake up the 13 dice in their tin, roll them out and and see what words you can spell. The game includes three suggested variations, but feel free to come up with your own!

Letter Dice:

Set a time limit for each player, then throw the dice. Use the letters shown to create words and connect them like you would in scrabble or bananagrams. At the end of the time limit, total the numerical value of all the words played (letters used in more than one word count twice) and then subtract the value of the unused letters to get that player’s score. Then repeat the process for each player. Play as many rounds as you want!

Letter Yatzi:

Throw the dice and decide on a word to try to make with them. You don’t have to have all the letters available at first. Put the ones that help you aside and re-roll the rest. From the re-rolled, put aside those that help make your big word and re-roll those that don’t. If there are not helpful letters in the re-roll, you still have to put one aside. Repeat until all the letters have been used to make the word or put aside. If you can make a word using all 13 dice, your score for that word is doubled!


This one is a bit like Boggle. As a team, use the dice to make a single (preferably long) word. Then from the letters in that word, think of as many other words as you can. The person who comes up with the last word is the winner. You could also just use the dice to actually play Boggle in your second language. Roll the dice and arrange them in  a grid then play!

Since we have two tins of dice, you can have double the fun. Use more dice to make bigger words or accommodate common conjugations or plurals in your second language. You can also play any of these variations alone, play against yourself and see how much you can improve!

WordPress logo

LRC Workshop: WordPress

The blog that you are reading now is built on WordPress!

WordPress is a versatile platform for creating blogs and websites. On March 2 and 24, I presented a workshop to faculty members about how to use this platform for their classes or as a professional home page.

As inspiration, I presented examples of WordPress pages created by Gettysburg College faculty members and others outside of the College. If you’d like to create your own, you can get started with a free site at

Betsy Lavolette

Betsy Lavolette is the director of the Gettysburg College Language Resource Center.

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“Who Is It?” can help you practice a language!


If you’re like us, and you love to explore languages while having some fun, come play the other awesome version of “Guess Who?” simply titled “Who Is It?”! If you’re familiar with Guess Who? the rules are the same! Two players each pick out a character and attempt to guess which character the other player has chosen from the board. An example is asking, “does your character have brown hair?” and, if the answer is yes, the player that asked the question can put down all the characters without brown hair, leaving only those with brown hair as possibilities!

The great thing we’ve discovered is that if you get a friend or peer that is learning the same language as you, you can both practice your adjectives while playing! This can be a great tool for elementary or beginner learners of any language and can even be used in a classroom setting!

VReader: App that helps you read Japanese (and reads to you!)

I normally hesitate to recommend apps that cost money. But VReader is well worth the $3.99 price tag.

When you first open this app, you can choose from a list of popular and classic books, including 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. You can also import your own ebooks from iTunes.

VReader - list of books
VReader – list of books

When you open a book, you can tap a sentence to have the app read it aloud. You can tap individual words and phrases to get definitions in English.

VReader - book detail
VReader – book detail

I recommend this for advanced learners who are ready to transition to reading books intended for a Japanese audience.

You can try VReader for free, with access to a limited number of pages per book. VReader is available for iPad or iPhone.

Betsy Lavolette

Betsy Lavolette is the director of the Gettysburg College Language Resource Center.

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Workshop: Mobile apps for language learning & teaching – Google Drive for collaboration

I am a little late in here but we all know how crazy an end of a semester can be.
A month ago, on December 2nd, I co-presented a workshop with Dr Betsy Lavolette about mobile apps for language teaching and learning, and I was dealing with Google Drive.

After a quick overview of the Google suite, I presented Google Drive in the light of the three different ways you could use it: web-based, right from your desktop (the computer app), and eventually the mobile app. The latter was our main focus, especially through the notion of collaboration.

Presentation & description Google drive - Mobile app
Presentation & description Google drive – Mobile app

As we were dealing with collaboration, we actually dived into it through a workshop collaboration on a Google Document called How can we use Google drive for teaching and learning?“. Altogether, we operated a synchronized brainstorming on this question, from different “locations” (here, different computers).

Google Drive is an amazing tool when it comes to working together. It is part of the Google suite, which offers a significant cloud space among other things, and is very complete. It is really user-friendly, and Google is so big nowadays that our students are more than likely to have a Google account. You may be able to work with it right out of the box!

Japanese 303 Students produce their own drama!

Japanese Studies majors Adriana Alecci, Gabriela Lisboa, and Kathryn Hanson created this drama as part of their final project for Japanese 303. It begins with three friends, an otaku, a gold-digger, and a crazy cat lady, meeting in a cafe to talk about their crazy ex-boyfriends. As they dream about their perfect men, in walk three super-attractive guys. The boys also have relationship troubles. One’s girlfriend is overly clingy, another’s is abusive, and the other’s acts like a child constantly.

For those who don’t speak Japanese or those who do but might not understand everything, there is an English translation of the script here. Have fun watching!

Sights and sounds of Biblical Hebrew


Do you recognize the language this text is written in?Biblical Hebrew text

This semester, five Gettysburg College students studied Biblical Hebrew from a beginner level with Professor Carl Choper. As their final project, they saw the text above and were asked to say everything they could about each word, using their own knowledge and a specialized dictionary. By the end of this course, the students were able to engage directly with this text in its original language. See below for an annotated version of the text. Do you recognize it now?

Biblical Hebrew text with English annotations

Although Biblical Hebrew is not a spoken language, Professor Choper brought an oral element to the class through his work as a rabbi. In addition to teaching at Gettysburg College, Professor Choper works with interfaith dialog, advocacy, and community-building groups and is a rabbi at the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg  and the State Correctional Institute – Camp Hill. In his work as a rabbi, he often sings in Biblical Hebrew, and he decided to bring singing into the classroom as a teaching and learning tool. As Professor Choper said, “Singing is a wonderful way of putting foreign words into your mouth.” Listen to his beautiful voice below:


Betsy Lavolette

Betsy Lavolette is the director of the Gettysburg College Language Resource Center.

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