THATCamp a Huge Success for Participants

On September 5-6, MSU hosted THATCamp Languages, an unconference dedicated to language learning, research, and pedagogy. Organized by graduate students in the department of Linguistics and Languages, the Second Language Studies Program, and the Romance and Classical Studies Department, THATCamp Languages drew participants from East Lansing, the greater Michigan area, and even the broader Midwest who showed up eager to exchange ideas, experiences, and tools related to technology in and beyond the language classroom.

The unconference was a rewarding experience for all, in the words of Professor Stephen Naumann of Hillsdale College, “the most interesting thing about the ThatCamp experience was the ability to be involved in the process from start to finish, particularly on the day of the event.”

view of back of lecture audience and projection

In fact, THATCamp Lanugages was two days of “a constant exchange of information and ideas,” according to Naumann. The first day at THATCamp Languages wasfilled with bootcamps - technology workshops for digital language tools. Library faculty, CeLTA staff members, Linguistics and Languages faculty, and graduate students led two rounds of workshops for all skill levels on video production and iMovie, digital annotation, and web tools for language teaching. Participants made their own videos using mobile devices and then imported, edited, and published their videos to the web. They also learned how to use various online tools to support their language teaching and their students' learning. The night was topped off by a festive visit to Beggars Banquet, where the discussion continued over food and drink.

With about 40 people, day two of THATCamp Languages kicked off with a wonderful breakfast, sponsor TechSmith, followed by an informal planning session in which participants suggested ideas for break-out sessions. Planning was, as one participant put it, more rewarding than “presenting and being somewhat more involved in one panel - where even that involvement is limited,” Rather, the “ThatCamp experience involved you directly in the organization and every session you attend.” The informative and lively breakout sessions ranged from smaller discussion of about 6 participants on gaming and language learning to larger discussion of about 15 participants on topics such as mobile devices and language learning, music and the language classroom, and Fun in 101. Across the board, breakout sessions benefited from lively, interdisciplinary participation from faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students. Following lunch and a condensed afternoon breakout session and informal wrap-up, a handful of participants traveled over to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum to enjoy a tour of the building and current exhibits. All told, THATCamp Languages was, as Professor Naumann said, “an educational experience that was both satisfying and enriching.”

people around a table having a discussion

THATCamp Languages was organized by Lauren Wester, Scott Sterling, Anne von Petersdorff-Campen, Kate Schaller, Sarah Mecheneau, Kelsey Fedewa, Matt Sikarskie, and Amanda Sikarsie with help from Angelika Kraemer and Matthew Handelman. T-shirts, buttons, posters, breakfast, and lunch were made possible by the generous support of TechSmith, Biggby Coffee, the Center for Language Teaching Advancement, the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, the Department of Romance and Classical Studies, and the Second Language Studies Program. The organizers and participants would like to thank everyone who made THATCamp Languages possible!