Some of you may already be aware of Duolingo, the free language-learning program. I’m currently learning Turkish with it. Since I’m not involved in any of the gamified courses at Procom, Duolingo has helped me understand, from the user’s perspective, how this particular mode of delivery works. One effective service is the reminder bot, which badgers students every day to keep up. This disembodied pesterer throws the responsibility for learning squarely on the student without the presence of an easily dismissed human educator.
Duolingo has another relevance to our discipline, particularly on the topic of participatory culture and crowdsourced content. In a 2011 TED talk, Luis von Ahn, the computer scientist behind Duolingo, explains how his first project, CAPTCHA, was used to digitize unreadable texts through crowdsourcing. He then explains how Duolingo uses massive-scale online collaboration to translate Wikipedia entries into multiple languages. Apparently we unpaid translator/learners somehow help to keep the whole project afloat.
Applications for this position in “data and networked publics” at Concordia University in the Communication Studies department are due March 24. A notice was sent out by the chair recently to remind people to apply and to hint that the deadline might be flexible in certain circumstances. Her message could be a sign that not a lot of qualified people have applied, so if the job is up your alley, this may be the time to give it a shot.
At this point in the semester, there are usually a few tired and teary eyes in class, in offices, and in hallways. While I have come to expect this – first as a TA, then as an instructor – I have remained reluctant to ever normalize this period of high stress, high anxiety, high emotional student life. I try to take a few minutes in class to point out the importance of taking care of oneself, particularly one’s mental health, but as I am not trained to diagnose mental distress or distinguish amongst degrees of intensity, I feel highly inadequate as I do so.
This term, I have also decided to send an email to my students (see below), offering reminders of support and resources (though without referring to course obligations, extensions, or accommodations).
I share it with you, unedited and imperfect, in case you would like to speak to the ways you have addressed this in your own class or in communications with your students.
The email below would have the subject line “CMN279: End of Term and Mental Health.”