Friday, September 07, 2007

Race and perception of attractiveness

Cognitive Daily: Perceiving attractiveness: Does race matter?

This is a link to another study on race that could be useful in ARW this term. There is an interesting graphic of a face morphing from one race to another and readers are asked to choose the most attractive version.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More from Cognitive Daily

Cognitive Daily: Other-race faces: Why do they seem different?

This is another article on race related research that students might find interesting as part of the unit on race in the fall. 

Project Implicit

Project Implicit®

Here is a site at Harvard University with a number of interesting surveys to take relating to implicit biases or prejudices including race.  It could be a good supplement to the unit on Race in the fall.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Future shock on steroids

Here is a link to a slide show with some interesting statistics about current and future changes happening in the world. One notable aspect is the idea that almost none of the jobs that current college students will have after they graduate exist yet.

Things are moving almost too quickly to comprehend:

This could be useful as a supplement to the ELP Reader in winter term.

Friday, May 11, 2007

More on TextSTAT Concordancer

Here are some tips and examples from my preliminary work using the downloadable concordancing program mentioned in an earlier posting called TextSTAT. The examples come from the ELP Reader that I created as a corpus.

TextSTAT can be downloaded for free.

TextSTAT Procedures and Notes

Creating a corpus:

1. Click on "New Corpus" icon (the icon furthest to the left) (You can pass your cursor over the icons in the menu bar to see what they do) and create a name for the corpus you want to create.
2. Click on save corpus. You will need to choose a folder where you want to save your corpora. After you save the corpus, you will be prompted to add files. Turn off the message.
3. Click the "add local file" icon (the middle cylinder-shaped icon) and browse to select any WORD file in your computer that you want to include in the corpus. You can also add web pages to the corpus by selecting the cylinder icon on the left.

Copora can have multiple files and different corpora can be added together after they are formed. For example, I created individual corpora for each ELP Reader article as well as a combined one for the whole Reader.

Using corpora:

Click the "Open Corpus" icon and select the corpus you want to look at from your folder of corpora. Click "Open" at the bottom of the dialog box. You will now see a listing of one or more files that make up the corpus you have selected.

Now click on the "show word frequencies" icon (a blue and white grid). A long list of words from the most to least frequent in the corpus will appear. You can control what range of words you see by adjusting the menu items on the far right side of the page.

Double click on any word in the list and you will see all occurrences of that word in the corpus with the words just before and just after it. You can adjust how many words on either side of the target word you want to see.

You can double click on any of these lines of text and you will then see the larger passage that that example came from.

To go back to either the concordance list or the word frequency list, click on the appropriate box just under the icons a the top of the page. These boxes can be used to move back and forth between the categories, but you need to initially go through the double clicking process before you can do this.

You can save individual lines of word lists, concordance lists or text samples to a clipboard by choosing the top right icon. You can then paste these lines into a document to save or print them. In order to get the whole list of words or concordances or text samples into a document to save or print, choose the export button at the top of the page. Note the form that the material will be exported as and choose the form that will work best for you. Here is a sample of a frequency list I exported as an EXCEL file followed by an example of a concordance list exported as a WORD file:

these 75

so 74

race 74

if 74

also 74

nonverbal 74

into 73

has 72

no 68

because 66

those 65

do 64

may 63

she 63

facts 63

about 62

her 60

been 60

new 60

meaning 59

between 58

then 58

person 57

behavior 56

blumenbach 54

information 54

even 53

own 53

two 51

time 51

language 51

reflection of reality and is therefore highly fallible and (2) the k

s geometric reformulation?and therefore becomes the key to the concep

discovered facts. Scientists therefore tend to be unaware of their o

l equality of all peoples. He therefore could not use these conventio

the originally created ideal?therefore, the most beautiful people mu

metrical geometry. Blumenbach therefore added the Malay race, not as

sufferings, and our hopes. I therefore end by returning once more to

s basis, many anthropologists therefore argue that even if one could

ilar to one another. They can therefore be grouped into a hierarchy o

the Systema Naturae of 1758. Therefore, Blumenbach?s only original c


One very interesting feature in the concordancing function is the Query Editor button. This opens a dialog box and allows you to put in two words that you want to look up in combination, with or without any intervening words. For example, if you put the word "for" in the first search term and "example" in the second search term and don't allow any words in between them, when you hit the search button, you will get a list of all the occurrences of "for example" in the corpus. (see below for a sample) If you used "black" and "white" as the two search terms and allowed a maximum of one intervening word, you would get a list of occurrences of the phrases "black and white" and "black or white."

ffer from culture to culture; for example, the death of a loved one may

er cultures do. The Japanese, for example, have the reverse belief that

ntercultural classroom. Here, for example, U.S. students often complain

uthor. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 See, for example, Bryant Wedge, Visitors to th

er century perceive a TV set, for example? If they were from colonial A

ways. The case of a mistaken (for example, identity when witnesses to a

Some people are color blind, for example. Some people have hearing aid

ct. A bowl of cold spaghetti, for example, was described as the intesti

ch facts we take in. Suppose, for example, that three people, a lumberj

is less important. In speech, for example, if we say that Socrates was

ommon?the height of the tree, for example, and the size of the trunk. T

a culture. African Americans, for example, place a great deal of emphas

ricious or misconstrued. Why, for example, are political radicals calle

ength and width of the skull, for example?and plugged them into standar

geographically variable trait?for example, the retention in adulthood o

oss. Tall basketball players, for example, have an obvious advantage ov

nts also vary geographically: for example, Europeans? fingerprints tend

ion have been disappointing.9 For example, research has found that Viet

correspond to the image held. For example, a visitor who is accustomed

able to perceive any meaning. For example, we have all seen movies or T

ome slight emphasis or slant. For example, if we have in mind only two

es in making these decisions. For example, his use of the four humors r

adopted in different regions. For example, nations that compressed the

er biologists look carefully. For example, consider one of the most fam

her form in a different area. For example, northern hares and weasels d

Happy concordancing!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Multimedia possibilities

I've been playing with a new (at least to me) service that has potential to let us provide some very rich multimedia to our students. The service is called Mojiti and it facilitates modification of digital video with other media such as text ( in this example English subtitles), comments, audio, etc. Once you have your finished video, you can easily post it on a blog like I have done here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Should we ban term papers?

The title of this post is taken from a recent article I read at a web site called Cognitive Daily. It has a number of interesting articles posted almost daily relating to cognitive psychology and includes articles about language. Some of the articles I have enjoyed recently include one on how associating words with some aspect of survival makes them easier to remember. Another was about how recognizable different English accents are and included a link to an archive of accents created by George Mason University. And then there is the article about a piece recently published in the Washington Post advocating the abolition of term papers and embracing plagiarism as the wave of the future. More interesting to me than the original article were the comments posted about it. Perhaps the whole list of comments would make a good reading assignment for our ELP students....

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More on concordancing the ELP Reader

It has been interesting to look at the vocabulary from the ELP Reader as it is presented in the concordancing program I mentioned in my last post. Did you know that the Reader has a total word count of 115,339 of which there are 11,739 distinct words/word forms. Some words appear very frequently such as "the" which occurs 6,528 times. On the other hand, there are 5,474 words which only appear once. Some of these are in fact quite uncommon words such as Lamarkian, torosus, chronemics, eustress, vasectomized, plasmodia, flivver and benumbed (which it is easy to become after looking at these kinds of words!) Some of the once-only words were surprizing though, as I would expect them to be more common: dual, dry, fade, nobody, angry, qualification and judgement.

It may be interesting to identify a particular subset of ELP Reader vocabulary that occurs within a range of frequency between say 25 and 50, and focus instruction on those words since we could predict that students would have a good chance of encountering them as they read through the Reader, and would thus have those items somewhat naturally reinforced.

It would also be interesting to see how the ELP Reader reflects the more general Academic Word List.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

TESOL Conference highlights

Attending the TESOL Conference in Seattle last week was a wonderful experience for me because I was able to actually go to sessions for the first time in years. As always there were way too many sessions to attend everything I wanted to, so I tended to concentrate my energies on areas of error correction, academic writing, vocabulary and corpus analysis, and some of the plenaries.

I want to list here some of the things I found most interesting:

1. Reference to a paper, Assignments Across the Curriculum: A Survey of College Writing by Dan Melzer published in 2003 in Language and Learning Across the Disciplines. This article provides an analysis of 787 writing assignments from undergraduate courses at 48 higher education institutions in the U.S.

One interesting feature of the analysis is how rare persuasive writing assignments are. They account for only 11% of the total compared to 73% which are informative assignments.

2. I also learned about a free concordancing software program called TEXTSTAT 2.7 that can be downloaded from:

In a very short time I was able to download this program and create a corpus for it from the ELP Reader text. I can now look at the frequency of word occurrence within the ELP reader, look at how words or phrases are collocated in the Reader, and look at words or phrases in the context of short passages extracted from the Reader.

3. Along similar lines, Pat Byrd gave a presentation on “Collocations and Recurrent Phrases in the Academic Word List (AWL)”. She and others are working on a major analysis of the AWL that will be published as a reference text in the near future. Her samples were interesting. For example, under the word family for “require” by far the most common form in the AWL is “required.” More than half of the uses of “required” appear as part of a passive construction. Among these passive voice uses of “required”, the identification of an agent using “by” was relatively rare and when it did occur, the agent was almost always institutional rather than human, e.g. “required by the college.”

In the word family of “persist”, the form “persistent” was the third most commonly occurring and its use appears to be primarily quite technical. For example, the most common collocates of persistent are persistent interaction, persistent http, persistent puckers, persistent endo and persistent sodium!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Have a life

This is my last posting in the series of "seven habits" of language program administrators. The seventh good habit is to have a life. There is an old joke about the only thing worse than things falling apart when you are not around is things not falling apart when you are not around. From my perspective, it is important for a language program to be able to operate well without the Director's constant presence. In some cases, directors become hooked on crisis management. It provides an adrenalin rush, a validation of our importance and a chance to be "the hero." Heady stuff. My sense is that we all need excitement and validation to some degree in our lives, but they are best attained outside of the work environment most of the time. The best way to achieve this is to have a rich and satisfying personal life. This, in theory at least, allows for minimum confusion of a director's personal needs with the needs of the language program. I have seen program directors and other administrators create crises in the workplace where none really existed. My belief is that these crises were manufactured just to satisfy the administrator's need to belong and be important.

Another potential problem of directors not having a life is burnout and exhaustion. If directors feel indispensable and take on too much, they may not be able to respond effectively when they really are needed. Having a life should lead to a good state of rest and readiness to take on the truly important tasks.

In summary, having a life implies establishing and accepting a non-indispensable status at work and finding things to do outside of work that provide excitement, personal validation and a re-charging of emotional and physical batteries. To do this usually means effective delegation of both authority and responsibility to others.

Finding a good balance between work and non-work is not always easy. It requires that we be able to know and evaluate ourselves. One of the things I have found most helpful in this regard is finding opportunities to meet and interact with other directors and administrators outside my own work place such as at conferences and professional association meetings. It is hard for our colleagues where we work to provide the perspective we need to judge how well we may be balancing our lives. Talking with people who are in similar positions, but at different places, provides comparison data that can be very useful in assessing our own situations.

Here endeth my personal list of effective habits for language program administrators. It was intended to give my new colleagues at ICU some sense of how I approach the position of ELP director.

I hope to continue this blog in a less didactic tone and begin sharing ideas on research interests that I am able to pursue for the first time in a long time. I am currently preparing both a paper and presentation proposal for the JALT conference this year on the application of complex systems theory, also known as chaos theory, to language learning and the implications that new paradigm has for language teaching. One of the off-shoots of my research in this area is a book that I just started reading: "On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins (2004) New York: Henry Holt. This is an interesting new take on what intelligence is, based on extensive research on how the brain functions. Hawkins rejects the computational model of brain function. Has anyone out there read this book or anything similar?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Support Simplicity, Change and Diversity

Number 6 on my seven habits list may appear to be contradictory. For some people, simplicity means the absence of change and diversity. However, I believe that change, if managed well, is a positive element in most institutions, including language programs. This is a good thing, since some change is pretty much unavoidable.

In supporting simplicity, I advocate something akin to Occam’s razor: when faced with two relatively equal ways of doing something, choose the simpler of the two. Often needless complexity creeps into policies and procedures as an artifact of change over time. Looking for ways to simplify without losing effectiveness is a good habit to have.

In supporting change, I think the key element is not to fear change. If we accept that change is inevitable and seek to manage it well, a lot of angst and frustration can be avoided. Losing our fear of change is not necessarily easy. We have to trust in our abilities to manage change and we have to be able to accept changes we may not like. Change can also be liberating if we view it as an option always open to us. Some changes are forced on us but other changes can come proactively from us. By focusing on those changes that we can instigate and control ourselves, we can reduce the negative impact of changes that we don’t instigate. In this regard, it is helpful to have an attitude that is open to possible changes all the time. This is not to say that the more changes we instigate, the better off we are. Managing change requires time and energy and too much change can be exhausting. However, viewing everything as potentially changeable – if desired or needed – is ultimately more effective than viewing everything as ideally unchanging.

In supporting diversity I am supporting openness to, and respect for, the diversity of ideas, points of view and abilities of others. This entails an ability to not think too highly of one’s own ideas and abilities. It also implies a fairly democratic approach to management as opposed to a strongly hierarchical one.

Change and diversity appear to be very significant issues in the ELP at this time. There is tension between those who favor change and those who don’t, and between those who support hierarchy and those who support more democratic ideals. Until we can resolve this tension, it will be difficult to achieve much of a consensus on any of the other issues listed in my last posting.