Collaborative learning in Ghent

Collaborative learning Ghent University
Collaborative learning Ghent University

An interview with Claudio Nobili, Postdoctoral Researcher at Ghent University, where Betwyll is used for collaborative learning in Humanities.

Twitter in Humanities Teaching (THT) is an annual project applying Computer Supported Collaborative Learning to Humanities. It was introduced by the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy of Ghent University in 2017 and adjusted to the needs of the Italian Literature classes. What were the objectives of the project?

The THT project was funded by the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy of the Ghent University. More precisely, it is one of the initiatives to innovate didactics encouraged by the University itself. Therefore, the main objective of the project can be summarized with the keyword “education”. Education of a foreign student of Italian in the linguistic manipulation of a literary text, adjusted to the social network Betwyll. Linguistic, literary and digital education are then inextricably intertwined.

Lussu, Ariosto, Tasso

The project was divided into two phases: a first one dedicated to Lussu’s Un anno sull’altipiano and a second one to some cantos of Orlando Furioso and Gerusalemme Liberata. What were the results of these activities and the lessons learned?

I will answer to the second part of the questione, since the first phase of THT was carried out the year before my arrival in Ghent. Compared to the already implemented pilots to adapt a literary text to a social network (i.e. the several initiatives by Società Dante Alighieri and by professor Massimo Arcangeli, or the recent translation of Collodi’s Pinocchio in emojitalian by professor Francesca Chiusaroli), with THT students were firstly invited to produce some twylls (140-character comments) autonomously each week. These were conceived as shorts notes to the text of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, according to the 1532 edition (limited to cantos I and XXIII). For the production of the twylls, the students considered what learned during the theoretical lectures of the Italian Literature course (held by Professor Mara Santi, THT project leader) and the bibliography studied. A model took then shape, which we called “twitterary edition” of Orlando Furioso.

From the real class to the virtual one

After these reads open also to TwLetteratura’s community, the pilot on Betwyll went on within a closed virtual class. What changed in this working modality?

A methodological limit of THT’s first phase was to have required students a weekly number of twylls. This negatively affected both the progressive originality of the comments and the spontaneity of the interaction.

Therefore, in the second phase we decided to create a virtual class on Betwyll, structured in three sections to further analyze what presented in the real class. Only the students of the Ghent University could access. And this time, without a minimum or maximum number of twylls to produce by a deadline. This change benefited the creativity of the messages exchanged by the students in a space they perceived as exclusive.

What would you recommend to teachers who are considering to start a social reading project with their students?

Two recommendations. First: never lose sight of the centrality of the written paper text. Second: constantly reflect with the students upon the fact that the language used on the web is just a linguistic variety, and not a factotum code (to say it with professor Sergio Lubello‘s words), to use in whatever context. 

Claudio Nobili

Postdoctoral Researcher at Ghent University

He deals with gestures from a linguistic and writing perspective. He published  L’italiano e le sue varietà with Sergio Lubello (Franco Cesati, Firenze 2008). He is about to publish I gesti dell’italiano (Carocci, Roma, to be published).

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