Learning to Code the Web with Code Year

On January 9th, I received my first unit of Code Year, a one-year, weekly lesson in Javascript programming offered freely by CodeAcademy. A short time later, the Boy and I were working through it together.

Javascript is the programming language on which most of the Web is built, and is one of the simplest coding languages to learn. And, just as natural human languages share most of their basic features with one another (nouns, verbs, adjectives, &c), the elements of Javascript are also used in other programming languages like Perl or Ruby.

Any of you who know me–or who see how rarely I’ve posted here lately–know that I am pretty extraordinarily busy these days. So why would I take ten minutes, a few evenings per week, to learn something of computer code?

How much of your work is accomplished on the Web or by means of some digital tools or other? Whatever percentage that is, remember that those environments and tools are the way they are because somebody decided that that is how they should be. Learning to code means learning what some alternative possibilities might look like. If we understand something of programming code, we begin to join that community of deciders.

If you are in the Humanities, you may well already be a “Digital Humanist“: do you ever use digital tools to accomplish Humanities research? Or, do you ask Humanities-questions about the growing digitalization of our information and our practices? You don’t have to code to be a digital humanist, but learning something of how the Web is coded may spark ideas for you about tools or processes that could improve your research and writing.

Do you have kids in school? If they even have “computer class,” that’s likely to mean, “Learning to use things made by Microsoft,” rather than “Learning to build cool things that don’t yet exist but could.” The weekly units in CodeYear are broken down into several short lessons, perfect for children’s lower stamina and shorter attention spans. (Okay, by day’s end, my own stamina and attention span are pretty well shot as well.) Sit together on the sofa for ten minutes in the evenings, and learn together the language used to create on the Web.

If you are interested, you can read what others are saying about Code Year, or about Code Academy. But I recommend you just jump right in and sign up for your weekly email lessons. Have fun, and tell me if you decide to get started learning to code.

[Learning to Code the Web with Code Year was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2012/01/13. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

If You’re Happy and You Know It (biblical Hebrew songs, cont’d)

So, mostly what I’ve been doing is supporting my faculty colleagues in their transition from Blackboard to our new Moodle learning management system.

But, partly what I’ve been doing is continuing with the biblical Hebrew resources in my series, “A Foundation for Biblical Hebrew,” a series that uses communicative learning tools as a supplement to an elementary biblical Hebrew curriculum.

This is, “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Some points I had to work through, and on which I welcome feedback:

  • I decided that being happy and knowing it was best expressed with perfect verbs joined by we-gam.
  • I decided to use the masculine plural pronoun suffixes; sorry, but there’s just no room in the song for a more up-to-date solution to the problem of gender inclusivity. In English, I usually use the feminine singular as the “representative human” (“each student must see to her own work”).
  • “Let your lives show it”: going with the jussive here, naturally, verb-subject.
  • For the commands, I abandon personal pronouns: “clap a palm”; “stomp a foot”; etc. Again, only so much room in the scansion. This—leaving pronominal suffixes off of body parts where they are the objects of verbs—accords well enough with biblical usage (Psa 47:1; cf. Isa 37:22; but Ezek 6:11).
  • Main learning points: body parts, the masculine plural imperative, the masculine plural pronominal suffixes -tem and -kem; the conditional particle ʾim.

Feedback encourages, as always.

[If You’re Happy and You Know It (biblical Hebrew songs, cont’d) was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/09/12. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock (Biblical Hebrew)

I’ve worked into biblical Hebrew the children’s song, “The Wise Man Built His House upon a Rock.” I happened to hear the Boy singing it one morning, and I found myself putting most of it into Hebrew while shaving.

I like it as an exercise for my students because it’s simple, and because the vocabulary is so well attested biblically: build, descend, ascend, fall; wise, house, rock. The choices I made about verb patterns could give rise to fruitful conversation about the qatal, yiqtol, and wayyiqtol. It’s good for me, too: I had initially been drawn to the Infinitive Absolute for the concurrent action of rain falling and floods rising, until my search for biblical parallels suggested I was on a wrong track. (I’d be on firmer ground if the two verbs shared a single agent.)

Another song I plan to put into biblical Hebrew is a version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” While not all of this vocabulary is biblically well-attested, it has value for communicative teaching of Hebrew: it uses words that have high “pay off” for daily usage. (So, I’d be open to songs that use body parts, colors, numbers up to thirty, and everyday objects.)

A third song I have planned is “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” A fourth is a surprise.

How about some revision of “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” with all biblically-attested animals? More advanced would be a revision of, “Hush, Little Baby (the Mockingbird song).”

What other simple children’s songs can you think of that might be put into biblical Hebrew? The song should be fairly short and simple. Ideally, they should EITHER 1) feature vocabulary that is biblically well-attested, OR 2) feature vocabulary that has high pay-off in terms of everyday nouns and concepts like body parts, colors, numerals, and so on.

[The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock (Biblical Hebrew) was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/07/05. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Closed Captioning for User-Generated Video (via ProfHacker)

[Changed title, but not URL, to reflect distinction between subtitles and closed-captioning.]

Yesterday, ProfHacker posted a blog entry about how to produce closed-captioning for your videos using the site Universal Subtitles. As ProfHacker points out, when you have created the subtitles, they exist only at the Universal Subtitles web site; but, you can download the subtitles as a file and upload that file to your video on YouTube. ProfHacker shows the process, step by step.

Embedded below is my first effort at closed captioning. The main glitch is that my videos often already have subtitles of varying kinds, because they are often language-learning videos. And, you cannot (I think) change where the closed-captioning sits: it is always at the bottom of the screen. Now, if your already-existing subtitles are YouTube “annotations,” you can always go into YouTube and move them around. But, if your subtitles were created with the video itself (as in iMovie or whatever), then you would have to actually go back and re-edit the video and upload the revised version (which would have a new URL on YouTube).

The take-away on this for me is that, when I produce subtitles in my videos (that is, subtitles that are not closed-captioning), I will want to keep them at the top or sides of the screen, so that there is room reserved at the bottom for closed-captioning. As you can imagine, the screen “real estate” will really be filling in at that point.

This is my video on how to sing Happy Birthday in Hebrew. In the few places where my subtitles and my closed-captioning collide, I have not tried to fix it (yet). Obviously, you will need to click the “cc” (closed captioning) button at the bottom of the video screen.

What experience do you have with closed captioning, whether needing it or producing it? What issues should I know about as I continue to closed-caption my videos?

[Subtitles for User-Generated Video was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/03/11. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Frequency Lists for NT Greek and Biblical Hebrew

(Welcome, ad hoc Christianity readers and listeners! I was just hearing from a colleague who notes that vocab-failure is the main cause of flunking a reading competency exam. Hope you find these helpful.)

I have created a pair of “frequency lists” for New Testament Greek and Biblical Hebrew: words are listed from most-frequent to least-frequent, according to parts of speech. I stop the lists at words occurring less than ten times. Proper nouns are excluded.

My purpose in creating them is to have a resource for drawing up vocabulary quizzes and varying kinds of audio-visual helps. I am posting them here in the event that anybody finds them useful.

Biblical Hebrew frequency list

NT Greek frequency list

Past a certain point, the elementary student is learning vocabulary from reading texts more than from vocabulary lists. Once that begins to happen, the vocabulary “sticks” better because it is associated with a lively context. Still, readers at any skill level can benefit from a check-in with vocabulary. And, as I say, I find such helps really valuable when, say, trying to create in-class dialogues that reinforce essential lexica.

To what sorts of uses might you put a frequency list?

[Frequency Lists for NT Greek and Biblical Hebrew was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/03/10. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Modern Hebrew Sketch Comedy

The post I had written for today has been relegated to the back burner to reduce for a while: the broth is still too thin.

So in it’s place, I invite you to see what you are able to make of some Modern Hebrew sketch comedy. You’ll probably get the gist of it without any Hebrew whatsoever. For my part, I was able to get the gist and most of the detail (thanks largely to the Hebrew subtitles: dude’s talking fast). A little work with a dictionary did the rest…you might also consider Google Translate if you are able to type Hebrew characters.

Have fun, it’s a nice bit.

[Modern Hebrew Sketch Comedy was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/02/23. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Modern Israeli Music in Hebrew Class

Second-semester Hebrew is always a pleasure to teach. Sure, the students have usually blunted their edge in the 5-6 weeks since fall session. But they get it back quickly, and things quickly assume the character of an advanced-level course. Any attrition has already taken place earlier in the first term, so there’s a “lean and mean” quality to the student population. And while there are enough new syntactical concepts coming down the pipe to keep them on their toes, morphology has somehow become “no big deal”: Oh, so that’s how we do the Niphal? And guttural still do their thing, and III-still gets bumped of by a suffix? Nûn still assimilating? ’Kay, whatevs.

For the first time, I’m helping the students work through a piece of modern Israeli Hebrew rock music: Rona Kenan, ’לחיות נחון.’ (First semester we spent time on some common prayers and the Torah blessings from the Sabbath liturgy.) We began this week, and I was happy to see that the students were enjoying it.

I had distributed this to them a week or two before, inviting them to give it a listen and to jot down anything they thought they recognized. Here’s Rona Kenan:

Between them, students teased out a lot more than I thought they might. They had already noted:

  • Lots of זה and לא
  • Lots of forms beginning with ל (not having yet learned the infinitive, but correctly equating it with some infinitive forms that I had used informally in earlier sessions)
  • Words and roots like טוב, אהב, אכל, מאוד.
  • Phrases like מִכֹּל, אני רוֹצָה, ביום, בלילה.

Together this week, we took time to work completely through to the 0:21 marker:

 

זה חשוב לאהוב

ולמדוד את הטוב מזמן לזמן

לא לבקש מה שאי אפשר לקבל

One of the students had earlier gotten turned onto some other pieces (like Shrek and a little Les Mis), and she shared these links with her colleagues.

So, thanks, Rona! The students got a heads-up on the infinitive, and we all got a timely mid-winter change of pace.

How are your classes this term? Are you doing anything to mix it up a little this February?

[Modern Israeli Music in Hebrew Class was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/02/18. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]