LSA 2017 Datablitz - High School Linguistics

At the 2017 Linguistic Society of America meeting in Austin, we presented a panel on doing different kinds of outreach to get high school students more interested in linguistics. Summaries of each of the talks and links to their slides are below!

Wayne O'Neil - This Time is Different

Maya Honda, Wayne O'Neil, and David Pippin have developed a rationale for the study of mental grammar, focused on triggering the ‘science-forming faculty’: the human capacity to inquire and create and explain. We have designed an ever expanding series of problem sets
that enable a teacher and a class of students to construct a connected story about language through the investigation of English and other languages. These problem sets motivate students to approach language descriptively and analytically, with the primary goal being the
development of a way to think about language – a means of expression that all students should acquire.

Our work proceeds from the evidence that the study of mental grammar can develop in students an understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry, as well as an appreciation of the complexity, diversity, and universal features of human languages. Working in language arts and science classrooms, in public schools and independent schools, with fourth-graders through adults, we have observed that the phenomena of language are conceptually accessible to investigation and explanation at significant depth.

(link to PDF version of talk)

Suzanne Loosen - High School Linguistics Class in Milwaukee Public Schools of Languages

Linguistics has been an elective course in the English Department of the Milwaukee School of Languages - an urban, public school with a language immersion focus - since 2010. This semester-long course introduces 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students to the field of linguistics
through units on phonetics, morphology, language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and language change. To date, 197 students have taken the class. I will discuss highlights of the class, including guest speakers, high interest activities, and student feedback, as well as challenges in
teaching the class, such as student recruitment, translating advanced materials for younger learners, and working with minimal financial resources. Looking forward, I will talk about teaching linguistics in Milwaukee Public Schools through telepresence and through the new LSA
committee working to create an Advanced Placement Linguistics course for high school students.

(link to slides)

Julie McGory - Summer Linguistics Institute for Youth Scholars (SLIYS)

SLIYS, Summer Linguistics Institute for Youth Scholars, is a weeklong summer camp held by the Department of Linguistics at The Ohio State University. This outreach program attracts high school students interested in linguistics and the study of language. Our aim is to provide high school students with greater linguistic awareness and understanding along with a deeper appreciation for all aspects of language study. SLIYS continues to grow, and we expect over 40 students from to attend in 2015. I will discuss the nature of the program including recruitment, content, foreign language consultants, cost, and the positive outcomes for both the department and participants.

(link to slides)

Pat Littell & Tom McCoy - North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO)

The North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, is a puzzle competition in which U.S. and Canadian secondary-school students solve self-contained problem sets in linguistics and computational linguistics. Among science olympiads, NACLO and its international sibling
contests are unusual in that they do not (and could not) require any prior experience in linguistics or computational linguistics to compete; for most students, this is their first encounter with these fields. Writing problem sets for this audience is not necessarily difficult, but it requires some care; it is easy to overestimate what they know, and easy to underestimate what they can do.

(link to slides)

Colin Phillips - Beyond Brief Contacts: Sustaining Broader Engagement with Linguistics Clubs, Internships, and Competitions

A pair of panels at the 2015 LSA Annual Meeting addressed effective ways for linguists to make brief initial contacts with broad audiences, via festivals, museums, schools, print or social media, etc. These approaches can reach very large audiences, but with a low probability of follow up. It is important to turn these initial contacts into sustained engagement, in order to build greater understanding and interest, and in some cases to build a greater pool of participants and advocates for our work. In my remarks I will talk about various ways of pursuing that goal, via schools (clubs, internships, competitions) and “citizen science”. I will also talk about training that can help linguists to be more effective advocates to broad audiences.

(link to slides)

Gretchen McCulloch - Stumbling across linguistics online: Tumblr and Wikipedia

In a world where many educated adults don't really know what linguistics is, most people who get here have stumbled into linguistics by chance. But you can't stumble across something if it isn't there in the first place, so how can we place resources in easily-stumble-able locations? I discuss two places where young people are found online and where they're open to discovering new ideas: Tumblr and Wikipedia. Although culturally the two sites are very different — Tumblr is a microblogging site that delights in the absurd, while Wikipedia is a crowdsourced encyclopedia that takes itself far more seriously — both are the type of site where a few clicks can lead you down a rabbit hole of new information. I'll talk about several practical approaches, from the importance of memes in explaining linguistics to improving Wikipedia articles as an assignment for linguistics courses. (For a hands-on intro to editing Wikipedia, please bring your laptop to the editathon on Friday, January 6th!)

(link to slides)

Moti Lieberman - Using Online Video for Linguistic Community Building

The availability of quality educational videos for free on websites such as YouTube has changed the way that students, especially younger students, approach learning new material. As a tool for linguistic outreach, a YouTube channel can reach a wide audience that is often unfamiliar with linguistics, and form a community of interested people around the topic. I will discuss our video making process, our efforts to build ties within our base of subscribers, associated activities for our project, and future plans for working with our viewership to further linguistic education and research.

(link to slides)