Conference 

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A two-day workshop on “Education of migrant and refugee children”

Post by Konstantina Olioumtsevits and Despina Papadopoulou (Aristotle University Of Thessaloniki) The ESR14 team based at AUTh, Konstantina Olioumtsevits and Despina Papadopoulou, in collaboration with the Linguistics Lab of AUTh and UNICEF, organized a two-day workshop on “Education of migrant and refugee children”. The workshop took place in Thessaloniki, 30 November 2019 and 1 December 2019. Teachers working in formal and non-formal education as well as students attended the workshop. In total there were approximately 30 attendees. The topics of the workshop included: (a) grammar teaching in the second language, (b) techniques and strategies on language and literacy enhancement, (c) an overview of similarities and differences between Greek and the migrants’ and refugees’ most common L1s (Arabic, Farsi and Kurdish), (d) intercultural awareness. Konstantina Olioumtsevits and Despin Papadopoulou were involved in the session of grammar teaching in the second language, discussing several interventions that have been found to be effective in the field. Despina Papadopoulou (left picture) and Konstantina Olioumtsevits (right picture)

Secondment at “Politecnico di Milano”: Tutoring in the course “Advanced User Interfaces”

(cooperation with Prof. Franca Garzotto, Francesco Vona and colleagues from i3Lab, Politecnico, Milan) Post by Maren Rebecca Eikerling (IRCCS - Associazione La Nostra Famigli 'Istituto scientifico Eugenio Medea') From October 2019 to January 2020, I did my part-time secondment at “Politecnico di Milano”, a university specialized in the field of technology based in Milan. Along with PhD students and post-docs from the Politecnico-based i3Lab (Innovative Interactive Interfaces Laboratory), Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, I was a tutor in the project course “Advanced User Interfaces”. Twice a week I met a group of students during class or in the lab to work together on the project that was assigned to them: building the open-source web-app, that we can use for the implementation of our multilingual screening batteries to identify the risk of developmental dyslexia/language disorders in bilingual children. The idea to build a web-app instead of a native app that can be locally installed on devices and used also offline was based on the idea to make the web-app accessible independently of operating systems (e.g. Windows vs. iOS). The group of 8 master students consisted of designers, web-designers and programmers coming from 4 different countries using 3 different writing systems – the MultiMind spirit of interdisciplinarity and multilingualism was absolutely met and we learned a lot from each other. Since the field of language research and disorders was totally new to the students, the idea of creating tests to be used in clinical contexts was very different from projects they had been working on before (i.e. creating entertaining games for children). At the same time, I learned a lot about the logic that needs to be applied to build an app, about how many layers there are behind displaying the tasks and about the various steps to be followed to create the different parts of the web-app: therapist/admin interface and the actual test to be carried out on the computer/tablet with the children.
This also meant, that sometimes we were walking a thin line between paradigms that seem to be most revealing for the identification of a risk of developmental dyslexia/developmental language disorders in bilingual children and paradigms that allow for a simple solution in terms of implementation in the web-app. Since the project in which I am working on the development of screening batteries for different language pairs is still ongoing, we decided to create a web-app that allows for modification over time. This means that while stimuli for some screening batteries are still under development, we can start using the system with the sets of tasks that are ready to use and add others later.
There are two different versions to assess the system: While the “admin” is enabled to upload stimuli (audios, pictures and writings), to create items (e.g. stimulus: audio, target/distractors: pictures) and to combine them into sets of tasks, the “therapist” can play the test without beingable to modify them, manage basic anamnestic data of the participant (in-/exclusion criteria, age, gender, languages spoken) and access the results of the tasks performed. The performance of the child in the screening is evaluated through response time and accuracy that is automatically stored for each single items, but is also accessible in an aggregated form (mean reaction time, X out of Y items correct) for research purposes. For the tasks that were performed using E-Prime in previous data collections (i.e. judgement, self-paced reading, matching tasks) the implementation into the web-app allowing for the creation of more tasks in the course of the project was not always easy but pretty straightforward. By contrast, the implementation of automatic speech recognition systems for nonword repetition tasks and dynamic assessment (learning novel words/letters) to evaluate the amount of input required before being able to recognize and produce the novel words/letters was more demanding. My task was to introduce my project and its goals to the students and explain how they would be contributing. Despite their thorough understanding of the technological aspects, unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to deepen their knowledge on language & reading disorders and bilingualism right from the start. In the end, this sometimes turned out to be a difficulty when implementing the tasks into the app and designing the interface. This meant that while developing the web-app, more and more relevant information on the topics of bilingualism and language & reading disorders were revealed and the tasks and interface were modified accordingly. Explaining the rationale and goals of the project along the implementation actually turned into some teaching experience for me. Besides those content-wise doubts, there were also some technical demands that could not be immediately met. Apart from the speech recognition also the looping for the dynamic assessment tasks was challenging. Even though the system already gives a lot of flexibility to the admin in terms of item, task and test creation, there are still some constraints. I am very happy about the collaboration with Politecnico to be ongoing - within the next months we will work closely together: through experience during current piloting of the web-app, I will be able to provide feedback which will result in modification and improvement of the web-app on the long-term. I gained experience in teaching and also addressing demands and needs very clearly. Choosing a way to implement the tasks chosen for the screenings into the web-app, I actually got to look at them from a new perspective. In general, it was very helpful to look at the whole project from the students point of view, having to question and explain all the decisions taken so far. I would like to thank all the students for their endless effort and Franca, Francesco and their colleagues from the HocLab for having given us the chance to create this web-app and for their big support!

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds in India learn best in multilingual classrooms

Post by Jeanine Treffers-Daller (University of Reading) How can we create learning environments that allow multilingual children to give full expression to their capacity to learn? This was the key question that was discussed in Hyderabad at the final dissemination event of the ESRC/DFID funded project on Multilingualism and Multiliteracy in primary schools in India (Multilila), which took place at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad (India) from 10-12 February 2020, organised by Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay from EFL-U and Amy Lightfoot from the British Council. It has been known for many years that multilingual children in primary schools in India do not always benefit from being multilingual in the same way as children in other contexts. The Multilila project was set up to discover the reasons why this is the case and develop recommendations for practitioners in schools, as well as local, regional and national policy makers. This four-year project is now close to completion: The 2500 children who took part completed 14 different tasks focusing on language and literacy skills in English and school languages, maths, cognitive skills. The children came from low socio-economic backgrounds and attended schools in slum and non-slum areas in Delhi, Hyderabad (Telangana) and Patna (Bihar). Dr Praggya Singh from the Central Board of Secondary Education in Delhi explained that many children in India are in English-medium education because the parents believe that knowledge of English will give children a headstart in life. The outcomes of the project showed that this was not the case for the low SES children in the project. Professor Ianthi Tsimpli (Cambridge), who leads the Multilila project, explained that children who were in schools where the home language was used as a medium of instruction were better at solving mathematical word problems. For this type of maths problem, children need to extract the underlying mathematical operation from a story. This is difficult if the school language is English, as this is not spoken at home in low SES families. Ianthi concluded: “The results from the project show that children are more successful in maths, and that their knowledge of language and literacy (English and home language) is equally good if English is taught as a subject but is not medium of instruction.” Another key finding of the project is that children who speak more than one language at home had higher scores in problem solving and working memory tasks. During the panel discussion with Language-in-Education policy makers, facilated by Dr Debanjan Chakrabarti from the British Council India, Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading) explained that this is likely due to the fact that multilingual children frequently switch between languages: this “gymnastics for the mind” gives them an advantage in non-linguistic cognitive tasks, such as problem solving and tasks which place heavy demands on working memory. Teachers in English-medium schools were found to use more than one language in the classroom to facilitate learning. Using English only was not an option in most of the classrooms due to low levels of knowledge of the language. As Professor Theo Marinis (Reading/Konstanz) put it in his summary of the views of the teachers: “Schools do not need to choose between English and the regional language. They can use both in the classroom.” The 180 teachers who attended the dissemination event overwhelmingly supported the recommendations from the Multilila project that the children’s home languages should be used in the classrooms to support learning. They also said that multilingual teaching materials and multilingual assessments were urgently needed to measure students’ achievements. This view was also supported by Dr Professor Victoria Murphy (Oxford), who gave a keynote address at the event on the global proliferation of English-Medium Education (EMI). Victoria explained that EMI can work, but only if key conditions for its successful implementation are fulfilled. These include: high English proficiency levels of teachers and students and pedagogical practices that support student-centred learning. The challenge for India is to create the environments in which successful learning through multiple languages can take place, because an English only approach does not work for children with low SES. New approaches which include story tellings in multiple languages are already being used in primary schools, explained Professor Paul Gunashekar from the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. Teachers present at the event provided many examples of excellent practice that is being shared with other practitioners through the Multilila website. The information will also be fed into the consultation process on the National Education Policy 2020, which will be released in December this year. Examples of good practice in working with Indian children should be shared with teachers and policy makers in the UK who are interested in improving the teaching of learners with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in the UK. Many of these speak Indian languages (Punjabi, Telugu and Urdu). The Multilila project is led by Professor Ianthi Tsimpli, with the following Co-investigators: Dr Suvarna Alladi (NIMHANS, Bangalore), Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay from EFL-U, Professor Theo Marinis (Reading/Konstanz), Professor Minati Panda (Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi) and Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading). For more information visit: https://www.mam.mml.cam.ac.uk/ Multilila team Back row: Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay (English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad), Amy Lightfoot (British Council India), Professor Ajit Mohanty (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi), Professor Ianthi Tsimpli (Cambridge), Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading), Professor Theo Marinis (Reading/Konstanz)
Front row: RAs and postdoctoral research assistant Dr Anusha Balasubramanian (third from the right) At the Round Table Dr Debanjan Chakrabarti (British Council India), Professor Victoria Murphy (Oxford), Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller (Reading), Dr Praggya Singh (Central Board of Secondary Education in India) and Professor Paul Gunashekar (EFL-U, Hyderabad)

Sarah - Secondment in Barcelona

From the end of October 2019 until mid-December 2019, I spent six weeks in Barcelona at the University Pompeu Fabra for my second round of data collection for my project. This time, I was looking for native Italian speakers who just came to Spain and were still learning Spanish. Despite of Barcelona having a population of around 50000 Italian speakers, finding them in this city was more difficult than I thought, because a lot of people had been living here for years. I can definitely see why: Barcelona is right next to the sea with beautiful beaches, incredible architecture, interesting and kind people, a wealth of events, museums and history in every corner, but also amazing food. Here in Barcelona, you can practically find everything. While I dove into Spanish culture and absorbed as much as I could, I was conducting experiments in the Centre for Brain and Cognition laboratories at the university under the supervision of Prof. Nuria Sebastian-Galles. I was again looking at how Italian interferes with Spanish in the brain, and whether we can find any measurable effects on response times for this type of interference. My participants had highly different backgrounds, but they all took the time to come to the lab for me to measure their brain activity while there are processing short sentences and naming objects in Spanish, for which I am very grateful. I gained inside into the procedures of a different lab and learnt a lot about data collection abroad. All of this would have not been possible without the great people in the lab, who made me feel welcome from the first moment onwards.

Michal - Secondment at the University of Bangor

By Michal Korenar When I arrived in Bangor in Wales, I was stroke by the natural beauty this lovely place has to offer. Green meadows, happy sheep and the Welsh seashore with dozens of bird sorts marked a start of every day of my secondment at Bangor University. As much as I was grateful that I could do my first secondment in such a lovely environment, the choice for the Bangor University was not motivated merely by the beautiful nature. Wales is a country with two official languages, Welsh and English, where research on multilingualism has its obvious relevance. In the ERP lab of Guillaume Thierry, they focus on how knowledge of more languages impacts on our cognition, but also how the use of various languages changes the way we experience the world. Prof Guillaume Thierry was teaching me how to use the method of encephalography. At the day when I arrived, he introduced me to his colleague Dr Yang Li. After electrifying discussions about our research interests, we decided to set up a brand-new study rather than getting involved in one of the ongoing projects in the lab. Our study investigates a so far unexplored three-way relationship between attention, bilingualism, and emotion. I gained first-hand experience of how setting up a new project works in Thierry’s lab. This allows me to compare different approaches to scientific work across various places. Our collaboration proved a success as we were able to create the experimental design, use corpus analysis to select the language stimuli for our experiment and collect the data of 23 participants during my six-weeks stay in Bangor. The lovely people in the lab have made this challenging journey an enjoyable experience as they opened not only the doors to their lab but also their hearts.

Day Trip to the hospital and research center
IRCSS Medea/La Nostra Famiglia, Bosisio Parini

Post by Maren Eikerling (IRCCS - Associazione La Nostra Famigli 'Istituto scientifico Eugenio Medea') Half of the Training School in Como was already over when the students met early Thursday morning to catch the bus to visit the hospital and research center IRCSS Medea/La Nostra Famiglia in Bosisio Parini - located in Northern Italy, in the middle of the countryside between the Lake of Como and Milan, surrounded by lakes, forests and mountains. In the institute, researchers and clinicians’ work focuses on the diagnosis and rehabilitation of children with impairments of diverse causes and extents. The visit to the institute consisted of two parts: the morning sessions focused on the role of multilingualism within Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) services, whereas in the afternoon, visits to different labs around the campus gave impressions on the multidisciplinary work carried out in the institution. Maria Luisa Lorusso presented the results of a previous project carried out by her and the Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) Sofia Limarzi on SLT practice with multilingual children. In her presentation, she discussed different treatment approaches and addressed problems that SLPs face when treating multilingual children. She reported findings from scientific literature as well as observations derived from the results of a survey completed by SLPs working in the institute. In contrast to the recommendations found in scientific literature, SLPs hardly manage to integrate elements of the first language of their patient. Videos recorded during treatment sessions of three different bilingual children treated in the institute showed some examples of bilingual as well as cross-linguistic intervention and assessment procedures and gave some insight into the SLP’s work. The students discussed further difficulties concerning the treatment of bilingual children with the SLPs working in the institute: Not only the identification of clinical markers in languages they don’t speak is difficult, but even extracting them from scientific literature and design the tasks for the treatment sessions accordingly is very time-consuming an thus hardly feasible in everyday practice.
Overwhelmed with the choice of “primo”, “secondo” and “dolce” (1st and 2nd course, dessert) in the refectory during lunch time, the students took a little break strolling around playgrounds and football fields on the campus before starting the tour with visits to the different labs.
In the so-called “Grail” and “Astrolab” bioengineers presented, how to use Virtual-Reality-techniques for rehabilitation. Very different treatment and diagnostic approaches were presented in the molecular genetics labs by biologists. Besides that, the students were introduced to fMRI procedures carried out in the institute both in brain/neuro(psychological) research and in clinical diagnosis. In the “Centro Ausili” (Centre for Assistive Technologies), different communication systems for severely motor and/or cognitively impaired children were presented. The technician pointed out, how simple electronic and non-electronic devices can facilitate communication, presenting applications for tablets, computer softwares and eye-tracking procedures for communication purposes. The students got to try computer mice and keyboards that were specially designed to suit the children’s needs, using colours, bigger buttons and simple, user-friendly mechanisms.
At the end of the tour, the students got to visit the Babylab and were provided with information on technologies and current research projects in the field of on neuro-developmental disorders by researcher Chiara Cantiani. Introducing the students to a longitudinal study carried out in the institute starting from infant age, she exemplified the use of the different technologies to assess brain activity as well as motor and behavioural achievements in the typically developing population as well as in children with a clinical diagnosis or with family risk of a neuro-developmental disorder as for example Autism Spectrum Disorder. More information on the institute Association “La Nostra Famiglia” The complex, built in 1963 as a Rehabilitation Center, has become Scientific Institute for Hospitalisation and Treatment (Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS) in 1985. The Association’s mission is “To protect the dignity and improve the quality of life, through health and social rehabilitation interventions, of people with disabilities, especially in developmental age and their families”. According to this mission services for diagnosis, rehabilitation and further support for the disabled person and his family is offered. Besides that, research training, dissemination of knowledge is carried out in the research units. The rehabilitation center offers rehabilitation services for interdisciplinary interventions in different sectors (for example, speech therapy, neuropsychological etc.) through weekly visits or high-frequence multi-specialist and/or intensive rehabilitation treatments or in residential form. Scientific Institute for Hospitalisation and Treatment (IRCCS E. Medea, Bosisio Parini) The headquarters of the Institute of Hospitalisation and Treatment (IRCSS) “Eugenio Medea”, the only Italian scientific institute recognised for research and rehabilitation for children has its headquarters in Bosisio Parini. The institute operates at the level of hospitalisation and clinical-diagnostic services operating units and develops scientific research activities in sectors related to diagnostic activities and medical and rehabilitative care. The research activity of the Bosisio Campus is carried out in the department of neurophysiology and a developmental neuropsychiatric and psychopathology center and has in-house hospital activities and extra-hospital activities with an interdisciplinary team (doctors, psychologists, educationalists, speech therapists, etc.) Research activity represents the fields of language and learning disorders and other neurodevelopmental pathologies. E-Health for Neuro-Developmental Disorders The e-health sector arouse from the overlaps of technological development and the growing demand for health services, offering innovative solutions that are also ethically and economically feasable. With better understanding of cognitive and neuropsychological functioning, increasingly sophisticated systems for data collection and measurement of cognitive processes, e.g. language acquisition in typically developing and impaired children, are some of the potentials of the e-health systems. Interdisciplinary teams of clinicians and researchers make it possible to exchange information, support and guide, monitor and intervene, creating the paths to implement health programs by intercepting real social needs. Our research for e-health tools range from new diagnostic systems to rehabilitation, screening and prevention programs, e-learning and the creation of interactive networks. The evaluation and intervention in learning, language and communication disorders, the management of the most complex interactions related to bilingualism, the enhancement of cognitive development in preschool children, are some of the goals of our current and future projects. See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqekGS9jVzg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43c31L-jJiw

Isabel - Secondment in Castellón

By Isabel Ortigosa My first secondment is taking part in Castellón, under the supervision of my thesis director, Azucena García Palacios. I am also working with Víctor Costumeros and Jon Andoni Duñabeitia in the Project. The planned six months of stay will be split in two, three months from April 2019 to July 2019, and in all likelihood, Spring of 2020. I started the secondment with a wide idea of the plan we were following regarding the experiment, which involves physiological measures such as eye-tracking and skin conductance. Therefore, the first thing I had to do was to learn how to use the eye-tracker and the apparatus of electrodermal activity. After that, we conducted a pilot study to check if everything worked and to adjust a few changes in the procedure. Now I am recruiting the participants to start the experiment. I can only say good things about the staff in this department, even if they know that you are staying for a short period they include you in everything and make you feel like a member from the first day. They are also very willing to help with anything and show interest in your Project.


Konstantina - Visit of the refugee camp Diavata in Thessaloniki

By Konstantina Olioumtsevits My visit at the refugee camp Diavata in Thessaloniki is completed. It started in November 2019 and ended in June 2019. During my visit, I was providing voluntary work supporting the education team of the camp as well as teaching Greek as a second language to school age children with different ethnic backgrounds. During the classes, I engaged the children in a variety of activities that boost their language development along with their communication and literacy skills. Through my work there, I had not only gained experience with refugee children but also enriched my knowledge on the subject, improved my research work, and developed as a person.

Theresa - Secondment at the Graduate Center CUNY

By Theresa Sophie Bloder I spent my first Secondment at the Graduate Center CUNY in Dr. Valerie Shafer’s Developmental Neurolinguistics Lab. The goal of this Lab is to understand the relationship between language and brain development, and later brain organization. Research projects that are currently in progress use electrophysiological methods to examine brain processes. An understanding of the relationship between language and brain development and later brain organization will help explain the nature of developmental language disorders.
At CUNY I was introduced to various pieces of software, hardware, and laboratory techniques common to research laboratories in the speech, language, and hearing sciences. I received hands-on experience on the generation, recording and analysis of sound, and learned to use the basic tools that are important for research in this field. Furthermore, I got to strengthen my understanding of the major issues of human communication (child language and language acquisition in particular) and its disorder.

Sarah - My secondment at the University of Konstanz

By Sarah von Grebmer zu Wolfsthurn In April 2019 I came to the University of Konstanz for my first secondment. For me, it was a really obvious choice because for my experiment. I am investigating the interference between German and Spanish in the bilingual brain – so Konstanz was the perfect place for this. More specifically, I am looking at how the speakers of these two languages process grammatical gender, and how much the native language (in this case German) influences gender processing mechanisms in Spanish. As a bilingual speaker myself, I often find that I make mistakes that are clearly because my first language is trying to compete with the other language (and wins), leading to some pretty situation where I often do not even notice that I have just used the German article for an Italian noun (my second language). In Konstanz, I collected data for my study. This meant long hours in the neurolinguistics lab, but I also get to know my participants really well during the three hours of experiment, and I love hearing about how they learnt Spanish, and the places they have traveled to! The second great aspect of my secondment were the people I worked with- I was sharing an office with other PhD students which were all interested in Multilingualism, just like me. There are lots of possibilities to attend talks, lab meetings and lectures around this topic, so I am loving every second of it. My data collection was finished by June and I am sad about leaving this place - it is probably the only university I will ever be at that has a view on the Lake Konstanz and has its own beach!

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska Curie grant agreement No 765556.

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