In this second attempt to conceptualise the learning activity in the CORALL project (the first one, on “Course features view” can be found here), I will explore two Personas in the format proposed by Conole, G. (2015) in order to define the targeted learners.

The project proposal has already limited the target learners to the category of adolescent and adult Arabic speaking immigrants at beginner and intermediate levels. The reasons for this choice is

  • firstly societal, that this is the largest immigrant influx at the moment,
  • secondly didactical, that beginner to intermediate is a suitable level for the practice, and
  • thirdly technical, that the automatic assessment of linguistic and pronunciation errors using automatic speech recognition (ASR) requires modelling of the learners’ native language, and it is therefore necessary to restrict the language background of the learners (and in addition exclude children, since ASR for children is more complex) to make the ASR robust enough.

The two personas will therefore be to some extent similar, slightly stereotypical and somewhat political.

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Persona 1

  • Name: Amena
  • Gender: Female
  • Age: 30
  • Lives in: Södertälje, with her children. She came to Sweden 5 years ago, and has learned some everyday Swedish, but not enough to use it in a professional setting.
  • Native language: Arabic
Education and experience

Amena has a bachelor in computer engineering from the University of Aleppo. She worked as a computer programmer for a local IT company focused on the social media market, but was forced to leave Syria when the civil war broke out in 2011. Her husband drowned during the passage over the Mediterranean, when their boat began to sink, but Amena and her two children were saved by Italian coastguards. She now has a permanent residence permit in Sweden.

Roles and responsibilities

Amena worked as a programmer for four years in Aleppo. She is active in the local Syrian community in Södertälje, and tries to assist newly arrived Syrian refugees with practical matters. She is however foremost mother to two children, who need much support trying to integrate in their Swedish school.

Technical skills

Amena has good basic programming skills and knowledge in computer science, and she has a thorough knowledge of social media technology, but she has nevertheless difficulties finding employment in Sweden, since her Syrian formation is not recognised and since she has communication problems in Swedish.

Subject domain skills and knowledge

Amena started following an SFI course, but was not able to complete it, since it was impossible to leave her children alone during the course hours. She instead tries to listen to Swedish television to learn the language has therefore a solid basic understanding of Swedish and can also speak everyday sentences, but she needs to expand her vocabulary and practice her pronunciation.

Motivation and desires

Amena motivation is to get a job in the social media industry as a programmer. She wants to use her already existing skills and she wants to make a living for herself and her children.

Goals and expectations

Amena’s goal is to first complete the three months intensive course in computer science for immigrant programmers who have difficulties entering the Swedish job market that is provided by the School of Computer Science and Communication at KTH with funding from Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg’s foundation. In parallell, she also wants to learn domain-specific Swedish that would enable her to be employable as programmer in a Swedish company.

Obstacles to their success

Amena’s main problem is that it is difficult for her to attend classes regularly, since she cannot plan if and when she could leave her children, who are still traumatised by their previous experiences, alone.

Unique assets

Amena is extremely devoted to her studies, has good studying skills and is very serious about succeeding in getting a job as a programmer.

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Persona 2

  • Name: Abdi
  • Gender: Male
  • Age: 16, 5
  • Lives in: a HVB center for unaccompanied newly arrived adolescents in Uppsala. He came to Sweden 5 months ago.
  • Native language: Arabic as spoken in Yemen

Education and experience

Abdi has received very little formal education, as the nearest school was destroyed during the Somali civil war in the 1990’s, and had not been reopened due to instability and lack of resources. His father and mother were killed in a militia attack in Mogadishu. Adbi left Somalia and has lived much of his life in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. He now has a temporary residence permit in Sweden.

Roles and responsibilities

Abdi is still a teenager and he is the sole surviving family member. His responsibilities have for a long time been only towards himself and his survival. At the HVB center, he is learning group work and group dynamics through everyday chores.

Technical skills

Abdi has low technical skills, but learns fast. He is a vivid cellphone and internet user and is fascinated by technology.

Subject domain skills and knowledge

Abdi has not yet learned much Swedish, since he has had little practice in the environment at the HVB center. Moreover, due to his lack of basic education, he is a slow reader and has little experience of ordered everyday societal life in Sweden.

He needs to learn basic vocabulary, everyday sentences and understand the workings, regulations and relationships in Swedish society.

Motivation and desires

Adil’s desire is to form his life in Sweden, and therefore desires to learn the Swedish language as well as facts and knowledge about Swedish society required to be successful in getting a job.

Goals and expectations

Abdi’s goal is to learn Swedish well enough to finish basic education in Sweden, get employment and integrate in Swedish society. He expects to work hard to achieve this goal.

Obstacles to their success

Abdi has a temporary residence permit that expires when he turns 18, and he may at that point be sent back to Somalia. He therefore sometimes despairs and feels that it is not worth learning Swedish, since it would be of very little use to him if sent back. His motivation therefore sometimes falters.

Unique assets

Abdi is very social and interested in getting to know the people around him and learning from their experiences.

Comments on personas

I am in general not that fond of the persona concept in design, as it introduces a lot of additional information that is often irrelevant to the case or learning activity that is to be designed. This is true also for the two above personas, but I nevertheless felt that it was worthwhile creating them, since it does illustrate the difference between learners that will be encountered and highlight what the spectrum beginner to intermediate may mean.

The practice needs for the two personas above will be completely different, both in terms of linguistic training and what is “a relevant real-life task”. Whereas one needs to learn the very basics of the language and the society and will initially be able to have quite simple, tutor-driven spoken interaction, the other wants to practice more free spoken conversation and preferable in a professional setting.

This illustrates the importance of the diagnostic test in the pre-session (c.f. the previous post), since it would not be very suitable to pair Amena and Adbi for the collaborative session.

References

  • Conole, G. (2015). The 7Cs of Learning Design
  • Illustration: CC0 Public domain by johnhain (No attribution required)

Contribute!

Would you like to help us get started?

As a second language learner (in particular if you are or have been learning Swedish), what authentic tasks do you feel would be (or would have been, if you are thinking about your own past experiences) relevant to practise the second language on?

Please fill in the one-question form on https://goo.gl/forms/ZukVgaTzgI9Cb0Sv2

The tasks should be suitable for beginner to intermediate level of learning Swedish, but feel free to suggest whatever comes to mind.

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