Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What We'll Be Using

So the goal of this project is twofold. First, obviously, we've got France, and we're going to try to learn as much about the country and its many facets as possible.

But secondly, we're also going to try to work out how to build a successful curriculum covering a topic for a whole year using the many tools now available to us on the Web in 2009. Since this is a bit of a fly by night thing (and also foremost something for me - there's nothing so affably daffy as trying to social network out your minor obsessions) the list below isn't definitive and is subject to change.

  • Spicy Elephant - A great flashcard website, this is where all of the quizzes and tests will end up. Hopefully we'll build up a nice repository of card decks for studying.

  • Timetoast - A site for creating timelines, we'll be using this both for the main syllabus (as it were) of the blog as well creating timelines of all kinds of French histories (cinema, musique, art, la guerre!)

  • Delicious - The best bookmarking site around.

In addition, I'll be setting up a Facebook group, a Flickr pool, and possibly a YouTube channel, although the main focus will be here at the blog.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How to Even Begin

Trying to cover the thing that is "France" in one year sounded interesting primarily because countries encompass so many aspects of life: history, culture, language, politics, geography, current events ... and France is known for a particularly eclectic (and long-reaching!) sense of identity. You could easily spend a whole year just on the French Revolution, or its misadventures in Indochina, or on early-60s French New Wave cinema, or its many wines and cheeses. If in the middle of this year you find yourself off the deep end on a tangent of France that interests you more than the thing we're talking about, great! That's what we're here for, to explore.

Of course, the flipside to having such a wealth of topics to approach and investigate is option paralysis: where do you even start?

For the historical and cultural aspects, I'm going to try to follow six simple milestones in the French timeline:

  • The Norman Conquest

  • The Hundred Years' War

  • The French Revolution

  • Napoleonic Era

  • World Wars I and II

  • Modern Day France

These won't necessarily be spaced evenly apart, and the periods between them won't be addressed equally, but we will at least have a sense of marching through time and making progress. There will also be plenty of digressions and backtracking, because ultimately this is my year with France and you're along for the ride, and part of this blog's goal is also to figure out the how of spending one year on a topic, so expect a bit of turbulence now and then.

The language lessons will of course proceed from the basics to the advanced, and I'm really interested in trying out some of the many podcasts, YouTube videos, and new Web 2.0-y sites on language learning.

Geography will be delivered travelogue style, and we'll more or less try to intertwine as many geography lessons with the history and culture lessons we're goig through.

Everything else will come as it will. Enjoy!

Day 6: 600% better than Day 1!

I decided to start this project on the 6th of January, which either puts us behind schedule (half-empty) or means we have to work a little harder (half-full.) Most likely it means we will try to play catch up here or there as the year progresses.