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Anishinaabemowin goes virtual

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Wednesday nights are now Anishinaabemowin language and culture nights throughout the Great Lakes--and beyond.

Instructor Isadore Bebamikawe-Toulouse (Ojibwe) launched basic Anishinaabemowin classes in a virtual online classroom beginning January 8, with over 60 people participating. The following week, attendance hit 100 participants.

The live sessions are webcast every Wednesday at 7 p.m. Classes are free of charge and no password or prior registration is required.

Participants enter from a link posted the same day on the Online Anishinaabemowin Facebook page. A pop-up window asks for a self-chosen username. Enter the username, click the submit button and away you go.

The learning environment is impressive. On-screen are displayed three main panels: The left panel is a live webcam video of Instructor Toulouse, with a live chat session below. The center panel displays the current lesson page in easy-to-read white letters on a dark blue background. The right panel displays the usernames of current participants and facilitators, as well as a real-time head count.

Classes offer an overview of everyday words (such as "nbaan," to sleep). Once mastered, the same words are expanded to demonstrate inclusive/exclusive usage and past/present tense.

The online experience is as interactive as a class setting. To free-up available bandwidth for participant access, only the instructor is seen and heard. However, participants can interact with the instructor using the live chat feature.

Something to keep in mind when using web-based video streaming (such as in this class). According to Verizon, video streaming gobbles 5 MB of data per minute or 260 MB of data per hour. If you have a limited data plan like me, you may quickly find yourself out of available data. An alternative may be to pack a set of earbuds and head to the nearest WiFi--preferably a library or school, which won't throttle down your access like an Internet Cafe.

It is said that the language and the culture cannot be separated, and that to know the culture, you must know the language. I know from my own experience that much of false history can be debunked by literally translating the Anishinaabemowin that is all around us in books, places and names.

And for those uncomfortable learning in front of an audience, the privacy of a virtual classroom is ideal.

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