Thursday, March 10, 2011

Summary of Notes on Better Lesson Planning (Kizlik)

The most effective teachers are good planners and thinkers.
The purpose of a lesson plan is to communicate.
If you write a lesson plan that can be interpreted or implemented in many different ways, it is probably not a very good plan.
Things to consider:
1. The objective - description of what a student does that forms a basis for making an inference about learning.
2. The lesson assessment - description of how the teacher will determine whether the objective has been accomplished.
3. The prerequisites - A statement about what the student needs to know or be able to do to succeed and accomplish the objective.
4. The materials - a list of materials in line with what you actually plan to do.
5. The instruction - description of efficient teaching behavior that gets more learning done with the same or less effort.
6. The student activities - a list of activities that directly relate to the lesson objective(s).

The Lesson Plan
1. Preliminary information
  • Grade
  • Level of students
  • Specific subject matter
  • Name of unit
  • Name of the teacher
2. The Parts
  • Information about students: age, grade level, and what they already know about the lesson objectives.
  • Time to complete lesson
  • Description of the materials
  • Information about how to acquire the materials
  • Information about obtaining special permissions.
  • What are the inputs?
  • What is the output?
  • What instructional activities do I do?
  • What do the students do?
  • How will the learning be measured?
  • What follow up activities do I have?
  • How can I assess myself? (Difference btw what you wanted and what was attained)
Vocabulary for Writing Behavioral Objectives
Apply a Rule / Assess / Classify / Compose / Construct / Define /Demonstrate / Describe / Diagram / Distinguish / Estimate / Evaluate / Identify / Interpret / Label / Locate / Measure / Name / Order / Predict / Reproduce / Solve / State a Rule / Translate

Kizlik, B. (2009). Six Common Mistakes in Writing Lesson Plans
(and what to do about them)
, Retrieved March 11, 2011, from

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

8.7 What is a teacher?

A teacher is a critically reflective individual who facilitates engaging activities that focus on learning more than content. Someone who tests and re-evaluates their own assumptions and is also a resource provider and pretty much jack of all trades... (Brookfield, 1995)

Friday, December 10, 2010

8.6 On Becoming a Reflective Practitioner - Reflection on my own experience

I have a high school class that I teach once every two weeks on a Saturday. It is my worst class in all my teaching environments... I was used to Communicative teaching at my regular school, so I thought that I could use that knid of teaching in this new environment.

However, the students sleep, or yell, or do their make up in the back, or even bring Mcdonalds into the class...The regular class teacher stays at the back doing nothing, or even contributes to the mayhem, and if that wasn't all, the school is in a lower socio-economic area of Osaka.

Unconsciously using the reflection process...

RIA - was my initial response...change whatever I could at the moment of teaching, and to respond to individual students...effective to an extent...but still I found it difficult.

Then ROA-


Broad -

* What is it about the class or my teaching that is causing this?

* What if I changed my material?

* Why are Ss not interested in the lesson?

* What if My methods didn't match the Ss?

* Is it because it's Saturday?

Later I started thinking about the detailed questions:

* What should I have done?

* What can I do next time?

The answers were not so clear...Should I wake Ss? Is ok to change from Ss centered to Teacher centered or do I persist with my method until they get used to it? Are there any other types of lessons I could implement?

* Why did I react in that way?

* What have I learned from this?

My initial reaction was of hopelessness. I started blaming the context: the school, the teachers, the fact that Ss had to come on Saturday, class size, student ability, the learning styles of the Ss not matching my own teaching style, and so on...

I learned that it was a combination of these things and more. Yes, my idea that Ss needed to be able to circulate, didn't quite match with the way they were being taught. In addition, I didn't have enough time with the Ss each time, and my activities got them doing things that they are not ready for yet.

I identified that modification to my objectives needed to be made, to include time for Ss to get used to a new teaching style.

I formulated a plan of action, that included both ROA and RIA (even though I didn't know that at the time) and also that included the Ss learning styles and the context that they were in.

In practical terms, I got them into countries (small groups to get them feeling more personalized learning and teaching). I developed their identities under these countries, and identified them as their countries.

I allowed for more written activities, and teacher centered discussions (at first), then as a bird started to wean them off teacher centered-ness, into more communicative learning...starting with pair-work, then to group work then finally circulation type activities.

It is still not perfect (far from it), but the students are starting to respond (it will be a long and slow process). I have a lot more thinking to do, and reflection about that thinking. Yet, the signs are positive...

Well that's a summary of where it stands today...the process of reflection continues.

8.5 Becoming a Reflective practitioner: The Cycle of reflection

I wonder if anyone has seen the You tube video on the process of reflection...
Video: Becoming a Reflective practitioner: The Cycle of reflection (click here)
It is a comical look at the process, but provides a simple understanding of the reflective process.
I made some basic notes...

What is Reflection:
Cyclic process = Think-Question-Reflect-Act

Thinking: Meta-cognitive - thinking about thinking
  • Monitor your thinking
  • Probe/inspect/study/examine------confusing, conflicting, disturbing situations--------try to make comprehensible---------identify possible solutions.

Questions: Pertinent or irrelevant, Broad (What if...?/I wonder why?), Detailed (What should I have done? What can I do next time? Why did I react in that way? What have I learned from this?)

Reflection: Clarify what you are thinking about.
i. Reflection on action (ROA) - Thinking afterward
ii. Reflection in action (RIA) - Thinking during
This seems to be the kind of thinking on your feet type of action....

Reflection includes: Past / Present / Future

Through reflection:
  • Look at Student learning
  • Search meaning of class events
  • Consider your strengths and weaknesses
  • Identify ways to improve
  • Formulate a plan of action
Take the time to reflect:
  • on the course.
  • your strengths and weaknesses.
  • the viewpoints of others.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

8.4 'Problem- based learning (PBL)"

Reading my lecture notes, I came across 'Problem- based learning (PBL)" and was wondering if it connected to the types of information gap, and task based learning that I often get my students (Ss) to do. Often, language textbooks contain tasks, where the Ss, by sharing the information they have, can come to an understanding of the total picture of their conversation. Or, Ss by sharing information, have a chance to use the language they are learning. Therefore the activity is the tool as Brodie states, which is used as a way for Ss to use the target language that they have learned, and the use (which is the objective of the activity) becomes the goal of the lesson.
I understand that PBL in other content areas would be more practical/concrete problems, such as in medicine. However, can it also be applied to more abstract areas such as language teaching, psychology etc...?
Just a few thoughts...ciao Steve

(click here) for a detailed explanation.
Problem-Based Learning and Adult English Language Learners
Julie Mathews-Aydinli, Center for Adult English Language Acquisition, Center for Applied Linguistics

What is PBL? Watch the following video.

What is PBL? from Metafoor Media on Vimeo.

Friday, November 26, 2010

8.3 'Walk the walk' don't just 'Talk the Talk' - Completing a Professional Passion Chart

Activity 1.1 - Isolate areas that you would benefit from personal development...

Hello everyone,
At the moment I am trying to grapple with activity 1.1 and I am finding that it is quite easy to 'talk the talk', but another thing to 'walk the walk' in terms of critical reflection in practical terms. In some ways, there is a real barrier to focusing the magnifying glass on my own actions...But here goes...
In terms of my own teaching, I believe that I am fairly good at writing objectives for courses, but when it comes to specific lesson objectives, I find it hard to pinpoint and keep to targets.Writing the syllabus is easier, because it is more general. However the lesson plan objectives have much more at stake (in terms of some kind of 'standards based' criteria) and it is much easier to see if the objectives have been carried out. Especially when they haven't. I also find that I sometimes skip writing them down, because I am relying on the years of experience I have accumulated. I find I rely on the feeling I have and the knowledge I have of my subject, and then adapt to individual students. This isn't always bad, but there's no way to be accountable for what you are doing in classes...
The hardest thing for me is to consistently review after class, and write down helpful evaluations. I tend to just write down what has been done and what will come next. I want to be able to focus on what worked and what didn't, and be able to write advice to myself on different elements of the lesson.
So I guess they are two things I want to work on...I want to be able to create a system for myself, possibly even a set of categories that I can apply before and after a lesson, and some system of analyzing and evaluating the information that I receive. Doing this in the most time efficient way, after each lesson, and selected times throughout the course, will help me understand my own teaching a little better. However, it will take effort on my part. However, I don't want to just 'talk the talk'...I want to really get stuck in and do something. I think that the information I have read so far is helping me to sort out a system in my own mind.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

8.2 "Beyond the looking glass"

A student in my class posed quite a poignant question the other day when she asked, "How can I get to the other side of the looking glass?" I agree with a point in Heimbecker; we have to start with the basic premise of making the things we do visible and problematic. Therefore we need to look at our teaching and highlight the 'good, the bad and the ugly' of our own practices. Not an easy thing to do, and when/if done, not always easy to accept the results.
Thus, the need for reflection, in the sense of Brookfield's (1995) idea of 'critical reflection'. What assumptions are we making about what we are doing in our classes, and how is this affecting the way students are engaging (or not) in our lessons.
I was a little amazed at some of the assumptions stated, because it was like Brookfield was plucking them out of my head. "Making a circle, not having too much time devoted to lecture time, and students liking discussion to name a few."
All the common sense ideas that we have and hear from other teachers all seem to have a flipside...
I guess what the article was hinting at was that the critical reflection helps us to be better able to understand that we are making these assumptions, and it better equips us in dealing with them in order to make better learning environments for students.
I believe that I have been making a few too many Casual assumptions about the learning taking place in my classes. Imposing my own beliefs about how the classes are to be run...believing that I have ventured over onto the other side of the looking glass, yet not really. Possibly another form of transmission, not of knowledge but of how we conduct ourselves in class...dare I say, 'Manner' continuing to be teacher-centered rather than learner centered... ciao Steve

Brookefield, S. (1995). The getting of wisdom: What critically reflective teaching is and why it's important, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass

Heimbecker, B. (2009). Changing ourselves - A gaze in the mirror, Educating and inquiry - A teacher action research site, retrieved November 23, at

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

8.1 social constructivism

I just read the paper on constructivism, and was trying to make links to my own context and teaching practice...

When I read the section on social constructivism, I was reminded of the shift in ESL/EFL toward "communicative language teaching (CLT)" (Nunan, 1991), and the need for authentic texts and contexts within teaching. Thus the implementation of activities such as role-play, survey, and task based teaching has become the new in vogue thing, with activities that increase motivation by providing so called 'real life' activities with a real purpose...Within my own teaching I have tried to take this on board, with both success and failure. Success, I mean in terms of student motivation, only when the activity provides enough of a challenge (not too difficult) and when the students themselves can see the real purpose of the activity. I am truly an advocate of CLT (when the activity is truly meaningful and challenging), however, I think we have to acknowledge that the classroom environment is still an artificial environment, with all the limitations that entails.

Having students from many different countries, I am also very aware of the cultural impact on learning. One of my favorite books on teaching is Culture learning, the 5th dimension in the language classroom by Louise Damen (1987), which discusses the impact of culture on language learning. How Students form Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China (I have a class with these cultures and more) relate to each other, or even a minority culture, next to a majority from other places, or just a mix of different ethnic groups (such as in the old and politically incorrect series Mind Your Language) can all contribute to difficulty in achieving your teaching objectives.

Dougiamas, M.(1998). A journey into constructivism, Retrieved November 16, 2010

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What is Social about Sociolinguistics?

Upon reading the introduction in Wardhaugh (2006) I find myself aligned with the author, Gumperz (1971) Chambers, and Coulmas (1997, as cited in Wardhaugh, 2006). We ought to be looking at the outcomes of how the social environment interacts with linguistic structure. I think that Coulmas really hit on a point when he/she stated the division of macro and micro was somewhat contrived. I would like to add to that and say that I believe looking at language without context is like finding fools gold and believing it is valuable. Without having a base to judge from, one can be easily misled. The relationship between language and social aspects is one that needs attention as a whole... Language seems to affect (or not affect in some cases) the way we act (Whorf Hypothesis), and vice-versa... Studying both linguistics and sociology separately, then combining them may miss the plot (according to Hymes, 1974 as cited in Wardhaugh 2006). I understand how Chomsky would like to separate linguistic studies from any other social factor, because it just makes things simpler and easier to make hypotheses about. That is a very scientific thing to do. But language is a communication tool, used within social situations, it is impossible to separate it from other affecting variables. Understanding aspects in isolation may help in contributing to the knowledge base, but we must be careful not to let those understandings distort our understanding of what really exists. Just as in a magicians slight of hand, sometimes the parts do not always equal the whole.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Switching wihin a Code

This idea of switching (within a code) for different social situations is really interesting and connects with an idea within Wardhaugh (2006). The idea of there being a considerable amount of variation within one language, and it changing to fit in with surrounding social requirements. The way we relate to other individuals and groups somewhat depends on a whole host of factors (race, ethnicity, gender, religion, social class etc...Wardhaugh, 2006, p. 6), and these factors influence not only the way we act, but what and how we communicate. I also find myself changing the way I talk within different situations. When I am with Australian friends I tend to be more casual and easy going with language. Australians with other Australians tend to fill in the blanks more. I can be a little more abstract, and may not even need to finish sentences, as I can assume my Australian friends have the contextual cues to infer meaning. However, with my American friends, I sometimes have to spell things out more clearly, and change the way I present information so that they can understand.
Also, when speaking in meetings, I have to change to a more formalized form of language, and I concentrate harder on being very logical and to the point. This tends to make me feel and act differently, in order to fit in with my expectation of the identity I have for that particular purpose. My question is if this is only a perceived boundary, or is it actually real. One way to test it is to actually break the boundary, by speaking in a more casual manner...but what will the consequences be...
Actually, I participated in recent teacher interviews recently, and one of the applicants was very surprised at our interview techniques...we tried to make the process a little more casual, by joking a little and presenting a more friendly atmosphere...and it seemed to be a little off-putting for the applicant...until they themselves adapted to the new environment...this case alludes to the idea that we can readily change our social identities, to match the perceived environment...part of those social identities are variants in language and behavior...We ended up hiring the individual involved...ciao Steve

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Which variety of English do you speak/teach?

I teach in Japan, where a standard American dialect (which one I don't really know) is strongly encouraged, unless you teach in places like the British council (which many of my friends have). I have been living in this pseudo English environment (American dialect, international friends and teacher talk) so long that it has started to affect my own use and pronunciation of English. Every time I go back to Australia, my friends and family always comment on the things I say and how I say them... I am often confused about which to use, so I try my hardest to expose Ss to both. Spelling is the one of the indicators for me about which dialect a book/website favors, along with many contextual cues such as references to places and cultural norms... Also my Ss seem to find British English difficult to listen to. I like the website ELLLO because it tries to expose Ss (listening) to many world Englishes...
So, when in doubt, I say try to do what you know...but endeavor to expose Ss to many varieties...ciao Steve

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Exercise 3.10 Sites for Teacher Development

1. “Lantern fish”
formerly BogglesWorld is one of my favorite sites for Role play activities, and specific communicative/task based lessons. All lessons are created in Word format and are easy for teachers to change and adapt for their own purposes. There are number of different purposes for the site, enabling many different users to utilize the various aspects for a number of different purposes.
i. Variety of lessons, that cater mostly for Communicative teaching.
ii. Adults/Children, Teachers and Ss.

i. Search is a little long and laborious.

A good site to get lessons in the form of worksheets.
i. Lessons are categorized under topics.
i. Lessons are only available in .pdf format, which is difficult to change (but makes it easily accessible to a wide audience)

3. English to
Provides a variety of easy to implement lessons, for quick one point teaching.

4. ELLLO Listening activities
This site provides a listening activity on almost every topic you can think of.
i. Semi-natural interviews.
ii. Organized into themes.
i. Speed and authenticity is compromised for clarity.
ii. Themes have yet to be properly sorted.

5. BBC Skillswise
Well organized into the four macro-skills and grammar, writing and Vocabulary.

6. Cloze Maker JavaScript Wizard
A great tool for creating cloze activities that can be saved in HTML format and put up onto a website. I use this regularly to provide extra reading practice online, and to support units of study.
i. Activities can be saved to your computer/website.
ii. Easy to use as it’s a kind of authoring program.
iii. There are a variety of options that give teachers plenty of room to experiment.
iv. Ss can see their score, and redo activities as many times as they want.
i. It is difficult (if not impossible) for average teachers to manipulate the fonts and format of the page, or add or subtract any features.

7. Discovery PuzzleMaker
A great place to create your own puzzles for classes.
i. Great for Vocabulary puzzles.
i. The interface is a little difficult to use at times, and sometimes it takes several manipulations of the input to create puzzles.
ii. Good for printing, but difficult to copy and paste puzzles into a word document.

8. Bingo Card Maker
Often a laborious task to make bingo cards, but this site enables you to make a number of cards, with different word combinations in a fraction of the time it would take you to make them by hand. Provides users with two options (3x3 and 5x5 grid).
i. Easy to use and efficient
ii. Allows user to shuffle words with a click of a button
iii. Provides samples
i. Not easy to manipulate for individual uses.

9. Interactive word search creator
A good site for teacher to create word searches that can be tailored to suit individual needs.
1. Has a database of ready to go activities.
2. It’s free, and easy to use (5 step process) authoring program.

10. Youtube
I thought I'd put this in, cause in provides an incredible resource for teachers to include visuals to support material (something I try to do on my site).
i. wealth of content
ii. videos can be linked to or embedded into web pages.
i. Quality of video feed, and length of videos.
ii. copyright considerations.

There are many sites out there that focus on providing lessons and/or teacher tools to make lessons. One thing that I did notice was that they tend to be 'works in progress' (like my own site) and design of the site usually has come after the material have been collected... This is probably inevitable, but it does mean that organization seems to suffer...
The best sites seem to be simple to use and allow teachers to be flexibile to a certain degree. Also the sites that allow manipulation of material can open up to a greater variety of users.
Steven M

Monday, September 29, 2008

Future of Language Learning Labs - Sinicariello, S. G. (1997)

What impact might the virtual language laboratory have on language teaching?
Do you think that laboratories will be changed?

The WWW has made it possible to have greater connectivity and enhanced the accessibility of many resources. As Scinicariello (1997) points out, the future of the LL will go beyond just equipment provider, to the role of information resource and beyond. I believe that the new language laboratory will take on a number of different functions. Primarily digital interfaces will (and have been) start replacing other formats and act as a main resource for various language learning materials, in a more integrated way, bringing together video, audio and text. This, as Scinicariello (1997) suggests, supports pedagogical aspects with the possible integration of the four skills in language learning, especially with the ability to link materials, such as through hypertext. In addition to providing access, the language laboratory of the future (within the virtual realm), will also provide chances for Ss to interact with material, allowing them to personalize their own learning, or add to the ever-increasing wealth of resources. There will be opportunities for Ss to access material that is directly relevant to them, or even alter or add to material, according to their own background experiences. Places such as Wikipedia are already setting precedents that will provide models for future VLL, in that material can be in constant flux, and reactive to the communities they serve. This would obviously create doubts about the reliability of information, but can also serve as a great way to produce a huge amount of material, in a cost effective and speedy way. Teachers and Ss will be able to create for the VLL, and work can be judged and edited by peers…This would give a very personal touch to the VL environment, that could be highly motivating to all users.
I believe that the greatest obstacle for the VLL is that of Copyright infringement. With greater access to material within campuses offering Wifi, there will be a need for language laboratory directors to monitor and regulate the availability of information. Having the participants create much of the material can be one way to avoid this (Kangaku University in Japan has created much of it’s own material), but much of the resources will be commercially available material, at least in the early stages. I think that the VLL of the future will be an environment that will be entered into by using a password (such as this USQ board), which has varying levels of access. Publishers of material will need to alter their business models to take into consideration a number of different hubs of learning, and there will be a need for more collaboration with schools to work out how to make material available. Scinicariello (1997) suggests a collaborative of human beings working to help learners reach their goals, with the assistance of technology. The VLL will be the Hub, within the school, or community. Access will be given and monitored, and contributions will be sought after and encouraged. The VLL will be a work in progress, constantly changing and adapting, but always being responsive to the community it serves.
Scinicariello (1997) says that with the loss of the physical space will contribute to Ss feeling isolated because there is no focal point for language learning activities. On the contrary, I believe that with the WWW, there will be new environments that are created in the virtual world that bring groups together on a regular basis. Some schools will establish spaces in virtual environments, and even have specialized language-teaching functions, or be spaces where Ss can connect to others with similar needs (I’ve heard of a project by a university here that is trying to establish a virtual school in second life. The VLL can be connected to this learning hub). As long as there is access to the internet, Ss and teachers will always find little niches for support. That along with specifically created chat rooms and discussion forums that help focus language learning.


Sinicariello, S. G. (1997). Uniting teachers, learners, and machines: language laboratories and other choices. In M. D. Bush & R. M. Terry (Eds.), Technology-enhanced language learning. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Exercise 3.8 (Kelly, 2000)

After reading Kelly (2000), I was reminded of when I was answering the question on useful HTML sites. I included in my table a section on Website design tips, which seemed to cover much of the same issues as in the Kelly article.
It has made me a look at my own website to see if I have broken any taboos with web design, and which aspects I have actually adhered to. Also I started to look at my motivations for creating my website (how much is it for me, and how much is it for others). When creating a website it is very easy to get wrapped up in exciting new capabilities...Having flashing banners, and super animated gifs that on their own are very impressive, but when combined with other aspects tend to detract form the overall effectiveness of the website.
I was at one stage getting so involved in the creation process that I lost site of what Kelly (2000) calls the visitor’s point of view:
1. Is it usable?
2. Does it have something that the visitor wants?
3. Does it waste their time?
4. Is it irritating?

I started adding all these third party add ons, that tended to slow the website down. As a user myself, I realize how quickly I get annoyed at pages that take forever to load...and my connection speed is pretty high...imagine someone on slower ADSL or even dial up (like in some developing countries)...I found that my website had an annoying habit of being slow on some computers/computer networks...I had to speed it up...and this meant reduce the amount of things on one page, and maybe spread them out in a different layout. I had to balance the idea of getting to a destination within 3 clicks, and the amount and kind of information I could display in one place... i am still struggling with this idea.

Kelly(2000) says that websites should be easy to use...this is very difficult, especially with the variety of designs that are out there...I guess, in the end, simple is best...but then how do you make your page stand out from the thousands of other pages? This is one of my complaints with using blogger, and even to a lesser degree i-web (Mac web page design software). Pages start looking the same all over the net. Yet on the other hand, one good thing that these programs have brought about is a certain amount of standardization...which will reduce a lot of confusion out there in cyberspace.

My website is in the end about the user...just as a presentation must think of it's audience and a teacher their Ss. I think that showing excitement about the design of a page is essential, and will keep your page looking fresh. But, if the page is not being accessed, then no matter how great the information you have to share, there simply is no point....
Also, no matter how flashy you make your page, if the content is simply won't be trusted...

I believe that websites have to be constantly evolving, but also responsive to the users, at least our linguistic resource sites. They should be authoritative, but not condescending to the user, or their needs. They should be fun, and easy to use, yet not redundant or waste someone's time. Most of all they should be accessible in all possible the greatest number of users...

Kelly, C. (2000). Guidelines for designing a good web site for ESL students, Japan: The internet TESL Journal, 6(3), Retrieved at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Exercise 3.7 (Healey, 1999)

First of all, please download my list of tasks (click here)

Well, I took this activity, and I turned it into one which I could look at some of the things that I am already doing, and some of the things I would like to do, based partly on Healey's (1999) article.

I discovered that I had been doing a lot of the basic things that Healey had suggested, but that the activities on my website centered around 3 major areas:
1. Tutorial type activities that provide Ss with the material if they wish to pursue learning on their own.
2. Vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension type activities that are both interactive and tutorial.
3. Authentic listening tasks that both supported other types of learning, and gave extra practice to Ss.

Healey (1999) presents many types of activities that stimulate learning of specific language skills (vocabulary, and grammar), and skills that help in the learning process (reading: Skimming, and research of the WWW; Pronunciation: helps Ss to notice). Healey (1999) also presents tasks that stimulate collaborative/cooperative work.

One thing that I have discovered about my own website is that there should not only be a variety of tasks that help language acquisition with specific language tasks, but also ones that encourage more holistic goals that incorporate socio-linguistic objectives, too. Motivation, group dynamics, and language context also influence a students behavior and willingness to take part in an activity.

Another thing that I discovered was that it is very important to have task where a number of different skills support each other, often brought together by a theme. I found in my research, that there are many sites devoted to one specific area; be it grammar, vocabulary, listening or something else. What we need is collaboration between these sites, and better directories that bring them together better.
There are, however, some tasks (such as speech recognition and simulations), that still may be a little beyond my technical expertise and budget. Things that I would like to use, but have a very steep learning curve, that may discourage teachers like me implementing them at this point in time (not for a want to use them). That is why collaboration is increasingly more important between specialty sites...

Healey, D. (1999). Classroom practice: Communicative skill-building tasks in CALL environments. In J. Egbert, & E. Hanson-Smith (Eds.), CALL environments: Research, practice, and critical issues (pp. 116-136). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Mikulecky, B. S., Jefferies, L. (1996). More reading power, U.S.A: Addison-Wesley publishing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Exercise 3.5 List of Useful Web sites for Web design

Hello everyone...

Please first download my table (click here)

My approach to this activity was to make a usable table for beginners through to advanced users. As with any kind of learning, once we know the basics, our learning increases exponentially, and there's no limits to what can be done.

I tried to look at a number of different layouts, from linear to hyperlinked pages to partitioned pages. People have different learning styles as we talked about under MI theory...and the layout can influence learning.

I also looked at simplicity and ease of learning, with 3 main objectives:
1. does it provide a good and easy to understand desription,
2. does it provide an example,
3. Is it easy to navigate between pages (how many clicks, can I get back to the home page if I need to)

I also looked at what makes a web page a good one - What are the dos and don'ts of web page making. A little knowledge goes a long way...and saves time messing with things we don't need.

The last thing I looked at was open source free sites that provide ready made examples for advanced users to tweak... There's no point re-inventing the wheel, and these open source sites can save a lot of time and headaches...

All in all, the activity allowed me to find easy tutorial sites...but I didn't come across the more interactive style of site, that would possible take me through the site step by step...making my page as I go through... I guess they are reserved for paying customers... Some sites were called interactive, but would be what I consider tutorial, How to steps... (what they thought of as interactive were hyperlinks to other pages that had steps written down...
I guess there will be more interactive sites in the future...

I had thought of including a section on clip art (Gifs and Jpegs), but didn't because clip art sites are so ubiquitous and easily accessed, that it would become redundant...

Well that's my response for this activity, let me know what you think and if there is anything I can add...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Exercise 3.4.2 Teachers as courseware designers

Who better to influence the design of courseware than those who on an everyday basis, help to facilitate learning and can directly observe and evaluate the processes involved? Courseware – that is the software that is used to support formal language learning is becoming so much a normal part Ss lives (inside and outside the classroom) in what Bax (2003) terms ‘normalization’ that teachers cannot help but become involved in some way, in the design, development and evaluation of tutorial software. Teachers are also being encouraged to support ongoing research into CALL related studies and also be critical of new claims by software designers with little teaching experience (Penderson, 1987). However, there is a great disparity between those with the technical expertise to directly influence change, and those who have pedagogical knowledge, yet little technological know-how/experience to make a difference. However, I believe that with the ever-increasing presence of technology in educational settings, more and more teachers will seek out options that suit their particular contexts. As Son (1998) suggests, it would be worthwhile for teachers to make materials that meet their own and student’s needs. Whether that is through the use of authoring programs, or preferably through collaboration between various groups (software designers, or other technologically proficient educators/Computer lab, technician), teachers as professionals will want and need to become familiar with technologies (hardware and software) and/or uses of technologies that provide the best possible learning environment and access for their own students. Of course, the rapid changes in technology make it difficult to stay abreast of new developments. That is why teachers need to work together with other specialists. Scinicaiello (1997) suggests a future where computer labs (real or virtual) are the meeting places for extensive collaboration. Imagine if you will people coming together for online meetings and sharing of information.
If teachers are to become more actively involved (in design teams) in developing courseware, with the help of software designers/technologically proficient people, there are a number of important considerations that need to be addressed in relation to pedagogical needs:
1. How does that software support Ss?
2. Who has a hand in developing it?
3. Is it being implemented effectively?
Hubbard (2008) sets up a framework that has been adapted from the Richards and Rodgers model (1982) that brings together the teacher/developer, the computer as an interface/the materials and the learner. In Hubbard’s model the first thing for future collaborative teams to think about is to understand what the specific software will attempt to do (“Operational description”), then design it so that it ‘fits the students’ and finally take on an approach that meets the expectations of the learning objectives set out by the curriculum (“fit the teachers”). Teachers already have the background to be able to participate in this kind of process. They plan and write syllabi, and constantly evaluate the progress of their classes in relation to specified learning objectives. The greatest difficulty will be for those without technological know-how (or access to tech savvy staff), trying to find/create software that meets these criteria, for their specific context. That is where the collaborative efforts of a team can help share the work. This vision of a future language lab team, headed by a lab director, can take the pressure off teachers having to keep up to date and by sharing of information and problems can ensure that courseware meets the particular needs of the specific contexts.

Bax, S. (2003). CALL - Past, present and future, U.K: Cacterbury Christ Church University College

Hubbard (2008). Linguistics and the teaching of English as a second language: CALL Mini-course, Retrieved September 2, at

Pederson, K. M. (1987). Research on CALL. In W. F. Smith (Ed.), Modern media in foreign language education: Theory and implementation (pp. 99-131), Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook.

Scinicaiello, S. G. (1997). Uniting teachers, learners and machines: Language laboratories and other choices.

Son,J. -B. (1998b). Reading & Dragging: The development and use of courseware. On-CALL, 12(3), 10-19. Available:

Monday, September 1, 2008

Exercise 3.2 Categorization of CALL Activities

For the full answer to this question, please click on the following link:
CALL Activities
1. Passive/Traditional/Individual
– Activities focus on achieving mastery of a certain skill, by repetitive practice. These activities utilize a one-way transmission of information. They are categorized by tasks that require repetition, and achievement of a correct answer. They include such things as drill practice and translation types of activities.
* Drills
* Cloze activities
* Translation
* Matching
* Crosswords
* Word searches
* Powerpoint presentation
* Word processing, grammar and spell checking.

2. Interactive/Analytical/Inferential.
– These kinds of activities tend to present information that challenges students to use a number of cognitive processes in an interactive way. Activities include simulations that require manipulation of onscreen info, and information retrieval systems. They are more student-centered.

* Multimedia videodisc. programs (full motion video, sound, graphics and text – allowing learners to walk around and explore simulated environments.
* Simulations (SimCity)
* Reading for enjoyment/or find information.
*Speed Reading

3. Interactive/Cooperative/Collaborative/Creative
– These kinds of activities require a greater amount of autonomy in student-student interactions. Collaboration is a key element for successful participation in these tasks. The computer’s role is limited to that of a tool, to help in the completion of a task. The parameters of the activities are bound by the limits of the students imagination and the orchestration by the teacher facilitating learning.
* e-mail
* Chat
* Moos (discussion boards, learning centers)
* Online conferencing/video classrooms
* Blogs
* Hypermedia
* Search Engines
* WebQuests

Chapelle, C.A. (2001). Computer applications in second language acquisition: Foundations for teaching, testing and research, U.K: Cambridge.
Healey, D. (1999). Classroom practice: Communication skill-building tasks in CALL environments. In J. Egbert, & E. Hanson-Smith, CALL environments: Research, practice, and critical issues (pp. 116-136),
Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
Warschaer, M. & Kern, R. (2000). Network – based language teaching: Concepts and practice, U.K: Cambridge.

2.5 Research Question

Statement of research problem
Last year, I started a new subject which integrated two major technological tools: The DVD video and the computer/internet. The aims of the class were to increase the amount of comprehensible input through video (getting Ss involved and invested to a 12 week drama), and then slowly increase comprehensible output using a discussion board format (writing in /out of class –wherever they access to a computer). The use of the discussion board as a medium for increasing writing output is a new thing at my college, and I wish to know if the discussion room format is useful for increasing the amount and quality of writing responses, over a period of 12 weeks.
Research Question
What are the effects on writing fluency, quality and quantity of a discussion board format as the medium of writing output, over a 12-week period?
1. How much do students contribute (number and length of entries) to a discussion board, based on a video resource? Do students contribute more toward the end of the twelve weeks (Do all students increase comprehensible output)?
2. Are errors in grammar, and spelling frequent? Do errors increase/decrease over the research time?
3. Does typing influence the amount of writing that is produced? Does typing influence motivation?
4. How long does it take students to formulate a response?
5. Do students respond to other student’s discussion board entries?
6. What are student’s perceptions about writing on a discussion board?
1. Students will be motivated to write on a topic if they know that their fellow classmates are reading and responding in real time (synchronous way).
2. Students will produce more writing in their responses as the semester goes by.
3. Students will gain greater confidence in expressing themselves in writing when it’s for an audience.
4. Students will write more as their confidence grows in using the technology, and as they start to become invested in the drama.
Part I:
• There is one two-hour class per week. The students will be introduced to one season of a drama (usually 12-episodes). The students will have a small worksheet for each episode that initially works on schema building, language points, and comprehension. Part of the worksheet will be done before watching, and part of it will be done after.
Part II
• Students will enter the computer lab, where they will log onto the discussion board (Google) and be confronted with a list of 10 discussion questions about the episode that they just watched.
• The students have to make at least one discussion board entry to answer one of the questions, and are encouraged to write responses to other student’s entries. At the beginning of the course the Ss are told that their grade will depend on both answering the discussion questions and responding to other Ss responses.
Part III
Students are observed throughout class for:
• Amount of time to formulate responses
• Amount and kinds of questions asked (about the drama’s plot, language questions etc…)
• Use of other Internet tools like spell checkers, data bases, web pages, concordance type software …
• Use of computer internal tools (spell checkers, grammar checkers)
Part IV
Ss work is checked in regular intervals throughout the 12-week course (every 3 weeks) for:
• Accuracy (spelling, grammar)
• Length (number of words)
• Kinds of words (first 1000, 2000 word lists, and AWL – Academic word list)
Part V
Ss will be given a survey at the beginning of the course and again at the end of the course for:
• Attitude toward technology (DVD and CMC)
• Personal performance rating
• Attitude toward the learning task (Motivation –before and after)
• Attitude toward the difficulty of task
• Attitude toward the teacher’s expected performance / actual performance.

Ethical issues:
Ss electronic literacy will impact upon how well students perform in tasks and their attitudes toward the medium under investigation. Ss will all have different beginning points, and their learning will vary according to their comfortableness with this technology, and the skills they posses in manipulating it.

This study would have to include qualitative (heavy description of the learning and learning environment) and quantitative (empirically observed data) methods in order to gain understandings about learner attitudes on the medium that is used, and to understand the effect on Ss performance over the research period.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Exercise 2.4.2 - Kern (2006)

Question: What do you think about the future directions of CALL research?

There has been a shift in focus in the role of technology in learning, from tutorial applications (instruction, feedback, testing…) to that of tool (access) and medium (providing places for interpersonal communication, multimedia publication, distance learning, community participation and identity formation). Current research has therefore been becoming more attentive to learner’s interactions with technology and what that technology can enable them to do. E-mail has made it possible for people to communicate with each other in writing, whereas Chat/Skype/Video Conferencing has facilitated synchronous communication activities… It is very clear that interaction and communication is happening, but not so clear how this communication is translating to beneficial and holistic learning outcomes for the L2 learner, or how the use of this technology is assisting/hampering effective communication and identity formation, and what positive or negative effects there are for specific contexts? This appears to be the new role of research in CALL for the future. To understand not only what interaction is happening, but also the impact of that communication on language, learning, and the individuals involved – A Sociolinguistic perspective, rather than just an Interactionist one. Kern (2006) summarizes the future of CALL Research into four main areas: Transversal relationships (how one proficiency can transfer to another), reading and writing electronically (emergence of new discourse patterns in CMC that affect reading and writing), curricular issues (implications of electronic literacies) and sociopolitical issues (access to technology).
The uses of technology are wide and varied, and are changing the way that people are communicating and learning, and affecting what people learn. Ss sending text messages often start looking for shortcuts, that tend to make communication faster, even though it may not be grammatically correct. How does this kind of communication affect writing and reading competence? People are gaining access to an ever-increasing resource (the web), and new technologies are opening new doors. There are whole communities that are interacting with each other from different parts of the world, and very specific niches being created all over the net. People have such varying levels of electronic literacy (computer, information, multimedia and CMC), that it is becoming more important to understand what electronic literacies our Ss have upon entering our classes/programs (as this contributes to learner differences), and how we can develop them or new literacies within our students (Warchauer 2003, as cited in Kern 2006). Each person has their own identity within their own social contexts before coming into contact with new technologies or our specific curriculum. Is that identity malleable enough to adapt to different kinds of interaction, and how does that identity react to the new contexts?
Another major consideration that was highlighted by Kern was the socio-cultural perspective, and developing an idea of how to better understand the social constraints and opportunities that affect intercultural communication. The research of the future will have to understand that having connectivity between people from different cultures, will mean that competency/performance is influenced by more than just the input and output, but also such things as differences in communicative genre’s, medium, task type, linguistic style, and cultural characteristics. A virtual classroom in “second life” for example, will bring together people from all kinds of backgrounds (culturally/technologically). People will have a place, and a target language, but the limits of each particular virtual classroom will be influenced by the individual identities of the participants and the way those identities interact in the context of a virtual world (just like in a normal ESL classroom, but incorporating their technological identities). Some cultures are context bound and others are not. Japanese for instance is heavily dependent on contextual cues that leave English-speaking learners lost. How will English learners enter a Japanese context and participate effectively? This is not only a research question for CMC, but a general question for sociolinguistics. It is just that these new virtual worlds are making it easier for people to connect.
The other social force that I see in new technologies is that of what I call the “Facebook phenomenon”. People are connecting in contexts such as these, but guidelines for social communication have not yet been established, and people are entering these virtual environments without clear ideas about what is permissible, what is abrasive, what is effective communication? More research needs to be done on not only the positive aspects of getting people together, but also what Ware (2003,2005 as cited in Kern 2006) considers the many forms of CMC that can facilitate missed communication.
The classroom of the future will undoubtedly extend beyond the four walls, and into virtual worlds that include people from all over the world. Harnessing new technologies, and making those technologies as effective as possible for all participants will be the new goal for teachers and researchers alike. Researchers will need to understand not only electronic literacies, but also cultural/technological identity within new and specific environments.

Kern, R. (2006). Perspectives on technology in learning and teaching languages. TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), 183-210

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Exercis 2.1 Penderson's (1987) article

I'd like to begin my personal response by saying that according to Penderson's (1987) article, we can assume that we still don't have enough knowledge (obtained via research) to make any firm assertions toward the impact of CALL. However, Penderson does call for more research (Basic CALL and Evaluative research, rather than Comparative research) to answer the very general question of how CALL (in all its forms) can affect learning (cognitive/metacognitive, psycholinguistic)? The research data so far accumulated, seems to point to the idea that there are no real learning advantages associated with the specific medium. Rather, it is the way that the medium is delivered through the specific software that has the capability of affecting learning outcomes. Computers are just the machines that enable different software to run, and with the applications of more sophisticated software, we can start noticing differences in not only outcomes in learning performance, but attitudes toward the learning medium. As Penderson suggests, the design of software, not the medium, leads to adjustments in cognitive processing. One can design straightforward behavioral type programs that respond in a very linear way, or one can be more open ended and communicative, allowing Ss to search for multiple answers in a negotiated response. Of course the development of the medium, in this case the computer, will enable greater access (speed: CPU and Internet), but it is the design of the program that would ultimately determine the successful achievement of learning goals and positive attitudes toward the learning task. This by no means is only related to computer learning tasks. Even in class, paper worksheets (the medium) can be designed to facilitate learning. One can have a study guide (to a book) that elicits answers on comprehension alone, or have worksheets that have a number of different sections that guide the learner through the task (schema building, vocabulary, extension)...and promote interaction and negotiation.
So I believe that within any medium there is infinite choice in design. The medium provides the canvas, but the software is likened to the artists tools (brushes, paints) that allow the user to express themselves in limitless ways. Steven (sorry for the mixed metaphor)

Exercise 2.3.2

Do you think that CALL activities can be improved through classroom research?
by Steven Mondy - Tuesday, 19 August 2008, 06:07 PM
The question asks us to seek out a relationship between L2 classroom research and CALL activities, to possibly try and establish a beneficial effect of current research (which kind?) on the medium of instruction (in this case CALL activities). I believe that Chapelle (1997) is right to be cautious in establishing the relationship, before first understanding what is meant by ‘research methods’, and stating the general methodology that surrounds SLA researchers and designers of CALL activities (Interactionist/Discourse analysis), at least to date.
Chapelle states that there is a need for more descriptive research (as opposed to just empirical), which documents the nature of interactions in which learners engage in within various CALL contexts. This means that we need to get a more holistic idea of what is happening within various contexts, how it is affecting the learner and how the learner is reacting to the interaction. The descriptive research should in Chapelle’s view describe learner input, output, and the relationship between both the input and output. This last point I believe is significant, in that it acknowledges there is change with each interaction. The description taking into account five characteristics: pragmatic, linguistic, non-linguistic, quality of language, and the medium of language transmission.
I believe that this focus on interaction (learner within their context) will give greater understandings about how communication is affected by the learning task, and method of instruction (and vice versa). Focus on the learner and how they react to various methods of gaining comprehensible input and being able to give effective comprehensible output (Swain and Lapkin, 95 as cited in Chapelle, 1997) will speak volumes about how effective the actual task is capable of being. Research that is able to understand how a task is able to encourage effective communication will undoubtedly make it possible for designers to improve upon CALL tasks (by tweaking and changing various aspects), so they in turn can make an optimal situation for better communication.
Chapelle states two critical questions in search of new research paradigms:
1. What kind of language does the learner engage in?
2. How good is the language experience in CALL for L2 learning?
These two questions can be a general framework for successful teaching, for any L2 teacher, in any domain, and using any methodology. If any research can help to answer these questions, then teachers and designers will both have an opportunity to design better learning tasks, that will interest students, engage them, keep them motivated and enable effective communication. Thus, facilitating successful learning.
Chapelle, C. (1997). CALL in the year 2000: Still in search of research paradigms? Language Learning & Teachnology, 1(1)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Future of CALL

I agree that our activities are already showing signs of openness and integration and I am a little frustrated at some of these articles, as they are inherently a little dated. Bax's article is dated 2003, and now it is 2008. There have been incredible steps - more leaps and bounds, in the past 5 years than ever before. Chat, video conferencing, and more integration of technology into everyday life (i-phone, etc). People are already doing things in an integrative way. The future appears to mix synchronous tasks more seamlessly into our everyday lives. The task for us teachers is to tap the resource, and make use of the potential. That means we have to be on top of what is happening out there. This is what I think Bax is asking us to do...more R & D, for future situations.

Bax’s (2003) article

I kinda like Bax's criticism of Warschauer, if it isn't a little direct. I started off reading and kinda took offense (thinking I already had the idea after reading Warschauer) at the beginning, but I think he does have a point, with respect to the 3 point framework that was set up by Warschauer did have its limitations, especially with its confusion with terminology. I think that Bax's framework may have a few problems, too (especially with his idea of integrative CALL, not yet being realized). Yet, it does open up discussion on a future direction of CALL, and doesn't take CALL so seriously to make it a separate entity. It tries to call for the normalization of CALL into everyday life, and posits a time where the role of technology is significant in terms of what can be done, but not how it can be done.

Bax, S. (2003). CALL - past, present and future.

After reading Bax (2003), I am left pondering which stage of normalization do I find myself in (early adopter, ignorance/skepticism, try once, try again, fear/awe, normalizing and normalization), and how much does my school encourage the goal stated by Bax of heading toward a situation in which computers become as ubiquitous as the humble eraser or dictionary. I don't know how close to that goal we can eventually reach, but I feel that computers occupy a unique position that maybe DVD/CD players once had. But, look at what happened to many of the technologies that were created. MD's lived a short life (sometimes brilliant) in some countries then died out, and older technologies such as audio tape, are very reluctant to die out. Is this part of the fear and awe factor, or something else?
On a personal note, our school is exceptionally quick at buying new technology and experimenting with various software (but, unfortunately not giving enough training), yet most of the new developments tend to come from the teachers (who are interested)curiosity and willingness to adopt the new tools. Whist some teachers move head on into trying things like discussion boards and blogs, other teachers seem to be very hesitant, without being shown. Without training, as Bax points out, the full potential may not be realized.
I feel that normalization would make an excellent target, and it was even suggested by my boss in a directive toward staff members. He stated, "'IT' within the context of the classroom and related to EFL student endeavors, should consider computers as part of the necessary equipment which give Ss the opportunity for research and enable effective communication." His directive has at its heart the essence of 'Open CALL' (open to new approaches when needed) and the desire for seamless integration of technology within the school environment. However, are Ss and teachers really ready for such a generalized imperative? Maybe not now, but with the slow implementation over the coming years, Ss may get used to the idea (just as high school kids start getting used to typing out assignments instead of handwriting them).
My concern, is for the way that that directive is put into practice. As in the Bax article, implementing technology without concern for the other crucial factors for success such as training, administrative and pedagogical support, can lead to a state where technology can impact badly upon schools, teachers and learners. Teachers may be unwilling to try again after initial bad experiences with software. Ss may initially have access issues, which may impact negatively on motivation to participate in future attempts. For this reason, I believe that the implementation of technology should be well planned. Yet, with all the planning, there will always be hidden aspects, so with that specific plan, there needs to be an openness to the 'unexpected factor'. This is probably what Bax is calling for within his hope for more ethnographic research. Finding out what is happening, the attitudes toward the present situation, and the perceived direction that we and end users wish/need/have to take, in the process of learning.
Steven Mondy

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Warschauer & Meskill (2000)

After reading Warschauer & Meskill (2000), I'm left wondering how the 'IT' revolution is going to effect the whole teaching industry. I believe that even though we over estimate the impact of technology (take a simple Back to the Future movie), there are incredible advances in both what can be done with technology and with teaching behavior. Warschauer & Meskill discuss three phases of CALL (Behavioristic, Communicative and Integrative) as closely following not only technological advances, but also pedagogical ones.Teachers with a behavioristic bend who want drill practice, and translation (using concordance programs) can do so with programs that allow repetitive practice. The teacher that has a communicative style, will thrive on software that allows communication within the realm of real world experiences, such as what e-mail, chat and online conferencing can do. Then there's the integrative focus, which I see as the phase that promises to appeal to a greater variety of people, and be open to a greater variety of tools.
Ss today are part of a multi-tasking community, that requires the ability to manipulate many kinds of tools, for many purposes. Our Ss, as part of their everyday lives are required to communicate in both a synchronous and asynchronous way already. The tools are phones, computer networks, the internet... Which they manipulate with ease. Often these tools are used in tandem (or more)... Even at home, with simple online games, people are finding ways to connect, in ways that we could never have dreamed of before. (All the while, being able to handle various devices, at the same time).
Warschauer & Meskill discuss the quality of programs and how they may lack the pedagogical outcomes, because teachers lack the time and experience with these programs (leaving design of perfect systems up to commercial developers). Yet, I believe that potential lies within even the most basic program. All it takes is a little creativity to unleash the hidden capacity. A teacher with a desire to look outside the box, can create meaningful and authentic learning activities for Ss, with the tools that are already available. As for new technologies, they are being created in Beta form all the time.
I think that the Warschauer & Meskill article has become a little dated, in that it does not take into account the capacity of CMC in programs such as 'Second Life', where the computer technology has already enabled interactive communication within virtual worlds. I think the next phase will be 'Virtual'. People are already setting up schools ( in Second Life, where avatars make their way to virtual schools, using virtual money, to learn new languages. It is starting to seem a little like connectivity is the key to the new phase of CALL. This again, may be over-estimating the value of the technological advances. However, in the 90's (when I first came to Japan) who would have considered the ability to conference call, for free, on Skype, with a number of people. Even with this limited technology, Ss are able to break free and enter new domains in their learning. Teachers are able to provide new opportunities within the confines of existing technology. And what has made this possible is access to an unlimited source - the internet. Anyone can learn anything, at anytime, from anyone.
Teachers can lead this new revolution in conjunction with software makers (both commercial and freeware), and work collaboratively in developing new ways to use existing technology, and provide avenues for new development. Teachers are at the grass roots level, and are the ones to respond to reactions of students, within ever increasing domains. They are also the ones who can tweak existing programs, to suit real-life demands...
As Garrett (1991) states, the computer (internet) does not constitute the method, but a medium in which a variety of methods and approaches may be implemented. Teachers are the ones that implement the methods with the help of tools that are readily accessible. And as those tools develop and change, it becomes possible for them to tweak their methods in a careful balancing act, that enables better access and more learning opportunities.
Steven Mondy
Do I make any sense...?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Setting up costs

I believe that costs are a huge barrier to anyone setting up a site. In the past, programs went for thousands of dollars, but had only a limited capacity. These days, you can get programs free of charge, at the expense of a little privacy, that have amazing capabilities. Programs such as the one we are on now have become accessible, to anyone with a little knowledge of how they run, and where to find them. This has made it possible for anyone to put anything out there. The more reputable educational programs may be getting more expensive, but there are many people putting a lot of freeware out there and then asking for donations...if customers are satisfied.
If anyone can get anything for free (and there is a lot of legal freeware out there), then this opens up opportunities for individuals and groups to develop cheap, useful and easily accessible programs at a fraction of the cost.

Authentic Interaction

A couple of points I would like to hit on.
1. authentic interaction and
2. computer interaction.
Authentic and meaningful interaction...What is it? I believe that it would have something to do with purposeful action or actions that result in something being achieved or communicated. How authentic is any classroom activity, apart from transferring and receiving information. The only real world, truly authentic language task is outside in the real world on some kind of excursion. So, in CALL terms, what is really authentic and meaningful. A computer game would be. Internet shopping would be, too. However, when it comes to many activities (my blog included), how many are really categorized as meaninful and authentic. I tried one activity in a class once which used a Dawson's creek video to provide the subject matter for an online discussion board. The students were using technology to communicate their feelings to each other. The Ss were incredibly motivated, and eager to use the technology, because they wanted to discuss ideas...and the computer allowed them to do so. It wasn't without problems, however. It was limited by the technology itself (which was the program).

2. Computer interaction and human interaction... Would Ss really care? If the program was say, as interactive as say these role playing games...would students not have more fun, than sitting in a dull and boring audio-lingual class, or trudging through mindless grammar translation method or going through one of those thick TOEIC/TOEFL/IELTS preparation books... Food for thought...
Thanks for beginning this discussion....

More about using video

I was also thinking about using some aussie dramas...but when I watched a few I found them full of australian slang (blue heelers, etc...)... Actually I couldn't believe how much... Now from a sociolinguistics perspective (dialects, accents and world Englishes), it could be an interesting slant... but I know that I wouldn't hear the end of it with my pro-American school staff... and pro-American English Japan (not that it's bad or anything).
I guess that will have to wait for an Australian studies class...
I usually find that video in class, sends students to sleep, anyway... and when I start tacking on comprehension questions, I totally lose them. No, what I think needs to be done is to have some schema building before the video, as you've suggested, then just let them watch the program with English subtitles (L1 for the first episode), no expectations. Then after, give them a list of discussion questions on a chat board, and let them go. Of course, you have to establish the chat room etiquette and expectations. Let the students come up to you and ask questions...encourage students to respond to other students... I found that after a few episodes, the students were really getting into it. I guess the content was pitched at the right level, as my students are 18~20 year olds, and the drama was about relationships. That's another thing. I've found that the kind of video really does matter.
As for the chat room, an expectation I had was that they had to at least post one entry, and one response to someone.
As for learning outcomes, the two main goals were to write more and write better, and we talked as a class about how to do that.
My friend's Battlestar Galactica class was a creative writing class, that focussed on similar aims.
I will be trying it again our next semester (starting October here...)
I am actually on the lookout for new dramas that fit the bill. I am also looking for easier ways to set up a private chat room, that are easier to use than the google one... Anyone have any ideas???

Video in the classroom

I elected to do a drama like Dawson's Creek (however, the language in it probably goes beyond i + 1), because the episodes are around 30-40 minutes, but the story continues over a series, so students can develop connections to characters, and see the interrelationships between them. I used to watch Japanese dramas to study Japanese (Long Vacation was my favorite). Each episode was just long enough, or just short enough to keep me interested...
I have a friend using 'Battlestar Galactica' in the same way. I agree, with video, at least for teaching in the classroom, it should be kept short. However, when you do that, then you lose the integrity of the language in it's context, and therefore make it less authentic. And that's why I don't really like a lot of these language program skits...promoting video for language alone, and not including much of all the other stuff that comes with language in context.
As for video in the context of a web page, I believe that length doesn't really matter (within limits). Ss can elect whether to view a video, by watching the first few minutes, and if they don't like it, they will switch off. I think most video hosting sites in the beginning had time limits, but now they are allowing videos of greater length.
What do you think?

Different Online resources

ELLLO is a fantastic resource that I blatantly overuse (just look at my website). I try to put them under headings, like family, pets, places where we live... etc... (I have 10 themes, so far) in this way, the students can listen to a variety of people, discussing a variety of subjects.
I also make use of VOA, although I am sometimes skeptical about the value of the so called special English. However, I like to provide it, just in case it's useful. With VOA, I try to make lesson worksheets, that work on schema building, vocab, phrasal verbs, and comprehension activities. The thing that I try hard to also do with the VOA and some of the guided readers, is to make some online interactive cloze activities.
As you say, video is a great tool, and I haven't gotten too much into making lessons for video segments. I always find that students in Japan have a great need for the transcripts, and it is very hard to find video sites with full transcripts that are available, like the VOA site.
Unfortunately, one disadvantage with VOA is that it is American centric. It would be great to have a similar site for world Englishes.

Another great site for all those who are into Current Topics (which you probably all know already) is It provides lesson plans almost daily.

Computer Technology over the years

Computer technology seems to improve in leaps and bounds, but more importantly the internet has made what we can do with computers almost infinite. In the early 80's the focus was most likely on the inherent capabilities of the the computer, where computer access was available - in the classroom or a computer lab.
The internet has somewhat changed the way we use computers, and has had a significant impact on accessibility. Students no longer have to be tied down to specific areas, but can access from homes, cafes and anywhere there is an internet porthole. Students who may have been denied access to educational resources by distance, can now easily study in a variety of ways. Even in my own case, for many years I put off doing my masters because I believed that I didn't have the resources open to me in my area (Osaka), in the early 90's. Internet access changed that, and now I am able to study, because there is a wealth of knowledge and a variety of resources to help me. I can connect with a greater number of people and share ideas on a regular basis.
I see the developments in computer software making the computer an even more formidable force in education. In the beginning, people used basic software that allowed for interaction on a basic level. Software these days tends to be more interactive and encourages people to network. Programs such as Facebook, Sype, Yutube and Blogger allow people to make connections on many levels, and share ideas in various ways. People are communicating in a vastly different way than what they used to before (with just e-mail).
Ahmad, et al (1985) discusses the reluctance of the older generation to adopt new technologies, and the younger generation pushing the limits of what can be done with new technologies. There is a gap similar to the old generation-gap, that can no longer be avoided. Teachers cannot keep away from these new technologies, but should try to embrace them. Competence in the target subject and pedagogical skill alone is insufficient. and teachers need to now embrace computer competency, in order to bridge the ever increasing technological gap between generations. This is easier said than done. I for one, began embracing computer literacy, by forcing my way through reams of HTML code, only to get frustrated and search out easier alternatives. For me, the easy solution was with so called authoring languages (like cloze maker and packages (like blogger and iweb), that made life much easier, because the layout was fixed. But as my competence in using the packages increased, I started to feel my creativity become limited, which is one of the disadvantages posed by Ahmed, et al (1985).
Technology cannot replace the me the teacher, but I am aware of an ever increasing need to keep abreast of changes in my field, brought on by new technologies. With any change there will always be advantages and disadvantages for both the teacher and the learner. The computer, or more specifically advances in internet technology and the software that is made available for and on it will undoubtedly bring more change in the future. How we adapt to that change and how we incorporate it into our lives as learners and teachers may not always be smooth. However, instead of resisting the change, why not think of it more positively as a challenge...
Steven Mondy

How I started becoming interested in computers?

CALL - Computer Assisted Language Learning
Hello everyone.
I started becoming interested in computers when I first bought my Mac 4 years ago. Access to this powerful tool enabled me to start experimenting both on and off line. However, when I first came across a little program called 'Blogger' I really started to gain momentum, and the things that I could produce for both teachers and students expanded exponentially.
I started with simple ideas, such as using the blog function to communicate ideas to students. Then I got students involved through a project in my writing class. They need to contribute 50 words per week to a class blog.
Students at my school were initially hesitant. I often got responses such as, 'I don't have a computer' and 'I don't have internet access'. I thought about this and tried to encourage my school to provide more access time in the computer lab. This was the key to making this kind of blog enjoyable and available to all students. Now the biggest issue is trying to get them to edit their work sufficiently, before publication.
Another way that I use the internet is as a central hub for ESL and EFL materials...where I provide information and lessons for both teachers to use and students to access as supplementary or class related assignment. Some students make use of this resource, and I would like to investigate ways in which I can make the material more accessible to a greater number of people. One thing that I have found, is that language can be quite a hurdle for many, and the idea of visiting a site only in the target language, can be quite daunting. For this reason, I am playing with the idea of a bilingual site, or something that can be accessed in a number of languages. This is quite a large endeavor that will take a little time.
Recently, I have added more things to my site, including videos from Yutube, a great resource and very easy to embed. I would like to also investigate new ways to use video, and even incorporating web discussions using programs such as Sype, to promote regular networking and study groups.
There is so much I still want to do, which I will do one step at a time. If you get the chance, please visit my website at:
Until next time...Ciao Steven smile

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mainstream Education (With foreign Language Teaching)

Today, I would like to discuss the idea of 'drip feeding' within mainstream education (Baker 2006), as it relates to what happens here (Japan) in Junior high schools and senior high. Unfortunately, here in Japan the focus is on English as a language, and not English as a byproduct of studying some kind of content.
Baker gives the example of 1/2 an hour language teaching per day for 5-12 year of education, not/rarely producing functionally bilingual children. I guess the situation in Japan with English language instruction is even worse, as mainstream schools only devote 1 hour per week to English instruction as a subject, which if you go with Baker's example, will mean even worse results.
Looking at it from a subjective standpoint, I can agree that many of the high school graduates leaving senior high are not competent in their communicative competence, but their academic literacy is quite high. The drip feeding in this kind of situation has given these students (over a 6 year period) a strong foundation in passive receptive forms, but has not enabled them to develop an ability to speak up.
Many Ss seem to come out of this kind of English language exposure, not confident speakers, and either having a desire to improve their ability (which explains the popularity in English language schools here) or negative about the whole experience because they have spent so long trying to learn, but are still are not competent.
There is a whole mentality here in Japan, that people can take one 60 min. lesson, once a week, without doing any homework, and still being able to improve one's language ability. I had thought that an answer would be to have shorter and more frequent lessons, which would help consolidate and keep the language fresh and alive in Ss heads, would be an answer...but it seems that it may be in vain (may not improve)...
I still believe that regular lessons in English for majority language Ss will improve competence in a foreign language, and may be the thing that Japanese schools need to improve their Ss English ability, especially with having stronger feelings of success in their learning.
Even at my school (a mixture of EFL language school and immersion type classes), we have tried to increase the number of English content based lessons (shorter time), and our focus has been on reading (input) and writing (output), and in the initial stages, we are having some success. Ss are tending to think in English more, I mean on a constant basis. English is more a part of their lives, and they are being required to use it on meaningful tasks, such as blogs to communicate ideas about content.
Does anyone out there have any positive or negative experiences with a drip feeding type of situation (language taught through minority language for a limited time, as a subject like Math or Science)?
Steven Mondy

Dual Immersion

Hi there everyone,
Today I did quite a bit of reading out of Baker (2006) on different types of bilingual programs. I have to say that the number of different programs really amazed me, but what was even more interesting was the aims or goals behind each of them.
I kinda think that if we hold on to the idea of static maintenance, we are doing the students a great dis-service. We need to actively promote the development of linguistic diversity and cultural pluralism, if we want our students to take full advantage of all that they can be, linguistically, and socially. That is why I tend to favor 'dual immersion', in that languages are allowed to flourish along side each other and with various enrichment programs that help to support the child's experiences in language.
I did a quick search on Youtube under 'immersion education' and discovered a promotional video for a dual immersion school.
You can find it in a search on Youtube under 'Flowery Dual Immersion (part 1 & 2) I think the link is as follows...
It's kinda a promotional video for the school, but it covers many of the ideas that I read in Baker(2006), to do with immersion programs. Actually, it was great to see how a program actually works, as I am not involved in Bilingual education as such, here in Japan (more EFL SL learning).
I was particularly interested in the breakdown of percentages over the years of primary education. They start with 90/10 (Spanish/English) in kindergarten, but end with 50/50 in year 6. They introduce English literacy in the third grade (as with many of the articles I've read), and support with enrichment programs.
I am guessing that Spanish and English are languages that support each other (ie; more similar), but I wonder how a Japanese-English program might work, where the languages are very different in form.
Not only that, but Japanese seems to come from a very high~context culture (people tend to pick up clues from their surroundings and less is explained through words) and English low-context (tend to speak more). Would this provide added challenges?
In addition, the learning of Kanji (Chinese characters) may make the above percentages change, as the Japanese writing system is quite time intensive compared to English, at least initially.
Please watch the Youtube video, and tell me what you think...
Steven Mondy

Baker(2006), Foundations in Bilingual education and Bilingualism
Wikipedia, High context Culture,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Language Maintenance vs. Total Immersion

Hello everyone,
It's been a long time. Sorry for the long absence from the board. I hope everyone is well. I'll try and get back into writing mode by discussing the issue of teaching in the home-language vs. putting kids into classrooms that are run in their L2.
Most of the literature that I have come across seems to favor the initial teaching of children through their first language, then either through some transitional phase move to the second language or concentrate on L1 maintenance; either Static: prevent loss or Developmental: goal proficiency in home language (Otheguy & Otto 1980, The myth of static maintenance in bilingual education). The basic argument is that children who can develop cognitive competence through their first language can utilize their understandings in their learning of a second language. Learning through a first language helps build not only linguistic ability, but also helps to foster psychological factors such as motivation and openness toward learning (affective factors). Critics seem to suggest that concentrating on a first language (that is different to the main language of the surrounding environment) will take up time needed for learning of the main language, and that the home language will compete with the development of the main language.
That seems more like a fear of foreign languages than a logical argument against them. I believe that having more than one language can only increase learning opportunities that are non-existent in mono-cultural/monolingual environments.
In addition, part of learning language is about feeling a need to learn it, and developing that desire. When you drop a child ‘cold turkey’ into a foreign language environment, I think you create a substantial amount of stress for that child. Children will be forced to sit through classes that are completely incomprehensible, and somehow by some kind of Osmosis of language learning (Levenson, 1972, The language experience approach for teaching beginning reading in bilingual education programs), children will pick up a language. It doesn't work...!
According to Krashen (2006, Digest Vol.22 Issue 9)
“Research in first- and second-language acquisition has shown us that we acquire language when we understand what we hear and read, not when we don't…English learners will be forced to sit through several hours a day of incomprehensible instruction. This is a waste of time and money - and a cause of needless frustration for children eager to learn English.”
I would think that in doing so, children would start becoming more defensive. Also because their base language is being de-valorized so much, it may even cause confusion and resentment toward the new language and culture. Legislation, such as article 227 has the potential to alienate, rather than help Ss. I think that it is important to make individuals feel a sense of value for the stuff that they have already learned. We need to provide an environment that facilitates the gradual integration of the new language and that supports both by providing recognition and acceptance of all home languages. Providing such support need not be costly or time-consuming. It would however take individuals who are attuned to the value of a multi-lingual/cultural environment.
Steven Mondy

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bilingual and Monolinguals

You know, I think the biggest mistake any of us make is trying to compare apples and oranges. Many people try to compare their language abilities with monolingual standards. Yes, bilinguals may have less vocab (in each specific lang., but more in both) , different pronunciation (not that pronunciation means anything if communication is achieved), and interference (well, this goes to the degree of control). But, they also have a capacity deal with situations that exceed anything a monolingual can cope. Unfortunately, bilinguals are not accepted for what they can do, but are judged by what they can't. This is done by everyone, even bilinguals themselves. "I am not good enough." I always here my students say... Can you ever be? We often set unrealistic, or unachievable standards, and compare ourselves to what we believe is right. Can we communicate? Is our communicative ability making it difficult to get our message across? Even if we have those difficulties that you say, does it mean that you are any less capable than a monolingual?

Which would I prefer? Of course, I would like to have complete control and a high degree of proficiency! However, recently I have come to notice...
1. Monolinguals don't always have complete control themselves (George Bush a case in point)
2. Bilinguals who are put into a situation of having to use their weaker language, often have to contend with everyone judging them (using unrealistic standards). Why does a bilingual have to be letter perfect, all the time?
3. My fellow Japanese/English speaking (Japanese dominant) coworkers seem to feel that they have to be perfect English speakers around other English speaking coworkers (including pronunciation). However, their level of English almost always surpasses my Japanese ability, yet they feel like they are deficient in some way. I am always in awe at the level of discussion (in English) they are able to participate in.
4. With my own limited bilingualism (closer to the incipient, than the balanced) I am constantly doubting myself and my ability. Yet, I can always go out into Japanese cities, and I can deal with a multitude of different experiences/domains. I know there will always be someone trying to knock down my ability, by saying my Japanese is not good enough (including myself). But, at my work (YMCA) we have a saying that I also like to live by, and that is, "Yes, I can."

It seems that the ideal is to speak both languages like you are a monolingual in both, but in reality I think that most bilinguals are more than the sum of two monolinguals (I think that was in Baker, 2000)...and are likely to be more effective than monolinguals in some domains, and less effective in others...
I certainly think of bilinguals differently now. I try to see what they can do, instead of what they can't.
What do you think?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Are Bilingual's More Intelligent?

A classmate's post got me thinking about the brain, and its capacity to deal with situations. Considering language and all its complexity, and the differences between languages, I would say that our brains have quite a job to sort it all out. I haven't read too much about the differences in the physiological make up of the brain, and the similarities or differences between the brain of the monolingual, and that of the bilingual individual, but I would imagine that bilinguals develop greater neural pathways (can anyone help me support that), in the brain. If this is the case, then more pathways means greater chance of mental flexibility and better conceptualizations. I have to try and read up on this and find support for this idea, however.
For the person learning a second language therefore, they go through the process of creating new or stronger pathways, that are able to link between ideas already established in their L1 and new concepts in the new language. Having these strong links, and ability to access paradigms outside just one language conceptualizations, makes it possible for the individual to think more 'outside the box.' Even if this doesn't make them more intelligent, it at least makes them more creative... What say you?
Steven Mondy