Monday, April 26, 2010

Final Reflection

I have always thought computers were useful. When I was 11 and 12, I went to computer sleep away camp. I said it--computer sleep away camp, also known as "geek camp." I played soccer with my counselors from Trinidad at night and learned how to program in BASIC and played with Midi systems during the day. As geeky as it was, it made using computers in high school much less intimidating. It also made me more willing to sign up for jobs that involved some basic level of computer skills as I got older. Geek camp lead me to apply to be trained to be a faculty technology worker at my first university. I mostly plugged in cables and taught older instructors how to turn the LCD project "ON" instead of "OFF," but it gave me a taste of how fast technology would change in the future and caused me to stay at least aware of what was going on in the tech world.

Considering how far computers have come over the past 20 years, the idea that I ever learned BASIC is funny now, but my simple understanding of how computer languages work has made me less fearful of HTML. My ability to at least comprehend HTML lead me to my current position. In a lot of ways, I feel the same about this class. Second Life will grow and change, and may someday go away completely. It may be replaced with something more revolutionary and cutting edge, and this new thing will seem inaccessible to anyone who is unfamiliar with Second Life. Classes like CALL keep me literate both in things that I find interesting and things that I find annoying. No employer will care what my personal opinion of Wikis is in the future, but they will care that I can sit down and build one so that students and/or instructors can communicate. Truthfully, if I am still working in ESL in 10 years, I will probably seek out another class like this to update me on the things that I missed in my world. I know I missed Delicious, Voicethreads, and blogs the first time around. My career is just starting and I have no clue where it will lead me, but I know that computers, like them or not, will always be involved, so I am grateful for any chance I get to learn more.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We shall call it BLOG

After viewing several CALL presentations on Tuesday, I was struck by something that I had not thought about including in my CALL top 10 list--the blog. It seems so simple, and perhaps because it is the tool I use the most, I never even thought to include it in my language toolbox or my top 10 list. I have found in both this class and in Materials that blogging is an excellent way to research and muse on ideas, turn in assignments, explore new topics, and express myself as a person. After all, a paper that a student hands in can only have so many options--the font type, size, spacing, color of the paper. With blogging, I was able to include pictures, play with the background and font colors, include a graphic, and embed audio and video. After my experience, I feel like a blog is a good way to allow students to express themselves in a more universal way through visuals while they are still learning how to express themselves through their words. It is also a more efficient way to keep writing assignments collected so that students can go back and see for themselves how much they have improved over a semester. If students are in the US for the summer or a semester to learn English, the blog could serve as a way to share with friends and family what they are doing. It is also an easily accessible record of their academic time in the United States, and might be a free way that programs can "give" students something to remember their time. All in all, it is a great CALL tool, probably the one that I will use the most in future classroom settings.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Second Life

After much giggling and turning my nose up at it, I think I'm starting to see how Second Life could be a useful tool. Much like video chatting, this could be a good way for students to interact. Both SL and video conferencing tools allow people to come together in an authentic manner and use language, but SL appears to have several advantages. I could definitely see SL working for students in isolated situations, including English as a Foreign Language settings. By creating a virtual space for students to meet, English Language Learners can meet and participate in activities that will give them something to talk about. One of the biggest problems I've experienced with conversation partners is a lack of things to talk about, but with SL, ELLs can "visit" different "places"--ie, the Eiffel Tower, Tikal, Rome, etc.--and talk about those particular things. Students can "friend" each other, which means that if they set a time and a meeting location, they can avoid having to find new people to talk to each time they sign on. There are many strange things about SL, but it does appear that this is a good medium for learning English.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Video Conferencing Tools

Using a video conferencing tools in a language classroom could have many useful applications. One possible application might be having students do group work outside of the classroom. Many students in ESL classes who have been in the United States for awhile work odd hours and/or have transportation problems. Teaching students how to use video conferencing tools might make arranging time for group work easier. Another interesting possibility might be doing a conversation exchanges with students studying English in EFL settings, making "video" pals. Also, instructors who are amenable to having students contact them outside of the classroom could use video tools when students are working on a large project and have questions. If the instructor was online, asking questions via video chat may clear up more in 2 minutes of chat time than a back and forth via email that could take significantly longer. One way that Meebo would be a good choice for this last option would be that the application allows you to sign into more than one account simultaneously. Why is this important? Instructors who have multiple IDs in email programs like gmail (one for professional use and one for personal use) could be signed into multiple accounts at the same time.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


As this article describes e-Journaling, it seems more like email between the study participants and researchers to get general feedback on the participants frustrations and successes with the study. While this was a rather ingenious way for the researchers to receive feedback, a major drawback is that students were not able to look at each others correspondence. The most learner-centered and time-efficient way that I could envision working this process in an ESL setting is through blogging. Blogging has several advantages—respondents can leave immediate feedback, students can look at each others blogs and see what types of issues/successes they have been having, and it is an easy way for instructors to gather student work in a clean fashion (easy-to-read layout and no pen and paper mess). Blogging has few disadvantages, but there is a learning curve associated with learning how to use the technology. Blogging on one topic could lead students to find and create content for a larger assignment, like a final paper or ideas for a larger final project. Could this be used as a way of “e-brainstorming”? Also, blogs can be a way for students to “create” something that they can share with friends and family both here and abroad to showcase what they have been doing!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wikis--a source of good or evil?

First a personal note: when I am researching a topic on the internet and stumble across a wiki-site that was obviously done for a class, I find student created wikis to be fun to look at for about 6 seconds before I close it and look for something more reliable. I find that wikis that are open to the public and were not put together by a tech-saavy person to be clutter on the internet. Is this harsh? Possibly, but it is a personal thing--I would rather find a good link to an academic (or reliable) article or data source than find a wiki that quotes this data source and have to mine the wiki to find the link. I also really dislike having to work in not astheticaly-pleasing online resources, like wikis created by people like me with limited tech experience, that have my name on them for all the world to see.

My personal opinions aside, I found these articles interesting. The annoyance and the bitterness displayed for wikis in the Klunder article is nicely juxtaposed by the great writing experience in the Krueger blog. I did ask myself if the annoyance at wikis displayed in the Klunder article came more from poor teaching strategies. Did the instructor spend enough time introducing wikis and having students work on a small collaborative project before introducing the larger assignment? It doesn't appear so. Was it really necessary to use a wiki to prove that all students were contributing equally? Maybe, but I question this because because when students can sit down and physically talk to each other, is it really necessary to write collaborative papers? Although students in the Klueger blog also did not appear to have a lot of training, it seemed that the distance learning format of the course might have made wikis more from the students' lack of ability to sit down and talk together. The key to his success may have been that the wikis literally provided a space for the community to happen, and students were eager participants.

Given these two scenarios, perhaps it is best to state that we, as instructors, should consider both the good and bad aspects of using a wiki.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

LING487 CALL Final Project Proposal

LING487 CALL Final Project

A collaborative group effort between Jessina Branyan and Christina Indovina.

1. The CALL tool you'll be using

We will be using the free written American English online corpora for guiding students through concordance searches.

2. The purpose of the instructional activity

The activity would be designed for students to "discover" in groups how to correct their problem areas concerning use of prepositions and articles.

3. The intended audience of the instructional activity

Advanced ESL academic students of reading/writing class. We envision this activity taking place after students' first draft of their paper has been returned.

4. A brief description of the activity/lesson itself

-Receive feedback about their "problem" areas--preposition and article usage being the two areas that we are having the students focus on

-First individually and then in groups, students will use the concordance generator to tease out the subtler uses of their focus area.

-Students work in their groups to peer teach what they have learned to the rest of the class by giving a mini-presentation.

5. A brief explanation of how the CALL tool or interface enhances language acquisition in this activity

In the context that we will be using it, the concordance generator will serve as a conciousness-raising tool. As students use the generator to find patterns, they will also be reading authentic material that will repeatedly expose them to the many different ways that articles and prepositions are used in writing. Because concordance generators are free and readily accessible on the internet, we are also hopeful that this activity will demonstrate to students how they are able to independently use the tool when they have future grammar questions.

6. Links to any online sites you think you'll be using

Free spoken American English online corpora: