Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ATESL 2011

I'm still trying to get more people involved in blogging; there are so many good reasons both pedagogically in our teaching situations and also personally as we reflect on our craft and as we continue to learn and grow.

This time around, I'm going back to the basics with a presentation/workshop called The ABCs of Blogging. I recall the knowledge gap that was there when I first went to presentations about blogging--only six years ago! I was intrigued and excited about the possibilities, but I didn't know how to start. I'm not a technoology buff; there has to be a sound reason for me wanting to adopt the technology before I will look at it. I also have to have some confidence in the process.

For me, it was a course called Blogging4Beginners offered through the Electronic Village Online that got me started. It went through the whole process, and I, along with about 250 people worldwide learned how to use blogging in language teaching. Some of those people are still friends. The course provided me with the knowledge and confidence I needed to move forward. I have been using blogs with my own students for almost five years now.

I have also tried to develop a community of practice here in Alberta for practitioners to explore blogging, hone their skills, and reflect on their learning and practice. So far, there has been limited success. Hence the reason for this workshop--we, the people in the workshop, will develop a blog during the workshop. I hope this will give the participants ownership of the blog and provide the incentive to continue using it. I will ask for e-mail addresses, and I will add these participants to the list of "administrators".

Now all that will be left is for me to reflect on the success, or otherwise, of this latest attempt.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Where did the time go? I'm feeling a certain guilt because I haven't blogged for so long. However, conference season is upon us once again, so it's time for more presentations.
I'm very fortunate to be heading off to TESOL again this year, and I'm even more fortunate that it's in New Orleans--a city I'm really looking forward to seeing. I'm making a presentation at the Electronic Village: When is a blog not a blog. It's all about the blogging I do on the courses that I coordinate that don't follow typical blog format--they allow students to practice exercises that will help them to master certain skills associated with grammar vocabulary, writing and grammar. This is a low-key show and tell type of presentation--I will sit at my computer and a small audience--if anyone is interested--will gather around.
The other presentation is for TESL Canada and another nice venue. My only previous experience of Halifax was being lost around midnight and trying to find a cheap motel. All we could find was a 24-hour Tim Hortons and a helpful server who provided food (hadn't eaten since lunch time) and pointed us in the right direction for a motel. I should have done a commercial for them with that story.  I'm hoping to see more this time around. The presentation I'm doing for that conference is about reflective journalling; this is something I've been experimenting with on a couple of courses, and I'm pleased with the way its going.
I hope to see some of you in one or both of these interesting venues.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The presentation is ready--I've linked the presentation  to the ATESL CALL sig wiki.

It proved harder to pull together than I expected--there's so much overlap of concepts and artefacts. For a presentation, it's nice to be able to present something that's clear cut, well organized. The reality is that the PLE concept is only five years old, and our PLEs are in a continual state of flux. There's always something new around the corner!

My hope is that putting this presentation on the wiki will encourage others to add to the information and the resources listed. Some commentary on the usefulness of some of the tools would be interesting--a form of annotation.

The idea behind a PLE is that the network is greater than the sum of its parts--we are that network, and together we know more and can think of more that we can as individuals. So let's put that principle into practice and see where we can go.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


By a strange coincidence, there is a MOOC on now that is all about Personal Learning Environments and Network Knowledge. MOOC means Massive Open Online Course, and there are over 1,500 people from around the world taking this course, and it's all free. It's a Canadian organized event and is about learning in general, not just language learning, but of course the concepts as they apply to language learning and teaching are just a subset of the total. It's rather overwhelming to have so much information flowing around one as people respond to the readings with blog posts, discussion forums, twitter, meetings in SL--you name it, they're doing it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Debra Hoven and I have submitted a joint proposal for the ATESL 2010 conference--it's about PLEs (personal learning environments). Most specifically, we plan to look at the PLEs we use for keeping up-to-date within ESL and TESL. I certainly hope to promote the ATESL CALL-sig along the way;-)

Monday, June 7, 2010


Those initials stand for Canadian Network for Innovation in Education; this conference was held in Saint John, NB, this year. It's not geared towards language learning or ESL specifically; the focus, using technology within education has a wider interest. It's an interesting conference because although the focus is technology, the information is presented in ways that allow anyone with a general  interest in the subject to understand the sessions. Usually, presenters highlight the way in which they are using a particular application in their own practice. The first keynote speech (Daniel Peraya) summed up a lot of this for me with talk of the inherent conflict (at least for many of us) between  technical knowledge and ability and how to teach with technology. Within this conflict the role of the teacher usually changes from the traditional one--often we end up as co-investigators with our students.

Other important points made were the technology does modify teacher behaviour, it does have an impact on our students, and the teacher is usually part of a team that helps to bring the technology to the teaching situation. As with any teaching, however, it was reiterated that we need to participate in reflective behaviour--what works in our particular situations and why? And just as importantly, what doesn't work for us or what could we do better? Finally the point was made that most of us need training in order to embrace the technology that is out there.

Some of these points came up again in a presentation by Albert Johnson  entitled Students' Perception of Effective Teaching in Higher Education. Johnson used a survey to compare important characteristics in face-to-face teaching and distance education. It was interesting that although the characteristics remained constant (repectful, responsive, approachable, communicative, organized, engaging, professional, and humorous), the order varied. For distance education, all of the other characteristics were dependent on and related to responsiveness.

We have all heard of Prensky's concept of digital immigrants and digital natives, so it was interesting--and somewhat of a relief--that reseachers in BC (BCIT), Regina, and Catalonia found that this digital stereotyping didn't hold.. The important thing for students was what they used technology for--if it was mainly social usage as opposed to academic usage then the students were not as adept at using it.

In case anyone is interested, next year's conference will be at McMaster University.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jody is now a co-pilot

Although I've been co-author for a while, I've only been a lurker I suppose - too many eggs in too many baskets.

Well perhaps I'll post a video I re-visited recently as I've been thinking about grammar teaching quite a bit lately, especially the FonF and focus on forms discussion. Here's Scott Thornbury - I think he sums things up nicely from some general perspectives. If you can find the time this one is well worth it.