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.

Monday, April 26, 2010


 That mouthful is the title of a course I started to take last week--it's an internal AU course being offered by George Siemens a leading expert in the field. it's totally online so that we are practicing what we preach. Last week, Week 1, was an introducation to some learning theory through the following readings: 
What is Connectivism? : A short overview of different theories of learning
The Unique Idea in Connectivism: Title sums it up - a comparison of theories of learning.
There was an Elluminate session to get us all up to speed with that technology and to help set the scene for the next seven weeks. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

TESOL 2010

It was a month ago I was there. It was an energising experience largely because the webheads are such a fantastic group. The conference itself was over 7,000 people, so there is no single event that brings people together the way we have with either ATESL or TESL Canada conferences. In this huge conference, it is really nice to have a "home" to go to. "Home" is the Electronic Village; it hosts various displays of technology--hardware and software--with a lot a show and tell exhibits; it is also the place where the webheads from around the world meet up. I volunteered for two hours at the EV, and it was great to meet up with some old friends I had met in Seattle three years ago and also meet others that I had only met online before. The best way to give you a flavour for the experience is to direct you to the blog, Webheads in Action (WIA) in Boston, in  that many of us participated in as a way to record and reflect on our experiences--the professional and the social.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Below is an e-mail I received from Bill Zimmerman, Creator, 
"If you could not attend my workshop on Creating Comic Strips Online to Encourage Writing, Reading and Storytelling at the TESOL Boston 2010 conference you can find a handout on my website that lists 21 ways to use in the classroom. Go to:
Some examples:
.At the beginning of each new school year have students create a comic strip online talking about themselves and their families or summarizing the most important things about their lives.  These then can be read aloud.
.Have students create a comic strip story using new vocabulary words that are being taught.  Or have them create a comic based on a book they are reading.
.Create comic strips in which students can practice such real-life, practical scenarios such as looking for a job or dealing with a school bully.
On the home page you can click on a demo to show how the site works. And click on the Teacher Resources button for a video of ESL students at City College in New York talking about how creating online comics helps them learn English.
I hope you will try the free educational comics website with both younger and older students to help them improve their English and literacy skills. MakeBeliefsComix allows users to create their own comic strips online; it offer 80 fun characters with different emotions, blank talk and thought balloons to fill in with words, story prompts and printables. Google and UNESCO selected MakeBeliefsComix as one the world's most innovative sites to encourage literacy and reading. It is now being used by educators in 180 countries to teach English and other languages. Your feedback and suggestions are very welcome."

Friday, February 26, 2010


This is the official badge one gets for completing the BAW workshop. After the amount of work I put into these past few weeks, I feel proud of myself for having completed the course. But "completed" may be the wrong word--there is just so much technology out there, that I continue to think that I barely scratched the surface of what's available. I'll clearly have to go back for more; I hope to see others there in the future. Finally, here's a cartoon-video that one of the participants from Russia produced about getting involved with BAW10:


That's always a word that catches the eye! One of the other participants in BAW10 sent this link to free educational resources. It looks like there are many interesting possibilities here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I'm excited that an all-staff announcement went out today about a series of workshops entitled Teaching in Social Networks--Online Workshop; it will be facilitated by George Siemens who is currently on staff at AU. The main goal is to get us using the AU Social Networking site called Athabasca Landing. It's an update of the me2u site that I am currently using for reflective blogging in my one course. This is the type of workshop I have been wanting the university to set up for some time. The faculty in the Centre for Distance Education have been doing all sorts of neat things--they teach in a largely synchronous environment--and I want them to show more clearly what those of us toiling in the UG program with asynschronous delivery can achieve.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


 An interesting tool I explored for speaking/listening exercises/quizzes is lingt. It allows the instructor to develop questions very easily--in fact it seemed too easy. After students submit their answers, the instructor  can go back in to the site and not only mark the exercise but provide oral feedback, too. I made a short sample exercise to explore the technology. It's one of the tools that I certainly intend to look at more closely; it seems to be a lot easier than many of the competitors out there. If you do the exercise, I will receive an e-mail allowing me to see how you did;-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Voxopop is another system to allow for recordings. I found it quite easy to use, and I can see using it in situation similar to other types of podcasting. I made a recording as part of the Week 4 tasks--it's all about how I appreciate the help and support offered through the BAW group. There are certainly other applications possible with this technology--if you access the site you can see that people are using it to put opinions out there and solicit voice responses from others.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Somewhere along the way, I forgot about the various systems for meeting with students online--it's been a very busy workshop, and I'll have to get to some of the resources after the course has finished. Two of the more common ways to meet with students online are skype and yahoo messenger. Both of these can be configured to work with groups--I did participate in some group discussions and chats using both of these systems. I have also used them both to talk individually with students around the world.

Something I was not as familiar with was a virtual classroom. The one I explored as part of this course was Tapped In: I have actually set up an office on this site, but I haven't done anything else so far; however, from what I understand, one can set it up in the same way one sets up a physical office--resources, meet with students--and also set up a classroom. The last time I went to the site (it's free), someone offered to help me with the technology and set up a classroom, but at the time, I was more interested in just exploring the site and trying to visualize the potential. I did have a quick tour of the site--tours are offered. Check the notice board in the reception room for details!


I think many of us have probably used podcasts in our teaching, but we generally use podcasts that others have developed. For instance, I'm particularly fond of some of the CBC podcasts. However, we can develop our own podcasts; ten years ago we used to use tape recorders for a variety of listening exercises. I don't know about you, but my tape deck no longer works;-) In this day and age, podcasting is the way to go. Three years ago I made a podcast as part of the Blogging4Beginners course I took through evo, and I embedded it in the sidebar of one of my class blogs as a way to introduce myself to students:
Currently, I'm planning to deliver the listening materials associated with one of my courses through podcasting and replace the CDs that currently go out to students. I'm just waiting for the last publisher to give me permission ...
I used podomatic last time around, but there are a number of recommended podcasting systems:


I've never paid as much attention to wikis as I have to blogs. In part that's because I'm always looking for a way to actually use the technology in my own teaching. Because of the totally asynchronous nature of AU courses, I've had difficulty seeing the applicability. I've also noticed that when it comes to using wikis, most of us prefer to write comments than actually change or add to something someone else has written.

Nevertheless, as part of the Becoming a Webhead course, I decided I had to develop a wiki. I gave it a title as though I were going to use it with one of my classes. I put two exercises there and linked to the wiki tutorial that comes with pbwiki. One of the exercises is designed to try to show students the way to actually use a wiki--they are required to add information.

There are also some other recommended wiki hosting sites:
It would be good to hear from someone who has more experience of developing wikis.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I'm having a hard time keeping up with the schedule for this workshop; luckily I already have some familiarity with the topics this week--blogs, wikis, and podcasts. I did develop my own experimental wiki with pbwiki, but I haven't looked at podcasting since I made one three years ago and embedded it in one of my blogs.
This particular blog is hosted by blogger (the one I'm most familiar with), but there are a number of other popular hosting sites:
You may like to try these blogging services
However, I have found myself exploring a variety of other blogs this week; we have a visiting scholar from China, and she is interested in developing a blog of her adventures in Canada. it's a blog she wants to share with the people she's meeting in Canada and with family, friends and colleagues back in China. As she's an EFL specialist, I'm her unofficial mentor. We tried Blogger, but we soon realized that was blocked in China. Then we tried WordPress (a new venture for me); that was also blocked. We finally found a platform that is based in China: I couldn't help much with that, but with a few instructions, I was able to leave a comment. I have permission to share the actual blog. If you want toleave a comment, the green button is "publish", the word verification is straight forward, and the box above the post is for your name (not a title as I originally thought).

One of the really good things about the evo courses is that even if you don't have the time to do everything during the timeframe of the course, the resources are always there for exploration at a later date--we all tend to think we'll have more time at some hypothetical date in the future!

Friday, January 22, 2010


That was the title of the AU sponsored full-day workshop that I attended yesterday. The main focus was on Second Life, but at first, virtual worlds were put into a general academic perspective, and there was some history of their development, history, and their current popularity.

A demonstration of the AU island was particularly interesting. Visitors to the site can tour the campus in a variety of ways including a zipline. They can get course and program information, and they can even access the forms necessary to register. However, I had to note that there was a real disconnect between this futuristic model and the reality of our teaching situation. If any student were to register through SL, I think that student would be in for a shock when the course materials arrive in the mail.

In a later part of the workshop we looked at some of the applications of SL in academia. There was a lot of info about bots being used in Health Care areas; at AU, SL is being used within Business and Psychology. Applications to language learning were discussed, but the presenters had limited themselves to academic research on the subject rather than actual usages. I'm hoping that Jody can respond and give some good examples of SL being used to enhance language learning situations.

What was impressive was that the work done of the site to date has been done largely on a volunteer basis by a few interested people. And that led to a discussion about the real life costs involved in building a teaching environment in SL and maintaining it--first life realities impinging on our futuristic vision. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

BAW week 1

The first week of the Becoming a Webhead course was very busy. It's amazing how these courses bring together people with similar interests from around the world. The first week was busy with introductions on a wiki--there are nearly 200 particpants from 54 different countries. We were getting used to the blog and wiki tools associated with this course and doing some readings to prepare us for a "chat". The chat took place in
Tapped In--this is a resource that I wasn't previously familiar with. It proved easy to login, set up, and use, and the chat provided a quick tour of the site. One of the interesting features is that you can set up your own room/office on the site, and others (students) can visit you in the room. So there I was, 7 AM my time, chatting with over 30 people from many different countries. It's not that Tapped In provides different resources from other possible sites, but it's interesting to explore the various possibilities and see which ones seem most useful/friendly  from a personal perspective, and what can be used or adapted for our own teaching situations.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Here's the promised blog for those in the sig to share our interests, experiences and ideas. I hope it will also prove to be a training ground for those of you who are interested in learning how to blog and how blogging can be used to enhance the learning experience for our students.
Comment on this post, and I will send you an invitation to be a co-author on the blog. That way you can publish your own posts. In the sidebar, choose to become a "follower"; that way, we can see who is involved and interested.
If you have questions about how to proceed, again, do so here, and I, or someone else, will try to help.
Happy Blogging!