Welcome to the EUROCALL 2007 Virtual Strand Blog Site

Saturday, 8 September 2007

The end is near...

Well, folks. We are drawing close to the end of the conference. It has been a great event, it has been exciting to hear about what people are doing, to see what is "hot" and what is not :)

This is however not the end of the virtual element of the conference. We will keep the blog alive and hope to see many of you posting your impressions on the topics in the coming weeks. Either after having been in Coleraine in person or attending the events at a distance.

Take care and do keep the discussion going! See you next year in Székesfehérvár!

Peppi & Lesley

Co-operative Audiovisual Comprehension

Language teachers and learners need to be ready to use online video in a pedagogically-sound way for developing comprehensible input and output in our language classes.

Following the Web 2.0 philosophy here is the Powerpoint of my Paper presentation at this conference so everybody (delegates and virtual participants) can view it and leave some comments.

Impressions, aspirations and thoughts from the panel discussion

As you will all be watching the panel discussion either in real time or later on as an archive, I thought I will post more ad hoc impressions rather than document what is being said. Do join in at some point or another.

Bernd's point about a new era is definitely true. The somewhat random surfing for information is a fad from the past, technology enhanced learning is more about joint knowledge construction and use of the various media for a purpose.

I definitely agree with Gràinne in that our big challenge at the moment is two-fold: to do methodological explorations to find, develop and come up with new/combined methodologies that will be better suited for our research in our current complex settings. We also need to do serious development in the approach to designs for learning so that they would be manageable but at the same time incorporate a variety of multimodal learning affordances.

Uschi said the word that is the key in all learning: learning has to be meaningful for the learners.

This was a VERY good panel discussion! I am leaving so much of the essence out that you'll simply have to watch the recording if you haven't already done so!

Uschi Felix's plenary

This is an important post! It records Uschi Felix's announcement that she is retiring after this presentation and has chosen to make her last appearance at EuroCALL. She does not believe in speaking if you have nothing left to say!

So, the streamed/archive of this presentation is something you really need to see.

Peppi is going to add another comment about the presentation, but I wanted to say a big thank you to Uschi for raising the profile of the use of technology in learning and for being a good friend.

Thank you Uschi.

Now to listen to the presentation and to anticipate the koalas...

Friday, 7 September 2007

The Wednesday Gala Dinner

The magnificent sunset

Delegates enjoying the last rays of the sun on the terrace

The treat
We had a great night in perfect surroundings, didn't we!
I would have liked to upload a few pictures of the magnificent Altnaveigh House Band and the lady dancer, but usually it is a copyright issue with performing artists, and I don't want to violate their copyright. :-)
But they were amazing!

Speed Bumps for Authentic Listening Materials

Marty Meinardi, from the Dublin Institute of Technology, talked about a very important issue, namely the [English] language learners' difficulties in finding a match between the sound they hear and the words they know. When native speakers of English speak very fast, the speech becomes messy, and this makes understanding difficult for the learners Special attention should be paid to this in teaching.
Marty quoted Swan, who has written that "if students are exposed only to scripted material, they will learn an impoverished version of the language, and will find it hard to come to terms with genuine discourse when they are exposed to it". Listening exercises are often read aloud from text by actors and are not authentic. So there is a great demand for "real" language to be used in listening exercises.
There have been programs that can slow down sound files, but they have been created for music purposes and mostly don't give good results with speech. A new algorithm has been developed at the DIT for slowing down speech. It looks at the sound pattern and can slow down speech down to 40 % of the original time without the speech sounding too odd (although it sounds a bit sleepy). But at 80 %, even the native speakers consider the quality very good and natural.
According to Marty, the slow-down tool can be used to facilitate the processing and retrieving formulaic sequences and chunks which the native speakers usually speak at a faster rate. This way these highly important elements of fluent speech become more accessible and "learnable" to the students.

Archived plenary sessions now available...

You can now view the archived plenary presentations by Bernd Rueschoff and Gráinne Conole at http://www.eurocall2007.com/conference_format/virtual-strand/archives.html

One Laptop Per Child Project

One Laptop Per Child
Presenter: Todd Kelsey

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is a non-profit organisation aiming to help children in the developing (and developed) world gain access to educational materials and to explore, experiment and express themselves. A significant need for a wide range of (free) language learning materials in a variety of languages has been identified.

Todd showed us a prototype of the small, colourful, XO child-friendly laptop which is being developed as part of this project and which it is hoped can be made freely available under the OLPC initiative.

Todd pointed out that the equipment and materials designed for use by children could also be used by adults in developing countries.

Todd is currently looking for partners willing to be involved in this initiative, especially donating content materials to be made available under a Creative Commons Licence.

Further information at:

LANCELOT: An online teacher training course

This was a symposium session, led by Gary Motteram, University of Manchester, UK, focusing on the EC-funded LANCELOT language teacher online training project. The aim of the project is to develop an online course for training language teachers to use the tools found in virtual classrooms. The course combines both synchronous and asynchronous elements.

The session opened with a demonstration of a synchronous session with a number of members of the project in various geographical locations joining us live.

The software used for conferencing is Macromedia Breeze – now Adobe Connect.

Intercultural Competence (IC) and Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) are important features of this project, with trainees being helped to take potential differences into account when planning and delivering their online lessons.

Heike Philp joined us online from Germany, talking about the technological tools used in virtual classrooms: Web conferencing, instant messaging, audio conferencing, whiteboarding, screen sharing and Web touring, etc and how these tools are used.

We were then joined online by Daniela Arghir, who talked about her positive experiences following the LANCELOT course as a trainee. She is a teacher of EFL and Romanian.

This is the project website, where more information can be found and from which the materials will be launched:

From tags to riches: Improving Webquests with Web 2.0

The Make Your World webside was created to help students learning English through a socio-constructive task-based approach. This inspiring presentation described a study of how students can make use of Web 2.0 technology in Webquests. There are some useful resources under the link Technology: http://turizm.comu.edu.tr/staff/bart/projects/travel

Podcasts 3, 4, and 5

Here are podcasts 3, 4 and 5. Hope you find them interesting and they help bring the conference closer. Your feedback is welcome!




Task, Tool and Quality

Petter Karlstrom, presented research carried out together with his colleagues Ola Knutsson and Eva Lundin. The perspective taken on learning is the socio-cultural (language is the tool for learning). For more literature on second language learning from this perspective, see e.g. Thorne and Lantolf. For an interest in human computer interaction, see the works of Viktor Kaptelinin. (agree with you Petter, quite interesting works here). Theoretical concepts of relevance for analysis of the continued research and development with the environment GRIM, were "activity" (not to be understood as equivalent to task), "mediation" and "ZPD" (Zone of Proximal Development). The GRIM environment is a multipurpose linguistic tool which can be downloaded from http://skrutten.nada.kth.se/grim/install-en.html

The main research questions were to investigate how the environment was used, how students interacted with the environment, and what role GRIM plays in the students' writing. Research data was generated from video recordings, screen recordings, transcriptions, student essays and questionnaire.

Plenary streamed video

This is just to report that I am watching Grainne Conole's plenary via my laptop in another room in the university. It's working fine for me, and both the video and sound quality, delivered by RealPlayer, are good.

The Language On-Line Portfolio Project (LOLIPOP)

The Language On-Line Portfolio Project (LOLIPOP)

In this session Antje Neuoff presented the LOLIPOP project, a Web-based, interactive version of the European Language Portfolio (ELP). The ELP is well established as way for students to record their achievements as language learners, and now there are electronic versions of the ELP. There are several features of the LOLIPOP that make it distinctive, for example the interactive features that enhance the reporting and pedagogical functions. These include a feature that combines the reporting of “can do” statements (based closely on the CEF “can do” statements) with setting objectives for further language and intercultural learning.

The project runs in Moodle. I was particularly impressed by the examples of the resources that are being made available in wide range of languages. Antje showed examples in German of listening, speaking and reading materials, ranging from road signs (for reading at A1 level, I would guess) to a difficult spoken text (presumably around C1 / C2 level). The resources will be freely available and should be extremely useful for teachers and students in upper secondary and higher education.

How copyright and privacy laws affect CALL

A current topic brought up this morning was what roles copyright laws play in CALL and how they are viewed by CALL practitioners. Neil Heffernan used Japanese and American practices as examples. He presented the results of an online survey which investigated teachers’ knowledge and attitudes when producing CALL-material.

Although Japanese laws are more complex than American ones, the American laws are also very unclear. It turned out that very few were familiar with the applicable copyright laws. To the crucial question: “When creating CALL materials and being unsure of copyright laws what do you do?” the highest response from most teachers was “Make own decision according to my existing knowledge of the laws”. Second came “investigate on the Internet or in the library”. The conclusion was that it’s confusing as to what is covered under the law.

"All the better to hear you with…” - online listening, the big bad wolf of linguistic abilities or what do students think is going on when listening

Matthew Absalom and Andrea Rizzi from the University of Melbourne, Australia, reported on their small pilot study (24 students) in which the raised questions were: What are the students doing when they listen online? What processes are employed?

The students were given three different on-line listening tasks in Italian with authentic material from the radio (short, ca. two-minute dialogues). In the first task, the students had no transcription of the dialogue, in the second, they had a partial transcription and in the third one, a full transcription.

After finishing the tasks, the students received 5-6 multiple choice questions and evaluative questions on what they did during the task. It was a kind of "think aloud protocol".

From the students' answers it was evident that they had very pragmatic ways of doing the tasks. Anything extraneous seemed to be distracting for them, and these are some of the things they did for making the listening easier: they read questions first; they tried to reduce distractions and noise; they used headphones; they turned up the volume. It was very important for them that they knew what they were supposed to do (importance of clarity). The tasks were done asynchronously, which made students feel more confidend because they could control the audio file very easily (importance of agency).

Having a transcript or not showed no real differences reported by the students in relation to how many times they listened the clip. There were more correct answers in task 3 with the full transcript but task 2 (partial transcript) showed least correct answers, which implies that listening plus another activity like dealing with partial transcription interferes with comprehension of text. Listeners also consulted a dictionary much more when they only had a partial transcription.

From the experiences of this pilot project and the students' answers, here are the best practices for creating listening tasks:
- clear task design
- either no transcription or full transcription to support listening
- built-in student control
- deploy task asynchronously (rather than in lab)
- rudimentary, plain, stripped down material (nothing to distract)

Challenge of task design in VOIP tandem

Christine Appel from Universitat Oberta de Catalunya presented their new research project where they have introduced VoIP (Skype in this case) to their e-tandem courses. Christina emphasised the fact that it is important to focus on the task-design for a succesful exchange and language learning experience. The current research was about a pilot exchange between Japanese and American students who communicated with one another real-time. Compared to the previous asynchronous etandem experiences the issues were similar: personality and language skills had significant impact on language use. The real-time factor brought with it some new issues, like awkward moments in the conversations (nervousness, giggling etc.). Sound quality was sometimes a problem and the students had sometimes difficulties finding interesting conversation topics.

The exchange took place in a dedicated task-based environment with pedagogical goals that support reciprocity in the learning situation. The types of activities include "spot the differences", "draw and quess", and "giving instructions". In the future Christine and her colleagues plan to design more activities and develop the idea of task-design further.

Kent Andersen (Odense technical univeristy) in the audience raised the point of teacher control, as he felt that there still was a bit too much of that. Christine accepted the point but also said that the students seem to forget the teacher's presence very soon. Other points from the audience centred around the goals of this types of activities as they are more focused on imporving fluency than on improving accuracy.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

To the Antipodes and back again

Before lunch (Thursday) we could hear about a wiki pilot project between Australian and Italian students. The aims were to promote online collaboration and foster development of linguistic skills, explore contemporary youth issues and research intercultural learning online. There were three members of the project: Suzanne Cloke, Matthew Absalom and Andrea Rizzi. The whole project seemed very interesting since the three had adapted different course layout. Even though students were a bit unfamiliar with the technology at first, they were soon engaged in the wiki. Students claimed that their communication and writing skills improved by using it.

One of the issues brought up, the assessment aspect,which has been discussed a few times today is how to assess online collaboration when used in language learning settings. The three project members applied different ways: no assessment (and the students didn’t have any problem of getting interaction going)- some assessment – to full assessment.

Virtual Presentations - schedule correction!


Vance Stevens has just pointed out that the virtual presentations are on FRIDAY 7th and SATURDAY 8th (not 8th and 9th as stated on the schedule page until a few minutes ago) September. Please consult the schedule page for the correct dates and times now that we have rectified this error. Thank you for spotting that, Vance.

Using the Interactive Nature of Multimedia to Create an Interactive Classroom

Gilberte Furstenberg from MIT, presented with great enthusiasm, how multimedia applications can bring dynamic interactivity back into the physical room. According to Furstenberg there has to be a synergy between the medium used and how we use it. We risk adopting multimedia in a reduced way, e.g. as a mode often used for presentations. The notion of linearity is another aspect which is discussed, and how it can influence interaction. Though she gave us several concrete examples from three multimedia projects (which were all three of great interest!), I found especially fascinating how the individual preparations were designed to link to group interaction. Students were given tasks which required interaction with multimedia applications. The questions could be approached from several perspectives and also result in various input. People had been interviewed and given the same questions. Depending on which videos the students had chosen to watch in the application, they would come to class with different views. Furstenberg made this very explicit in some video clips which illustrated the collaborative and lively interactions as the students were asked in groups to look for structure, to identify opinions, find connections and to negotiate for structure. The student groups used a whiteboard (Furstenberg:"whiteboards can act as wonderful mirrors of the students' thoughts") and made drawings, sketches, tried to make tables and discussed in the target language to reach a common understanding. Furstenberg stresses it is vital to get students share goals. This shared interest and student focus on each others' views and comments were obvious (in spite of having forgotten most of my poor school French, this demanded no skills in French to notice). There is much more to learn here...! Finally, a link to the Cultura Project (which also has an archive) : http://web.mit.edu/french/culturaNEH

Towards future pedagogies

Peppi Taalas talked about using the various media we have available to us for designing for learning. She stated that we need to understand what's taking place now in schools. We can't be just teachers, just technology-oriented people - we need different kinds of disciplines and expertise.

Defining literacy, for Peppi, the idea of multiliteracies is important; designing for learning, using these designs with students to develop the designs. Muticulturality is also important. We have a multitude of lenses through which to look at what happens in and outside school - formally and informally. Anothear important issue was how well students were given ownership of authorship.

Peppi then went on to describe the project she's currently involved with. She's been trying to see how strategica and pedagogical levels meet. She recognises a division between both these and between teaching practice and local cultures. The project collected features that would be part of a good learning environment.
  • access/authorship/ownership framework
  • The activities and texts should be meaningful to learners, having meaning outside school.
  • informal settings should merge with the formal setting

The project started with a large survey (Peppi talked about this today). The next phase is to gather qualitative data from learners and teachers.

The two research questions Peppi explored here were:

  • what literacy practices d6 learners and teachers engage in both inside and outside school?
  • what kind of learning environments exist and are created in schools

The findings suggest that the skills learnt in schools are not necessarily the skills learners need in their life outside school. There is a mismatch between learners' and teachers' perceptions about the use of the Web in the classroom. Peppi pointed out that out of school, teachers use the Web for quick searches for e.g. train timetables, online banking etc, while students use online communities most.

Although Peppi agrees that to be a good teacher it isn't necessary to join online communities, but it is alarming that in the survey, teachers not only didn't know about life online, but they didn't want to know about it.

In conclusion, there are different in and out of school views of reading and writing; teachers' and students' views, attitudes and use of the Web is very different and we need to take a different approach to teacher training to address this.

There were many questions at the end of this presentation, mostly asking about the data in more detail. Peppi wanted me to challenge her, but, in fact, I totally agree with her on this one! So, maybe someone else will put forward a challenge here?

Find out more at http://www.jyu.fi/tolp

EuroCALL 2007 Podcasts!

A new initiative this year is to capture a range of views on the conference papers and plenaries. We will be asking delegates to give us their views on the papers they have attended. The first 2 episodes are available here. Let us know what you think!

Podcast 1: http://www.eurocall2007.com/virtual/archive/vs01.mp3

Podcast 2: http://www.eurocall2007.com/virtual/archive/vs02.mp3

Can learner autonomy exist in formal learning?

Ruth Trinder from Vienna raised a valid point and re-opened the often taken-for-granted concept of autonomy: is it just another fuzzy buzzword? It is an educational objective, methodological approach, capacity, attittude... In CALL sometimes even assumed as an automatic bi-product of online learning.

She discussed the various variables of autonomy: confidence in lang learning abilities, learnt beliefs/educational history... (and that is how far I got before the slide disappeared... :( )

Her study has both qualitative and quantitive elements. In the quantative stages she has carried out a survey study where she was exploring autonomy in a blended learning course. The concept of autonomy was broken down into following constructs:

1. attitudes
2. confidence
3. behaviours
- active approach
- organised approach
- use of need learning strategies

---- The report from this session is a bit jumpy and sporadic, sorry about that. It would be great if Ruth would have a moment to fill in the bits I've missed here :) ----

Reflective practice in ICT integration

Sake Jager from the University of Groningen (remember to pronounce the second "g" with the Dutch throat sound) talked about ICT integration in the broad sense of the word (learning stoff, environment). He was using the Collin&Moonen (2001) integration framework where you integrate the technology with a strong pedagogical sense which is then layered with implementation and the institution. C&M argue that you always have to take all these aspects into account when planning for integration. In other words, it is about a systemic approach to integration: you can change one element in an organisation without affecting the rest. He also referred to D. Laurillard's conversational framework (2003) and the consequent research on university level. He also referred to David Barr's (2004) and P. Taalas (2005) research where integration is attempted and explored at the organisational level. Sake challenged also the concept "normalisation of CALL" (Bax, 2003) as the transition process has no ending point.

Sake introduced us to the Taal Vaardig (ready-for-languages) project at this university. The main idea of the project is to strengthen the collaboration btw lang departments and the lang centre, to develop the staff development schemes in language pedagogy, and to promote learning modes that support the development of learner autonomy.

Change is a slow process, but it is possible. Right?

ReCALL Special Issue - a reminder

Don't forget about the ReCALL Special Issue on Mobile Assisted Language Learning. Here's the call for papers again:

Journal of the European Association
for Computer Assisted Language Learning
Call for articles for a special issue on
Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL)
edited by Lesley Shield, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme and June Thompson
Submission deadline: 31 January 2008

Mobile phones, handheld computers and personal audio and video players are understood to have great potential in supporting new ways of teaching and learning. As ownership of these mobile devices increases and access to wireless networks develops, the use of such devices to support language learning becomes ever more feasible.

Until relatively recently, MALL activities very much mirrored early CALL activities. Electronic quizzes, grammar drills and vocabulary lists dominated. In the space of two or three years, however, MALL has become more disparate, expanding from a purely teacher-learner, text-based model to one that supports multimedia, collaborative listening and speaking activities and allows learners to co-construct knowledge to solve problems and fill information gaps.

In such a rapidly evolving environment, there is a need for research, both theoretical and applied, on how this new resource can be integrated into the language-learning environment.
This issue of ReCALL will include articles (between 5,000-7,000 words) which address aspects of the integration of MALL activities into language learning and teaching. Topics may include those listed below, but articles on other aspects of MALL and language learning, teaching and teacher education are also welcome.
  • Theoretical issues relating to the role of MALL in language learning
  • Empirical studies of the effectiveness of using MALL in language learning
  • Methodological issues in MALL and language learning
  • The role of mobile devices in supporting independent language learning
  • MALL in language teacher education

Articles should be submitted electronically to June Thompson, d.j.thompson@hull.ac.uk, by 31st January 2008, in accordance with the documentation at http://www.eurocall-languages.org/recall/contribnotes.html.

Sign language and online learning

Elina McCambridge (Univ. of Oulu, Finland) presented an interesting case study where she looked at small uses of language in the students' everyday life. The case is based on observations from her previous studies where deaf students have participated in online courses with other students. It seems that the deaf students are like any other students: they are heavily involved in various online and offline social networks. They use English in a skillful way without even realising that they are using a foreign language.

The students in the current study are all deaf (in the social meaning of the word, Elina correct me if I am wrong, will you?) and the course set-up had been designed to accomodate for their needs. The study is an ethnographic study where Elina is heavily involved in the activities she is researching. The course itself was a 2-wk crash course in Moodle with six participants. It is a real challenge to plan a course for the deaf students as their language backgrounds can be very varied (native sign language speakers, hard of hearing, native Finnish, etc.) and the content to be taught is challenging too: how to teach the spoken element as the students can never hear it (and have most likely never heard it) as you cannot really use the written format to model the spoken one.

Preliminary conclusions at this stage are that access to different varieties of language is of great importance as these students don't necessarily have access to that in the school context. Another thing to consider is that should international signing be included in the teaching as it would have added value to the students? Courses like these seem to empower the students to discover new ways of learning and using the language in their own lives.

Two of the keynotes....

The German twins. Even their mother has trouble telling them apart. (FYI: Uschi Felix on the left, Bernd Rüschoff on the right.)

If the language is a tool, what is the outcome?

I like the title of the presentation, it seems to contain something of a real essence. Linda Bradley and Sylvi Vigmo from Sweden walked us through an expermental course in wiki where they applied some ideas of CSCL (computer-supported-collaborative learning), especially the negotiation and argumentation aspects of it. Wiki is used as a social space for the course, but also a way to document the process of writing. The course itself was quite large, 4 teachers and 70 students (28 groups) who were just adviced to use the Wiki. The teachers didn't "control" the environment, but observed the student actions in the background. I like that approach, as I sometimes feel that we are over-scripting our online learning activities.

The study itself centered around the following questions: How did the students make use of the tools in the wiki and how did they benefit from the feedback (or did they)? The assumpton had been that students would be investing a lot of time on their own pages in Wiki, but in fact most of the action took place in the interactive spaces such as the discussion forum. 9 groups out of 28 made real use of the wiki, which was a bit of a disappointment. It is likely to be due to the fact that this part of the course wasn't assessed.

Linda and Sylvi, please add things I've missed or misunderstood :)

You might find the following references interesting. These were mentioned as background reading for the study:

Egbert, J.L. (2005). CALL research perspectives.
Leung, C. (2006). Convivial communication: recontextualising communicative competence

Symposium: Online & Blended Language Education

I’m attending one of the first symposia, which are an innovation this year. They consist of presentations by a group of speakers over a double (90-minute) session, followed by a discussion. This session is entitled:
“Online and blended approaches to foreign language education: exploring the role of the teacher”.
The speakers are:
1. Melinda Dooly & Carmen Ellermann (the EC-funded MICaLL project)
2. Carolin Fuchs (a project related to the use of ICT in secondary schools in Germany)
3. Anthony Fitzpatrick (the EC-funded EUROVOLT project – Vocationally Oriented Language Teaching)
The session is exploring the role of teachers in these new contexts and how they adapt to integrating online components into their teaching.
More to follow...

Virtual participation in the plenary

Having a presence indicator on the blog (Blobber) is really handy. I've just discovered that Therese in online and she's told me that the streaming is working well for her. That's very comforting since I can't tell from here. Isn't it wonderful that we can be co-present and exchange feedback in real time? Thank you Therese - having that information has been really useful, particularly knowing that you've been so impressed by the filming.

The first keynote

Bernd Rueschoff is curently talking about Web 2.0 and language learning, teaching and research.

He's raising very interesting questions about whether Web 2.0 is really new, focussing on the Mitmach (participatory) Web.

I'm sure others will blog the content of the presntation much more coherently than I can, so I'm going to reflect here on the fact that it's fascinating to find how difficult it is to blog a presentation rather that to take notes on it. Not the same thing at all! Live blogging is much more difficult than uploading after the event - no time to edit, for instance. Does this mean that blogs should be relegated to being reflective tools? I'd be interested to hear your views on that.

Now, I'm going to turn my full attention to this extremely interesting and engaging presentation. If you haven't been watching live, I'd urge you to access the streamed version when it's available - you're going to enjoy it and find it really motivating!

Is it working?

The wifi in the conference hall isn't working very well, but I have managed to persuade the organisers to let me have a cable to link to the network! So, once I worked out how to get the streaming working, I was able to check out the virtual experience is working and that you can view the streamed sessions via your screen. From here, the speed is very slow, but it is possible to view the presentations live.

Don't forget that all the presentations will be archived, so if you miss them - or if you want to watch again - you'll be able to do so.

The conference is now open!

The opening ceremony is being streamed as I write this. You can find the link to the streamed parts of the conference on the Virtual Strand's website and on the main conference website.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Show & Tell Sessions

It was an interesting idea to have the late afternoon's Show & Tell sessions in one huge room,
The Diamond. The Show & Tell booths were side by side around the room, and it was very easy to move from one presentation to another. Also, the presently on-going programme was shown on a big screen, and it was easy to find what you wanted to hear.
The sessions also finished on time - thanks to the efficient reminder system, I thought. Actually, it was probably either the fire or burglar alarm. But it finished the first presentations conveniently at 17:55.

I must say that for me it was very difficult to concentrate on the presentations as
the noise from other presentations and people moving about in the central area really
disturbed me. And there were surprisingly few people attending - especially in the beginning. Is it because people were still arriving or were they perhaps having a short rest after the workshops and before the evening's cocktail party?
It is very good that new ideas are tried in Eurocall conferences, but these kinds of "fair-like" Show & Tell sessions still need some development for the next conference.

Here are some of the presentations I heard:

Kent Andersen talked about the POOLS project, which is developing teacher training courses based on pools of materials for nine languages. The Pools people believe in "copyleft", which means that everything they have done and put on their web pages is freely usable and editable by anyone - provided that the new material is also kept copyleft.

You can download many things from the POOLS site, use and re-use and work on them (but remember the "copyleft" principle!). There are e.g. courseware manuals, also on methodology.

See http://www.languages.dk

* * * * *

Anna Kyppö, a slovak teacher from Finland, talked about her Virtual Slovak course, in which
she has used the mountain and climbing as metaphors for learning Slovak. The course starts from a base camp and goes up to Camp 10.
What is very interesting, is that she has used two students of slovak in the making of the course material. Anna said that every teacher working on an online course or online material, should consult the students from the very beginning. After all, it is the students that the materials we make are meant for. And I quite agree with her!
You can take a look at the Virtual Slovak pages (still an unfinished version) at
* * * * *
Myles O'Brien talked about a Flash-based program called SoundBighter, which he has created
for language teaching. With SoundBighter you can select sections (ten altogether) of a sound
file and play them. The editing data or configuration is stored in a separate text file so
that you can use it later on over the internet or on a local computer.
The program could be used for making listening exercises, e.g. dividing a longer piece into
convenient sections or focusing on important parts.
As everything is based on Flash, all the sound files must be in mp3 format (Flash will only
play mp3s). The program is free for anyone to use online or download at
http://www.mylesobrien.com/sb/ (you can find there everything you need).

Some reflections from an online workshopper

From the blog entries and comments posted here so far, I get the impression that the crowd participating in the VS workshop in Coleraine had a busy morning. The online version of the workshop was a bit slower, and I suppose one reason for the somewhat low level of activity online could be that those in Coleraine interact “pseudo-virtually” as it was put by one of the participants. Nevertheless, I did take part in some both CALL-related and social chats, spending the most time in the Yaplet chat which was new to me. One of the issues arising here concerns advantages and drawbacks of having chat history saved. In Yaplet, the most recent chat is displayed to you as you log on. This is a good way of catching up when you enter the chat, yet knowing that what you type is saved at least for some time could have an inhibiting effect.

I appreciate the effort to accommodate for people in all different time zones, but personally, I find the synchronous meetings with fellow Eurocallers the most rewarding - for a moment they make me forget that I’m not present at the conference. The photos that are uploaded have a similar effect on me, so all you bloggers out there, please post many photos!

All in all, however, the flexibility that the asynchronicity provides does suit me very well this year, since I have other matters to tend to as well. Caring for a baby while trying to chat synchronously is quite a challenge… Let’s just say that it’s fortunate we’re not using audio :-) .

1st blog, Hurra!

Hi all,

Am doing the virtual strand workshop and just writing my first blog!

Just a thought: a big thank you to all the students who were at the airports, train stations, street corners etc yesterday ready to lend a helping hand with all kinds of info, especially the handy tips re pubs and restaurants in Portstewart (is that how you spell it??) :-))

Have a good conference everyone!


EuroCALL 2007 Virtual Strand Workshop

On Tuesday we had the pre-conference workshop for the Virtual Strand.
We tried out all kinds of nice communication tools, such as Blobber and Yaplet for chatting and Blogger, which is also used for this conference blog.
It was great fun to "be the student" and chat with the new tools. And, funnily enough, it seems that the use of chat turns us to teenagers. Or what do you think about this little conversation in yaplet:

A: My history starts with "The Bushmills Inn sounds wonderful and worth the visit".
B: My history is better than yours. Na na na na na.
B: : -)
B: :_)
B: :-)
A: nice try
B: it only took me 3 attempts to get the icon right...


Here are some captured moments of the workshop

Peppi is trying to figure out how to blank our screens (and cut us from the world!) so that she and Lesley can show us something very important.

One of the workshop participants said "we expected to carry an in-depth discussion about CALL issues, but ended up with chatting about the greatness of Irish whiskies", but this picture proves that we only had some water in the room and, alas, no whiskey. :-(

Graham is sharing his ideas on Irish whiskey with the other chatters.

Anna is discovering the delights of yaplet.

The EUROCALL 2007 conference is under way

Well, here we are in the Virtual Strand workshop, which appears to be going very well.

The Executive Committee have had one busy working day and an excellent meal in The Bushmills Inn, a beautiful old coaching inn in the town where the Bushmills Irish Whiskey Distillery is located. Bushmills is my favourite Irish Whiskey, produced by the oldest distillery in the world, founded 1608.

But we are also here for serious reasons, of course :-)) Over 200 participants from all over the world are arriving in Northern Ireland to take part in this conference on teaching languages with new technologies. We hope that you will join us online and take part in the blog and live chat.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Additional Streamed Session

You will be able to see the EuroCALL 2007 opening ceremony streamed live at 09:00 (GMT +1) on Thursday, 6th September. Please access this via the Virtual Strand website.

Let's get going!

The virtual conference is gradually starting. Lesley and myself have arrived in Coleraine and are currently on campus at the executive committee meeting (see the picture). The weather is not perfect at the moment, but it is expected to get better during the week.

We are all set to go!

WELCOME TO EUROCALL 2007 either in person or virtually!

Monday, 3 September 2007

Virtual Strand papers are all now online

The papers that will be presented via the Virtual Strand are now all online. They are:
  • Agnes Kukulska-Hulme & Lesley Shield, Can mobile devices support collaborative practice in speaking and listening?
  • Isabel Pérez Torres, Webquest: a collaborative strategy to teach content and language on the Web
  • Vance Stevens, Mastering Competencies for Collaboration and Aggregation in Distributed Learning Networks
You can access all these papers via the Virtual Strand Website.

Online presentations are usually a little different from face-to-face presentations in that there is generally a lot more audience participation in terms of questions and discussion. So, if you intend to attend one or more of these presentations, please read the paper in advance and be ready to ask questions and/or discuss the content with the authors.

If you can't attend a presentation but would still like to discuss one or more paper, the authors will be opening discussion threads on the Virtual Strand Discussion Group (you'll need to register to take part in the discussion list). Like the papers, you can access the discussion group via the Virtual Strand Website.

So, come prepared with your thoughts, ideas and questions! We're looking forward to some interesting discussions.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Work in progress

The EuroCALL 2007 Virtual Strand website is something of a work in progress. We will be updating it throughout the conference.

Today, we've added a link to a Yaplet (http://www.yaplet.com) chatroom on each page.

You can find full details on the EuroCALL 2007 Virtual Strand Website's homepage at http://vsportal2007.googlepages.com/home