Welcome to the EUROCALL 2007 Virtual Strand Blog Site

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Pre-conference Workshops

As usual I didn't have time to write a posting during EuroCALL this year, I was so involved in attending all of the interesting sessions and taking part in the interesting cultural activities - one of which was the Irish Céilì dancing we did on Friday night. The band, Craobh Rua, did a great job of leading a bunch of neophytes through the various Cèilì moves - and didn't even laugh too much as we crashed into each other. What fun!

I wanted to express my thanks to Peppi Taalas and Lesliey Shield for preparing and conducting the pre-conference workshop on the Virtual Strand. We had lots of fun while getting a hands-on experience with the Conference Blog and chatting with Blogger and Yaplet. I was impressed by their dedication to running the Virtual Strand.

I was sitting next to Peppi while she chatted with a virtual participant during Panel Discussion. He was able to have a question of his answered by members of the panel through with Peppi's intervention. Synchronicity!

Sarah Guth and Lisa Griggio prepared and presented an excellent pre-conference workshop on Using Social Software for Language Learning - Web 2.0 tools available online. Participants learned about wikis, blogs, podcasts, chats, social bookmarks, slidecasts and more! Great handouts were also available to further stimulate participants on their return home. Participants were able to collaborate in teams to practice using these tools and come up with lesson plans they could use on the job. These ideas were all posted in the pbwiki Web2Workshops. Why not take a look and share your ideas too!

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Now that the conference is over, it doesn't mean you can't post your reflections here or in the conference discussion group. After returning home from the conference if you were there, or after thinking about the archived materials you're able to watch or listen to, you may want to ask a question or share an idea or simply make a comment. Please do continue to use the blog and discussion group to do so.

The round table discussion and Uschi Felix's last ever appearance at a conference will soon be appearing in the archived material that you can access from the Virtual Strand website at http://vsportal2007.googlepages.com/home.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Podcasts 7 and 8

Here are the final 2 podcasts (actually, since they are not syndicated, by definition they are mp3s available online and not podcasts, but you know what I mean). The last day was so packed with papers and activities that we didn't have time to record any more, but I hope you enjoy them.




Sunday, 9 September 2007

Podcast 6

The technology has made the process of uploading these a bit slow but here is podcast number 6. The final 2 should come soon!


Final reflections by Graham Davies

Final reflections from Graham Davies

It is often said that if you return from a conference with three new important impressions or ideas then the conference has been a success. These are mine:

1. Bernd Rueschoff, talking about wikis in his plenary presentation on Web 2.0, pointed out that an analysis of the answers given by the audience in the German TV version of “Who wants to be a millionaire” were predominantly right. He reflected that the criticism levelled at wikis such as Wikipedia may be unjustified, as collective knowledge is increasingly proving to be reliable.

2. The video that Grainne Conole showed in her plenary presentation of the student living in a high-tech house and using a variety of digital devices as part of her everyday life left a lasting impression on me. Teachers need to be aware that the new generation of students feel completely at ease with new technologies.

3. Uschi Felix – who declared her intention to retire from academic life this year – warned us that students will not be impressed if they are confronted with “boring old technology” at school or university. On the other hand, they often react negatively to teachers who think they are being trendy by using Facebook and other social network sites that are popular with young people. Students often perceive such sites as “their” property, which they want to keep for themselves.

All in all, this was a great conference. All the sessions that I attended were good. The weather was kind to us, we observed a perfect sunset from the venue of the conference dinner, were entertained by the best Irish/Scottish band (with a fabulous dancer) that I have ever heard, and we danced ourselves to exhaustion at the Ceili. A big “thank you” from me to all the organisers, presenters and participants.

The "normalisation" of CALL: two sessions

The last two sessions that I attended focused on the “normalisation” (v. Bax 2003) of CALL. Monica Ward (Dublin City University) talked about normalising CALL in the primary school context” and Euline Cutrim Schmid (University of Education, Heidelberg) showed how the use of an interactive whiteboard could further the normalisation of CALL.

Monica Ward described a small-scale research study focusing on teaching Irish in primary schools. She said that in this context it is potentially easier to normalise CALL than in other educational environments (secondary and higher) as teachers have more control over their learners and the pedagogy is less exam-oriented. They can also assume that children in this age group already have some familiarity with technology, although they may lack keyboard skills. On the other hand there are a number of barriers to normalisation in the primary sector, namely:
- Lack of equipment
- Lack of software
- Teachers’ lack of ICT and CALL knowledge
- Teachers’ lack of confidence
- Teachers’ lack of interest

One of the problems in teaching Irish is that it is not needed for exam purposes and it is therefore not a main focus of teachers in the primary sector. Furthermore, Ireland is predominantly an English-speaking country and only children living in the Gaeltacht areas (where there are around 10,000 speakers of Irish) would need it for authentic communicative purposes. I reflected that in this respect teachers of Irish are probably experiencing similar problems to those experienced by teachers of Welsh and Scots Gaelic in the UK – and, of course, teachers of French, German and Spanish who always have difficulties convincing their students that learning foreign languages is worthwhile.

Euline Cutrim Schmid’s presentation focused on facilitating the normalisation of CALL through the use of interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in the languages classroom. She showed a video demonstrating the main features of an IWB, which also included sequences in which trainee teachers of EAL were using some of these features in their training sessions. This was the only session of the conference focusing exclusively on the use of IWBs. I reflected that this would have been unusual in a language teachers’ conference in the UK, where most of the ICT sessions would probably have focused on IWBs. The main thrust of this session was that the presence of an interactive whiteboard in the classroom, as opposed to a computer lab, which most teachers would probably have to book in advance, was a major step towards the normalisation of CALL. I reflected that in this respect primary and secondary schools in the UK are probably ahead of most other countries in Europe, and indeed ahead of the HE sector in the UK too. I saw no interactive whiteboards in the lecture theatres in the University of Ulster, and Graham Chesters had pointed out in the morning’s panel discussion that there were more IWBs in a primary school near to the University of Hull than in the university itself. This is a factor that needs to be seriously considered, as students entering HE will expect such technology to be available. For them it is already “normal”.