What are we doing in CALL Course?

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While I was updating my website, I summarized the tools I used in CALL course at the Department. I also wanted to share it as a blog post on my blog address. I hope you enjoy reading it.

  • Computer Assisted Language Learning: An Introduction: A great article if you would like to study on Computer Assisted Language Learning. In this article Mark Warschauer summarizes the stages of CALL associating the methods and approaches in time. I think, it is a must to read this article before studying on CALL.

http://www.ict4lt.org/en/warschauer.htm

  • Creating and using Blogs in ELT: Blogs are among the oldest CALL tools and they are still very popular in language teaching and learning. Instead of collecting your students written assignments as hard copy, I would suggest using blogs in language classes. Your students will also be motivated as they publish their works online. Here are some websites offering blog pages:

http://www.blogger.com
http://www.wordpress.com
http://www.edublogs.org

  • Wikis in Language Classes: I can clearly say that wiki is my favourite CALL. I remember the days I explored wikis – I was really excited to talk about this tool with my students and colleagues. It was 2007 and I am still using them although 6 years have passed since I first found wikis. In the following part, you can find some wiki pages. In addition to wikis, I also added Google Documents here as they work in the same way. If you want your students to work synchronously, I would suggest Google Documents instead of wikis.

http://www.pbworks.com
http://www.wetpaint.com
http://docs.google.com

  • Online Communities of Practice: As teachers of English, we sometimes would like to share our ideas, materials and experiences with other teachers all around the world. While sharing our experiences, we can also find out quite interesting ideas and learn new ways of teaching. Without the Internet, it is quite limited as you can guess. However, there are many online communities of practice on the Internet; and I can easily claim that the most successful one is Webheads with its 1000 members all around the world. You can find some links below for creating and joining online communities of practice. In addition to those links, I am also sharing two online communities called Webheads and APACALL.

http://groups.yahoo.com
http://groups.google.com
Facebook Groups
Webheads in Action
APACALL

  • Mobile Learning: Most of our students are using smartphones nowadays. They use these tools everywhere. Then, why don’t we use them for teaching language. Moreover, we can also use these great tools for professional development. There are many applications that you can download and install on your mobile phone. If you do not have a smartphone, you will not feel the necessity of it; however, if you purchase one, you will understand how important they are. I just want to share the website to download applications for your smartphone.

http://play.google.com

  • Online Presentation Tool – Prezi: Aren’t you bored with powerpoint presentations. Although they are used very commonly during the presentations, I explored another tool called Prezi. The main keyword for Prezi is zooming in and out. You add the content to the mainboard and then you choose the pathways; then you can present zooming in and out. I used this tool at some conferences; and some people were more interested in how I prepared the presentation than what I was talking about. Preparing a presentation with your friends online is quite an important advantage of this tool.

http://prezi.com/

  • Learning Management Systems (LMS): There are many tools that you can use for uploading your documents and sharing the content of the course. Most of them are paid services or need some technical knowledge in order to manage it. For example, Moodle is the most widely used tool for this purpose; however, you should be good at technology in order to create and manage a Moodle page. Moreover, you will need a computer to use as a server. As an alternative to Moodle, I will suggest two other tools for discussions, forums, file sharing etc. One of the Nicenet and the other one is Dokeos. I used both of them in my classes and either of them has advantages and disadvantages. If you would like to share only text-based materials (forums, link sharing, discussions, etc.), then Nicenet is quite good; however, if you would like to add some visual and audio files, it would be better to use Dokeos. The only disadvantage of Dokeos is the fact that the developers are constantly changing their interface and it takes time to get used to the new interface.

http://www.nicenet.org
http://demo.dokeos.net

  • Synchronous Meetings with Learners: Most of the time, teachers are asking me how to communicate with their learners and organize an online event with their students. Without doubt, I advise them to use WiZiQ as the platform. We have also Elluminate for this purpose, it is not easy to arrange a meeting there. Moreover, it is not free of charge. WiZiQ has also some paid features but free version will also be enough for teachers. Currently, we are using WiZiQ for speaking events at our Department. The students really enjoyed it and we are planning to continue.

http://www.wiziq.com

  • Social Media and Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) Tools: We cannot ignore the importance of social media tools in education. All around the world, social media tools are used by the people regardless of age, sex, nationality, etc. I saw that some parents create an account for their newly born babies. It is unbelievable. Those children will have Facebook accounts as old as themselves. Twitter is also very common among the Internet users. Instead of watching news on the TV or reading newspapers, people are following Twitter users all around the world. That’s also amazing. In addition to these social media tools, there are some synchronous CMC tools like Skype, Google Talk or Yahoo Messenger. Google Talk is also known as Google Hangout and it is quite good for synchronous CMC. Among these, the most widely used one is Skype. It is quite good in terms of audio and video calls. The links for these tools are known by everyone, but I will share them as well.

http://www.facebook.com
http://www.twitter.com
http://www.skype.com
http://messenger.yahoo.com
http://www.google.com/hangouts/

  • Digital Storytelling: It is a way of telling stories using audio and visual media tools. These stories are not only for children, but they can also be used for adult learners. In previous years, I was teaching how to combine photos, music and video files using Windows Movie Maker. This tool has been replaced with Windows Live Movie Maker and it is still quite easy to use for creating simple stories for the learners. Here, I will share a website for finding stories and two websites for creating digital stories.

http://www.storynory.com/
http://www.storyjumper.com/
http://animoto.com/

  • Podcasting in ELT: Podcasts are very good at improving listening and speaking skills of language learners. They could improve their language while listening or recording podcasts. There are many podcasts on the Internet. Some of them are recorded for teaching purposes; but most of them are not for teaching purposes and the intended audience is the native speakers of that language. These can also be used as authentic materials in language classes. Hence, we can say that there is a huge podcasting archive on the Internet. In the following links, you will find a website for downloading and listening podcasts and another website for your students to record their voices. The first one is NPR (National Public Radio) website and the other one is Audioboo. Your students will enjoy Audioboo while recording their voices even using their mobile phones.

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_directory.php?type=topic&id=-1
http://audioboo.fm/

  • Creating and publishing a website: For educators, website design has become an inevitable part of their teaching profession. They can publish course syllabus, their teaching materials, announcements and recent news about the content of the course. Some teachers prefer to use blogs as a webpage; however, they don’t have enough freedom while designing their blogs. There are some themes and they should publish chronologically ordered blog posts. Of course, they also help teachers to share some information with their students; however, they sometimes feel limited with the themes. While I was teaching CALL course at the Department, I found a website for designing a webpage. I could have also designed my website if I hadn’t one. It is called Weebly and all of my students could create their own websites without any difficulty. You just prepare the content and design your webpage by dragging and dropping. If you start using this page, I am sure you will also enjoy it.

http://www.weebly.com

  • 3D Virtual Worlds: 3D Virtual Worlds are simulation platforms and they started to be used by many educational institutions. As I wrote my PhD dissertation on Second Life, which is the most widely used 3D virtual world, the use of 3D worlds in language teaching is my favourite topic. In previous years, you had to buy a well-equipped computer in order to log in to this platform; however, this has changed in recent years. You take part in this 3D platform through an avatar and it is possible to join some discussions, online conferences, meet new people from different parts of the world. At first, the platform seems a bit complicated but you can get used to it in time. It looks like a game; but, it is not a game. There are no objectives to complete in Second Life. If you would like to use Second Life, first you should get a free account and download and install the software to your computer. Then, you can join through an avatar. My Second Life name is Sedat Usher if you would like to meet me in SL.

http://www.secondlife.com

I just wanted to summarize what we are doing in Computer Assisted Language Learning course at the Department. I used all of the tools above for language teaching and we, my students and I, are enjoyed while using these tools. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask via e-mail.

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Research in Computer Assisted Language Learning

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“What a run, fantastic job so well done, many thanks, John.” — John, Feb 2, 2013

“Just a brief note to say thank you so very much for everything, and I’m so sorry to hear that Tapped In is being shut down. I’d like to especially thank everybody from the help desk. Thank you all very, very much.” — Susan, from Iran, Feb 3, 2013

“To all of you — Jeff, BJB, Dave, and all — my heart is broken! I wish I were rich enough to support TappedIn by myself. You have all done a spectacular job and I will miss you… I’ll have to look elsewhere for what you have provided so beautifully over the years. Thank you, and I wish you all the best in wherever your journey takes you.” — Wendy, March 1, 2013

I have come across these short notes when I tried to log in to Tapped In (http://tappedin.org/), an online platform in which I collected the data for my MA Thesis and on which I had presentations at conferences. In addition to the dozens of presentations on Tapped In, I have also a proceeding titled as “Tapped In: A meeting place for language teachers”. I learned a lot in this platform. We discussed about my MA thesis proposal and I changed the topic upon the suggestions of BjB, Vance, JeffC, David Weskler at least 7-8 years ago. I also met Margaret Doty here and she helped me throughout my studies in both MA and PhD programs. Now, this platform is closed and only seven screenshots remained on the page. If you like, you can visit the page to see how it looked like. In time, they may also disappear.

Of course, Tapped In was very special for me; however, then, I remembered some tools I used for my classes and introduced at seminars enthusiastically. For example, I remember when I found Yackpack. The tool was great and I showed that tool to my colleagues and I also remember asking why we didn’t hold department meetings in this place. I liked that tool that much. I didn’t write an article or proceeding about Yackpack; but I mentioned that tool in a proceeding about PBwiki.

Then, I remembered that PBwiki has changed its name as PBworks (http://www.pbworks.com). They changed their name but I cannot change the title of my presentations entitled “Collaborative Writing through PBwiki” which I presented with Arif hocam at WIAOC in 2007. If someone wants to look through my CV, he might come across many tools which are not available now.

Actually, this is the risky part of studying on computer assisted language learning. You collect data and write an article or proceeding; but, if the tool disappears in time, it might be very confusing for the readers. For example, I collected data in Tapped In for my MA thesis and I shared many links in the appendix of my MA thesis; but they are not available now and most of the links are broken now.

Actually, these changes doesn’t mean that my studies are all junk from now on. Because, science is cumulative and these should be studied as well. For example, there are many studies about using audio cassettes in language teaching during the time when Audio-Lingual Method was popular. Nowadays, the new generation does not have any idea about cassettes; but they were very useful for further research. I may think so. They are only the steps for further research and researchers benefit from the findings of these studies.

However, these changes made me to think I should change my perspective in terms of research in CALL. I should concentrate on more theoretical issues rather than practical Web 2.0 tools. I would like to concentrate on professional development, online teacher education and distance education instead of concentrating on a specific tool. Instead, I am planning to suggest some features of tools. For example, the tools should help the learners to work in collaboration, there should be an interaction in your online classroom, etc. If the audience or the readers ask for a tool, I may give a list of tools that they can use.

Finally, I am talking about CALL from the beginning of this post; but it also changed in some contexts. People prefer to use the acronym SMALL – social media assisted language learning – instead of CALL. I am teaching CALL course and the name of the course is also out-of-date for some people. What a pity!

What do you think about this? Do you also think that I should change the perspectives of my studies?

Dr. Sedat Akayoglu