Sunday, January 21, 2007

Benefits of using computers and technology in teaching: Focus on language teaching

The title of the talk might seem to be a bit general, but this is the title I was asked to address by a company called Senaco, who asked me to speak to its salesmen and technicians in Abu Dhabi today.

Here is the outline of the talk. I'll flesh it out in greater detail later.

I recorded the talk and have podcasted it at

SLIDE 1: The 20th Century as the “Read-Only” century

  • Lawrence Lessig: Stanford Law School, Stanford, CA & Founder of Creative Commons has said “The 20th century was the only read-only century in human history, totalitarian, centralizing, controlling. The 21st is the return to read-write.”

SLIDE 2: What does Read-Only mean?

  • Publication is controlled by elite
  • Greatest social transformation of the 20th century was radio, then television
  • Early learning models are top down: behaviorist, mastery learning, ‘sit and get’
  • Web 1.0 - Static web pages (essentially top down one-way flow of information)
  • Print medium dominant

SLIDE 3: Read-Write Society

SLIDE 4: 20th Century CALL Model

  • Shrink-wrapped, licensed, copywrited
  • Protection keys and CD Roms
  • Pre-packaged lessons
  • Lab management software (designed for surveillance and control)
  • Focus on computer


  • Creative commons, open source
  • Freely downloadable
  • Flexible, rewritable content, created by teachers and students
  • Courseware management systems
  • Computer is seamlessly integrated, so focus on pedagogy

SLIDE 6: Impact on market-place

  • Previously publishers sold content
  • Content is now free (service has value)
  • Means of creating content is also free
  • Market must take into consideration skills and expectations of digital natives
  • What succeeds in this market?
  • Spaces such as Second Life, My Space, Facebook, Open Source CMS and LMS
  • Delivery and Infrastructure

SLIDE 7: Tools for Language Learning

  • Digital storytelling (audacity)
  • Blogs, wikis (comments, interaction)
  • Podcasting
  • Skypecasting
  • Social Networking
  • Instant messaging
  • Language exchange

SLIDE 8: How can commercial vendors adapt and cope?

  • To be filled in during conversation with vendors

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Webheads in Action Online Convergence, May 18-20, 2007

Another project that has consumed me recently has been setting in motion WiAOC 2007, or Webheads in Action Online Convergence. The dates of this conference, which we also call a 'convergence', have been set for May 18-20, 2007 and the conference theme was decided on in a synchronous text chat at Tapped In as CONNECT: Conversations on Networking, Education, Communities, and Technology.

The domain names below and the mirrors work in most places in the world, but because I have been using Geocities since last century as my web host (from a time that other hosts were not so readily available) and because Geocities is blocked in some parts of the world where information available to citizens over the Internet is restricted, I have had to set up mirror locations.

At least one of these links should work for almost everyone:

* or ...
* or ...

Planning for the convergence is well under way. At one of these links, you should be able to follow progress made and what there is still to do:


This follows on the very successful first run of this completely free online conference last November 2005. The neat thing about this conference is that it was mostly recorded and can therefore be (mostly) replayed. You can reach the 'replay' from the links above or, or use one of these mirrors below:

* Portugal: or
* Geocities: or

The 2005 conference produced a significant publication record. We are particularly proud of the following publications and proceedings deriving from the conference:

* Write-up in APACALL Newsletter Innovative Language Learning #8
o pdf version -
o HTML version -
* Article: Stevens, Vance. (2005). Behind the scenes at the Webheads in Action Online Convergence, November 18-20, 2005: TESL-EJ, Volume 9, Number 3:
* Proceedings in Teaching English with Technology
o Vol. 1, May Issue
o Vol 2 July Special Issue

We are in process of deciding whom to invite as keynote speakers, and we'll be announcing our conference to the world via a Call for Papers soon. We are accepting volunteers for all the work still to be done, so if you're reading this and want to be involved, just contact Vance.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Blogging: The Secret of RSS

It's not that big a secret actually. But it's one being slowly revealed. Will Richardson mentioned his RSS Quick Start Guide for Educators in a presentation I listened to two years ago entitled "RSS: The New Killer App for Education" , which he announced in his blog posting of Jan 31, 2005

That's when I first became aware of RSS. At the time live presentations were just beginning to be recorded and stored and were proliferating on the Internet and as a member of an IT committee at my workplace I had had the bold idea to utilize a lecture theater we had, which was equipped with a smart podium, and show some of these recorded lectures at brown bag lunches. It was one of my ideas before its time, few people turned up for them despite the fact that the cafeteria was only a door away and we had permission to take trays of food into the auditorium, and on the day I showed Will's presentation on RSS, only one other colleague was there. I suppose since it was just the two of us, he felt compelled to stay to the end, and so I asked as he left, what he thought of it. He muttered something to the effect that it didn't look like much use and walked off.

Now Podcasting has rendered all of that redundant. It was never necessary, apart from a desire to be entertained during lunch, to bring people into an auditorium to see and listen to presentations they could have accessed at work or at home on their own computers. But at the start of 2005 few of my face-to-face colleagues were aware of such resources. Now two years later it is much more widely understood among educators that:

1. Such resources exist in abundance on the Internet
2. Many can be found in podcast format
3. To locate podcasts you find sites that produce them and then subscribe to their RSS feeds
4. You use your aggregator (such as iTunes or Juice) to subscribe to the feeds and download the content
5. You listen to the content directly on your computer or transfer it to an mp3 player and listen to it anywhere

I have a Web page giving more information about this here:

What is still less widely understood among educators where I am working (and I'm writing this partially in response to a question on a list I follow where someone working nearby asked "How do you use blogs?") is how these principles translate to the classroom.

In a nutshell:

1. You get your students blogging, for whatever reason
2. You locate their blogs and subscribe to their feeds
You use your aggregator (such as Bloglines) to subscribe to the feeds and view the content
- the content is viewable all in one place
- you see highlighted content you haven't viewed before, so you don't need to search the blogs
- you can click from the link in your aggregator to the original post
4. There, you can reply to the posts directly, or
5. You can feed the posts into an object that you can display on your website to allow all students to see each other's blogs
6. Blogs can carry tags. You can create tagged content anywhere on the Internet and aggregate this content via your account. In other words, you can associate a blog with multimedia stored elsewhere on the Internet by assigning each artifact a unique tag, such as 'name2007class' and pull it all together via your acct.

John Pederson has an excellent tutorial on directed at educators here:

I have been asked about this before so I have created a page that gives greater detail here:

This page
1. explains step-by-step how to set up your bloglines
2. gives techniques you can use with your class
3. links to other sites giving more elaborate teaching techniques using RSS
4. shows where to find more information about RSS

One interesting link showing what can be done with RSS is Quentin d'Sousa's posting about Homework-casting at

And David Warlick has an excellent article about how all this might fit into a 'wired' teacher's day from
October 15, 2006 - A Day in the Life of Web 2.0

I hope this helps you understand more ways that blogging can be used in your teaching.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Second Look at Second Life

One of my new years resolutions is to try and phase my Web 1.0 websites more into a Web 2.0 framework and this blog is an instrument of that conversion. Through this device, I can maintain my Web 1.0 sites as before but link to my projects via this blog thereby generating an RSS feed and tag anchor to my most important updates. This posting is the first of these notices.

My central site is which, thanks to the generosity of a kind supporter in Portugal, I mirror at for the benefit mainly of those in China and other countries such as Vietnam and Tunisia, where Geocities is blocked. I maintain there a list of my most recent projects, publications, and presentations.

Near the head of that list currently there is a link to my Studies on Second Life. This is a multi-user virtual environment that has caught the attention of Webheads in Action, my online professional group, or community of practice. In the picture above you can see my avatar, Webhead Link, flying over Edunation, an island in Second Life with a hut full of Webheads artifacts. Webhead Link is so enamored of Second Life that he has started his own blog about it. You can find that at
Meanwhile I've written a couple of papers on Second Life. The first was for the On the Internet column which I edit and often write for the TESL-EJ online professional journal. That article is here:
Stevens, Vance. (2006). Second Life in Education and Language Learning. TESL-EJ, Volume 10, Number 3:
I have also had a paper accepted for the METSMaC conference in Abu Dhabi, March 17-19, 2007 entitled "Second life and online collaboration through peer to peer distributed learning networks." I adapted my TESL-EJ article for the proceedings, giving it a slight science and engineering spin. The paper can be viewed here:
At the presentation I hope to actually go into second life 'live' and show participants some of the educational potential there.
Finally, my proposal was accepted to the TESOL Arabia Conference in Dubai March 15-17, 2007 My proposal is entitled "SecondLife and collaboration in distributed learning networks" and I'll reproduce the abstracts here. The first (50 words) is for the program booklet: Collaborative learning environments using Web 2.0 and social networking tools are sometimes blocked in educational settings. Proponents must acquire experience and expertise to articulate beneficial aspects of such tools. Emerging technologies ranging through Skypecasting and Second Life are discussed as illustrations of virtual spaces with high potential for language learning.
Here is the longer abstract, produced so as to attract the favor of those vetting proposals:
This paper discusses distributed learning networks for professional and student collaboration using the read-write Web. Many such environments have arisen due to evolving ways people interact over the Internet, freely and in peer-to-peer networks. Examples range from flat open source learning and content management tools (e.g. Moodle) to richer but potentially controversial facilities integrating learning with social networking tools (e.g. Elgg, MySpace), and beyond (e.g. Skypecasting, SecondLife).
Use of social networking sites in education appears 'transformative' to some, whereas others would ban them. Given concern for abuse of social networking features, proponents must acquire expertise through experimentation and critical reflection then mount principled appeals to policy-makers and peers for appropriate access to beneficial aspects of the emerging Internet -- or risk forfeiting the lead to unsavory interests, relegating students to noncompetitive positions in an increasingly connected world, and stifling the opportunity for educators and students to carry on conversations that promote learning through interaction with others in constructivist learning networks.
I've chosen Skypecasting and SecondLife to illustrate educational potentials "beyond" the cutting edge of technology. Educational environments are proliferating in SecondLife (e.g. language projects, compelling simulations, museums) and purchase of 'island' space by education-spirited entities make these worlds available to peers (for free) in the safety of 'walled gardens'. Given robust Internet, I will visit such spaces and meet other educators there, with whom we can converse in real time while touring the virtual space. Alternatively I can use screen shots and recordings to convey the flavor of the experience.
In order to prepare these studies I compiled information I came across in a set of Web 1.0 pages:
I also started a wiki and encouraged colleagues to vet my work and add their comments:
Anyone can write there if they wish, so if you read any of this and care to edit the wiki, feel free.
Finally, I have been invited to teach a short course on writing on the Internet in San Sebastian, Spain the 11th-13th July this summer My curso is entitled "Learning to write in a global and plurilingual world" and is to consist of 3 hour-long lectures on "Electronic writing, On-line learning to write, Electronic approach to language learning -focus on writing." My attempts at engaging others in my Second Life writing process will contribute to experiments in preparing those lectures (which I hope will be interactive, not one-way lectures).
And really finally now for this posting, if you wish to keep up with what I am presenting and have presented and written, with links to full texts online, you can visit my 'papers' page at one of the links below: