LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
Dear Affiliate Leaders,
Thank you for this opportunity to write a brief note to the affiliate leaders and members of the affiliate associations. Let me begin by acknowledging the challenges faced by many of our members in the wake of earthquakes and hurricanes. On behalf of TESOL’s Board of Directors, I want you to know that our thoughts are with you all and we extend our support as you work collectively to rebuild your lives. These are hard times for many and we stand by you and your families.
As some of you may know, my entry into the TESOL field was through my state affiliate, Sunshine State TESOL (SSTESOL) in Florida, USA. Participating in SSTESOL has shown me the power of being part of an affiliate as well as some of its challenges, especially when you are a beginning affiliate or a smaller affiliate. It has also confirmed how much our contexts of English language teaching vary within and across national boundaries and hence, how important affiliates are to support TESOL International Association’s mission to provide professionals with access to relevant and quality ELT expertise.
The 100+ affiliate associations are part of a diverse network of affiliates with tremendous potential for collaboration. Through our partnerships, we can connect across borders, share our knowledge and experiences, and break down barriers that may prevent access to quality English teaching. I look forward to hearing more about your work this year. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With warm regards,
LETTER FROM THE PAST PRESIDENT: REFLECTIONS OF A HAS-BEEN
It’s never easy being a “has-been.” I know, for I am in the category of “he has been TESOL President.” For associations, has-beens can become a liability, but they don’t have to.
One of the most crucial policies any association can formulate is a leadership succession plan. Such a plan provides for a regular turn-over of roles to new people, which in turn encourages members to volunteer knowing that there will always be new opportunities where they can grow and do more. A succession plan also outlines an automatic process for what will happen if a leader cannot fulfill their responsibilities for whatever reason. In a time of crisis, no one will have to figure out what to do.
Many people further argue that constant turnover keeps an association vibrant and growing. While I am wary of change for change’s sake, I agree that associations should never be the work of one person, or even one generation of people. By definition, the power of associations is the power of a collective group – they embody what can happen when multiple heads--and bodies--associate. In language teaching associations, our message and our ability to act is strongest when we bring together prospective and practicing teachers, teacher educators, university-based researchers, program administrators, ministry officials, and materials providers. With this many perspectives in the room, we can guarantee that there will be disagreement, which in turn should lead to innovation and solutions that meet the needs of the most stakeholders. But after a while, even if we are coming from different places, we get to know each other and we get comfortable. We replicate last year’s consensus. Succession plans keep us from getting comfortable and avoiding the difficult discussions.
This means that associations need their leaders to move out and on. If a leader stays around too long, the results can be very detrimental. Even when a leader has developed a very effective process for planning the convention, running a training program, or involving sponsors; there is no guarantee that this process will always be effective. Fresh eyes help everything. Moreover, if members begin to assume that this person will always be there to do a certain job, no one else bothers to learn how to do it and the leader becomes irreplaceable—never a good thing. Finally, we should also be concerned about the association’s identity. Associations carry weight when they are perceived as the collective voice of their members, not the followers of a person.
Does this mean therefore that we has-beens should just politely disappear? I think not. Instead, we should think carefully about what our value can be for the association.
First, we will very naturally serve as the association’s historians. There will always be a need to know why a change was made, what the conditions were that prompted it, and perspective on whether those conditions still exist. We can comment on whether policies implemented under our leadership are achieving their intended goals or need a new approach. We may also be called upon to maintain or strengthen connections with a ministry or sponsor that were made during our leadership.
Second, associations depend on their members to share their expertise with each other as a way of developing the whole community and the field. As past leaders, we have expertise in leadership. We should seek out ways to contribute to the development of leadership skills within the association. We can offer to mentor new members to the field or even set up a more formal mentoring program. TESOL International Association benefits every year from the former leaders who contribute their time to its Leadership Mentoring Program. We should also think about how to package what we have learned in the form of conference presentations or newsletter articles. And when the association’s current leaders hit a roadblock or a crisis, we need to be ready to provide a listening ear. We may not have a solution, but we can empathize.
Finally, as past leaders we are ready to take on special tasks or fill interim roles. If the task is delicate, we may have a deeper understanding than most of what makes it delicate. If it is time intensive, we may have fewer competing responsibilities. If it requires background knowledge, we may already have that. In short, our experience will always be a resource that the association and its leaders can draw on when they need to.
The trick, however, is to wait to be asked to contribute and to remember that our role now is different. I vividly remember my first experience as a chair of a group. I was certain that everyone around me secretly thought I was too young and too inexperienced. I remember leaving meetings and thinking I probably should not have talked as much as I did. I remember writing newsletter contributions and wondering if anyone would even read them. For each of these memories, I am eternally grateful to the has-beens before me who thanked me for the job I was doing and encouraged me to continue on.
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR: CHANGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
2017 going into 2018 is going to be a wonderful year of new things, procedures and opportunities to serve and contribute to TESOL International Association.Rosa Aronson has left TESOL and her presence will be missed. Nevertheless, Chris Powers, TESOL’s new executive director is busy learning about all aspects of what the association is involved in. I had the opportunity to meet Chris as he was with us for three days at the TESOL Advocacy Summit, June 2017.
As you know, each time there is a change in staff in any organization there is a change in the group dynamics, perspectives and sometimes procedures. The Affiliate Leadership Council is currently Ana Maria of Argentina TESOL; myself, Debbie of TESOL France; Elizabeth of Tex TESOL V; and the newbie on the block, Uli of MEXTESOL. We were voted onto the Council, but the future members of the new Affiliate Network Professional Council (ANPC) will be determined through a different application process. We will participate in ensuring an appropriate application process that enables more people to help with the tasks at hand.
Some people have a hard time with change and we all feel more secure when things are familiar. Yet with each change, we need to help the association and all our leaders to implement these changes in procedure, technology, and the way we relate to one another.
The Board of TESOL International Association has been taking a look for the past couple of years at how to move towards positive growth that helps all of us relate and know and serve one another better. This next year will bring about the manifestation of some of those changes.
The Affiliate Leadership Council will become the Affiliate Network Professional Council. One of the major changes is that this new council will enable more people to be involved for specific short- or longer-term commitments. It will allow people who have special or specific skills to be able to assist in the activities of the Council and give all of us more opportunities to join in, contribute, improve how we learn, communicate and spread the teaching of English throughout the world.
Perhaps you have ideas and skills you would like to share. It is a great honor to be a part of this affiliate team of TESOL and I hope you will be able to join us, contribute, keep us on track, and be able to, in turn, help those in your affiliate to grow and continue teaching in a way that benefits the students of all ages and all levels.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: "LOST?" RE-CONNECT, RE-INTEGRATE!
With over 100 affiliates, TESOL International Association faces the enormous challenge of keeping the reciprocal channels of communication with each affiliate open; that is from TESOL to the Affiliates and their members and from Affiliates and their members to TESOL.
The Affiliate Leadership Council (ALC) represents affiliates and works with others in TESOL to address affiliate issues and concerns. The 4 members of the council, along with a TESOL Board liaison and TESOL staff liaison serve as the affiliates’ channel of communication to TESOL. Aside from direct communication with the ALC, one of the other major hubs for this communication flow takes place through the Affiliate Leaders Community on myTESOL.
In order to stay connected with TESOL and receive communication from the myTESOL Affiliate Leaders Community, each affiliate must submit an annual Affiliate Leadership Update Form. Up to 5 affiliate leaders can be designated to be part of the Affiliate Leaders community in myTESOL. These 5 affiliate leaders include the President of the Affiliate, the official liaison, and three members of the current board.
It is vital that the Leadership Form be completed as soon as possible after a change in the Affiliate’s governing board so that contact and the flow of information can be maintained without interruption.
Communication on myTESOL
As members of the myTESOL Affiliate Leaders community, leaders will be able to see updates and discussions posted in the Affiliate Leaders community. These updates include Affiliate activities at the annual TESOL Convention, opportunities for benefits and services from TESOL, as well as the responsibilities of being a TESOL Affiliate. To receive notifications via email, leaders should set up their community notifications to either “Daily Digest” or “Real-Time”.
Aside from notifications sent by TESOL, leaders will also be connected with the global TESOL community and can share events, ideas and concerns with the worldwide affiliate community. Members can post questions and comments on the myTESOL site via the “Discussion” feature. Complete video tutorials on using myTESOL can be found on the myTESOL homepage.
We urge you to explore the TESOL Affiliate webpage and the myTESOL Affiliate Leaders community to see what is available to you and your Affiliate and how you and your Affiliate can connect with the global TESOL Affiliate community.
EXPLORING VOCABULARY THRESHOLDS FOR ACADEMIC READING AND WRITING
This past March, I had the honour of being chosen to represent the association of British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language (BC TEAL) during the Best of Affiliate Sessions at the TESOL 2017 International Convention & English Language Expo in Seattle, Washington, USA. I had first made this presentation at the BC TEAL annual conference in April 2016, and I am happy to now offer a summary of my presentation in the TESOL Affiliate News.
The presentation explores the breadth of vocabulary knowledge thresholds that support engagement in first-year university reading and writing tasks for students from linguistically diverse backgrounds who are studying in English. My interest in this topic was first sparked by an encounter I had with a student while I was teaching at a university in Japan. I was walking across campus one day, and I spotted one of my students looking upset and crying. When I went to check on her, her distress seemed to be caused by the book in her hand. It was 1984 by George Orwell. She had to read the actual unabridged version of the book for an English literature class. However, it wasn’t the dystopian image of life in the book that was causing her distress. Rather, it was her struggles to make meaning of the text. When I had a peek inside, I saw a sea of translation. Reading, for her, had become a belaboured act into which all of her cognitive effort was being put in order to decode a critical mass of unknown vocabulary. When she asked for advice, I started to give her a number of suggestions, such as trying to guess the meaning of unknown words from context, skipping the unknown words to get the general gist, and noting unknown words to go back later and look up in an English learner dictionary. However, with each piece of advice, I could see that it was not going to help her with her immediate need to read and understand 1984 in order to write a book report. Rather, she needed to know more words in English before the strategies I was suggesting would be more useful. Thus, I began to think more about how much vocabulary students need to engage in a reading text as well as to produce a piece of writing.
Horst (2013) has suggested 2,000 high-frequency word families as being a first step towards covering 80–85% of the words students might encounter in a reading text. For Horst (2013), this is the core vocabulary in a language, and she has pointed out that not having access to these high-frequency word families is a considerable barrier to reading. However, knowing 2,000 high-frequency word families in English is just the first step. I suspect that the student I encountered in Japan probably did know around 2,000 word families, although perhaps not a comprehensive representation of 2,000 high-frequency word families (Horst, 2013). In fact, when I examined an excerpt from 1984 using the vocabulary profiling tools on www.lextutor.ca, I found that 2,000 high-frequency word families did cover 81% of the running words in the text. Unfortunately, 81% coverage wasn’t enough to unlock understanding. Rather, 81% coverage still resulted in frustration, difficulty making meaning, and a conscious and belaboured act of reading. Thus, more words appear to be needed.
It has been suggested that, for instructional purposes (i.e., reading supported by a teacher), students need to understand around 95% of the words they encounter in a text (Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010) and for independent reading purposes, students need to understand around 98% of the words they encounter in a text (Hu & Nation, 2000; Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010). For supported instruction, students need about 4,000–5,000 word families to cover 95% of a text (Laufer & Ravehorst-Kalovski, 2010). Thus, if students are familiar with 4,000–5,000 word families, they would typically encounter one unfamiliar word in about every 20. For independent reading, students need about 8,000–9,000 word families to cover 98% of a text (Hu & Nation, 2000; Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010). This level of coverage would mean that students would typically encounter one unknown word in about every 50. The implication is that the more words students know, the better those known words will facilitate comprehension of a text and free up the cognitive resources to engage with the content of a text. Instead of focusing just on decoding unknown vocabulary, with a critical threshold of lexical understanding, students can devote their cognitive resources to reading practices such as finding connections with and between ideas, making inferences, recognizing bias, and evaluating arguments.
Having explored suggested lexical thresholds for teacher-supported and independent reading (Hu & Nation, 2000; Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010), I started to wonder about the breadth of vocabulary knowledge students use when they first begin their postsecondary studies. Investigating first-year university writing (Douglas, 2013), I created a corpus of satisfactorily rated first-year university essays on a range of general topics. In my corpus, I found that in an average first-year university essay, around 3,200 word families covered 95% of the words used; around 5,300 word families covered 98% of the words used; and around 11,700 word families covered almost all of the words used. As with reading, the idea is that the more words students have at their fingertips for productive use in writing, the better those words will facilitate expression and free up the cognitive resources needed to fully engage with the essay topic. For example, students with wider sets of vocabulary at their disposal may be better able to demonstrate awareness of register and genre, communicate ideas with greater precision, self-evaluate their writing, and revise and edit their work.
Bringing all of this together, it seems that a wider range of vocabulary is required for receptive reading purposes as students enter university compared to the range of vocabulary required for productive purposes. However, if students do have a certain level of vocabulary knowledge, it appears that they will have a critical mass of understanding that facilitates the employment of reading and writing strategies, such as guessing the meaning from context or using circumlocution for unknown words. Knowing enough vocabulary (95% coverage with support and 98% coverage independently) also has the potential to facilitate students accessing the common underlying proficiency they have related to their academic language abilities in their first language (Cummins, 1981) when encountering less frequent words in reading or requiring more precise vocabulary choices to express meaning in writing.
Of course, vocabulary is only one variable of many, and, in this case, this presentation has only considered breadth of vocabulary knowledge (number of word families students know) as opposed to depth of vocabulary knowledge (how well those word families are used). Other aspects, such as syntax, context, background knowledge, cultural knowledge, and individual learner characteristics may be at play when it comes to reading and writing skills. However, these lexical thresholds do point to some target goals for focusing vocabulary learning to promote automatic understanding of higher frequency vocabulary to release the cognitive resources that facilitate better engagement with overall textual demands.
Cummins, J. (1981). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In California State Department of Education (Ed.), Schooling and language minority students: A theoretical framework (pp. 3–49). Los Angeles, CA: Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center, California State University, Los Angeles. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED249773.pdf
Douglas, S. R. (2013). The lexical breadth of undergraduate novice level writing competency. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 16(1), 152–170. Retrieved from https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/CJAL/article/view/21176
Horst, M. (2013). Mainstreaming second language vocabulary acquisition. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 16(1), 171–188. Retrieved from https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/CJAL/article/view/21299
Hu, M., & Nation, P. (2000). Unknown vocabulary density and reading comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 13(1), 403–430.
Laufer, B., & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, G. C. (2010). Lexical threshold revisited: Lexical text coverage, learners’ vocabulary size and reading comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language 22(1), 15–30.
Scott Douglas is an assistant professor of teaching English as an additional language in the Faculty of Education on the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. He is also the editor of the BC TEAL Journal.
"BILINGUALISM IS A GIFT!" A CAMPAIGN OF COLLABORATION
Many years ago in our public integrated preschool just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, speech and language pathologists (SLPs) began advocating for an ESL specialist to provide support in an official capacity in particular with evaluations of dual language learners. SLPs saw the need for a team member who was trained in understanding second language acquisition to help the team make more appropriate decisions for these children who are disproportionately identified for special education in programs across the United States (Sanatullova-Allison & Robison-Young, 2016; Morgan, et al., 2015). Eventually, a position was funded and I was fortunate to begin working with the preschool team as the only general education teacher on a team of special education providers. Together, we created an atmosphere of genuine collaboration that promoted achievement for our students and enhanced family engagement. Through our efforts, we especially identified some critical steps in processes for evaluating dual language learners, including explicitly affirming bilingualism in our conversations with families and other service providers.
Though our town is only 4.2 square miles, our district is linguistically and culturally quite diverse with approximately 40 languages represented and over 30% of students being bilingual. Such diversity is rich. It can also be challenging for a mostly monolingual, English-speaking staff in our schools and service providers in our community as they work to reach all students and families in culturally responsive ways. Preschool staff members were especially eager to work with families more effectively. We sought professional development to build capacity and found strong guidance through WIDA Early Years at University of Wisconsin-Madison and the New England Equity Assistance Center at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Addressing a Myth
Through these professional development opportunities, we began to gain more research-based arguments against a commonly held myth related to bilingualism: “Bilingual parents, especially parents of children with disabilities, should only speak English at home.” This myth was frequently communicated to bilingual families by relatives, our own staff, or other professionals in the community, such as pediatricians and psychologists. Some families were abruptly discontinuing the use of their home languages and beginning to speak only English at home no matter their level of English proficiency. Though we knew this message was incorrect, we were becoming increasingly aware of the amount of research and resources available that showed the benefits of bilingualism for children of diverse abilities and how to support continued home language development. While we believed that families should make their own decisions about language use, we also felt a responsibility to ensure they had accurate information to guide their decisions.
Research continues to reflect the cognitive, social-emotional, and economic benefits of bilingualism (Zelasko & Antunez, 2000; Kessler & Quinn, 1980; Jessner, 2008; Kovács & Mehler, 2009; Keysar, Hayakawa, & An, 2011; Paez & Rinaldi, 2006; Fradd, 2000). Bilingualism has been shown to be beneficial for children with disabilities as well, including autism (Reetzke, Zou, Sheng, & Katsos, 2015; Paradis, 2016). The Importance of Home Language Series from Head Start is a resource for families and educators and is available in multiple languages. The Hanen Centre, a Toronto-based speech and language organization, also published a helpful article addressing common questions about bilingualism for children with disabilities (Lowry, 2011).
The Campaign and Outreach
As a result of this learning, we knew it was imperative for us to be explicit in our support of bilingualism for the benefit of our diverse families and the community. So for 9 months, a team of us—including the ESL coordinator, the early childhood director, the preschool evaluation team chair, and I—worked on refining our message for families and stakeholders. We sought advice from bilingual experts and feedback from various professionals. We considered the most common questions we would hear from families that reflected their concerns. The result was the start of our “Bilingualism is a Gift!” (BiG!) campaign with our message communicated through a flyer and a letter signed by our superintendent and other administrators. The flyer highlights some benefits of bilingualism, answers the most common questions we have heard, and encourages the use of home languages every day and in all activities. The flyer has been translated into eight other languages besides English so far: Spanish, Portuguese, Armenian, Urdu, Simplified Chinese, Bengali, Telugu, and Pashto. Some of these translations have been made possible through partnerships with other public school districts.
In the fall of 2015, we mailed the letter and flyer (in English as well as other translations) to various stakeholders in our community: pediatricians, psychologists, early intervention therapists, daycare providers, and religious leaders. The superintendent invited us to share the campaign with town officials and the wider community at televised school committee meetings. We distributed the flyers and produced poster versions for our district’s teachers to be displayed in classrooms and hallways. New teachers have been provided with training on the topic as part of their induction programming. At our integrated preschool, we have explored ways to make all home languages and cultures more visible, including the integration of family music, bilingual books, and environmental print. Maryann MacDougall, SLP and preschool evaluation team chair, authored a three-part series of blog posts about our collaboration and campaign for ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) Leader Blog. We promoted the campaign at parent nights, the town fair, and literacy events hosted by district staff. Local organizations such as Project Literacy and our branch of the Parent Child Home Program also helped spread the word to families, promoting not only maintenance of home languages, but also using it to encourage parents to learn English. Among other benefits, this increases parents’ engagement in school. We continued to promote this message at trainings for early intervention and Boston area preschools. Some therapists at The Hanen Centre have used our flyer with their own clients. Social media has been an effective outlet (#bilingualismisagift) for the message as well as our English Language Education Resources site, which has pages devoted to home language supports for educators and for families (also available in Spanish). Members of our team have presented on our collaboration and campaign at state, regional, and national conferences. This year, we were fortunate to represent MATSOL with a Best of Affiliates session about our campaign at the TESOL international convention in Seattle, Washington, USA.
We have continued to share this message directly with families and professionals in our school district with positive results. The flyer is an easy entryway into the conversation, equipping us with key talking points. Our integrated preschool team has had considerable success in preventing families from giving up their home languages altogether, particularly as more practitioners feel confident in promoting this message. After conversations with our team, one family of a child with autism rejected clinical advice from an outside provider to abandon their home language. Since their decision to continue with both languages, the family reports their child’s home language is rapidly reaching parity with his English across all four domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Now they have fully embraced their home language and are confident that they have made the right decision for their child and their family. Because of interdisciplinary collaboration, we have been able to reach more families and practitioners with sound guidance related to bilingualism, extensively impacting our community and the beliefs we hold about language.
The work continues both inside and outside of our district. If you are interested in utilizing the flyers in your setting, please email email@example.com to request access. Additionally, if you are willing to translate the flyer into other languages, a template is available. We only request that you share your translation with the BiG! Campaign to further its reach.
Fradd, S. (2000). Developing a language-learning framework for preparing Florida’s multilingual work force. In S. Fradd (Ed.), Creating Florida’s multilingual global work force, 3. Miami, FL: Florida Department of Education.
Jessner, U. (2008). Teaching third languages: Findings, trends, and challenges. Language Teaching, 41(1), 15–56. doi:10.1017/S0261444807004739
Kessler, C., & Quinn, M. E. (1980). Positive effects of bilingualism on science problem-solving abilities. In J. E. Alatis (Ed.), Current issues in bilingual education. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Keysar, B., Hayakawa, S. L., & An, S. (2011). The foreign-language effect: Thinking in a foreign tongue reduces decision biases. Psychological Science, 23, 661– 668. doi:10.1177/0956797611432178
Kovács, A. M., & Mehler, J. (2009). Cognitive gains in 7-month-old bilingual infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(16), 6556–6560.
Lowry, L. (2011). Can children with language impairments learn two languages? Toronto, Ontario, Canada: The Hanen Centre. Retrieved from http://www.hanen.org/helpful-info/articles/can-children-with-language-impairments-learn-two-l.aspx
Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M. M., Mattison, R., Maczuga, S., Li, H., & Cook, M. (2015). Minorities are disproportionately underrepresented in special education: Longitudinal evidence across five disability conditions. Educational Researcher,44(5), 278–292. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/rbtfl/SczH6cdfaJjrg/full
Páez, M., & Rinaldi, C. (2006). Predicting English word reading skills for Spanish-speaking students in first grade. Topics in Language Disorders, 26(4), 338–350.
Paradis, J. (2016) The development of English as a second language with and without specific language impairment: Clinical implications. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research, 59, 171–182.
Reetzke, R., Zou, X., Sheng, L., & Katsos, N. (2015). Communicative development in bilingually exposed Chinese children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 58, 813–825.
Sanatullova-Allison, E., & Robison-Young, V. A. (2016). Overrepresentation: An overview of the issues surrounding the identification of English language learners with learning disabilities. International Journal of Special Education,31(2), 145–151. Retrieved from http://www.internationaljournalofspecialed.com/docs/ISSUE%2031-2.pdf
Zelasko, N., & Antunez, B. (2000). If your child learns in two languages. National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. Retrieved from http://www.ncela.us/files/rcd/BE019820/If_Your_Child_Learns.pdf
Lauren Harrison currently teaches elementary ESL in Watertown, Massachusetts, USA; serves as a board member of Project Literacy; and has provided professional development opportunities in the Boston area on topics related to dual language learners and the intersection of special education and ESL. She has 15 years of teaching experience at various levels in the United States and western China. Find her on Twitter (@LaurenEHarrison).
TEACHING WITH MOBILE DEVICES: SOME PRACTICAL IDEAS AND CONSIDERATIONS
Mobile devices are reshaping the ways we access information and interact with others, offering great educational potential that should be exploited by teachers and institutions. This article analyzes how mobile learning can enrich language learning in innovative ways and, at the same time, help learners develop skills that are essential in the 21st century.
Technology has changed almost every aspect of our daily life and has also had a massive impact on the way we communicate, access information, and learn. The students in our classrooms are radically differently from older generations: They prefer visual information and multimedia over text; they are tech-savvy and hyper-connected; and they communicate mainly through instant messaging services and social networks, where they share personal updates and photos and videos, and interact with other users’ content.
English language teachers need to consider new ways of integrating technology into the curriculum to address these new profiles and learning styles, engage students more effectively, and help them acquire a range of competencies that they will need to succeed in work, life, and citizenship.
Mobile devices can become powerful tools to engage today’s learners—as long as pedagogy is prioritized over technology. Mobile learning (also known as M-learning) is not about the physical devices themselves, but "learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices” (Crompton, 2013).
M-learning can enrich language learning in innovative ways and offers many benefits:
- Ubiquitous learning: By using mobile devices, students can have instant access to dictionaries, video tutorials, presentations, documents, and other type of content, anytime and anywhere.
- Personalization: M-learning enables personalized and autonomous learning, as content and materials can be adapted to the students’ particular learning styles and levels. By using their own devices (e.g., to do a listening activity or an interactive quiz), students work at their own pace in a private, controlled environment.
- Active, meaningful learning: Mobile apps allow students to create digital artifacts from personal photographs, videos, and audio. Objects, situations, and experiences that are relevant to students can be integrated into language activities easily.
- Mobility and portability: Learning takes place “on the go” because students can access content and activities outside the classroom: at home, while commuting, in the park. Virtual field trips and online museums and classes are also engaging activities that can take learning outside the classroom. When used inside the classroom, mobile devices also allow learners to move around, which makes language learning engaging for kinesthetic students.
- Digital skills: It is commonly assumed that learning with technology is second nature for today’s students. However, they generally do not know how to use mobile devices as a tool for learning. Therefore, by learning how to use their devices productively, they also develop digital skills that they will need in the future.
- Higher order thinking skills: M-learning is a powerful medium to foster the development of higher order thinking skills, which have been identified by the United States–based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) as the most important skills required for 21st-century education. The main skills can be identified as follows:
- Critical thinking: Mobile devices allow student learners to record their reflections via text, picture, drawing, audio, video, or other creative means, which can be reviewed later on and changed or adapted. Students can also reflect critically with their peers using mobile tools and technologies (McCann, 2015).
- Communication: Digital forms of communication (video, audio, text, instant messaging, video conferencing, blog posts, and social networks, just to name a few) require students to develop a range of skills to organize, evaluate, and communicate ideas and information effectively in a variety of forms and contexts.
- Collaboration: Mobile apps and technologies can enhance collaboration and enable students to develop skills to work with diverse teams, assume shared responsibility for teamwork, and value individual contributions. Sharing documents and content; writing collaboratively; and creating timelines, mind maps, and photo collages are just some examples of mobile collaborative activities.
- Creativity: Mobile devices are powerful tools that allow students to create their own digital artifacts and unlock creativity. Learners can create their own videos, podcasts, slideshows, mind maps, interactive presentations, augmented reality content, and other types of materials using mobile, digital technologies.
M-Learning Ideas and Activities to carry out in the English Classroom
See my handout, Mobile Learning Activities to Carry Out in the English Classroom, for ideas and activities with mobile devices that can be adapted for students of different ages and levels. They are organized as follows.
- Activities with microphones
- Activities with cameras
- Activities with apps that promote communication and collaboration
- Activities with apps that foster creativity
- Activities with QR codes
To implement a successful M-learning strategy, there are a few points to consider; these points will affect M-learning planning and design (Hockly, 2012).
- Mobile device usage
Where and when will students use their devices? They can either use them in the classroom to look up information, do quizzes and tests, and play games, or at home or on the move for additional practice and independent study. A combination of both modes is also a good option.
Another point to consider is whether learners are going to use mobile devices in every class or just for occasional activities.
- Device ownership
Whose devices are learners going to use? A growing number of institutions are adopting BYOD (Bring your Own Device) programs in which students are allowed to use their own mobile devices for learning. When individual use is not possible (such as when not all students own a device), devices can be shared for group activities. Some institutions even provide students with sets of tablets to use in class.
- Consumption and production
How are students going to use mobile devices? They can either consume content (by watching videos, listening to podcasts, doing quizzes, using flashcards) or produce content (by creating artifacts with the microphone, camera, and native apps) to integrate into projects. A mixture of consumption- and production-focused activities will certainly enrich the language learning experience.
Challenges for Educators
M-learning is a relatively new methodology that poses certain challenges that teachers need to address (Kukulska-Hulme, Norris, & Donohue, 2015).
- Cost and Wi-Fi connection
Is there a free Wi-Fi connection in class? How strong is the signal? Will it crash if many users log on at the same time? There are many activities to do with mobile devices that do not require an Internet connection. However, students may need to continue their tasks after class. In that case, do they have Internet access at home or elsewhere?
- Variety of devices
Another important issue to consider is the wide variety of models, brands, and operating systems: iOS, Android, Windows 10 Mobile, BlackBerry, and so on. If apps are included in the lesson plan, make sure they are compatible with the different operating systems and devices. When in doubt, web-based applications should be used because they can be accessed through any device using a web browser.
- Device physical features
Mobile devices have small screens, no physical keyboards, inadequate memory, and short battery life. Therefore, having students write long texts or watch a video longer than 5 minutes will be counterproductive.
It is also important to check how much free space there is on the learners’ devices: photos, audio and video recordings, and apps can require a considerable amount of space.
- Privacy and security
There are privacy concerns resulting from students sharing personal information inadequately. In addition, most apps require permissions to access certain features (e.g., location, photos, and contacts) to function. Both teachers and students should learn how to be responsible digital citizens, assess the risks of sharing information with apps and on the Internet, and understand what terms and conditions apply when agreeing to download and use apps.
- Monitored use
Teachers should create a class contract in agreement with students for classroom norms, rules, and consequences. Mobile devices can be a source of distraction and unethical use; therefore, the activities should be monitored by teachers if carried out in class.
To keep learners on task, ask them to switch phones to flight mode and turn off push notifications to prevent incoming texts or news updates from appearing. Asking learners to put their devices face down at the end of the activity is also a good solution.
To conclude, institutions should implement an acceptable use policy to ensure that mobile devices are used responsibly to encourage learning and minimize disruption (McQuiggan, 2015). M-learning extends learning beyond the classroom and allows students to communicate, collaborate, and create in innovative ways while taking control of their own learning. Pedagogy should always be the primary consideration, and teachers play a key role in facilitating learning through mobile technologies and strategies.
Crompton, H. (2013). Handbook of mobile learning. London, England: Routledge.
Hockly, N. (2012). Mobile learning: what is it and why should you care? Modern English teacher, 21(2), 32–33.
Kukulska-Hulme, A., Norris, L., & Donohue, J. (2015). Mobile pedagogy for English language teaching: A guide for teachers. London, England: The British Council.
McCann, S. (2015). Higher order mLearning: Critical thinking in mobile learning. MODSIM World 2015 (Paper No. 028). Retrieved from http://www.modsimworld.org/papers/2015/Higher_Order_mLearning.pdf
McQuiggan, S. M. (2015). Mobile learning: A handbook for developers, educators, and learners. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Mercedes Kamijo is an EFL teacher specialized in mobile learning and e-learning. She is a member of TESOL Argentina and currently teaches online courses in educational technology. She is coauthor of the e-book Mobile Learning: Nuevas realidades en el aula.
NEWS FROM THE AFFILIATES
HELTA HONDURAS TESOL: ITS ORIGINS AND IMPACT ON HONDURAS TEACHER TRAINING
HELTA Honduras TESOL is the Honduran Association for English Language Teachers which started its work and activities in November, 2014 thanks to a grant provided by the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) from the US Department of State. It was one of 50 winning projects from over 2500 worldwide.
Our mission is to influence ELT in Honduras by empowering teachers; strengthening their skills in the areas of methodology and pedagogy of English language teaching and learning at all levels in both the public and private context; promoting and spreading writing development in connection with research in the ELT field; and finally, working collaboratively with other teacher organizations worldwide that share the same goals.
Thanks to the Regional English Language Office in Mexico City, the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa and the AEIF funding opportunity, we started activities in 2015 and in 2016 we developed training activities through regional events in the north, east, center and south regions of our country.
2015 Regional Event CCS; 2015 Regional Event Comayagua; Regional Mini Conference El Progreso
In 2017 we are moving towards a more underdeveloped region, the west and also complementing the work we start in the east, south and north regions. All of these steps towards teacher training have been significantly successful:
Regional events: between 60-120 attendees each; Annual Conference: 167 attendees + 35 presenters
Regional events: between 20-120 attendees each; Annual Conference: 347 attendees + 37 presenters (we could have had 450 attendees, but we had to send away participants as we never expected so many and we lacked materials)
Regional events: between 60 -100 attendees each in September, October and November; Annual Conference: 476 attendees + 60 presenters
We also reactivated Honduras’ affiliation with TESOL International Association in 2016. It was very rewarding to be able to receive this honor. As President, I felt it meant great things would be in store for our teachers and this humbled me and filled me with more energy for the team. This year, 2017, we also became an IATEFL Associate and I had the chance to be part of their event in Glasgow. Wow! The possibilities now are endless for our country; we can have a significant impact and create collaboration with many experts in the field worldwide. Honduras is now everywhere on the ELT map and for us this is rewarding and motivating. It encourages us to work harder! We are looking into more collaboration scenarios. Who knows, TESOL Arabia? The Japanese Association of Language Teachers? We will eagerly look forward to what type of collaboration the future holds in store for us!
We are currently constructing our website; we have a basic one operating that is slowly being updated with presentation handouts and our communication newsletters. This is mainly for informational and publicity purposes and is published annually; usually at the conference or a month afterwards. We are preparing our 3rd issue for September-October 2017 in which we will report on activities from this past year and on the upcoming projects for 2018 which undoubtedly will be full of surprises, successes and achievements!!
If you click the hyperlink that follows: HELTA you will see some basic information. We have been using our Facebook (FB) page and our FB group which we have found to be very successful. Follow us and like us on FB, register at our website and you will find more about what we are doing. We have a weekly worldwide reach of 2000 - 4000 people and of those numbers 65% are engaged in and around 50% interact with our posts. Additionally, the numbers improve during conference time reaching up to 20000 people and managing to attain 100% engagement in our posts.
One of the greatest benefits for us has been being a part of the Regional TESOL Group for Central America and the Caribbean, a group that we are leading at this time for the period 2016-2018. We will be hosting the 14th biannual Regional TESOL Group Conference in 2018. ELT experts from 15 to 16 different countries will be sharing their knowledge with our teachers. It will be a first-time event in our country and something that will lead to more opportunities for our teachers! This group provides support to all participating associations in the form of advice, encouragement, ideas and many ways that make associations everywhere engage and innovate.
We have come a long way, even when at times it has been very challenging. Most of the time our biggest issue has been funding and I think this is the case for language associations everywhere. However, little by little we are building our reputation and thanks to this, more partners want to become involved and collaborate with us. The key, we believe, is keeping a positive attitude and understanding that God takes care of us and our work. He values our efforts and allows us to move forward. Our main goal is to show potential collaborators and stakeholders that we walk the walk, and talk the talk. We commit and see through; every goal we set up we accomplish. We feel that eventually more people will come on board and join us in our effort to make education better in Honduras and, of course, in our region. At the beginning it was only our small, but enthusiastic team; now we also have binational centers, public and private universities, publishers and people who either want to be part of our work or want advice for their work collaborating with us. So, yes, we see a bright future ahead and we will make the work of this association a sustainable one!
We may not be a large association but we are surely growing steadily and working towards the empowerment of English teachers and the improvement of English teaching in Honduras!
Grazzia María Mendoza has an M.Ed. in International Education and an M.A. in TESOL. She has been teaching English for 24 years and has been a presenter internationally at TESOL International Association and other TESOL affiliates since 2007. She is the current Chair of the EFLIS and served from 2012-2015 as Chair of the International Participation Award for the Awards Committee. She has reviewed proposals for TESOL since 2009 and is HELTA Honduras TESOL’s current President and is the President of the Regional TESOL Group for Central America and the Caribbean for the 2016-2018 period.
GREETINGS FROM NYS TESOL
Warm greetings from New York State (NYS) TESOL! NYS TESOL is an association of professionals concerned with the education of English language learners at all levels of public and private education in New York State. Our interests include classroom practices, research, program and curriculum development, employment, funding, and legislation. Our vision is to advocate, advance, and enrich TESOL education and professionalism statewide.
2017 TESOL Convention in Seattle
NYS TESOL was well-represented at this year’s TESOL Convention in Seattle.
The leadership team of NYS TESOL is happy to report that New York educators not only attended but also contributed to the field by presenting on a wide variety of topics. Drs. Maria Dove, Andrea Honigsfeld, Carrie McDermott, Helaine Marshall, Beth Clark-Gareca, and Laura Baecher, to name a few, presented on topics ranging from K-12 mainstream to teacher education. We are proud to claim these internationally renowned professors and researchers as fellow New Yorkers and members of NYS TESOL!
As a way of welcoming TESOL professionals from New York, we hosted the annual NYS TESOL convention gathering at Sullivan’s Steakhouse. It was attended by approximately sixty NYS TESOL members. We were honored that the attendees included Dr. Andy Curtis (TESOL President 2015-2016) and Dr. Liying Cheng, both of whom joined as new members last year.
NYS TESOL members with TESOL Past President Andy Curtis (center)
Members networking at the annual convention gathering
The officers, Anne Henry, Ravneet Parmar and Sarah Elia, along with the business manager, Cynthia Wiseman, were at the affiliate booth on Thursday, 23 March in the exhibition hall to greet fellow TESOLers. We shared bagels to highlight an item that is famously associated with NYC, and promoted upcoming regional and statewide events.
NYS TESOL Affiliate Booth in Seattle, Washington
In addition to attending many interesting presentations, the leadership team represented NYS TESOL at numerous affiliate sessions. These sessions included the Leadership Forum and the Affiliate Council Assembly. These were fantastic opportunities for us to network with affiliate leaders from the United States and around the world.
During the TESOL leadership luncheon, President-elect, Ravneet Parmar, and Past President, Sarah Elia, were delighted to meet current and former TESOL board members and share information about NYS TESOL with them.
NYS TESOL Upcoming Events
The NYS TESOL Executive Board is proud to announce that the 47th Annual Conference will be held 3-4 November 2017 at Hilton Long Island Huntington, Melville, New York. The theme is Empathy in Action: Social Pedagogy and Public Advocacy for English Language Learners. This theme was carefully selected not only due to the current political environment but to also meet an important aspect of the organization’s vision which is to advocate, advance, and enrich TESOL education and professionalism statewide. The Board is grateful to TESOL’s leadership and stance on advocacy and the work that it does to promote high quality education for multilingual learners in the United States and across the globe. We greatly acknowledge that there is no time like the present to share our beliefs and to encourage other educators and administers to advocate for their students. Please visit www.nystesol.org for detailed information on the annual conference and regional events throughout the state. The Vice President for the Annual conference, Dr. Ching Ching Lin, welcomes educators, within and outside of New York State, to participate.
Other noteworthy items for NYS TESOL are the publications and the “member of the month”. Because NYS TESOL recognizes the dedication and hard work of its members, a member is highlighted each month for his/her outstanding commitment to the profession. Please visit our website to read about the current and past members of the month. In addition to special recognition of its members, NYS TESOL is proud to have a quarterly online newsletter, Idiom, and a peer reviewed Journal. Both publications can be accessed at www.nystesol.org.
In an effort to share information and maintain an open line of communication with the membership, NYS TESOL is very active on social media and welcomes you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you would like more information about the organization or have a question, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, we would like to congratulate Dr. Luciana de Oliviera, who is a member of the NYS TESOL Journal advisory board, on her new role as President-elect of TESOL International Association! We are honored that Dr. de Olivera is an important and contributing member of the organization. We wish her all the best in her new role and look forward to her presidency.
MISTY'S BLOG FOR ARGENTINA TESOL
It was my absolute pleasure and privilege to represent TESOL International Association at the Argentina TESOL Convention held on May 12th and 13th at Parana in Argentina. The theme of the Convention was Democratising English Language Teaching, and perhaps inevitably many of the speakers spoke of the role of technology in this enterprise.
Preparing to listen to the opening speaker Micah Risher, Director of the Regional English Language Office based in Peru, opened the conference and challenged participants to consider the extent to which they understand the world in which many of their students live. Who are Generations X, Y, Z and Alpha?
Many of the concurrent sessions tackled the use of technology in the classroom from the Flipped classroom presented by Gonzalo Fortun to using your students mobile phones in the classroom, presented by Alejandro Manniello. Featured speaker, Mercedes Kamijo, picked up this theme with a very interactive session which had the audience participating in online quizzes and using QR codes. Interactive keynotes were a feature of the convention – never easy when speaking to a large audience, but managed superbly by Trina Goslin who had groups of people working oral language activities that had the crowd engaged and involved.
Trish Goslin’s session had participants engaged in group work
As much as I love attending academic sessions when I attend conferences, I really love the social programs! They can really help you connect to your fellow participants. Argentina TESOL featured a groovy saxophone player, who had the crowd dancing and singing along and a fun raffle evening where everyone seemed to be a winner!
Saxophone player entertains
Music was a feature of other keynotes, including my own. I spoke about the professional career trajectory of teachers, and how we can maintain our passion and I set it all to music.
The final song was the disco favourite “I will survive.”
My second keynote was focussed on the teaching of grammar in context, a theme that was serendipitously expanded upon by Monica Gandolfo in her session titled Experiencing genre-based teaching in a foreign language.
I attended as part of TESOL International Associations Affiliate Speaker Program, which gives TESOL Affiliates the opportunity to have a member of the Board of Directors speak at their annual event. And it was such an honor to be in Argentina for this event.
I made so many new friends, and ate a lot of lovely Argentinian steak! I would particularly like to thank Argentina TESOL’s President Graciela Martin, and her hard-working conference committee, for their wonderful hosting.
Graciela Martin President of Argentina TESOL
In 2018 the conference will be in Mendoza, which is Argentina’s wine country. It promises to be a great event - put it in your diary.
LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS: MEXTESOL AND HELTA HONDURAS TESOL
Collaboration entails bringing people together to guarantee personal and professional growth, especially when it is in a specific geographic region. (Berry, Daughtrey, & Wieder 2009) TESOL Affiliates in the Central American and Caribbean Basin region have been collaborating for 23 years, enabling teachers and associations to create best practices and an enrichment of their learning and growth processes. Sharing, camaraderie and strong friendships have been the result as we have understood that we cannot be isolated, and that we need each other to evolve, learn and reflect about our daily teaching practice. (Costa and Kallick, 2008).
The MEXTESOL and HELTA Honduras TESOL experience has been one of mentorship and learning respectively. Two very different associations have come together to allow for mutual learning, with a high sense of respect for each other’s work and with the idea that there is always time and the opportunity to learn from each other.
We had the chance to deliver this presentation at the Affiliate Colloquium in Seattle 2017, allowing us to explain and give details on how Mexico and Honduras—however different in size, economic growth and population—still share the same challenges and opportunities when it comes to English teaching and teachers’ associations. The session considered how mentorship can benefit a new born association by providing pointers, experiences, the dos and the dont's, the opportunities for growth and in general, leading the way. It also described how an older association is then led into reflecting about its own processes, replicating what has worked in the new context and being able to witness the growth and consolidation of a new group over a relatively short period of time.
Collaboration between these two organizations has meant an outward and inward look to understand our strengths and how to empower each other. We agreed and realized that the path is not an easy one and that success is not always at the end of the path; there are many times when we stumbled and fell, but knew we could count on mentors and friends to see us through our challenges. To know that there is a group of teachers from different countries, ready to help you stand up and continue, to never give up and find strength when you feel it simply isn’t working, is priceless. This collaboration has meant having that helping hand while learning, having that effective advice at the right moment and even having the chance to show our concerns but being aware that someone else has gone through that before and succeeded. It is empowerment and it means walking the extra mile even when we feel we can’t walk anymore!
The complete title of the Affiliate Colloquium in Seattle was “Equal Partners—Equal Opportunities”. Perhaps surprisingly, we beg to differ with this underlying premise, although we understand and agree with the implied lofty end-meaning. If everybody is equal, not much learning can take place. It is precisely in “inequality” that both sides can gain from the other. It is not a matter of inferior-superior standing. I can learn from what you excel in and perhaps you can learn from what I am good at. And we can both learn from our individual and joint errors! We then “equalize” out, to some abstract extent. In the HELTA-Honduras / MEXTESOL relationship, MEXTESOL has benefitted by having to reexamine long-held assumptions about our organization and adapting them to the new realities which HELTA-Honduras’ present-day experiences have shed light on and prompted us to incorporate into our present and future strategic thinking. The collaboration has thus been fruitful for both associations.
HELTA Honduras TESOL thanks MEXTESOL, but specifically Ulrich Schrader who has been able to make a difference not only in the association in Honduras but in the Central American and Caribbean Basin Region as well! We surely hope to continue collaboration and mutual understanding and maintain our growth through the years!
Berry, B., Daughtrey, A. & Wieder, A. (2009, December). Collaboration: Closing the Effective Teaching Gap. Center for Teaching Equality, pp. 1-10
Costa, A., & Kallick, B. (2008). Learning through Reflection. In Costa, A. & Kallick, B. Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind. Alexandria: ASCD
Grazzia María Mendoza has an M.Ed. in International Education and an M.A. in TESOL. She has been teaching English for 24 years and has been a presenter internationally at TESOL International Association and other TESOL affiliates since 2007. She is the current Chair of the EFLIS and served from 2012-2015 as Chair of the International Participation Award for the Awards Committee. She has reviewed proposals for TESOL since 2009 and is HELTA Honduras TESOL’s current President and is the President of the Regional TESOL Group for Central America and the Caribbean for the 2016-2018 period.
Ulrich Schrader is the academic consultant for MEXTESOL and the senior advisor to the Central American and Caribbean Basin Regional Group.