March 2016
ARTICLES
ALL ABOARD FOR THE ELECTRONIC VILLAGE. . .ONLINE!
Nina Liakos (Retired) Formerly: University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA

In 1998, some CALL-IS members had a fantastic idea. Why not take advantage of the existence of free online platforms to extend TESOL’s Electronic Village (EV) beyond the confines of the TESOL convention? Thus was born the Electronic Village Online(EVO), founded by CALL-IS members Christine Bauer-Ramazani, Susan Gaer, and Tom Robb, initially as a way to discuss issues prior to the convention and continue the discussion on these issues after the convention. The first iterations used Blackboard, but in 2002 the switch to Yahoo Groups increased accessibility and functionality (Hanson-Smith & Bauer-Ramazani, 2004). Since its inception, EVO has been open to TESOL and non-TESOL members worldwide.

In the years following, EVO sessions became stand-alone sessions, rather than being tied to topics of the TESOL convention. Much has been gained as EVO sessions have become a popular way for TESOL members, IATEFL members, and ESL/EFL educators around the world to engage in free professional development about a wide range of topics, including teaching with technology (from blogs and Moodle to Second Life and e-textbooks, and many more); using drama or music to teach English; teaching oral communication skills, business English, pronunciation, and vocabulary; NNEST, ITA, and DREAMer issues; just-in-time teaching and the flipped learning approach; mentoring and lesson-planning; games and gamification; conflict resolution and peacebuilding for ELLs; multiliteracies; and content and language integrated learning (CLIL).

Every year, teams of moderators submit their proposals to a group of volunteer coordinators who read and discuss the proposals. Promising proposals are provisionally accepted, and the moderators, themselves also all volunteers, participate in a 4-week training session in the fall, during which they learn about the EVO’s unique all-volunteer, all-carrots-no-sticks culture while developing their session syllabus and materials and building and practicing with the platforms they will use to deliver the mostly-asynchronous sessions. Those teams whose proposals meet the requirements for readiness by December receive the go-ahead to offer their session for 5 weeks in January and February.

Now in its 16th iteration, EVO2016 ran between 10 January and 14 February 2016. This year, 14 sessions were offered:

  • Classroom-Based Research for Professional Development: Participants learn about different stages and forms of teacher research for teacher development in order to improve their efficacy and motivation.
  • DREAM Act: What Teachers Can Do: For U.S.-based educators, this session aims to help teachers find ways to support the undocumented students known as DREAMers.
  • Educators and Copyright: Do the Right Thing: Participants learn about principles of copyright and fair use and are introduced to Framework Analysis and public domain/Creative Commons.
  • EVO Minecraft MOOC: Participants learn about gamification of learning through constructive play with this popular game.
  • EVO VILLAGE 2016: In another gamification session, participants learn about creating and using games in virtual worlds such as Second Life.
  • Flipped Learning: Participants in this session look at how the flipped learning approach can motivate students to develop 21st-century skills.
  • ICT4ELT: This session supports teachers who would like to incorporate technology into their classes but do not know where to begin.
  • Media Resources and Emotions in Teaching and Learning: This 5-week session involves participants looking at and understanding emotion with regard to teaching and learning.
  • Moodle for Teachers: Participants access resources, activities, and blocks in Moodle from a student perspective and then practice using the same features in practice areas as teachers and managers of a course.
  • Teachers as Designers: A hands-on and project-based session during which participants develop an ICT-based activity that follows the Learning Design cycle and meets the particular needs of their contexts and learners.
  • Teachers Creating Digital Textbooks: Participants create the first chapter of a textbook for their own students in the third iteration of this popular session.
  • Teaching EFL to Young Learners: This session focuses on the use of storytelling, drama, games, and action songs with young learners.
  • Teaching Pronunciation Differently: Participants learn to use the articulatory approach to teaching pronunciation.
  • Techno-CLIL for EVO 2016: Participants learn why and how to implement the CLIL approach that is mandated in many European educational systems, focusing on how to incorporate technology into a CLIL course.

There were more than 8,500 participants enrolled in these 14 sessions, or an average of more than 600 participants per session. In reality, enrollment ranged from fewer than 20 in the smallest to almost 5,000 in the largest session.

Although the 2016 sessions have concluded, why not consider proposing or participating in EVO2017? Our Call for Proposals comes out in June, and the Call for Participation in December, here. See you next year!

Notes From the Field

Some of our moderators report what’s going on in selected sessions.

Classroom-Based Research for Professional Development

Run for the first time in EVO sessions, “Classroom-Based Research for Professional Development” aimed at providing its geographically dispersed participants with chances of collaborative learning, discussing practice, reflecting upon issues that create puzzles, seeking support from each other, and assistance for professional growth. There were 229 international teachers participating. The majority of the 92 participants who responded to a survey conducted at the onset of the session concurred that they were not very experienced in class-based research. Recognizing this constraint, the moderators directed the participants toward online participatory practice in research through asynchronous (wiki, emails, social media tools, Google Plus) and synchronous (Google Hangout on Air) technologies. Thanks to this truly great online learning experience, we were able to open the doors of our classrooms to other colleagues and tackle the daily challenges of teaching more effectively through sharing expertise, socializing, and collegial connection. (Asli Lidice Gokturk Saglam)

EVO ViLLAGE

EVO ViLLAGE (Virtual Language Learning And Gaming Environment) focused on creating and applying games in virtual worlds such as Second Life, OpenSim, and Minecraft by using ideas from f2f (face-to-face) communication and transferring them to virtual language learning. Participants learned to build; add sound, texture, and script; import mesh interactive objects; and design role-plays, simulations, and scenarios.

With the support from 15 experienced moderators, some 100 participants from around the world immersed in the processes of creating simulating scenarios to generate language activity in their classes by inspiring creativity and combining linguistic and technological development for learners. (Helena Galani)

TECHNO-CLIL for EVO2016

TECHNO-CLIL for EVO2016 aimed at spreading the link between CLIL and CALL, through synchronous and asynchronous activities on Moodle, Wiki and WizIQ. A lot of hints and suggestions were offered on how to plan and implement CLIL lessons through the use of web tools and ICT in general. Daily online synchronous meetings with international experts on CLIL and ICT were the highlight for this session's more than 5,000 participants. (Letizia Cinganotto and Daniela Cuccurullo)

EVO Minecraft MOOC

EVO Minecraft MOOC, #evomc16, has 185 members based here. We have a syllabus which points to a set of missions here. Participants were able to find the missions and complete them without having to ask too many questions.

Figuring all this out is how you play the “Big G” Game of EVO Minecraft MOOC (Gee, 2008). Completing the missions led to the awarding of an #EVOMC16 survivors' badge. Evidence of completion of the required missions was recorded in a spreadsheet, which was in turn linked from the badge. A link from the awarded badge directs anyone who clicks on your award to an open document displaying verifiable evidence of what was accomplished.

Participants were all learning about gamification here; it wasn’t so much about Minecraft specifically. Minecraft is the “little g” game, the enabler of their emerging knowledge of gamification. When players entered survival mode, they found that they were assisted by others in world. With their help, players stayed alive and learned. So, gamification turned out to be learning through teamwork and mutual support, and meeting challenges and achieving their goal, whatever it was. In this game, players set their own goals. By achieving their goals in the game, light bulbs went off in their heads and lit their way to some realization of how what they were learning in EVOMC16 might work to meet their real world challenges. (Vance Stevens)

Teachers as Designers EVO

Out of more than 200 enrolled participants from around the world, only a handful were really active in the forums, but the quality of their contributions was high. They work in diverse contexts, and it’s super interesting to be able to peek into their classrooms and see what change they want to bring about. They not only completed the weekly tasks, but also gave constructive feedback to each other, which is part of the session design and part of what makes it so special. It was reassuring to see the participants experiment with technologies—for example, quite a few of them took up a challenge to create their learner’s persona using infographic software. The weekly synchronous convergence sessions also added a more personal touch to the session, as did gaining more insight into Learning Design through our guest speakers. Overall, even though it was our first time moderating an EVO session, it was certainly an inspiring experience. (Emma Cresswell and Ania Rolinska)

References

Gee, J. P. (2008). Learning and games. In K. Salen (Ed.), The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning (pp. 21–40). The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved from http://ase.tufts.edu/DevTech/courses/readings/Gee_Learning_and_Games_2008.pdf

Hanson-Smith, E., & Bauer-Ramazani, C. (2004). Professional development: The Electronic Village Online of the TESOL CALL Interest Section. TESL-EJ, 8(2). Retrieved from http://tesl-ej.org/ej30/int.html

Authors

Nina T. Liakos, retired; EVO coordinator since 2012. Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA


Asli Lidice Gokturk Saglam, EFL teacher and moderator of Class Research EVO 2016. Istanbul, Turkey.


Helena Galani, moderator of EVO Virtual Language Learning And Gaming Environment 2016, EFL/EAP tutor, adult educator, FL school teacher, assessor. Lamia, Greece.


Letizia Cinganotto, PhD, moderator of Techno-CLIL for EVO 2016, researcher at the Italian Institute for Documentation, Innovation,and Educational Research (INDIRE), former teacher of English, teacher trainer and author of digital content.


Daniela Cuccurullo, moderator of Techno-CLIL for EVO 2016, EFL teacher, tutor, trainer, university contract professor, forum moderator, author of digital content.


Vance Stevens, EFL teacher at HCT/CERT in Al Ain UAE; comoderator of EVO Minecraft MOOC, founder of Webheads in Action, coordinator of Learning2gether podcasts since 2010, and EVO coordinator since 2003.


Christine Bauer-Ramazani, ESL teacher and teacher trainer at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, USA.


Emma Cresswell, moderator of EVO Teachers as Designers 2016, ADoS and EFL teacher and trainer at International House Coimbra, online tutor for International House World Organisation, Cambridge Speaking Examiner. Coimbra, Portugal.


Ania Rolinska, moderator of EVO Teachers as Designers 2016, EAP/ESP tutor and TELT officer at the University of Glasgow, teacher trainer for Certificate in Online Tutoring and online tutor for MA in Education at the University of Derby. Glasgow, Scotland.