July 2014
On Call

Leadership Updates


Greetings! I’m pleased to share with you the latest edition of On CALL. And what an edition it is! This issue is packed with things that are bound to entice all.

In this issue, Dr. Elizabeth-Hanson Smith, of the University of Oregon (Eugene) and a dedicated CALL-ISer and the CALL-IS representative at the IATEFL LTSIG conference, and Ms. Nicky Hockly, director of Barcelona’s The Consultants-E, write companion pieces on each other’s respective conferences in twin Across the Pond reports. As you will see, the IATEFL LTSIG and TESOL conferences offer a world of contrasts. Ms. Nicole Servais, of the University of Delaware, overviews Nearpod, a presentation program that seamlessly integrates technological needs across all platforms in a classroom with iPads, laptops, Android devices, smartphones, and so on. In the second installation of a newer feature, Mr. Kole Matheson, of Tidewater Community College, reflects on his month-long discussion in TESOL’s IS Community pages on the topic of e-portfolios. Also, Mr. Kerry Pusey, of the University of Macau, demonstrates how to screencast in order to teach students how to annotate texts. Ms. Stephanie Fuccio, of the University of Arizona, Tucson, gives a follow-up report on a Twitter scavenger hunt and shows how to use Twitter for research purposes. Dr. John Madden, of St. Cloud State, in an effort to understand to how students read on handheld devices, reports on his experience of reading Melville’s Moby Dick on an iPod. Mr. Thomas Healy, of the Pratt Institute, writes (hysterically) about his evolution from “digital Neanderthal” to state-of-the-art instructor. And finally, Mr. Edo Forsythe, one of the 2014 JALT CALL co-chairs, reports on the JALT CALL conference that recently concluded.

Even if you can’t make it to the convention, there are a wide variety of ways to stay active professionally. Ms. Nina Liakos, EVO coordinator, previously wrote about the Electronic Village Online (EVO), a project of TESOL's CALL Interest Section, which offers free online professional development sessions to language teachers worldwide. We are excited to announce another round of the EVO, and we are looking for inspiring educators who would like to moderate an online session in EVO 2015. The direct link to the formal Call for Proposals is here. Proposals may be on any topic relevant to the teaching of English to speakers of other languages. There will be a training session for all moderators and co-moderators from October 20 to November 16, 2014, during which time moderating teams will create the online spaces for their session and finalize their syllabus with the assistance from the EVO coordination team. The actual EVO sessions will take place between January 12 and February 15, 2015. Potential moderators will find instructions on how to create a page for their proposal here. Proposals are due September 1, 2014. To see what types of sessions were offered in the past, please go here.

In an effort to continue to grow professionally, this summer I attended (virtually) and partially moderated a fantastic online “Gaming and Gamification” conference, which was the second time the IATEFL SIG and TESOL’s CALL IS collaborated on a conference. The presenters, too numerous to mention well, were all leaders in the field and it was attended virtually by about 250 people from all over the world. In addition to handouts, great discussions, and musical interludes, there were extensive notes taken on the conference. I’ve put the notes drawn up at the conference here. Immediately following the conference, there was talk of bringing something similar to the EVO. The web conference recordings have all been published by Pete McConachie on this great website.

If you haven’t already, please make sure you see the sidebars concerning our presence on Facebook and Twitter,  and take time to take the poll on Useful Apps in ESL.

CALL-IS is working to put together an Academic Panel at TESOL 2015 on Security Issues in CALL. If you or someone you know is conducting research in this area, please contact Stephanie Korslund, incoming chair for CALL-IS, with your information. If you have any questions/recommendations regarding this panel please contact her.

As the summer unfolds, I hope you’ll take the time to reflect on the countless professional development opportunities available in our TESOL community. Please consider submitting to our fall/winter edition of On CALL, prior to TESOL Toronto. The deadline is in December. The newsletter could always use more hands. I have been fortunate to have another set of hands to help. A big thanks to Mr. Kole Matheson for his invaluable help in editing this newsletter. I couldn’t have gotten it out if it hadn’t been for his help. If there is something that you would like to see in our newsletter (or if you’d like to join the newsletter team), please feel free to contact me.


Originally from Cincinnati, Larry Udry was a Peace Corps volunteer in Rich, Morocco, from 1986 to 1988 and then graduated with an MA in TESOL/linguistics from Ohio University in 1992. He has worked with Partners of the Americas in Venezuela, and he lived in Isahaya, Japan, for a year. Prior to his position at Divine Word College, he worked in UT Martin for 11 years, where he published the TNTESOL Newsletter.



I dashed down the platform for the Leeds train, dragging my suitcase and laptop bag in a frantic rush to catch the train that they said had already left. It was raining slightly above the protective cover of the Manchester airport walkways. They know about rain in England, all right.

I made it! Helpful hands hauled me aboard and I opened up my Mac—to find there was no wifi! (Californians are so spoiled.) Oh well, might as well enjoy the beautiful English countryside of backyard gardens and then rolling green fields. “Oh, to be in England, now that April’s there!”

Sent a text to Paul Sweeney, chair of LT SIG, and Nicky Hockly, my hosts at the LT SIG Pre-conference Event, telling them to swap Nicky’s and my presentation times because I was going to make it after all. My plane out of Portland, where I was attending the TESOL Convention, had been delayed for 5 hours because of mechanical problems (a light wouldn’t go on or off), and Nicky and I drank coffee at the PDX Bucky’s and commiserated. She got a flight out to London, but then had to go back to Barcelona for her luggage—still arriving almost a day earlier than I. There was just one flight from New York to Manchester and it had left the following evening, hence the panicked run down the platform. My day to catch up on time zones had been devoured by the mechanics of the airlines.

In Harrogate, after another close connection in Leeds, I threw my bags into a room at the hotel and marched over to a beautiful old building where the PCE, Learning Technologies in Context, was held, with just enough time to hear Nicky and then give my own presentation. We later agreed it was a good thing, as our presentations meshed nicely, hers looking at some of the pedagogical theory underpinning digital literacy in high-, low-, and no-tech contexts, and mine describing, at a somewhat more abstract level, the TESOL Technology Standards, which also made reference to varied levels of technology access and the framework for its use. A particular delight in Nicky’s talk was to see Carla Arena’s smiling face talking in a short video about using iPads with Brazilian students. Carla is a Webhead, CALL-IS member, and former coordinator of the CALL-IS EVO. Nicky also gave a nice plug to Webheads, who have been very active in our IS.

The afternoon was devoted to workshops, where I tried to induce participants to write more vignettes for a potential online archive; however, mostly they wanted to ask more questions about the Standards and how the CALL-IS team developed them. Links to PCE-related videos, discussions, and other documents can be found here.

After a meeting of the LT SIG steering committee (during which I disgracefully almost fell asleep exhausted while taking notes on my laptop), the gang took me out to dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant in the absolutely charming town of Harrogate. Everything there was thankfully in walking distance. In addition to Nicky and Paul, joint coordinators of the SIG, I got to hang out with Heike Philp, online events coordinator, and other luminaries of the SIG: Pete Sharma of the steering committee; Sophia Mvridi, treasurer; Natalya Edleman, newsletter editor; and Vicky Saumell, community manager.

Conference Differences

I noticed several interesting differences between TESOL Portland, which I had just left (with the 12-hour hiatus in various airports), and IATEFL Harrogate. For one, the distinction between commercial and noncommercial just doesn’t exist for IATEFL. Because of stringent rules on the foundation of 503(c)(3) organizations in the United States, TESOL has to keep a careful separation between commercial interests and education interests. At Harrogate, the publishers were in almost too much evidence—lots of free receptions and parties, and all kinds of support for delegates. Commercial signs everywhere, almost overwhelming the senses.

Another strategic difference was the sheer amount of technology. The Harrogate Center was built for technology-driven conferences: good wifi reception everywhere and great presentation rooms with multiple microphones and projection equipment. TESOL has to move around over a large country annually, it’s an awkward size, and the convention centers in second-tier cities are not always up to the highest standards when it comes to technology, although we have seen great improvement over the last several years.

The IATEFL conference also seems somehow more personal—not just the difference in size (2,000 or so versus 8,000 or more for TESOL), but there are whole days devoted to consecutive presentations by SIGs: a business English day, a pronunciation day, an LT day. Yes, these are overlapping, and of course there are far fewer presentations in a much smaller space. While it is great to see far-flung online friends from all over the world at TESOL, it often feels like the spaces and the number of presentations are just overwhelming. Size matters in so many ways.

Another of the personalizing aspects: Whole days of online conference are devoted to interviewing personalities in the field. Anyone can drop by online for an interesting chat with some of the best people around. See the recordings here. Our PCE was online also. Again, this was no doubt a function of commercial support so that, although participants had to pay extra for the PCE, it didn’t seem to matter that others could “listen in” online. Of course, those present got the benefit of being there, hearing everything, asking questions and getting immediate answers—well worth the extra price, I hope. My presentation is at LiveStream and Nicky’s is here. All of the PCE addresses can be found linked through these URLs, starting at 29:01 min.

High Points

For me, the most spectacular of the presentations was held in the largest of the Center’s conference rooms. Gavin Dudney gave a wonderful display of “E-Dreams”: a look at the future of technology for teaching, followed by a brief discussion in small groups by participants (something I hadn’t seen in “big” presentations at TESOL). Unfortunately, while Gavin tried to be very neutral about “new” things, like mobile technology and MOOCs, large portions of the audience seemed downright hostile. This was a little surprising, and I wish I had had more time—and nerve—to disagree with my group. I felt it might be in bad taste or that I might have tomatoes thrown at my head. I suspect, however, that a mixed audience at a large presentation like this at TESOL might have had a similar response to the bewildering razzle-dazzle of “the future.” In any event, the LT SIG does not fear or distrust technology, and we are hoping to go forward with some joint projects that will involve the Technology Standards.

By the third day at the conference, I was really beginning to feel the effects of bad travel and what turned out to be viral bronchitis, so sadly, I missed the LT SIG technology day and what was apparently a very powerful presentation by Sugata Mitra on the future of education. IATEFL has since followed up his talk with a webinar—a practice I think TESOL might emulate. His and others’ presentations are available at the IATEFL site.

I came away with some very warm feelings about the SIG people and their approach, and I look forward to working on new projects with them:We held a joint Virtual Round Table conference June 14, "Gaming and Gamification," and hope to have some kind of presence at BrazTESOL. The link to "VRT" is here.

Paul Sweeney introducing Nicky Hockly at IATEFL LT-SIG PCE, Harrogate

Nicky Hockly at the IATEFL LT-SIG PCE, Harrogate

Carla Arena and the iPad project, as seen in Nicky Hockly’s PCE presentation

Dr. Elizabeth Hanson-Smith has for the past 12 years been part of the coordination team of the Electronic Village Online. As well as teaching several online sessions, she has led development of online modules to train moderators and guided mentoring efforts for this free online education opportunity. She is currently consulting with the U.S. Department of State and the University of Oregon in developing a teacher training MOOC. She was also part of the team that created Trace Effects, an online language learning game for international students. She helped devise the interactive CD version of the Oxford Picture Dictionary for adult learners and is pedagogical consultant to the software company that produced Live Action English and More Live Action English. Dr. Hanson-Smith founded and coordinated the TESOL graduate program at California State University, Sacramento, and has served as teacher trainer and curriculum developer in China, Sri Lanka, Belize, Russia, and Egypt. Creator of six videos analyzing U.S. culture through popular film, she has published regularly on issues in language planning, the pedagogy of ESOL, language acquisition, computer- and media-assisted language learning, and most recently technology standards. She is co-editor of the popular CALL Environments: Research, Practice, and Critical Issues and co-author of TESOL's Technology Standards.


This year I was lucky enough to be the IATEFL LT SIG representative at the annual TESOL convention, held in Portland, Oregon.

The Venue

The conference venue in Portland is very “West Coast,” which I gather means a little idiosyncratic or quirky. Doing a quick bit of research on the web prior to going, I discovered two key facts: Portland has more strip clubs per capita than any other U.S. city, and it holds the annual Naked Bike Ride (strap line: As bare as you dare). So I was relieved to find the audiences were fully clothed during my talks. In fact, grunge is the city dress code, and Portland has a very eco-conscious vibe with an excellent electric public transport system and plenty of rain (the locals eschew umbrellas in favor of quirkily oversized hoodies). Happily, grunge was not the dress code for conference delegates, and even more felicitously, we were given free passes to use the electric trams and the city buses for the duration of the conference. This made getting around what is in fact a fairly compact (and attractive) city fantastically easy.

For the past several years, the British Council has generously been funding an exchange between the IATEFL LT SIG and our U.S. cousins in the TESOL CALL-IS. My exchange trip followed those of previous years by past LT SIG coordinators Gary Motteram, Sophie Ioannou-Georgiou, and Paul Sweeney. And in turn, we've had CALL-IS members attending the annual IATEFL conference for the past few years: Phil Hubbard, Greg Kessler, Deborah Healey, and this year Elizabeth Hanson-Smith have all crossed the pond (see Elizabeth's article about her experiences in Harrogate, England, in this issue). Meeting our CALL-IS colleagues this year resulted in renewed ties with the LT SIG, and building on the solid groundwork laid by previous exchanges, a number of joint ventures and projects are being carried forward (Elizabeth outlines these in her article).

The Conference

For first-time TESOL attendees such as myself, the first impression of the conference is size. The venue is always huge, the number of delegates massive (6,000–8,000 depending on the city), and the number of surrounding coffee and muffin venues plentiful. And of course the number of parallel talks, and exhibitors in the Exhibition Hall, is suitably large. All compared to the much smaller IATEFL conferences of 2,000+ delegates.

There is also a suitably large and varied array of full- and half-day pre- and postconvention institutes (PCIs) or events to choose from—35 in total this year. Of particular interest to me were the Educational Site Visits one could take part in on the day before the official conference started. This year's site visits included trips to an immigrant and refugee EFL centre, an intensive English language program at a local university, as well as local elementary and middle schools.

I chose to do a visit to Portland State University (PSU), which showcased a mobile augmented reality game they have developed called ChronoOps, based on the free ARIS app. During the visit we learned about the background to the game and then spent a while playing it on our mobile devices around the PSU campus. The game uses geofencing to teach students about the (impressive and prize-winning) green credentials of the university campus while practising their English. An iOS version of the game is ready, and an Android version of the game is in development. You can find out more about the game at PSU here.

More interesting than the sheer numbers at TESOL were the range of talk types and topics. For individual presenters these tended to be 30–45 minutes long. There were also 60- to 90-minute panel sessions, with a series of speakers discussing a single topic. Each speaker typically had 20 minutes, with time for questions from the audience at the end. These panel sessions were my favourite, as a single topic could be covered from a variety of angles and in some depth.

Technology Talks

I attended mainly the technology strand talks put together by the excellent CALL-IS team. The CALL-IS schedule of talks and Electronic Village (EV) sessions is in fact so comprehensive, it even had its own paper programme, entirely separate from the main conference book (or rather, tome). Technology has always been very much present in TESOL, with the inspiring EV forming its centrepiece for a least the past decade. Tables equipped with laptops and screens form a series of stations in the EV, where short, hands-on or demo sessions are offered by volunteers. Delegates can wander in and sign up for these sessions as they like, and there is a pleasant and constant buzz of people and activity in the EV room throughout the conference.

In an adjacent room, more formal panel sessions were held on a series of Hot Topics. I was invited to take part in two panels—one on the flipped classroom and the other on mobile learning. Here's a quick summary:

  • Flipping the classroom in multiple contexts: This panel was presented by Justin Shewell and kicked off with Carol Kubota, Cynthia Murray, and Catherine Warner (all from ASU) on flipping the classroom in EAP contexts. They were followed by Christine Bauer-Ramazani (St. Michael's College) on flipping in online teacher training courses. And finally, I looked at how mobile devices can support the notion of the flipped classroom. You can find the recording of this event here (audio and slides), with further information about the presenters here.
  • Teacher education in CALL: The second panel event, presented by Aaron Schwartz, examined teacher education in CALL. It included presentations from Phil Hubbard (Stanford University) on interpreting and integrating the TESOL Technology Standards in a CALL mini-course; Joy Egbert (Washington State University) on guidelines that teachers need to understand when thinking about and looking for effective technologies; Greg Kessler (Ohio University) on preparing language teachers for the future by rethinking pedagogy in a world of social media, hyper-collaboration, and data mashups; and my own presentation on the implications of digital literacies for teacher education courses. You can find the recording of this event here (audio and slides; note that sound starts around 14 minutes in), with further information about the presenters here.
  • Other TESOL tech events included talks on mobile, social networking, using technology to avoid plagiarism, and a number of webcasts from the Electronic Village. You'll find a complete list plus links to the audio and slide recordings here. Plenty here to get you right up to speed with technology in teaching!

Other Talks

And what of the conference overall? When I managed to drag myself away from the CALL-IS track, I saw mainly the plenaries. These were wide-ranging talks by Surin Pitsuwan, David Graddol, Deena Borraie, and Diane Larsen-Freeman. Here are details of the plenary topics.

Overall there is more of an emphasis on academic talks at TESOL, with fewer practice-based sessions than one typically finds at IATEFL. There are also talks focused on K12 (primary and secondary school-age learners) and especially on those in mainstream schooling who need English language support. There are also plenty of EFL-based talks at TESOL, reflecting the fact that there are significant numbers of international delegates as well. Apart from meeting many North Americans from the United States and Canada, I got to talk to people from Cameroon, the Philippines, Japan, Thailand, and several countries in Europe and Latin America.

After Hours

And the conference nightlife? Unlike IATEFL's publisher-sponsored parties and get-togethers, TESOL attendees do their own thing at night. I got to hang out with some of my friendly CALL-IS colleagues. There were a number of microbreweries for us to visit, another famous facet of Portland, along with the largest family-run bookstore in the United States (Powell's Books), and a doughnut joint called Voodoo Doughnuts whose specialities include jalapeño or maple syrup and bacon doughnuts.

I thoroughly enjoyed the TESOL conference, getting to meet our CALL-IS colleagues, the great variety of talks and sessions—and, in case you haven't guessed, Portland itself! A huge thank you to the British Council for enabling this exchange to continue.

The Electronic Village

A public thanks to the Electronic Village volunteers

Hot Topic sessions webcast team: Larry Udry (L) and Jack Watson (R)

Portland's green credentials: electric car and charging station

Nicky Hockly is joint coordinator of the IATEFL LT SIG. In her day job, she is director of pedagogy of The Consultants-E, an award-winning online training and development organisation. She has worked in the field of ELT since 1987, is an international plenary speaker, and gives seminars, in-service workshops, and teacher training courses for practising language teachers all over the world. Nicky has co-written several methodology books on the application of new technologies to language teaching, the most recent of which is on mobile learning (Going Mobile, 2014, with Gavin Dudeney). Nicky lives in Barcelona, Spain, and is a technophobe turned technophile.


I am a fortunate educator: I work in an institution that has the resources to put an iPad in the hands of all its full-time instructors. Like many of my colleagues, I was excited when I first received the iPad; however, my expectations in terms of interactivity were higher than what the iPad initially seemed able to deliver. Grading, attendance, and course management tools were now easily at my fingertips whenever I wanted them, but I felt like the essential piece—student engagement and true interactivity that would foster creative critical thinking—was still not there.

Enter Nearpod. I devote about an hour a week to my personal learning network on Twitter, and recently I ran across a blog entry on Education Week titled “Simply Putting Tech in Front of Students Won’t Engage Them” (Ferlazzo, 2014). The blog entry received a response from the authors of Teaching With Tablets (Frey & Fisher, 2013), which mentioned the Nearpod app by name, along with a handful of other apps.

One of the things I found appealing about Nearpod is the fact that it will run on virtually any device. I didn’t have to worry about my students having an iPad; the app runs on the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, on Android devices, and on laptops. As I teach in a university setting, it is quite rare that a student will not have at least one of these devices. It was easy to locate the app in the app store, and the download was fast. The app is free, but offers a premium level of service for an additional fee. The extended features, which cost $10 a month if billed annually, include increased storage space, larger presentation sizes, Nearpod “homework,” extra presentation features, and additional student capacity for live sessions (50 versus 30 in the free version).

Creating a presentation is quite simple. You have the option of dragging in existing files (PPT, PDF, and image, sound, or video files) or starting from scratch with a new presentation. I chose to start from scratch my first time, just to become familiar with the features. The presentation home screen is clean and easy to navigate, with only a few buttons in addition to thumbnails of your individual slides. Slides can include a variety of interactive items, such as live Twitter streams, open-ended questions, polls, quizzes, and “draw it.” Adding web content is an option for premium users only, although you are allotted a brief trial period to experiment with web content if you so desire. If I were to consider purchasing a premium level of service, it would primarily be to seamlessly integrate web content—something I did find lacking in the free version.

Once your presentation is complete, all that remains is to publish it. When you are ready to use it with your class, just open the presentation on your iPad or other device and begin a live session. A pin code is then generated on your screen; students input this code into their individual device to join your session. With a live session, the teacher controls the pacing; as you advance the slides on your device, the slides also advance on students’ devices. When you reach a question or poll slide, you may decide how much time to give students to answer the question—you may wait for all students to respond, or you may move on after a predetermined amount of time. The students’ devices are essentially mirroring your device, and students are able to follow along with you every step of the way.

I have found that students of the digital age are not often impressed by new technology. Tech is just a part of their daily existence. I will say, however, that the “coolness” factor of Nearpod is high. I heard more than a few exclamations of appreciation for the fact that the presentation and questions were literally right at the students’ fingertips.

I used a SMART Board to display students’ answers as they were being typed in. Nearpod tells you, the teacher, who chose which answer. Since this first use of Nearpod was a character development activity (I teach an English Through Drama course), the students really enjoyed seeing the answers of their classmates and it helped us build a more cohesive idea of how the characters were connected on a larger scale.

The activities I used Nearpod for were primarily open-ended activities, so I found that displaying the responses on the SMART Board was very useful for us. Students enjoyed seeing their entries and those of their classmates. However, the display feature could have negative effects if you are using Nearpod as a formative assessment tool to determine the level of understanding that students may have of a particular topic. Since each response is tied directly to a student’s name, students may fear giving an incorrect answer. This can be remedied by providing anonymous usernames that match the student ID number, but it will make it slightly more difficult for you to analyze the reports later. Alternatively, you can choose not to display the answers for the whole class—just viewing them on your personal device—but I think that could cause a reduction in the level of class engagement.

One of the downsides that I discovered during the first live session is that open-ended questions leave a lot of room for time management problems to arise. Some students answer the open-ended questions quite quickly, while others take a lot of think time to consider how to answer. There are several ways that I chose to remedy this issue in future presentations. The first option is to impose a time limit on answering the open-ended questions. In my high-level English class, I chose to limit response time to 60 seconds during my subsequent live sessions. The second option, which I have not yet tested, would be to differentiate open-ended questions by allowing for varying levels of complexity in the answers (e.g., easy question: What does your character want most in life? intermediate question: What does your character want most in life and why do they want it? advanced question: What does your character want most in life? What happened to them in the past that causes them to want this?). The third option is to use open-ended questions only for questions that are not likely to have overly complex answers. I found that this worked best for questions like “Choose one adjective to describe yourself.”

After the live session is completed, you have a chance to view reports. The reports include the total percentage of questions answered by each student and their overall participation rate. You are also able to drill down into individual questions to see how each student responded. Viewing the in-class responses and going back later to revisit the detailed reports are both highly useful assessment tools. I found that it was easy to determine which students needed additional help or clarification, and I was able to adjust my future lessons (or provide one-on-one remediation) accordingly.

I close with a short list of the pros and cons that I discovered while using Nearpod for a few weeks, as well as recommendations for how this resource can best be used in a classroom setting. Of course, all resources need to be adapted for your individual teaching circumstances, but there are a few things I believe Nearpod does well that will translate across teaching contexts.


  • free
  • high level of student engagement
  • high initial “coolness” factor
  • easy to use
  • available for all device types
  • excellent for formative assessment
  • promotes team dynamic


  • Some services are available only with paid upgrade. Integrated web content is the thing I find most lacking in the free version.
  • The “coolness” factor can wear off after a few exposures to the tech.
  • The app doesn’t easily allow for anonymity of responses.
  • There is potential for time management problems with some question types.
  • If you have a slow wireless connection in your building (or a spotty cell phone network connection), you could spend time waiting for slides to load.

Best for

  • team building
  • informal assessment
  • formative assessment
  • limited response questions
  • increasing engagement


Ferlazzo, L. (2014, April 14). Response: “Simply putting tech in front of students won't engage them.” Education Week . Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/index.html

Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2013). Teaching with tablets: How do I integrate tablets with effective instruction? Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Nicole Servais is an instructor and the Self-Access Learning Center coordinator at the English Language Institute at the University of Delaware. She has 10 years of teaching experience in a variety of contexts. Her particular areas of interest are CALL, drama, and teacher education. In her free time, Nicole performs Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and conducts vegan kitchen experiments.


I first want to express my appreciation to the CALL-IS community for such spirited and international contributions to our Listserv discussion: “Using E-Portfolios to Guide and Assess ESL Learning Outcomes.” I also want to thank Suzan Stamper for inspiring our community discourse and Larry Udry for allowing the fruits of the experience to be included in this month’s newsletter.

Pondering CALL's mission to explore the intersection of technology and language learning, I invited CALL-IS to discuss e-portfolios for the ESL skill sets. E-portfolios encourage students to take charge of course goals and cultivate reflective learning habits which serve them in and beyond academies. With benefits in mind, I posed the following question to the Listserv community.

As e-portfolio practices emerge in CALL and TESOL, how have instructors adapted e-portfolios to their classrooms?

Keeping in mind the infancy of e-portfolios in ESL classrooms, I also encouraged the Listserv community to reflect on challenges.

Despite benefits, e-portfolios are not ubiquitous. What obstacles and/or apprehensions have instructors encountered in implementing e-portfolios?

These questions approached only the surface-level issues with hopes that a discussion would evolve to reflect the specific interests of CALL-IS; sharing experiences and positing further questions was encouraged with hopes that the nuances of our community might shape the discourse.

Our discussion was quite extended, but I’ll begin with the topic of technology literacy discussed by Debbie, Beth, and Brian. First, we have all witnessed Debbie and Brian’s predicament: student apprehension toward technology. This can be a serious obstacle to learning; affective filters are often raised in high-stress environments, preventing learning. This is why I was so moved by Beth’s suggestion that technology literacy be an ongoing project of ESL courses; essentially, we scaffold language skills, so we also should scaffold other types of knowledge, technology literacy included. Starting basic may be the key to overcoming student apprehensions.

For my classes, I devote an entire day (usually in the first week of classes) to the technology literacy requirements of the semester. Simply demonstrating the demands of technology in the classroom isn't enough, though, and can be futile. Instead, students should be interacting with technology when it’s introduced; that way, specific obstacles (often individual to students) can be overcome. Students have thanked me for making this a hands-on course goal, reflecting that “We didn't know what our problems were until we tried for ourselves.” Requiring students to interact with technology relieves this apprehension, which finds its source in unfamiliarity. This solution, of course, implies a class set of computers and face-to-face interaction, resources which aren't always available.

In contrast, we should also consider the emerging student population for whom technology literacy is often advanced. Indeed, some students are apprehensive about traditional paper-and-pencil methods of assessment and avoid this medium at all costs. To them, organizing and carrying loads of paper is illogical, in place of the digital, lightweight alternative. Still others argue that their writing processes are hindered by traditional methods, as invention through digital mediums is more familiar and liberating. Thus, as new types of literacy emerge, to recognize the importance of multiliteracies is crucial; we must guide students beyond apprehensions toward unfamiliar mediums of communication, no matter which end of the technological spectrum they emerge from.

Second, the correspondences among Chris, Debbie, and Nina invite follow-up discussion on sharing and archiving e-portfolios. Indeed, many portfolio-based assessment programs demand student portfolios be archived for accreditation or recommendation purposes. I was struck by Nina’s experience that her institution is hesitant about switching to e-portfolios for reasons of archiving. As Debbie mentioned, e-portfolios are more easily managed than paper portfolios and by extension more easily archived. The latter demands large filing cabinets, while the former could be stored to an external hard drive or the cloud. Thus, while the concern for student deletion of public portfolios is valid for archiving purposes, e-portfolios can be archived by other means beyond public websites. Perhaps the apprehension expressed by Nina’s institution may also be a result of what Chris reminded us: Software and technology change too quickly for long-term reliability. Yet certain software programs (e.g., Publisher, Word, Adobe) are ubiquitous to institutions, and I hope we can rely on the longevity of these common programs for archiving. Also, Google Drive allows for PDF and .docx conversion, file formats which, arguably, will be available a decade from now; I still see .doc files from 1997 functioning perfectly. The concern remains, though, that some of the more obscure (and fun for experimentation) e-portfolio resources contain within them the risk of becoming obsolete.

In reflection, the concern of resource longevity seems to pervade many (if not all) aspects of CALL. With the evolution of technology, our pedagogy and resources, too, must follow this evolution, e-portfolios included.

Finally, the contributions of Nina and Brian explored a second phase of this discussion: e-portfolio content across the skill sets. Nina mentioned diverse writing samples: timed writing, process writing, and reflective writing. Brian’s students share final drafts in their portfolios. These e-portfolio content examples serve important purposes and each has its place in writing classrooms. Yet to consider our immediate association of e-portfolios within writing frameworks seems to reveal an underdeveloped niche of CALL. Indeed, while the literature on e-portfolios for student writing continues to develop, reports on e-portfolios within the other skill sets are less available.

Nina was first to forge new ground with her platform suggestions for speaking e-portfolios to include PodOmatic and Chirbit—free podcast sites—which allow students to archive speeches. Nina’s suggestions further enriched our discussion on content for reading e-portfolios to include book summaries and responses, to which I suggested the inclusion of sections for vocabulary development and a log of reading speed evolution. Furthermore, Sandy suggested students document listening comprehension through reactionary e-portfolio artifacts which may include PowerPoint or creating infographics through piktochart.com.

As Sandy concluded, the key to integrating e-portfolios in skill sets beyond writing may be found in skills integration; artifact suggestions for portfolios in other skill sets, too, may involve writing. Despite this, the e-portfolio may still invite students to create products that demonstrate targeted learning outcomes of diverse skills with writing as the medium of communication. And I couldn’t agree more; writing to learn is among my favorite practices for both pedagogical and personal endeavors.

Thanks again, everyone, for such committed responses and interaction. I hope our discussion of e-portfolios might continue, despite the completion of the formal Listserv discussion. Please excuse me if I glossed over some important information from our correspondences; the complete CALL-IS discussion on e-portfolios to include all contributions may be found here. I look forward to engaging with our community in this discussion; feel free to ask further questions for development!

Kole Matheson teaches ESL and composition classes at Old Dominion University and Tidewater Community College, in Hampton Roads, Virginia. He has a master's degree in applied linguistics with a TESOL emphasis from Old Dominion University, where he also works as a co-investigator for the university’s e-portfolio pilot program.


Last semester, students in my upper-intermediate English for academic purposes (EAP) courses were required to annotate a text as part of a critical thinking module, which also included a summary and critical response to the text that they annotated. This three-part assignment constituted one of the major assessments for the course and was mandated across all sections of the level (about 10 in total). While I had taught and graded the genres of summary and response in the past, it dawned on me that annotation wasn’t something I had explicitly taught before—at least not to any great extent—and it definitely wasn’t something I had ever tried to formally assess. In fact, it seemed questionable to me whether one could assess such an idiosyncratic document (or process?) in any kind of objective way. However, as a newcomer to this particular language program, I decided I should just go with the flow and see how the assignment panned out.

So in spite of these initial qualms, the assignment was carried out as planned: Students chose and carefully annotated a text (one of five approximately 1,500-word academic essays) and then scanned and submitted their annotations via our course Moodle webpage. After a calibration meeting where the other teachers and I refined the criteria for assessment and identified benchmarks for different score ranges, the annotations were then assessed by individual teachers and scored using a rubric developed for the task.

The result? The annotations proved to be rather difficult to assess for the following reasons:

Lack of Consistency Among Texts

While three of the texts followed the prototypical structure of a problem-solution essay, the other two texts did not. This inconsistency among texts was problematic because, while the problem-solution papers lent themselves to a certain variety of annotation techniques (e.g., highlighting the thesis statement, labeling the text structure in the margins), the other two texts elicited annotations that were highly varied and (incidentally) seemed to miss the point of the texts. This resulted in a high degree of variation among students’ annotations, making it difficult to fairly score different students’ work.

Unclear Purpose for Annotating

Usually readers have a specific purpose for annotating. For example, they may want to find support for their arguments when writing an essay or identify information from a reading that they will be tested on later, or perhaps they just want to engage more deeply with the text in order to improve their reading comprehension. For this assignment, however, we were not as clear as we should have been about the purpose of the annotations, which led to a lack of common focus among students’ work (similar, in a way, to the effect of including texts with different rhetorical structures).

Ambiguity of Annotations

As is quite common in actual practice, students did not label every part of their annotations. This caused difficulties in terms of interpreting the meaning or purpose behind their annotations (i.e., the reasons why parts of the text had been underlined, highlighted, circled, etc.).

The Solution: Using Screencasting to Fill in the Gaps

Reflecting on the causes of the problems listed above, it seemed to me that the first two issues (inconsistency of texts and purpose for annotating) could be addressed fairly easily by predetermining the type of texts that students would use and giving students a clear purpose for annotating at the outset. However, the last issue (ambiguity of annotations) remained problematic because without knowing the unstated logic or reasoning behind students’ annotations, it would be difficult—if not impossible—to fully understand why they annotated in a particular way.

And then a thought occurred to me: What if we could access those cognitive processes? How could this be accomplished? Eventually, I came up with the following solution: Have students create screencasts in order to fill in the gaps of their annotations. In other words, ask students to include a narrative component to explain aspects of their annotations that would otherwise be ambiguous.

This idea was inspired in part by work that a colleague of mine had done using screencasts to give written feedback and is a sort of spin on the think-aloud protocol (or self-report). This elicitation technique is used in applied linguistics research to gain access to the cognitive processes that second language learners engage in when performing language tasks (Cohen, 2012) and is viewed as a vital means of assessing the validity of assessment instruments (Green, 1998, cited in Cohen, 2012). Thus, the use of screencasting seemed particularly apt for assessing annotation skills, as it simultaneously grants access to the visual component of the annotation while also addressing the issue of ambiguity through the inclusion of an accompanying narrative.

Assignment Details

During the following semester, I decided to test this technique with two of my classes (once again, upper-intermediate EAP classes). This time, however, the purpose was more specific and the task itself more authentic. Because students were in the process of gathering sources to write a problem-solution essay, I asked them to annotate one of the sources they were planning to use in their papers. I then had students create a screencast using the free web application Screencast-o-matic to explain their annotations and tell how their source would be incorporated into their papers.

Before giving out this assignment, we reviewed the purposes of annotating and various techniques that can be used. I also created a screencast of my own explanation of the assignment in detail, provided two sample annotation screencasts, and created a step-by-step guide for how to use Screencast-o-matic.

Below are the directions to the assignment that I gave students:

I would like to know more about the annotation techniques you use and how annotation helps you obtain important information from texts you read. For this assignment, please do the following:

  1. Carefully annotate one of the sources you plan to use for your problem-solution essay.
  2. Scan your annotation and obtain the color PDF file.
  3. Open your scanned annotation (the PDF file) on a computer.
  4. Open Screencast-o-matic.
  5. Record a 3- to 5-minute screencast to explain the following information:
    a. The source you’ve annotated and its relation to your essay topic (be brief)
    b. The annotation techniques you used (e.g., brackets, squiggly lines, stars)
    c. The aspects of your annotation that might be difficult for someone else to understand (i.e., things that are not clearly labeled, such as highlighted sections)
  6. Save your screencast as an MP4 and upload your file to Moodle under the “Annotation Screencast” assignment submission by (date), at midnight.

Assessment Procedures

To assess students’ annotation screencasts, I developed a rubric, which was modeled on the rubric used in the previous semester for the first annotation assignment. As I had hoped, the verbal report information was very useful in clarifying the ambiguities in students’ annotations. I also found that the rubric was fairly easy to use and resulted in a fairly normal spread of scores (in the statistical sense). I should mention that while the rubric does not explicitly state “explains relevance of the text to essay,” almost all students did so, as it was one of the main directions given for the assignment. I ended up considering this criterion as part of the “evidence of critical thinking” band, in addition to the other criteria listed.

Guidelines and Other Considerations

This assignment or adaptations thereof can be quite useful for assessing students’ ability to annotate effectively and think critically. However, there are a few things that should be considered before asking students to complete such an assignment.

First, you should consider whether the task will be a high-stakes or low-stakes assessment, as this may have implications for scoring procedures. Specifically, if you were to adopt this as a major form of assessment, it would be advisable to use two raters (to increase reliability) and to conduct norming sessions and establish benchmarks before scoring. For lower stakes assessment, such procedures might not be necessary (and may ultimately be impractical).

Another consideration is how you define the purpose of the task. As mentioned earlier, there are many specific purposes for annotating a text; depending on your course objectives, students’ proficiency level, and their English needs, the assignment should be adapted so that it’s most relevant to your course and meaningful to students.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the process of assessing the screencasts can be a bit time-consuming, so you should be prepared for this and think carefully about your resources (in terms of time) before giving the assignment. Nevertheless, I believe it is time well spent that can provide insight into a wealth of information about students’ reading and critical thinking skills.


Cohen, A. (2012). Verbal report. In C. Chapelle (Ed.), Encyclopedia of applied linguistics. Oxford, England: John Wiley & Sons.

Kerry Pusey has an MA in TESL from Northern Arizona University and has taught in the United States, Brazil, and Macau. He has also done work in small- and large-scale language assessment. When Kerry is not in the classroom, you can usually find him traveling by plane, boat, tuk tuk, or bicycle to various locations around the globe.


“I don’t expect all my graduates to go on to Twitter-based careers, but learning how to write concisely, to express one key detail succinctly and eloquently, is an incredibly useful skill, and more in tune with most students’ daily chatter, as well as the world’s conversation." (Selsberg, 2011)

Twitter Lesson: Part 2

In the last CALL-IS newsletter I wrote about a Twitter photo scavenger hunt, the purpose of which was to familiarize students with Twitter so that they could later use it for research. This article is about a lesson designed to provide some scaffolding for students the first time they use Twitter for research purposes. As with the last article, this lesson was tested out with my two first-year writing international student sections at the University of Arizona during the Spring 2014 semester. It is important to note that this was part of the first-year writing program at the university, not the intensive English program that some international students attend before they are admitted to a university. Thus, it is strongly suggested that students be at least at an intermediate level of English proficiency, especially in reading and writing, before using a Twitter lesson such as this.

Long-Term Goal

I plan my lessons backward, always thinking of the end learning objective in mind. For this Twitter lesson, the learning outcome was to connect students with the authors/researchers that they already found, via Twitter, to gain access to more current information for their research papers.

After deciding on the learning outcome, I plan the other steps of the lesson, from the last step to the first, and add enough scaffolding so that students are challenged to use their critical thinking skills but not so much that it is an unachievable task. Thus, the self-paced Twitter worksheet that this lesson revolves around is broken up into two parts. If you would like to see the worksheet, click this link. The first part is where students search Twitter for any tweets about authors they have already found in their traditional research projects. This step uses the Twitter skills that they developed in previous Twitter reading tasks, adding the research component. The second part is where they search for Twitter accounts of their authors. When an account is located, they use their skimming/scanning skills to locate academic articles related to their research topic. Since they already found articles from these authors in their traditional research, their Twitter research goal is to find more current research from these same authors. For example, if they used Academic Search Complete and found an article from 2009 on brain tumors related to cell phone usage by Dr. Philip Sutter, then they would search Twitter for Dr. Sutter's articles on this topic that are from 2010 to 2014.

One particular research moment was the inspiration for bridging the gap between how I researched using social media for my classes and how I taught students how to do so. I was working on a research paper on using cloud programs for L2 writing and found the article “Teaching Writing in the Cloud” by Dr. Marohang Limbu (2012). I often search Twitter for authors that write about CALL because I like to thank them for their inspirational work and to make a longer term connection for my teaching professional development. Figure 1 shows what I said to Dr. Limbu.

FIGURE 1: Connect to Dr. Limbu via Twitter (click to enlarge)

However, the conversation did not stop there, as it had in the past. Instead, I was able to ask him if he had written any articles on Google Docs and more. The Twitter conversation can be seen in Figure 2. Being able to interact with the author and get current information from him, such as the article in the last frame, breathed life into the research paper I was working on. It reminded me that there were people behind the theories and practices that I was writing about. This personal connection via Twitter reminded me how powerful tools such as Twitter could be, and my motivation for exposing students to this resource grew even stronger.

FIGURE 2: Twitter conversation with Dr. Limbu via Twitter
(click to enlarge)

Why Twitter?

One of the academics I follow on Twitter, Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega (2014), who is an assistant professor in the Public Administration Division of the Centre for Economic Research and Teaching, in Mexico, wrote a blog post titled “Five Ways in Which Twitter Can Be Useful in Academic Contexts.” In this post he lists:

1. To consume current knowledge in a timely fashion

2. To build scholarly networks

3. To refine research ideas

4. To obtain and provide emotional support

5. To share resources in an environment of scarcity

Many of these are reasons why I started to use Twitter in my own academic research as well as why I became motivated to teach my own composition students how to utilize this social media tool. Specifically, this Twitter lesson focuses on #1 in Pacheco-Vega's list: “to consume current knowledge in a timely fashion”; however, the other advantages are no less important. In fact, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, a teacher and avid educational blogger, has made an infographic aligning Twitter skills with Bloom’s Taxonomy of Critical Thinking Skills, connecting basic skills such as memorization to higher critical thinking skills of creating and analyzing (available from Kharbach, 2014). This infographic clearly shows that using Twitter in an academic setting, frequently nonetheless, can greatly help students build these critical thinking skills, all the while by using a current technology that indoctrinates them into a wider sociocultural community that they can be a part of for as long as the technology platform remains active.


The purpose of this lesson was to help students use Twitter as a research tool by focusing on authors of academic articles they already found using more traditional sources such as academic databases (e.g., EBSCO), academic journals, or even Google Scholar. Of course, using keywords is an additional way that Twitter can be used for research purposes, but using authors that the students already found was done in hopes of increasing their likelihood of finding tweets and ultimately links to articles. Adding Twitter to the research skills taught in a first-year composition course after teaching traditional research methods was done intentionally, as a scaffolding step. Learning is, after all, repetition, and researching the same authors from their traditional research with this social media research was done so that students would have some familiarity from previous lessons while they explored using Twitter in a new way. Students are savvy using social media for many purposes, but just as academic English itself is a learned skill, so is using Twitter for academic purposes such as researching for academic articles.

This was the first semester that I was able to use Twitter in a second language classroom setting. The advantages of doing so far outweighed any disadvantages. There were linguistic benefits as well as cultural ones. Everything that is done while teaching or learning a language affects the student’s ability to do so. Thus, by acclimating students to a widely used form of social media in English (one of the main languages used in the platform), I was hoping to add a personal, human, interactive component to what might be considered a traditionally isolating academic activity: research. If students are able to incorporate these research skills in a communicative manner such as social media, perhaps this would also make the transition to professional events such as conferences or even job interviews a smoother one.


Kharbach, M. (2014, March 5). Twitter aligned with Blooms' taxonomy: A must have poster for your class. Retrieved from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2014/03/twitter-aligned-with-blooms-taxonomy.html?m=1

Limbu, M. (2012). Teaching writing in the cloud: Networked writing communities in the culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. Journal of Global Literacies, Technologies, and Emerging Pedagogies, 1(1), 1–20.

Pacheco-Vega, R. (2014, May 14). Five ways in which Twitter can be useful in academic contexts. Retrieved from http://www.raulpacheco.org/2014/05/five-ways-in-which-twitter-can-be-useful-in-academic-contexts

Selsberg, A. (2011, March 20). Teaching to the text message. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Stephanie Fuccio spent 8 years teaching EFL overseas before returning to the United States to work on an MA TESOL. She completed this degree in May 2014 and will start teaching composition courses at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, in September 2014. Her TESOL interests include CALL, MALL, L2 writing, and EAP. She welcomes feedback at LinkedIn or Twitter.


Many of us, and our students, are doing more of our reading on mobile devices. While most U.S. residents still read printed books, 1 in 2 now has a mobile device intended for reading, and nearly 3 in 10 has read an e-book (Zickuhr & Rainie, 2014). Of course, mobile devices quickly become dated. Knowing that we’re doing more reading on those kinds of devices led me to wonder what would happen if I tried to read a long novel on a small, aging device. So in the summer of 2011, I read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick on my 2008 iPod Touch. I learned I enjoyed reading a long novel on a small device, but also found out how easily my novel could vanish from that device.

Learners might use devices such as their smartphones to read novels or other books in their second language (L2). Learners, like others, tend to keep their smartphones handy. Therefore, they could use their phones to read extensively, an activity that improves reading proficiency (Grabe, 2009). Learners could also use their phones to integrate reading with other skills. But if books were ever really a simple technology, we should now think of them as complex and even ephemeral. Below I talk about my experience and what we can learn from it.

Methodology: iPod Touch, Text, and Software

I obtained my first-generation iPod Touch in the summer of 2008. I have used the iPod to listen to podcasts in Spanish (my strongest L2) and to a self-guided museum tour in English (my L1). I’ve also used the iPod to share pictures with family and friends, surf the web, and check email. I cannot record audio with my iPod, but I can practice listening, reading, and writing, and have conversations about pictures; learners could do the same. They could get additional speaking practice using smartphones or more recent iPods that support recording.

Because I’m interested in L2 reading, teaching, and technology, I wanted to see what it was like to explore extensive reading on my iPod. I chose Moby Dick (Melville, 1851/2001) because the novel was challenging; because it was in the public domain and available free from Project Gutenberg; because I could locate, download, and read the novel using free software I had already installed (Lexcycle’s Stanza); and because I was planning a summer trip to Cape Cod, whose historical connections to whaling link it to the novel.


Reading the novel on the iPod was easy. I was able to adjust the font and text size, jump among chapters, and search the novel for key terms as if it were a corpus, a useful feature in a long book full of nautical terms. The iPod’s 3.5-inch screen supported mobile reading at the cost of almost constant page turning. On the other hand, I found myself tethered to my laptop in order to recharge the iPod, so when the laptop did not make the trip to Cape Cod, neither did the iPod.

While traveling, I read perhaps six chapters of the novel from an old print edition I found where I was staying. I found the print edition easier to read than the e-book, partly, I think, because of the longer line length on the printed page. In addition, I could read by daylight and make fewer page turns, though I lacked the search function. I finished the novel on the iPod after my trip.

After finishing the novel, I tried to update my copy of Stanza and learned that neither the new version (3.2) nor the old version, once restored to my iPod, would function. As a result, I lost access to my entire library, including Moby Dick. Amazon purchased Lexcycle in 2009 (Stone, 2009a). A recent search for “Stanza” on Apple’s iTunes Store returns a number of e-readers other than Stanza. Even were Stanza still available there for my iPod, I’ve found that fewer and fewer programs are available for my iPod as it ages, mainly, I think, because its operating system no longer supports many current apps. For example, I cannot install apps that would allow me to use the iPod to borrow e-books and audio books from my local public library.


I enjoyed reading Moby Dick on my iPod. This convinces me that, despite the limitations of screen size, smartphones would make viable e-readers.

A glance at many websites shows how much of a multimedia experience reading is becoming. Installed on a smartphone or similar device, multimedia e-books could offer English language learners rich, truly mobile input that integrates language skills. On the other hand, multimedia e-books could easily disappear from students’ devices because of technological change or even concerns over copyright (Stone, 2009b).

I have found alternative ways of reading Moby Dick. It is widely available in print. In digital form, I can read it on my iPod using the WattPad app or on my laptop using Amazon’s Kindle app, or a web browser, or a PDF reader. I’ve also found a volunteer-read audio version of the novel from Librivox that I can play on my laptop or iPod.

It’s common to experience the obsolescence of older hardware, software, or files. Print books can go out of print, physically deteriorate, or become unreadable because of language change. E-books, though, can become unusable much more quickly. As teachers, we need to improve our digital literacy to help students obtain the print and e-books they need.

The major limitation to this article is that it reports on my own subjective experience. Adding the experiences of others would add to our knowledge. In addition, I wrote about a public domain work that most English language learners will never read in the original. Copyrighted works might present their own set of challenges. Finally, many learners lack reliable access not just to e-books, but even to printed works.

I found I enjoyed reading a challenging book on a small, aging device, so learners and teachers could do the same. But I also found that reading is an increasingly complex act of digital literacy.


Grabe, W. (2009). Reading in a second language: Moving from theory to practice. New York: Cambridge.

Melville, H. (2001). Moby Dick; or, The whale. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm (Original work published 1851)

Stanza (Version 3.1) [Computer software]. Seattle, WA: Lexcycle.

Stone, B. (2009a, April 27). Amazon acquires Stanza, an e-book application for the iPhone. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Stone, B. (2009b, July 18). Amazon erases Orwell books from Kindle. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Zickuhr, K., & Rainie, L. (2014). E-reading rises as device ownership jumps. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2014/01/PIP_E-reading_011614.pdf

John P. Madden is an associate professor of applied linguistics at St. Cloud State University, in St. Cloud, Minnesota. His interests include second language comprehension, technology and digital divides, service learning, and teacher education.


Recently, I discovered some notes that I had taken at a technology training session at the Pratt Institute in 2010, when several classrooms were equipped with SMART Boards. Under the title of the presentation and the date, all that I had written was “Do not write on the SMART Board with colored markers.”

For me, CALL directors were keepers of mysteries, like the high priests and priestesses of great ancient temples. They probably attended secret meetings and identified each other through a special handshake. Certainly, they spoke a language that I did not understand. When I completed my teacher training in the early 1990s, overhead projectors and boom boxes were high tech. I remember how excited I was when I first saw an erasable whiteboard and how dismayed I was in 2010 when one of the two useful whiteboards in my classroom was replaced by a SMART Board. I knew that I would never use it, and I had lost valuable board space.

At the same time, I found myself increasingly frustrated by students. While I didn’t have a cellphone of any kind, students were glued to their smartphones like Linus and his security blanket. Much of the time, I felt like a cabin attendant before takeoff. My passengers, however, wouldn’t put their devices away and kept trying to peek at their messages all during the flight. For the first time in my teaching career I felt old. I asked students what they were doing on their devices. “Everything and anything,” they answered. It was a couple of years before I actually understood what they were telling me.

One day, I saw a student trying to enlarge an image in her print textbook, as though it was an image on a smartphone. Many students laughed, but I was horrified. Clearly, she (and probably the entire class) was more familiar with digital content than print; she expected content to be interactive and manipulable. “Ah, a digital native,” the director of CALL said later. How could I, more a digital Neanderthal than a digital immigrant, motivate and engage digital natives?

In her book Understanding Language Teaching, Karen E. Johnson (1999) goes beyond asking instructors to reflect on their own teaching and encourages them to observe and try to understand students better. In addition to reflecting on my own technophobia, I tried to understand students’ behavior. Why, I asked myself, did students want to be online all the time but seemed to take forever to answer an email? Why, when I attempted to learn and use the Pratt Learning Management System (LMS), did they show so little interest? What were they doing with the photos they took after class of what I had written on my precious whiteboard? What was the “everything and anything” that they claimed to do online?

Essentially, they seemed to be recording and sharing: fleeting thoughts, what they were eating, where they were, their high scores in digital games, and yes, sometimes even images of grammar explanations from the board, and often using English. These students were all on Facebook and were members of private groups, such as the Pratt Korean Students Association and the Class of 2014. Whereas the LMS was teacher-driven and top-down, Facebook was collaborative. Compared to the LMS, everything posted on Facebook was open, instantly accessible, and inviting. Unlike emails sent on the Pratt email service, their text messages appeared on their phone screens immediately. If I could make it inviting and accessible, surely “everything and anything” could include what we did in class?

In 2011, I bought a smartphone and a student taught me the basic features. A week later, my nephew helped me join Facebook and showed me how to make private groups. It was still a foreign language to me, but this was a language that I could actually learn. I realized that unlike the SMART Board, smartphones and social media applications were designed for consumers, not for experts. Once I dipped my toe in, I found I could swim almost immediately.

Instead of using the college LMS, I created private groups on Facebook. In addition to posting assignments and notifications, we used Facebook and the students’ own devices in an interactive and collaborative way. For example, students used their phones to record their presentations, which they posted to our class group. After posting and discussing the criteria, we used the Facebook comments feature for feedback. We did peer reviewing of academic papers in a similar way. We used it to post images of what I had written on the board, images that students had taken of their own work, and countless other kinds of activities. In addition, students started posting and responding to their own questions, for example, questions about citations. I could see the class group becoming a community network in a way that the Pratt LMS could never be. Now, Facebook and the learners’ own devices have become essential tools in my class.

Classroom management was and remains a concern. Although we still use print textbooks, and pens and paper, students now have the potential distraction of their mobile devices. How can I be sure that they are working and not playing Candy Crush? When faced with issues such as this, I often return to my original observation; I get them to record and share. My students know that at any time, no matter what medium they are using, I can ask them to record their work, usually by taking a photograph, and share it on Facebook to be critiqued in class, or to send their work to me privately to be formally assessed later.

I am not sure whether I have become more confident using digital applications or whether digital applications have become simpler to use. Regardless, I have gone on to make grammar instruction videos using Keynote and Camtasia. In addition, students can now enlarge the images in my course pack because instead of photocopies, I make interactive PDFs using Adobe Acrobat Pro XI. I am currently considering how I can use digital technology to create multiple pathways for differentiated learning.

Having met several CALL directors at the TESOL conference in Portland this year, I’m pretty sure there is no secret handshake. And, no, I never did use the SMART Board, but I have not written on it yet either.


Johnson, K. E. (1999). Understanding language teaching. Boston, MA: Heinle.

Thomas Healy is an instructor at the Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York. His research interests include developing self-supported technology solutions using widely available and easy-to-use digital tools. He is a co-author of the Smart Choice series published by Oxford University Press.


When and where did the conference take place?

The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) CALL Special Interest Group's annual conference—JALTCALL—took place June 6–8, 2014, at Sugiyama Jogakuen University, in Nagoya, Japan. This was the 21st annual JALTCALL Conference where teachers, researchers, and commercial members shared research and practical applications in the field of CALL.

Who/what organizations/people were involved?

Over 100 presentations and workshops were offered by an international array of language teaching professionals. The types of sessions available to the more than 200 attendees included show and tell, poster presentations, workshops, and paper presentations, as well as commercial demonstrations of cutting-edge programs and materials in the field of EFL education. The conference was highlighted by a keynote address by Dr. Regine Hampel, of the Open University, in England, titled "New Horizons for CALL Research." The plenary address by Dr. Glenn Stockwell, of Waseda University's School of Law, in Tokyo, Japan, titled "CALLing Into the Wilderness: Emerging Trends and Challenges in CALL," energized attendees' efforts in technology in language learning. Details about the presentations and presentation slides from the keynote and plenary speeches are available on the conference website.

What were the highlights of the conference?

The highlights of the presentations included 32 paper presentations about the pedagogical implications of using CALL methodologies. Some of the papers presented included “Measurable Gains of Online Post-test Scores With ER and MoodleReader” by Terry Fellner, “Learners' Perceptions of Use of Learning Resources and Technological Devices for Learning Collocations Through the CALL Software” by Chika Fujimoto, and “Learning Global Issues Through a UN Food Force Videogame in a Second Language Classroom” by Claire Hitosugi. Additionally, the conference offered 40 show-and-tell sessions, including “Using e-portfolios With Weebly” by Andrew Imrie and Bob Ashcroft, “Recording and submitting Audio Recordings Using Mobile Phones” by Richard Hawking, and “Intercultural Communications for Students via the Internet: Lessons Learned” by me. The eight workshops included “The Reader Module for Moodle 2.X” by Gordon Bateson, “Building Webquests to Engage Learners” by Thomas Bieri, and “Google Apps and Google+ for Educational Learning Communities” by Rab Patterson. Finally, the 13 poster sessions included “Paperless Extensive Reading and Student Engagement” by Travis Cote and Brett Milliner, “The iPad for Traveling Language Learners” by Michael Johnson, and a review of the CALL SIG-sponsored digital magazineDigital Mobile Language Learning by Kevin Ryan (check out the DMLL here).

One of the biggest events of the year is the JALTCALL Conference Networking Reception. This year's reception was held at the Gusto Saloon in downtown Nagoya. The attendees enjoyed catching up with old friends, sharing thoughts about CALL and technology in language learning, and meeting new colleagues. It is always an exciting event, and this year's reception attendees shared robust interactions with one another with drinks in hand while marveling at the nighttime scene of downtown Nagoya.

What about future JALTCALL Conferences?

The location of JALTCALL 2015 is still being decided, but this annual conference is normally held in late May or early June. Details will be posted on the JALT CALL SIG's website. We hope that more TESOL and CALL-IS members can join us at JALTCALL 2015 to share your experiences and best practices in the field of CALL. Questions about the JALT CALL SIG or JALTCALL Conferences can be directed to me at the email address above.

Clockwise from left: Conference opening plenary: Andrew Imrie and Bob Ashcroft “Using e-portfolios With Weebly”; poster session attendees; and the plenary address by Dr. Glenn Stockwell of Waseda University's School of Law, Tokyo.

Edo Forsythe is an English lecturer at Hirosaki Gakuin University and a doctoral candidate at Northcentral University. His specialty is foreign language education with an emphasis on technology in language learning. Most recently, he was the co-chair of the JALTCALL 2014 Conference at Sugiyama Jogakuen University, Nagoya.



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Statement of Purpose

TESOL’s Computer-Assisted Language Learning Interest Section (CALL-IS) exists to define issues and standards in the field of computer-mediated language instruction, promote research and development in the area of computer-based language learning, and disseminate information about CALL to ESL/EFL educators worldwide.

CALL IS 2014-15 Community Leaders


Clockwise from left: Current Chair Aaron Schwartz: Chair-Elect Stephanie Buechele Korslund, and Past Chairs Roger Drury and Chris Sauer


Steering Committee Members

Historian: Steve Sharp
E-lists: Suzan Stamper
Website: www.call-is.org/moodle