35 Tech Tips from JALT CALL 2018

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  1. Class Marker is an online testing and quiz making website for business and education.
  2. LearnMatch combines social language learning and gamification through the medium of football matches.
  3. English Attack immerses students in authentic English, and features motivational exercises and games.
  4. Minimally invasive education (MIE) is a form of learning in which children operate in unsupervised environments.
  5. Clova is an intelligent personal assistant for Android and iOS operating systems developed by LINE.
  6. Newsela allows students to read the news at various levels of difficulty. It has over 6000 articles at 5 reading levels. Free and paid versions available.
  7. According to Caught in the Net author K. S. Young, internet addiction is “real” and has “devastating effects on the lives of addicts and their families”.
  8. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method which breaks down work into short intervals separated by short breaks.
  9. Flixel allows you to make beautiful moving photographs (cinemagraphs) to captivate your audience.
  10. Linguamarina offers YouTube videos with helpful language lessons and advice for those wanting to emigrate to the USA.
  11. Kahoot! is a free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn any subject, in any language, on any device.
  12. Correct.app offers automated grammatical feedback on student writing, and covers a variety of typical English learner errors.
  13. Duolingo uses the Grammar Translation Method of language teaching, which most Japanese learners of English are familiar with from their high school days. It can be used as an effective supplement to more communicative in-class learning techniques.
  14. Dedoose is a cross-platform app for analyzing qualitative and mixed methods research with text, photos, audio, videos, spreadsheet data and more.
  15. The Extensive Reading Foundation is a not-for-profit, charitable organization whose purpose is to support and promote extensive reading.
  16. Yomiyasusa Levels (YL) are a newly established way to measure the reading level of English books.
  17. Shigoto no Kiso Eigo is an NHK educational television series for learning English.
  18. Elemenglish.org is a course designed for elementary school teachers who want to improve their command of classroom English.
  19. Softbank’s Nao Robot can be used to teach second languages
  20. …while Musio Edge can speak “memorable and natural” English.
  21. James Paul Gee argues that good video game-based learning should be “pleasantly frustrating”.
  22. Sounds (iOS/Android app) helps you study, practise and play with pronunciation wherever you are…
  23. …while Sounds of Speech (iOS/Android app) provides a comprehensive understanding of how each of the speech sounds of American English is formed…
  24. …and Phonetics Focus (iOS app) provides 20 fun English phonetics/pronunciation practice activities and resources.
  25. Spaceteam ESL (iOS/Android app) is a fun English learning game you play with your friends and classmates using phones or tablets.
  26. ReadTheory provides free reading comprehension and writing exercises sure to improve your critical thinking skills…
  27. …while Mreader allows teachers (and students) to verify that they have read and understood their reading.
  28. Write & Improve is a free service for learners of English to practise their written English.
  29. Memrise allows you to learn a new language with games, chatbots and over 30000 native speaker videos.
  30. AntConc is a freeware corpus analysis toolkit for concordancing and text analysis…
  31. …while TAASSC is an advanced syntactic analysis tool which measures a number of indices related to syntactic development.
  32. The new version of Word Engine promises to help students quickly increase their TOEFL, TOEIC and IELTS scores.
  33. The Tatoeba Project is a free and collaborative sentence translation database…
  34. …and Charles Kelly offers a variety of ways for Japanese learners of English to interact with the database.
  35. Apps 4 EFL is a Web-Based Language Learning (WBLL) platform for teachers and students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL/ESL). It utilizes creative commons data and open web technologies to facilitate engaging online study.

Apps 4 EFL 4-week certified course with iTDi

I’m thrilled to be delivering a 4-week certified course on my Web-based Language Learning (WBLL) platform Apps 4 EFL with the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi) in March 2018:

Become iTDi certified as an Apps 4 EFL teacher in March 2018 with Apps 4 EFL Designer & Developer Paul Raine, whose website offers over 30 versatile web-apps, covering listening, reading, speaking, writing, and vocabulary. In this four-week course, you’ll learn how to get students set up with the site, track their progress, assign tasks, download data for easy integration into grade sheets, and much more. Participants will be challenged weekly to try out his apps and share how they would increase and decrease levels of difficulty within their context for their students.

Yes to engaging lessons – but let’s not forget that learning requires discipline

Recently, I have started to wonder whether, as a profession, we have spent so much time and energy trying to make lessons and materials “engaging” and “motivational”, that we’ve forgotten a basic truth: learning requires dedication and discipline.

Perusing Twitter, browsing teachers’ blogs, and checking out the latest ELTon award recipients, the level of innovation in ELT never ceases to amaze. It’s great to be involved in imaginative projects to help inspire and motivate learners (I’ve been privileged to be involved in a few myself). But sometimes, I get the impression that we go much further than meeting our learners “half way” – and that this can have a detrimental effect on learning.

During the past academic year, I have encountered a surprising number of students with a shockingly poor attitude toward learning in general, and learning a language in particular. Here are some of the behaviors I have regularly observed:

  • falling asleep during class (in the worst case, during a pair conversation!)
  • regularly forgetting to bring essential items, such as text books and stationary
  • frequently missing classes or arriving late
  • constant use of L1 in speaking exercises
  • lack of a basic level of respect for other students or the teacher
  • lack of willingness to do more than the absolute minimum to pass the class
  • failure to ask for help or support when required
  • failure to follow clear and simple instructions

Now, we could easily come up with several innovative solutions to any of these problems. Regarding students sleeping in class, we might envisage the following kind of reply leaping readily from an experienced ELT educator:

If students are falling asleep, could it be because the lesson is not motivating enough? Could students be encouraged to stand up, move around, take part in some Total Physical Response (TPR) activities?

Or regarding students forgetting materials, perhaps something like this:

If students are failing to bring their text books, is it because they find them uninteresting? Could the teacher utilize more relevant (perhaps authentic) materials in the classroom? Do students even need to use stationary when smart phones can be employed for so many productive language activities?

Likewise, several perfectly credible explanations could be forthcoming. Perhaps regarding lateness and absence, it might be noted that:

Students can be very busy with other commitments: part-time jobs, family issues, club activities, it all adds up. When we couple this with the fact that some students may have little or no interest in attending compulsory English classes, is it any wonder that they miss so many lessons?

Now, I’m not saying that such explanations and solutions aren’t useful or valid – clearly they are. But part of me feels like they are somewhat missing the point. They tend to either put the onus back on the teacher, or find a reason to excuse the learner, or both.

Again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t attempt to understand and accommodate the issues students face in their daily lives. Clearly we should, and we do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do our utmost to deliver engaging, motivational, relevant, principled, and effective lessons. Clearly we should, and we do.

But learning in general, and learning a language in particular, isn’t a passive endeavor. It’s not a treatment that can be administered to recipients regardless of their willingness to receive it. Sure, a student might be able to pass the class by doing the absolute minimum required of them. By attending the absolute minimum required number of lessons. By writing the absolute minimum number of words. By uttering the absolute minimum amount of L2. But doing so is not the way to learn a language, and will at best produce a superficial ability useful only in the most contrived circumstances.

Now, if we revisit the undesirable behaviors listed earlier, and see what effect flipping them around might have:

  • not only staying awake in class, but being a proactive and enthusiastic learner for the duration of the class
  • not only bringing essential items, but also bringing additional useful items such as electronic dictionaries, phrase books, graded readers, etc
  • not only attending every class on time, but also participating in extra-curricular language learning opportunities such as conversation circles or writing clinics
  • making extensive and exclusive use of L2 in speaking exercises
  • exhibiting a level of respect for other students and the teacher that fosters a truly cooperative learning environment
  • having a determination and desire not only to pass the class with flying colors, but to go beyond the curriculum, to pursue one’s own learning needs and interests
  • asking for help or support when required, and ensuring one’s own understanding is accurate and complete
  • not only following instructions, but also helping others who do not understand

If we add to this list some additional habits often followed by successful language learners, we could draw an even more compelling picture:

  • developing a habit of regular study
  • reviewing previously studied material before moving onto new material
  • being exposed to extensive input and producing extensive output
  • pushing oneself to take risks in L2
  • treating mistakes as learning opportunities
  • spending time in immersive L2 environments

Now, I’m not saying that it’s easy or convenient to do all (or any) of these things. But it would be hard to believe that any student who did all (or even some) of these things could fail to improve their language ability.

The important point here is that these are actions to be taken by the learner. Not the teacher, or the materials writer. These are habits to be fostered by the learner. Not the tutor, or the author.

These habits require dedication and discipline on the part of the learner.

And that is something we may like to remind ourselves of when devising our next compelling, interactive, tech-powered, multi-modal, motivational learning experience.

Josh Wilson’s Site & App List

Thanks to all those who attended the CALL SIG Forum at JALT 2017. In case you missed it, here is Josh Wilson’s killer list of sites and apps for language learning:

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40 Tech Tips from JALT CALL 2017

  1. howdoyou.do allows students to practice their English writing and speaking skills by chatting with native speakers or with other learners of English
  2. Basecamp allows groups of people to collaborate on projects remotely…
  3. …as does Trello
  4. Tandem is a mobile app which helps students to find native speakers of English who want to do a language exchange
  5. P2 is a theme for WordPress that transforms a blog into a social forum, with features such as inline comments, and inline editing of posts and comments
  6. The Ginger Grammar Checker helps students write better English and efficiently corrects texts
  7. The Cambridge English Corpus is a multi-billion word collection of written and spoken English
  8. The NGSL-S is a list of high frequency words of everyday spoken English…
  9. …while the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English focuses on academic spoken English
  10. Word Learner (iOS|Android|Web) is a science-based efficient word learning system which tracks  students’ vocabulary learning
  11. Lingopolis is a fun, social and fast vocabulary game powered by Cambridge Dictionaries Online
  12. VoiceTube allows students to learn English by watching TED talks, movies, and music videos…
  13. …while Speech Yard also offers English learning through videos with interactive subtitles
  14. PirateBox is a DIY anonymous offline file-sharing and communications system built with free software and inexpensive off-the-shelf hardware
  15. RACHEL Offline provides free copies of open source websites such as TED and Wikipedia for download and use without an internet connection
  16. Plickers is a tool that lets teachers collect real-time assessment data without the need for student devices
  17. The Intel Compute Card is a credit card sized computing device to be launched in August 2017
  18. SpyFall is an online version of the popular language-based board game of the same name
  19. Showbie combines all of the essential tools for assignments, feedback and communication into a single app…
  20. …while Schoology allows teachers and students to connect, communicate, and share with their peers across campus and around the world
  21. ReadTheory is an online reading practice platform that supplies students with an extensive library of passages targeting individual levels
  22. English News Weekly is a weekly English news podcast produced by Hiroshima University
  23. The M3 is a tiny fully functioning computer
  24. Kapture is an audio-recording wristband that allows you to easily save and share audio recordings of your life
  25. Not Hotdog is an app which allows you to check whether or not something (or someone?!) is a hotdog
  26. Mersiv is a concept designed to revolutionize the way in which we learn languages
  27. Memoto is a tiny, automatic camera and app that gives you a searchable and shareable photographic memory
  28. Sketch Engine is a corpus tool to create and search text corpora in more than 80 languages…
  29. …while WordSmith Tools provides a variety of corpus analysis software…
  30. …as does Laurence Anthony
  31. Datawrapper is an open source tool which allows you to create charts and graphs…
  32. …as does Tableau
  33. Datasift provides access to data from social networks, blogs, news, and more
  34. AntCorGen is a freeware corpus creation tool
  35. FireAnt is a freeware social media and data analysis toolkit
  36. PhraseBot is an awesome puzzle game to actively learn any kinds of words, phrases or sentences
  37. Apps 4 EFL: Real Time allows you to test your students’ vocabulary knowledge in real time, and has the NGSL, NAWL, and other word lists built in
  38. Apple TV allows students to wirelessly connect their devices to the classroom projector
  39. iBooks Author allows anyone to create iBooks Textbooks for iPad and Mac
  40. Spaceteam ESL is a fun English learning game that students can play with their friends and classmates using phones or tablets

10 ways to make textbook dialogues more interesting

  1. Do it without looking. Tell the students to look down at the line, then look up and say it.
  2. Do it with the book closed (students can open it briefly to check if they forget the line).
  3. Substitute words and phrases for the students’ own ideas, change names, places, or any other words.
  4. Do it with emotion – happy, sad, angry, confused, etc. Get the students to try a variety of combinations.
  5. Do it with an accent – American, British, robot, zombie – get the students to use their imaginations!
  6. Do it with gesture only but no sound, over emphasizing the gestures to convey the meaning of the text.
  7. Tell the students to stand up and act it out. Get them to use props and costumes if available.
  8. Have the students write another five or ten lines for the dialogue, and then repeat steps 1 to 7.
  9. Repeat steps 1 to 7 with a different partner.
  10. Have the students translate the dialogue into their first language(s), and then back to English again without looking at the original.