Monday, 8 September 2008

Post-conference reflections from Graham Davies

I just got back from EUROCALL 2008. It was a smaller conference than usual, with around 150 participants attending, but the quality of all the presentations that I attended was extremely high this year; I cannot say that I attended a single poor presentation. There were a lot of new faces as well as the old hands. The social events were really good too. I especially enjoyed the conference dinner in the Csarda, where we were treated to a display of folk music and dancing – and even participated in the dancing ourselves.

The conference highlight for me was the session on Second Life, conducted by the Kamimo Project team, both locally and at a distance in Sweden. Second Life and virtual worlds (e.g. Lively by Google) are now a hot topic in EUROCALL. My colleague Lesley Shield and I ran a pre-conference workshop on Second Life, and I was interviewed by the local press and a radio station and asked questions about the different ways in which virtual worlds might contribute to language learning and teaching. The workshop notes that I wrote for newcomers to Second Life will remain on the Web permanently and will be updated from time to time. They can be downloaded in Word format from the ICT4LT site, Section 14.2.1 of Module 1.5:

This year’s conference was so good that we able to resist being out and about in the glorious sunshine that we had for the whole week, with temperatures creeping up from the mid-20s at the beginning of the week to 35 degrees on Saturday. The weather was really kind to us, so that we could enjoy sitting out in the open air until midnight – and later for the conference pros. A big thank you is due to Zsuzsa Angeli for organising a great conference in beautiful baroque Székesfehérevár.

The EUROCALL 2008 conference Virtual Strand archives will continue to be accessible at:
and video recordings of the keynotes will also be available.

EUROCALL still attracts members mainly from the higher education sector in spite of our efforts to widen our constituency, but this may soon change as the Executive Committee has approved a proposal to set up a special interest group (SIG) for teachers in the primary, secondary and higher sectors of education. We will be looking for volunteers to manage this SIG in the near future. Keep an eye on the EUROCALL website and the EUROCALL discussion list for future announcements:

Graham Davies
Member of the EUROCALL Executive Committee, with special responsibility for EUROCALL in Second Life

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Final th0ughts

Well, the conference finished today, and doubtless blog postings will be added over the next few days.

I very much enjoyed Patrik Svensson's very interesting and thought provoking plenary presentation - I like the idea of more or less disruptive technologies and the death of the VLE...

Thank you, too, to Patrik for taking part in a Q&A session. We had a few technical hitches and it's a shame there weren't more participants, but we had a fruitful discussion, I think. I hope those others who took part found it useful, too.

Our other two plenary speakers, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme and Andrea Kápárti allowed us to stream their presentations, which we very much appreciated. We'd also like to thank those presenters who signed the waiver forms and let us record their presentations for inclusion in the virtual strand.

A very big thank you should be given to Zsuzsa Angeli for organising a wonderful conference at a beautiful venue - nobody's posted photos this year, so this is a call for someone to do s0 for those who weren;t fortunate enough to be here.

And is this the end? Of course not! We have plans for next year's Virtual Strand already. Peppi talked a little about them at the Annual General Meeting yesterday, and more information will appear on the EuroCALL wesbite shortly. Essentially, though, we're hoping to extend the Virtual Strand to incorporate the submission of abstracts through the review process in exactly the same way as for the main conference - remember, though, you will need to be a EuroCALL member to submit an abstract, and you'll be able to find details about this very soon on the main EuroCALL website at:

Please continue to post here and on the discussion list. We'd love to hear your views about the sorts of things you'd like to see in your virtual conference environment and to hear about your experience of this - and other - virtual conferences.

Thank you everyone for taking part!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Françoise speaking on the development of new competencies

I just attended a very interesting talk by Françoise Blin entitled "The computer as a functional organ: the development of new competencies for successful language teaching and learning in a VLE". After a brief description of Activity Theory, Françoise talked about VLEs as semiotic vs technological spaces emphasizing that the dialectical relationship between nodes of the two spaces can result in contradictions which, however, can be mediated by means of functional organs.  To create and use functional organs, Françoise suggested three types of competencies: tool-related, task-related and meta-functional. She argued that the three competencies are required for learners to move smoothly between semiotic and technological spaces. 
In the second part of the talk, Françoise demoed an electronic glossary implemented in Moodle. The co-construction of the electronic glossary can be seen as a sub-activity of the main language learning activity and its activity system can be represented in the usual way. She cited preliminary data that suggested that the glossary sub-activity unfolded as planned although a number of problems, disruptions, conflicts and transformations of the initial components of the activity system occurred.

Before entering class, please remember to switch your mobiles on.

One reason to use mobile phones as an alternative to a traditional workstation could be lack of access to technology in school/university settings. In his session, David Brett gave some other reasons for integrating mobile phones in language learning: They are widespread, getting smaller and more economical. Together with the anywhere, anytime factor and movability, portability. Also, it is possible to do a lot of things with them; audio, video file production, web browsing etc .
David demonstrated the interface of the software Flash Lite player by Adobe (which can be run on several different mobile platforms.) Creation of standalone interactive exercises to be run on the mobile phone provides an alternative to traditional learning. They are all short sound bite exercises, both images and text based listening/reading exercises. To distribute them, students can eg download them from a web page, or they can be sent by mms or bluetooth.

Use of online European Language Portfolio by Anne-Marie Barrault-Méthy

Peppi hat mich ermuntert, Beiträge in Deutsch zu schreiben - und warum auch nicht?
Ich möchte kurz berichten über eine Präsentation über den Einsatz von eELP, einer Online-Version des ELP. Marie-Anne präsentierte die Ergebnisse einer Studie mit über 4100 Lernern (in Frankreich), die mit dem eELP gearbeitet haben. Die Ergebnisse der Studie waren sehr deprimierend: So waren 4/5 der Portfolios inaktiv zum Zeitpunkt der Studie, d.h. sie wurden seit mehr als 5 Monaten nicht mehr aktualisiert. Nur 3% der Sprachlernbiographien (einem der 3 Elemente jedes ELP) waren komplett bearbeitet. Insgesamt waren die meisten der Portfolios weniger als 1 Jahr aktiv - 80% wurden nach einem Jahr nicht mehr aktualisiert. Es gab überhaupt keine Hinweise dafür, dass die Lerner das eELP in der intendierten Weise nutzten, nämlich für die Planung des eigenen Lernens, für eigene Zielsetzungen etc.
In der Diskussion wurde intensiv über mögliche Ursachen für diese negativen Ergebnisse debattiert. Marie-Anne nannte selbst in ihrer Präsentation bereits einige, z.B. technische Mängel beim eELP (eine ohne Fördermittel entwickelte Applikation!).
Von mehreren Sprechern wurde konstatiert, dass die Arbeit mit dem Sprachenportfolio ein gewisses Sprachbewusstsein und Lernerautonomie erfordert (und auch befördert) - und wenn diese Voraussetzungen bei den Lernern nicht erfüllt sind, und sie im Unterricht auch nicht herangebildet werden (da dafür kein Platz im straff organisierten Curriculum ist, da die Lehrenden selbst nicht sehr motiviert für die Arbeit mit dem ESP sind etc.), es kein Wunder ist, dass die Lerner nichts mit dem eELP anfangen können.

Ich sehe ein wenig die Gefahr, dass diese Studie den Trend zu bestätigen scheint, dass das Europäische Spracenportfolio wieder eines dieser europäischen Projekte ist, die von oben nach unten initiiert, aber nicht sehr willkommen und auch nicht sehr nützlich für die Zielgruppe sind bzw. nur einer kleinen Minderheit nützen, aber für die Masse der Sprachenlerner nicht viel bringt. Insgesamt halte ich die Ergebnisse dieser Studie für nicht sehr überraschend - wenn man sich die Bedingungen des eELP Einsatzes ansieht. Ich selbst arbeite seit Jahren mit einem webbasierten ELP (LOLIPOP) und teile durchaus einige Zweifel an der Nützlickeit des ELP. Aus Erfahrung weiß ich, dass es einer sorgfältigen Planung durch den Lehrenden erfordert und das Zeit dafür im Unterricht genommen werden muss. Man kann nicht einfach den Lernern, zumal Schülern!, das Portfolio in die Hand geben ohne Tutorials, Handreichungen etc. und erwarten, dass die Schüler wissen, was sie damit machen müssen und selbständig damit arbeiten. Man darf aber nicht das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten und die ganze Idee des Sprachenportfolios durch solche Studien diskreditieren (das ist keine Kritik an der Studie, sondern an den unzureichenden Bedingungen des Portfolioeinsatzes).
Ich hoffe, dass solche Studien nicht die KollegInnen davon abhalten, sich mit dem ELP zu beschäftigen und damit mit ihren Lernern zu arbeiten.
Sehen Sie sich doch mal das LOLIPOP-Portfolio an unter

Integrating a wiki in an environment for collaborative language learning (Linda Bradley & al.)

Linda started her presentation by laying out the theoretical framework (CSCL, Language Learning Competence, affordances in technology) for her study and quickly walking people through the main ideas and functionalities of wikis. The empirical setting of the study is higher education with 54 IT engineering students in 25 groups during a 7 week study course.

The F2F course is supported by a VLE, web based materials (texts, newspaper articles) and the wiki. Students work with texts learning about styles of language, formal and informal texts, argumentation and critical writing. The writing is done in collaboration with the other students (on assignments like "write about the pros and cons of wikipedia as a reference). The students uploaded their ideas in a designated folder on the wiki where they can expand the texts and ideas further together. The flow of versions is all stored in the same folder. The progression ideas and texts can be easily detected and followed. All groups gave and received feedback from their peer groups in the second assignment. The teacher gave feedback in the first assignment to set an example for the students.

The results show the nature of interaction was very much collaborative and that the nature of the feedback given by the students followed the model set by the teacher. Linda made some comparisons to the study she and colleagues carried out as a pilot to this year's study. In the pilot the use of wiki was more open-ended as in this year's study is was the specified tool to use. This resulted in a more systematic use of the environment but also a more systematic writing process.

Linda do add to my still foggy posting... :)

Geographical spread of the virtual participants

Lesley and I just captured the hitstats map on blog visitors for you to see. Quite a good spread, eh?


Andrea gave a very entertaining and enthusiastic plenary discussion about the ways that Web 2.0 has changed approaches to learning. Web 2.0 has allowed learners to acess tangible objects and artefacts that they can use for their learning. This has been a seismic change in the web technologies. Whereas Web 1.0 was really a mostly “read-only” resource, where students could download material from so-called “authoritative sources”; Web 2.0 is a “read-write” resource/tool that allows for users to engage with materials more easily and facilitates social learning). She highlighted three main ways Web 2.0 allows for this change in the learning process. It allows for uses contribute content, to add metadata to content and to create social networks.
Andrea challenged us as language teachers to consider whether we feel it is a good idea that students can access resources that are no longer “authoritative”. She challenged us to think the new possibilities for social way of learning that Web 2.0 opens up for us with more user-generated content – students teaching other students. Clearly, there are dangers with students being able to access content that is not always accurate and this is particularly the case in a language learning context, although the opportunities for student engagement and motivation is considerable.

Digital video project in EFL

Digital video as a tool in foreign language learning offers a diverse number of activities for students, something which was explored by Sylvi Vigmo in her presentation Language learners as actors, narrators and film editors. The starting point is that learners can be active producers of language never mind the level they are at. The target group discussed in this session was Swedish EFL students in upper secondary school. The students planned a script followed by filming, there are many different language learning activities going on during editing and focusing on the logic of a narrative. Such learner activities as code switching between English-Swedish, humour, wordplay, imitation and repetition are used, making the process more important than the actual product, the film.

Reluctance, resistance and radicalism revisited

John Gillespie gave a very interesting paper on his research on staff reactions to the adoption of ICT in language teaching. John, along with other colleagues at the University of Ulster, is conducting a longitudinal study on staff attitudes. He explained how perceptions have changed since first conducting the research in 2001. At that stage, he established an initial taxonomy of staff that defined them as radicals, pragmatists or conservatives. That initial study found that most staff fit into the category of pragmatists. Following a number of developments at the University of Ulster to address some of the concerns voiced in 2001 for more training and investment in an effective multimedia environment, a survey was conducted in 2008 to gauge how staff attitudes have changed. The findings from that survey show a culture shift: there are fewer conservatives in the staff – those with no interest in using technology– and more staff in the category of pragmatists. In other words, more colleagues who are willing to trying using technology in their teaching when they feel it makes a difference to the learning outcome. The same categories exist but now there are more pragmatists and fewer conservatives than in 2001. Obviously, there are a range of factors that impact upon staff reaction to the adoption of ICT in language teaching and these may vary from institution to institution, country to country and even continent to continent. I wonder if that is your experience?

Podcasts available

Not strictlly speaking podcasts, but you can find a series of recordings from regular presentations at the conference and a .wmv file of the Opening Ceremony by following the "Podcasts" link from the homepage of the Virtual Strand Website at:

Andrea Kárpáti online now

Go to the usual place to listen to her:

If you want to ask her something, write your questions in the comments box and we will ask them for you.

Kamimo Islands Project

Kamimo Islands Project

We have just been watching a series of presentations on the Kamimo Islands project in Second Life, chaired by Luisa Panichi (University of Pisa, Italy). The presentations were given by Bryan Carter (Central Missouri University, USA), Judith Molka-Danielsen (Molde University College, Norway), Mats Deutschmann (Mid-Sweden University) and – “virtually” in Second Life – David Richardson, University of Kalmar, Sweden). It was a varied and technologically fascinating session. You can find out more about the Kamimo Islands Project if you search for Kamimo in Second Life or for Bryan Carter’s Virtual Harlem in Second Life – a reconstruction of 1920s Harlem at the peak of the jazz age.

Graham Davies

Designing and implementing the LanguageSpace: A social networking space for language learning and teaching ((Douglas Moody)

The LanguageScape project (will be hosted at, but isn't there yet is a project that utilises Web 2.0 technologies to connect learners and teacher around the world. The presentation was about the development of the environment and stages of it. (The fogginess hasn't gone away yet, sorry... :)

Self-awareness in CMC (Masanori Yamaka)

Masanori presented his research where he attemps to understand how the different designs of videoconferencing affect the way people behave in the videoconferencing situation. He uses Carver's control model as a starting point for his exploration. He has developed a videoconferencing tool where the participants have different views of the situation and its participants: both the participant's and the partner's image, partner's image only, participant's own image only and no images at all. He has studied how these different views affect the way the participants behave in the videoconferencing session. He has looked at both verbal and non-verbal language use. It is interesting too see how the views affect both these aspects of communication. The comments from the audience centered around recommendations to Masanori to wide the approach to language, as Masanori is mainly looking at the grammatical accurancy. Also the actual tasks the learners were engaged in were asked about.

(Sorry for the blurred and very abridged version, my mind is a bit foggy after a very pleasant night at the Vörösmarty Theatre.)

Ps in Podcast

Rose Clark gave a very insightful overview of a podcasting project she has been involved with at the University of Portsmouth. She discussed the problem of creating podcasts that do not inspire or motivate the students. This is particularly important for video podcasts. Her paper discussed the differing attitudes of staff using podcasts and how creating podcasts led to heightened self-consciousness among the tutors. The staff feedback highlighted the difficulties associated with using podcasts in place of face-to-face teaching, in particular the difficulty the loss of spontaneous interaction between staff and students.

Rose considered the issues surrounding the planning of podcasts, including scripting and the use of audiovisual cues. She discussed the possibility of using podcasts for participatory learning across cohorts of students explained the example of how this works in practice at Portsmouth.

Her presentation raises the question of whether some technologies are, to coin administrative jargon, fit-for-purpose. There is clearly a need to ensure that the students feel the benefit for using the technology. If they feel that the podcasts are an inferior substitute to face-to-face teaching (by removing the spontaneity of the f2f classroom), there is a risk that students will be hostile to their use and this could consequently have a detrimental effect on their learning. Maybe a challenge here for all of us.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Developing personal learning environments using web 2.0 tools

The new distributed social web has the potential to be an effective environment for formal and informal language learning. It offers opportunities for students to participate in a space that is more personalized and student owned. Sara Guth presented an ongoing project, BloggingEnglish, where an EFL course used a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) as an alternative instead of a learning management system. Students were presented with an ‘e-tivity’ every week from exploring the blogosphere to developing their own blog with rss-feeds, social bookmarking, producing podcasts and also YouTube films. The outcomes of the study show that students were very positive to this way of learning English. It increased their interest and motivation. Various aspects of reading, writing and listening were practised, though not so much speaking. Pedagogical challenges were brought up too, for instance assessment: How and what is assessed in such a course environment?

Therese Örnberg Berglund on affordances, conventions and feedback

Therese raises interesting points about how the affordances of a communicative environment affect both the social conventions and communicative actions. Her data comes from two sessions in the multimodal platform ""Flashmeeting" where only one participant can speak and has to line up fo a turn. The turn taking is thus very much affected by this broadcasting feature of the system. Oral feedback is also difficult to give so multimodal ways of giving feedback are taken into use (smileys, chat, etc.). But as her results show, the multimodal aspect of the environment doesn't automatically mean more equal participation among the students.

Using technology for self-study in language learning

How easily do students apply their ICT skills in an EFL context? In session 1 Malgorzata Kurek made an interesting presentation of data from 96 Polish 2nd year students majoring in English as a foreign language. Apart from having advanced English skills, these students also considered themselves advanced computer users.

You would think that students of higher education would be self-directed learners and be mature enough to take opportunities to learn on their own. However, the results show that they rarely took the opportunity of using English in ICT contexts. Students sometimes or rarely used English web sites and when it came to online possibilities such as creating blogs and podcasts, they didn’t use English in any of these situations , text chatting was performed entirely in Polish. Interesting enough, there was a discrepancy between their beliefs and their actual practice. An interesting question raised was if it would be possible to make students become less passive and instead seek opportunities for learning?

Trude Heift on feedback and learner uptake

I am listening to Trude's interesting presentation about corrective feedback and its effect on learner uptake. Trude emphasises the need for longitudinal research in the area as student behaviour towards feedback changes during the duration of a course. What can be perceived as exciting feedback at the beginning of a course, may become utterly boring and uninteresting after having been repeated too many times.

She presents the results from a longitudinal study with 24 students of German. The learner uptake is affected by how the learner is guided in correcting his/her mistakes, but it seems clear that it is easier to correct mistakes with spelling than with grammar. Simply because the spelling mistakes are more straightforward to fix than grammar mistakes. I hope that Trude will comment this posting since I think I've left out some very relevant aspects to the issue.

Fei-Yu Cheng's online presentation

We are just getting started with the online presentation by Fei-Yu Chung who will be talking about "Exploring the use of mobile phones for grammar learning". A very interesting presentation resulting in a preliminary finding that students seem to learn better in computer-based environment than with mobile devices. One reason for this is that they didn't tend to the given assignments always that seriously.

I think the message from that is that the pedagogy needs to be seriously re-thought. Bridging the gap between informal and formal learning is not done by just using the tools the learners use in their freetime. Instead, we really have to come up with pedagogical designs that are engaging and motivating and not just mobile and movable.

We are on the radio!

We are on the radio!

Ana Gimeno, Graham Davies and Kovács László have just been interviewed by the local press and Vörösmarty Radio:

The radio interviews are being broadcast at 13.40 (Hungarian time), today, 4 September, and in a shortened version in the news broadcast at 15.00.

We were interviewed about the use of CALL in general, about EUROCALL's activities in CALL and also EUROCALL's presence in Second Life and Lively by Google.

Graham Davies

THe first keynote is now live!

The first keynote session by Agnes Kukulska-Hulme on "Will mobile learning change language learning?" is now beng streamed live from:


Graham Davies

Our virtual meeting places

We intend to drop into our virtual meeting places from time to time during the conference. These are:

EUROCALL's Lively room:
We have a reliable connection to this room, so drop in for a chat. If no one is there, try again later.

The EUROCALL HQ building in Second Life:
which is located on the EduNation III island.
We are having problems accessing Second Life from time to time, but there are places where we can get a secure connection. You can IM me in SL under my avatar name, Groovy Winkler, and I'll be able to pick up your messages via my normal email system.

Graham Davies

The conference begins!

It's Thursday, 4 September, and the main conference is underway. We appear to have a reliable Internet link here in the main auditorium, so we should be able to keep the online participants up to date with the proceedings. The first keynote presentation will begin in around 15 minutes:

Agnes Kukulsa-Hulme: "Will mobile learning change language learning?"

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Chuang Fei Yu's presentation - 4th September

For those who have booked places for tomorrow's presentation by Fei-Yu, we will be sending out invitations to join tomorrow morning. Please check your mail box!

If you haven't yet registered but would like to do so, there are some places left. Please send a message with the title "Chuang Fei-Yu's presentation - book me a place!" to:

virtualeurocallATgmailDOTcom (replacing AT and DOT with the appropriate symbols).

We made it!

We finally got into Second Life, which Graham is demonstrating as I type this. What a palaver it's been to get a connection, but at least we've managed. Apologies to everyone who tried to join us in SL this morning - we hope those of you who got into Lively at least discovered some things that you hadn't found before. Doubtless there will be a discussion about the various merits of these things on the discussion list. And just to start it off... (why) do people think that virtual worlds (graphical, anyway) are new? What's all the excitement about?

SL workshop update

We are still having problems accessing SL from Hungary so we have been using Lively thisvmorning. We are now going to break for lunch and hope to get into SL this afternoon. If you've signed up for the workshop, please check here / the discussion list and in the Virtual Strand Chat room at about 14:00 local time (GMT+2) to see if we've managed to access SL.

Ain't technology wonderful!!

Lesley on behalf of the SL/Lively workshop team

Of all the days...

Graham and I (in my guise as Virtual EuroCALL) have arrived at the Second Life and Lively workshop, all ready to start with Second Life. And, guess what! Today is the day Linden Labs has had problems and they've taken Second Life down to fix them.... Isn't that just typical? Luckily, we're flexible, so we're starting in Lively and hope Second Life will be back before the end of the day...

Technology... doncha just love it...

Pre-Conference Workshops Begin Today

It's the start of another sunny day today (3 September) in Hungary, but many of us will not be enjoying the sunshine as we will be sitting in computer labs taking part in the pre-conference workshops. My colleague Lesley Shield and I are running a whole-day workshop on Second Life and Lively for beginners, so it will be a busy day for us and for our face-to-face and online participants, but it promises to be both fruitful and entertaining. For those of you who are unable to take part in our workshop I have written a comprehensive tutorial document on Second Life, which can be accessed from Section 14.2.1 of Module 1.5 at the ICT4LT site - where you will also find lots of additional information on Second Life and links to useful websites:

During the remainder of the conference I shall be dropping into the EUROCALL HQ building in Second Life from time to time to talk about the conference presentations and social events:

We have also set up a meeting room in Lively:

Maybe we'll see you there!


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Greetings from Graham

Well, here we all are in the EUROCALL Executive Committee meeting in the Novotel in Székesfehévár, 2 September 2008. It's a glorious day and and it's warm and sunny outside. The weather looks promising for the rest of the week too. We look forward to welcoming participants to the main conference on Thursday and pre-conference workshop participants on Wednesday.



The date for Chuang Fei Yu's online presentation is:

4th September 2008, 12:30 - 13:15, Székesféhervár local time (GMT +2) NOT 3rd September as erroneously stated in the announcement below. Please accept our apologies for this error.

Chuang Fei-Yu - "Exploring the use of mobile phones in grammar learning"
4th September 2008 , 12:30 - 13:15, Székesféhervár local time (GMT +2)