Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reflections on Claire's ESL-WOW Project Presentation

Claire B. Siskin did a presentation about the ESL-Writing Online Workshop (WOW) Project that she's involved in, which is funded by FIPSE, Funding for the Improvement of Post-secondary Education (see FIPSE usually awards grants in projects where 'innovation' is involved. ESL-WOW is somewhat similar to PURDUE's ONLINE WRITING LAB (OWL) project (, but the difference is ESL-WOW is completely devoted to ESL. According to Claire, they plan to have all the materials and learning resources completely available to everyone- but this won't materialize until 2013! Although, she hopes that they would be able to make some of the materials available online in 2012 :-) Basically, ESL-WOW develops materials for ESL students that are easy to understand; they hope to employ ESL (live) tutors for the first year, and they hope that the site would become a place where students can 'interact' with the available materials on their own; in other words, students will have to be autonomous learners making use of 'computer scaffolding'. In the chat discussion, Dennis O. provided some good examples of 'computer scaffolding' i.e. glossary, peer editing, etc. Vance and others also suggested the use of twitter applications on their site, creating a Facebook group where students could meet and learn together. While human scaffolding i.e. asking people/teachers for support is always desirable, sometimes in projects like this, it would be very difficult to maintain. Claire pointed out two of her main concerns: dissemination (informing people about this) and sustainability (making sure that the site survives the test of time). I think getting the word out won't be much of a problem since basic marketing and promotional techniques can be employed. Besides, with the advent of personal learning networks (PLNs) and social networks, the simple word-of-mouth advertising will do- so long as people keep on sharing information about ESL-WOW. Claire's second concern, sustainability, is I think more problematic, as she pointed some good examples of NING sites that were created but ultimately met untimely death since people did not bother to go back or pay them a visit. In other words, without the human support/following, the site full of wonderful and available resources can just become a memorial site for those lost ESL souls. What they hope is for students to keep on coming back and making use of these resources; well I think as long as they are free and downloadable, students (new and old) will keep on coming back. The thing is, we're talking about second language writing. For ESL students, writing is extremely difficult. And sometimes, no matter what resources are available to them, they do not see how they can successfully make use of them. In some cases, students are perenially lazy. It's easier to ask, than do the search themselves. Only those who are extremely motivated will go out of their way to search and make sense of the resources they've found online.

The open resources will be archived in a Moodle, and for the first few years, live tutors will also be available on the moodle site to offer virtual support.

The recording of Claire's is available at

You can read the chat transcript here,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The ESL-WOW Project

The recording is available at
You can read the chat transcript here,
Hi all,

This is just reposting Vance's message on EVONLINE WEBHEADS:

Here are the details:

Title: The ESL-WOW Project

Description: Claire Bradin Siskin will describe the ESL Writing Online
Workshop (ESL-WOW) Project, which she directs. ESL-WOW, currently under
development, will be a website designed to guide non-native speakers of
English through each stage of the pre-writing, while-writing, and
post-writing processes. Once the materials have been created, ESL-WOW will
be available to all individuals and educational institutions across the
country. Siskin will outline the development process, and she will also seek
feedback and suggestions from her fellow Webheads.

This event is part of a participant-driven professional development series
planned as a part of the ongoing (since 1998) Webheads in Action
professional development series, most recently with the involvement of the
TESOL Arabia EdTech SIG. The events take place at 13:00 GMT each Sunday (5 pm in UAE).

The event actually starts at noon GMT (4 p.m. in the UAE) when teaching
practitioners gather at for informal text chat. At 13:00
GMT (5 p.m. in the UAE) we move to the presentation venue, either Elluminate
at, or Adobe Connect at

The event this week will take place in Elluminate
Please note, Elluminate is generously provided to us by Learning Times, and
prior registration is required (non-intrusive, takes only minutes).

All are welcome and hope to see you there,


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reflections on Use of MOODLE and Web 2.0 tools in the EFL e-learning courses Session

Here are the things I've learned in Vance Steven's weekly speed geek that took place last Sunday Oct 3 at 13:00 GMT in Adobe Connect, This particular session was about the use of moodle and web 2.0 tools in the EFL e-learning course at a Casa Tomas in Brazilia, Brazil. The lead presenters were Carla Arena and Erika Cruvinel, both long-time webheads.

Being a webhead, I've have seen the many class projects that Carla and Erika have designed for their EFL courses. I have also worked with Carla in numerous online endeavors i.e. Electronic Village Online ( and she also presented for the EFL-NNEST Intersession in Boston early this year, So I knew that they'll be presenting effective practices of techology integration in traditional F2F classroom. What I wasn't expecting, and surely it was a very welcome surprise was the inclusion of teacher training which uses both traditional methods and online teacher training strategies. So this is what I'll be focusing on in today's entry.

The discussion on teacher training was raised almost at the very end of their session, and it was brought up by Wendy Arnold, IATEFL Young Learner Sig. She asked, "how long it takes online training teachers up to speed on how to use tools?" It was an interesting question and a valid one, too. Erika responded to this and she said that it (teacher training) is a process and the first thing they do as trainers is to teach the teachers how to use these tools. It's pretty common sense that to be able to use the tools effectively in the classroom, the teachers have got to be proficient and confident in using the tools themselves!

To support the teachers' training needs in Casa Tomas, they developed the 'Web tools course/E-tutoring course' which is patterned to the EVO style of mentoring and training. This I think is the best complement for EVO, which I believe is a testament to the benefits of doing free online professional development for language teachers who may not have access to TPD in their local teaching/learning environment. Carla also emphasized that it takes some time for teachers to get used to the different tools- since there are hundreds of them! She also pointed out that teachers have to experience how to be online students themselves so they could 1) familiarize themselves with the tools and the technical aspects of web tools application, and 2) realize the students' difficulties Again this is very important because having experienced the same trials and frustrations in using the tools in learning that students face, teachers would be able to provide better support and guidelines to make the students' learning experience a positive one. Sometimes when teachers get so used to using a tool it becomes second nature to them- they coud probably do a task with their eyes closed! For a digital-native teacher, technology integration comes with ease. But surely, before one becomes so good in something there's has got to be a point where they started off as totally ignoramus. So before becoming digital natives, they must have experienced how it was to be digital immigrants. I once was-- back in 2001- until I met Vance Stevens and joined his EVO-Webheads session; the rest is history. Carla and Erika also took the same path- through EVO and webheads they experienced informal mentoring from web-savvy webheads EFL teachers, and once they got the knack of it they started doing the same thing their informal mentors were doing- they were involved in informal teaching/mentoring/participating/sharing. This is a crucial point not only in the survival of a communty of practice (Webheads), but in the language profession as well. Teachers join online groups/networks/CoPs or whatever you want to call them because they feel there's a need to participate, to learn something, to update their skills, etc. and in most occassions, this kind of teacher-support and learning opportunities do not come handy in their workplace. A motivated teacher looks out for ways to improve her/his craft- and they sometimes find them online. It would be ideal if such learning/teaching support is provided by the employing institution, but with the economic setback that many countries are experiencing, even providing basic teacher training is not available just to cut cost. But not for Casa Tomas.

This is why I admire Isabel Villasboas, Carla's and Erika's head manager, because she makes it possible to blend theory and practice; she allows the use of social networking sites and other web 2.0 tools creating their own (Casa Tomas) personal learning networking which is shared with other teachers across the globe. Teacher training is not only done online but face-to-face as well- this I believe is the icing on the cake. The more local teachers are given access to teacher professional development the better it gets for the local ELT community. When you improve the kind of teacher quality in your own local network, particularly non-native English teachers, you also improve the quality of English learning students get. I wish there are Isabel Villasboas in Taiwan- but I still have yet to find one :-(


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Comments on Angela's Blog Entry on Community vs Network

This is a response to Angela's Blog entry on community vs. network, I'm pasting here what I snipped from Angela's blog which would help me address the specific issues that she raised.

I think wat she wrote (below) is a great reflection of the benefits of having a recording of an online session/webinar.
It seemed that when my concentration went to one, I missed something in the other and thus I ended up watching the session 2 more times, and each time I got something new out of it.  I guess that is the beauty of having the elluminate recordings, we can always go back if we need to.
Recording a webinar and putting it up online after the session to share with others who didn't have the chance to participate synchronously. I, for one, often missed out on a lot of synchronous conferences/discussions mainly because of two reasons, 1) time availability i.e. conflict of schedule usually with other f2f engagements, and 2) time zone differences. I live in Taiwan and that's where I teach too. But I occassionally travel back and forth between Taiwan and Birmingham, UK. I'm in Birmingham now doing my PhD residency, and the time difference makes it impossible for me to participate. You also wrote about listening to the recording many times and each time you learned something new. Would this have been possible if the recording was not available? If the recording was not made public, do you think that the volunteer mentors, like myself, or other educators who are interested in the topic but could not fully commit themselves to the course would be able to understand your blog reflections if we/they didn't have a clue what the recording was about? This is the beauty of open resources. Anyone who needs it can gain access to it. It's free. It's available, and when you and I discuss we aggregate the data; we snipped bits and pieces and react/reflect on them. In the end, we have this mashed up knowledge as a result of accumulated shared ideas.

Another key point  is on 'trust' which you mentioned quite a bit in your blog entry. I think you know by now the difference between a network and a community. A network can be helpful specially if connections with others are continuous and active, but it does not necessarily mean that is a community of practice (CoP). Forming a community takes time to build; it's like a 'village'; you've got to know people. You've got to befriend them, which means that there's a certain level of comfort enough for you to share your views and opinions. You are, honey, is like the new kid on the block. You just moved in, and have not yet adapted to the new place. Give it sometime to grow, get to know people and find common goals (which I think you already found in this group/course). Sharing can sometimes be nervewracking because you just don't know how other people will react. So in a new community, one has to be careful with his/her choice of words. But I believe the most important thing to know when sharing ideas, lessons, etc. is that someone out there will benefit from what you've shared. How many times have you benefitted from what other people have shared online? Sometimes you let them know that you got something out of it, most often not. In my own PhD research, I found that the benefits of online sharing, ementoring, etc. to other EFL teachers outweigh the barriers. Perhaps in your own class project, you'd also discover the same :-)
At the moment, I do not have enough trust in our EC&I 831 community to be comfortable speaking.  Like my classmate, Jamie, I have no problem typing responses in the chat when I have something to say but I am not ready to grab the mic yet, not because, like her, I am shy, but rather because there is not enough trust on my part, yet…  It’s another goal area.
I like this comment in particular i.e. B. Dieu comment. Well for one, I know who you're talking about. Barbara Dieu is a colleague and dear friend- and our friendship grew as a result of our active participation in the Webheads online community of practice. I agree, CoPs are round, and I'm adding my two cents on this. I talked about sharing and learning, but the process for a teacher does not really start there. For me, there's has got to be a need- your own teaching/learning need. You call out for help in your CoP, and see how many people will turn up to offer guide and support. Soon, it'll be their turn to call our for help, but will you be there for them? What I'm saying is, to make a CoP work, the very essence of belonging to a community lies on sharing and helping and calling out for help. That's the continuous process of a CoP's existence.
 I think what made the most sense to me was when Barbara Dieu said that “communities are round and networks are spiky.”  That gave me a visual in my mind, which is important as I am a visual learner.
On Fostering change via a learning community like the ECI,
By doing this, maybe we can foster change within our own lives and effectively be a venue for social change.
I agree, you can foster change. But without trust, your confidence in this group's ability to foster change is not that strong. You need to be an advocate for change, hence an advocate for this learning community. You strongly believe that this network, this community that you belong in works for you, and therefore will work in your teaching community.

On being in a tight-knit closed community,
I think my sense of community would be stronger if the course were closed to only those taking it for credit.   However, I do not want a closed course; I want it to be an open community.
Again, if Alec had chosen to limit participation of non-course takers, I wouldn't be here commenting on your ideas. Perhaps it would be easier to establish a stronger connection with a smaller community- but what you receive and put out  foster stronger bonds among the community members. Your participation, combined with other's active contribution make a stronger CoP. So are you willing to make change happen?

Let me know about your project, I'd like to see how I can help make your ideas come to life :-)

Aiden Yeh/Motherchina

Comments on Shawn's Understanding Connectivism & Constructivism blog post

Below was the comment I posted on Shawn's blog entry on understandin connectivism and constructivism,

Hi Shawn,

I read your blog post with interest. You have covered the basic theoretical framework of connectivism and constructivism. In the end you asked, "Yes, all of these are benefits of the technological aspect of connectivism, but are they not also a very strong component of constructivism?" They are! long before connectivism, CoP was the key phrase. And both capitalizes on social construction of knowledge. Technology provides the access to connecting with other people who share the same interests. Constructivism is more grounded to providing you solid evidence of learning; that learning was not only a result of receiving information/knowledge through your various networks but you construct new ideas based on them. If you were given a project, how would you show evidence of constructivist learning in a connected social network?

Aiden Yeh
Motherchina on Twitter

Friday, October 08, 2010

Virtual Round Table TODAY!

Announcement on behalf of Heike Philp

A message to all members of Virtual Round Table

Dear all,

The Virtual Round Table Conference starts today at 9am GMT which translates to be 10am in the UK, 5am in New York and 5pm in Beijing. ( for world times) with the WELCOME ADDRESS by the three company organisers, Shelly Terrell of Parentella, Berni Wall, Gapfillers and the originator of the Virtual Round Table conference Heike Philp, CEO of LANCELOT School GmbH.

One of the highlights of today will be, to listen to two industry giants in the field of language learning peer-to-peer communities, LiveMocha (6 Mio users) and Busuu (1 Mio users). Busuu's CEO Bernhard Niesner will present straight after the welcome address at 9:30am GMT

During the first set of PARALLEL SESSIONS, you might find it very difficult to choose between listening to Lindsey Clandfield (Nicky unfortunately can not make it), Kevin Westbrook, Paul Maglione or Andrew Connolly of Mikogo at 10am GMT ( Sadly Andy Chaplin can not be with us and his session is cancelled. Difficult to choose but don't worry, whatever you miss out on you will be able to watch as recordings.

At 11:30am GMT ( we will have an UNCONFERENCE. But what is an unconference? An unconference is a part without set program when conference participants get together, vote for a topic that they wish to discuss with others and then split into interest groups. At the end of the 30min discussion everyone meets again and a spokesman of each group relates their findings. Conferences which are entirely based on this concept are called barcamps or educamps.

Certainly one of the highlights of the day is our first main PANEL DISCUSSION with the 'webheads' an online community of educators, orginally started by Vance Stevens and Dave Winet some 10 years ago. We are thrilled to see Teresa Almeida d'Eca, Carla Arena, Michael Coghlan, Erika Cruvinel, Daf Gonzalez, Vance Stevens and Jennifer Verschoor join us from Australia, Portugal, Spain, Brazil and the UAE, spanning the globe. They will be discussing what works where in teacher training. This is a learning conversation without any powerpoint and you are all encouraged to freely ask questions and add comments in the text chat. .

The afternoon sessions then starts at 3:30pm GMT ( with Livemocha’s CEO Michael Schutzler world leader of online communities for language learners, joining us from the US followed by Judie Haynes on KidSpiration and teaching kids to write and Tara Benwell of MyEnglishClub. Please note, this session starts half an hour early at 3:30pm GMT to get a chance to listen to Michael, who has some speaking engagement and has to leave promptly at his local time 9am.

Then, non-stop, we continue with PARALLEL SESSIONS to join Sirin Soyoz at British Council in Turkey about songs in ELT, English360 and their workshop on how to create dynamic and engaging lessons, Işil Boy (pronounced Ishil) a 30min presentation on web 2.0, Philip Gienandt of LinguaTV and their award winning and fun language videos and Udemy's Gagan Biyani, a true alternative to Moodle with a plus, namely a built in payment system (upcoming soon) that allows you to charge for the courses you create there.

Even if it is terribly difficult to choose between any of the parallel session, “worry not” because all sessions are being recorded and will be published on our conference site usually within 3 days of the conference.

The Friday closes with an exciting, fun and fast-paced PECHA KUCHA NIGHT and an ONLINE AUCTION.

Many thanks to our donors of products and services for their give-aways, which we are granted to auction of for a good cause, namely the teacher training grant. Our goal is to reach 3,000 EUR!

Looking forward to seeing you online.

The Conference organizers

Heike Philp
Shelly Terrell and
Berni Wall

Visit Virtual Round Table at:

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Webheads' Idioms in English Project on Flickr

The "Idioms in  English" project on Flickr started by the Webheads is an interesting idea that can easily be used in a blended learning EFL class. Look at the examples Webheads did and you can actually do the same- or even better!

Here's the link to the Idioms in English page,

Below is my message posted today to the Webheads Yahoo! Group regarding my contribution to the Webheads' Idioms Project on Flickr!
Hi All,

Just thought of sharing a picture that Michael Coghlan took back in 2008 but I couldn't figure out how to link it. So I took a screenshot and added it to the idioms stream. I added a description right below the meaning of the idiom expression; I also provided the direct link to Michael's photostream where you could see all the past comments on my shoe. There's an interesing comment made by Nergiz :-) and I just responded to that. Interesting though to find out that Graham wears high heels! :-)

Link to Walk a mile in my shoes!

To Michael's stream,

hugs to all,

what a wonderful project!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Response to ECouros's ECI831 student's blog post

This is in response to ECI831 student's blog entry,

And below was my response to her.

Interesting blog post. I'd like to comment on two things: CoPs and local network for local teachers.

Regarding CoPs, I think it would help to read Etienne Wenger's theory, see, He emphasizes the role of social participation in a CoP. This is a major factor since without the social interaction there won't be much networking and therefore in the long run, the connection with other group members won't be as solid. It takes people to connect, yes, but the relationship must grow into something stronger that really bonds the group i.e. friendship, open/informal mentoring, etc. Webheads in Action is a solid CoP and proven through the years of continuous collaboration with TPD projects and class-related projects.

Secondly, I'm interested in your idea of establishing local network for local teachers. My PhD thesis focuses on local teachers' online TPD i.e. ementoring and how learning & change can take place in their real teaching contexts. It was a long and tedious process but I saw how it worked and what the shortcomings were. I'd like to see your idea grow into something that will work for the teachers in your community. The first thing that you need to do is to prepare a mindmap or an outline on how you intend to make this happen. You can do this, one step at a time.

Goodluck and keep me updated with your project.

aka motherchina (Twitter)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Use of MOODLE and Web 2.0 tools in the EFL e-learning courses, Oct 3, 13 GMT

Recording is available at
Pasting announcement from Vance Stevens via Webheads YG:

weekly speed geek to take place on Sunday Oct 3 at 13:00 GMT in Adobe Connect,

Carla Arena, Claudio Fleury, Erika Cruvinel and Ronaldo Júnior are a group of educators at Casa Thomas Jefferson, Brasilia. They will be sharing a bit of their experience of mixing the use of MOODLE and Web 2.0 tools in the EFL e-learning courses they devised and teach, of which this is one example: Please have a look at this article and come talk with the Brazilian Webheads about how they integrate Web 2.0 and multiliteracies into their teaching.

This event is part of a participant-driven professional development series planned for the TESOL Arabia EdTech SIG at 13:00 GMT each Sunday (5 pm in UAE). Between Sept 6 and Oct 3, 2010 the event coincides with the TESOL PPOT 107 Multiliteracies course.

The event starts at noon GMT (4 p.m. in the UAE) when teaching practitioners gather at for informal professional development text chat. At 13:00 GMT (5 p.m. in the UAE) we move to the presentation venue.

Venue confirmed for

Please feed back to us on your preference for Adobe Connect or Elluminate, as we have both available to us.

All are welcome of course, hope to see you there,


NOTE: 13 GMT is 21:00 Taiwan time