Monday, May 24, 2010


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vance Stevens' CALL course and resources

Vance Stevens is a CALL coordinator and elearning -IT/CMC specialist (to learn about his skills and endeavours, please visit He developed a website ( for CALL lab managers, teachers, and learners of languages online, on which he included links to CALL journals, computer set-up, ESL activities and CALL applications, the web, and web net working (including online community) and web-based issues (such as viruses, copyright, spamming).

The resources on the web page are not systematically built. There are vocabulary resources for low-level learners, and TOEFL preparation materials for intermediate level of students. But it is a good place for ESL teachers' reference when they have questions regarding the above topics.

Vance Steven also used Moodle to develop an online course called Multiliteracies for Collaborative Learning Environment in 2007, which is relevant to what we have discussed in our CALL course. One can access as a guest and view the course syllabus ( and contents (( The course contents include an introduction, online community, concept of multiliteracy, information managing (using RSS, bloglines, podcasting, and podcatching), types of multiliteracy, web 2.0, Theoretical framework (e.g., Connectivism) and other CALL links. The course also includes an online events Calendar, student portfolios and a news forum.

This course gives another perspective on the concept of multiliteracies, which consists of three domains: functional literacy (computers as tools and students as users of technology); critical literacy (computers as cultural artifacts and students as questioners of technology) and rhetorical literacy (computer as hyper textual media and students as producers of technology).

To sum up, the websites are rather academic. The resources are carefully chosen for the intended audience. The main purpose is to inform and educate. There is no interaction and entertainments.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Teaching Pronunciation and Intonation with computer Technology

General pronunciation courseware.

As O’Brien (2006) observes, these kind of courseware mainly deal with single words or basic utterances but not learners’ own utterances is of the nature of listen and repeat. Though some of them provide recommendations for more native-like pronunciation, they don’t address individual student errors. Therefore, before recommending such courseware to my EFL students at tertiary level in China, I will guide students to do a self assessment of their pronunciation contour and help diagnose their segmental (vowels and consonants) and suprasegmental (stress, rhythm and intonation) errors that may impede intelligibility. Then I will direct them to select such tools that address their individual pronunciation problems.

Automatic speech recognition.

O’Brien notes that ASR software can be used to provide objective evaluation of learners’ pronunciation performance, and some, like Tell Me More, can provide limited contextual conversation and encourage more creative utterances than the simple answers allowed in basic courseware. Other advantages of ASR include its provision of a variety of different native speakers of the target language and assessment on the intelligibility of learner speech. However, learners can only receive the feedback that whether their pronunciation is native like or not, but no explanation of why.

I have difficulty using such techniques due to my students’ lack of knowledge of phonetics and phonology. But I am thinking of providing them such instructions, so that they can use the software to do self-evaluation since they then can understand why their pronunciation is not correct. So all they need to do is to recognize and modify their errors with the assistance of the software.

Visualization software.

Visualization techniques, according to O’Brien, can be effective for segmental and prosody correction through the use of visualization displays such as pitch contours, waveforms, spectrograms, and notations. However, I won’t feel confident and comfortable using such software in my class, for I totally have no idea about these visual displays and visualization feedback. A possible solution, as O’Brien suggests, is to receive extensive training in the interpretation of the various forms of visualization, so that I can use the software to design activities and my students will be able to do the diagnosis of their speech by themselves.


O'Brien, M. G. (2006). Teaching pronunciation and intonation with computer technology. In L. Ducate & N. Arnold (Eds). Calling on CALL: From theory and research to new directions in foreign language teaching (pp. 127-148). San Marcos, TX: CALICO.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A useful CALL blog site

The Blog Options and Issues in Computer-assisted Language Learning ( was created by Ammar Merhdi, an English teacher who is interested in integrating technology in language learning and school curriculum. The purpose of the Blog, as the author claims, is to "help language teachers to utilize technology in their teachings by giving them options and discussing issues of integrating technology in their language teaching.”

The tools introduced in his Blog include:
1. Prezi, a new presentation tool that may terminate PowerPoint. A presentation sample and suggestions for language learners provided.
2. COCA, a powerful corpus for class use.
3. Engrade, an online grade book. Which can guarantee security, sustainability, and privacy.
4. Wordsift, a powerful vocabulary tool.
5. 10 learning tools, including Mindomo, Etherpad, Twitter, Wikispaces, Diigo, Simplybox, Hotpotatoes, Learning content Development System, Google docs and Pageflakes.
6. Features of Web 2.0 and their application in Education and Language learning.
7. How to use word processor to provide feedback on students' writing.

The posts are all good stuff for language teaching and learning, particularly for Chinese EFL teachers and learners, who need these tools for course development, appropriate language use, effective writing, and the building of a virtual English learning community and environment that encourage language input and language use.

The author also provides some journal links concerning CALL. Unfortunately, most Chinese EFL teachers may have no access to the journals requiring a licensed ID to sign in.

As I notice, there are 11 posts in total in the Blog, all posted during the year 2009, no updates in 2010. He has got only one follower, and received very limited number of comments and feedback from the audience. Probably the author feels too lonely and alone, and has lost interest and drives to move on. It appears to me that many Bloggers feel the same way. Only a few can grow and boom continuously.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Most popular web-based survey tool -Surveymonkey

The Web 2.0 tool SurveyMonkey (, claims to be the world's most popular web-based survey tool. It can be used to write successful and effective survey questions, create survey flow and layout, gather responses, calculate response rates and do intelligent results analysis. It targets at users from different areas and fields.

As ESL/EFL teachers, we can use it to design quiz and tests, do course evolution online by gathering students' feedback on the English course, and do academic research in the area. It can save one much time and energy and make the survey work simple and effective. Best of all, it is free!

The 2010 GloCALL Conference

GloCALL conference 2010 will be held in Sabah, Malaysia, on December 2-3. It is now inviting proposals for papers, workshops, symposia and posters in this area. The submission deadline is June 15. The event is jointly sponsored by PacCALL (The Pacific Association for computer Assisted Language Learning) and APACALL (Asia-Pacific Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning); both are academic organizations with good standing.

I personally am a member of PacCALL and attended the 2006 conference in Kunming, China. It was an exciting experience. It was at this conference that I learnt about software such as "Moodle" and "Hot potatoes", made acquaintance with CALL expertise from other universities. Besides, I really enjoyed the beautiful scenery around the city.

The event will be well organized for it is the 4th time since 2007. The event location, Sabah is a well-developed tourist city in the country. The traffic, accommodation and food are not expensive in Malaysia. So why not take this marvellous opportunity, leave the cold 2010 winter in Alberta behind for a while and take a break in the warm sunny Asian city and learn some good stuff about CALL?

If you are interested, check out for details.