Wednesday, 26 November 2008

How effective is ICT in language teaching and learning?

This question has been raised on numerous occasions and few convincing arguments have been put forward that ICT makes much difference. There's a bit on ICT effectiveness here in Section 3 of Module 1.1 at the ICT4LT site:

So I thought it was high time I raised this question again. Concrete evidence on the effectiveness of CALL is difficult to obtain. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the positive effects of CALL. Teachers often report on their students being "enthusiastic", "engaged", "motivated" and even "excited" in classes in which CALL is used, but are sceptical about measuring its effectiveness. See this summary (in Word format) of a discussion that took place in the MFL Resources forum in 2008:

Farewell to Lively by Google

Google plan to drop Lively on 31 December 2008, five months after it was launched. So, if you have a Lively room, use it for a final New Year’s Eve bash, take some screenshots and say bye, bye. I guess this is the way things are on the Web: if it doesn't catch on in a couple of months then drop it like a hot potato, especially in these troubled economic times.

The demise of Lively, along with many other websites, should remind us that it is unwise to build a teaching course around a website, unless it is your own – although you can't even guarantee that your own site will always be there. One of mine went down for three weeks in 2001 when my hosting service went bankrupt. I didn’t lose anything, however, as it was all backed up on my hard disk and on CD-ROM. I have links to over 1000 sites on the three websites that I maintain. The wastage rate averages 3%-5% per month – a phenomenon known as “linkrot”. The worst offenders are government and university websites; they are forever changing.

Lively was probably not an appropriate name. No one ever visited my room unless it was pre-arranged, and I am not aware of Lively catching on in education in the same way as Second Life. Second Life educational locations are springing up like mushrooms these days, and many of them are dedicated to language learning. I ran a training course on Second Life in September, and it worked quite well. A colleague ran a course on Lively for the same participants on the same day. Participants could see more potential in using Second Life.

What I like about Second Life is that I meet someone there by chance almost every day. I maintain the EUROCALL HQ there on one of the EduNation islands, and people often just drop in for a chat - three people were there between 6 and 8 pm yesterday evening, 25 November 2008. I also take part in trivia quizzes and I go to live performances of bands, e.g. Irish groups in the Blarney Stone pub in SL, and fund-raising concerts for cancer research. I have won a bit of money by taking part in quizzes.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Relections on EUROCALL 2008

I just got back from the EUROCALL 2008 conference in Székesfehérevár, Hungary. 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

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Death of the VLE?

There has been a good deal of discussion in various forums on the Web about the downside of technology, for example the overuse of PowerPoint. Some time ago I Googled for “Death by PowerPoint” and got around 375,000 hits, leading me to sites that criticised the excessive use of PowerPoint in presentations both in the business world and in education. This is not to say that PowerPoint presentations are worthless, rather it is a warning not to regard technological innovations as a panacea.

VLE’s are often in the news these days and, like PowerPoint, are often hailed as a technological panacea, so I decided to Google for “Death by VLE”. I got about 87,000 hits. I have always felt that VLEs – like the language lab of the 1960s – were designed to put learners to sleep, and I cannot see that they will ever be in serious competition with the many exciting Web 2.0 developments we have seen in recent years, so the high number of hits for “Death by VLE” did not really surprise me. This reference came at the top of the Google hit list:

Stiles M. (2007) "Death of the VLE? A challenge to a new orthodoxy", Serials, the Journal for the International Serials Community 20, 1: 31-36. Here is the abstract:

“The VLE has become almost ubiquitous in both higher and further education, with the market becoming increasingly 'mature'. E-learning is a major plank in both national and institutional strategies. But, is the VLE delivering what is needed in a world where flexibility of learning is paramount, and the lifelong learner is becoming a reality? There are indications that rather than resulting in innovation, the use of VLEs has become fixed in an orthodoxy based on traditional educational approaches. The emergence of new services and tools on the web, developments in interoperability, and changing demands pose significant issues for institutions' e-learning strategy and policy. Whether the VLE can remain the core of e-learning activity needs to be considered.”


Interesting, eh?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

EUROCALL 2008, Second Life, Lively by Google

A Pre-Conference Workshop (PCW) on Second Life and Lively by Google will be taking place at EUROCALL 2008, 3 September 2008. I have created a Word document that explains the preparation you need to do in advance of the workshop and what we will be covering in the workshop. The document can be downloaded from the ICT4LT website, Section 14.2.1 of Module 1.5:

The document will remain at the ICT4LT site after the workshop and will be added to and amended from time to time.

During the EUROCALL 2008 conference there will be opportunities for online chat in the EUROCALL HQ in Second Life and also in the Lively room that we have created. Here are the URLs:

Second Life:


The EUROCALL 2008 conference will also incorporate a Virtual Strand, as in 2006 and in 2007, to enable online participants to get a flavour of the conference. Registration for the Virtual Strand is free of charge:

Graham Davies
19 August 2008

Saturday, 22 March 2008

SLanguages 2008 Online Conference - Free!

SLanguages 2008 Online Conference - Free!

The SLanguages 2008 Conference brings together practitioners and researchers in the field of language education in Second Life for a 24-hour event to celebrate languages and cultures within the 3D virtual world.

This second annual event is entirely free and takes place on the EduNation islands within Second Life. Take a tour of the venue:

Starts 18.00 GMT, 23 May 2008Ends 18.00 GMT 24 May 2008
Further information and registration form at:

The ICT4LT site contains an intro to teaching and learning languages in Second Life, with a brief report and screenshots of the SLanguages 2007 Conference:

Friday, 22 February 2008

Computer Mediated Communication Conference, 17-19 April 2008

The first conference organised by EUROCALL's Computer Mediated Communication Special Interest Group (CMC SIG) will take place at the University of Padua, Italy, 17-19 April 2008.

In an earlier contribution to this blog (7 November 2007) I wrote about setting up EUROCALL's new HQ in Second Life. I shall be giving a presentation about the HQ in Second Life at the CMC SIG conference - from a distance (i.e. in the UK). It's nothing spectacular - just a tour of the HQ, which is located on EduNation III island in Second Life. The HQ can be used for real-time meetings and presentations to small groups, e.g. PowerPoint and video presentations and slide shows. Here is the EUROCALL HQ SLURL:
You may find me lurking there sometimes in the guise of Groovy Winkler.

David Richardson and his colleagues will be giving a presentation at the conference entitled "Practicing proficiency in virtual space - a case study of cross-cultural collaboration in language learning", which will also be delivered at a distance (from Sweden) using Second Life. David has posted messages concerning his Kamino Island project, which focuses on oral production, in the EUROCALL CMC SIG discussion list at:
You can read more about David's oral production project at:

Further information on the Padua conference can be found in the CMC SIG discussion list (above). The main contact person in Padua is Francesca Helm. Contact her via the discussion list.

Participating in conferences at a distance is now established practice. The Consultants-E, a business based in Barcelona, manage the EduNation islands in Second Life, where they are running a series of seminars entitled EduCation@EduNation:

We focus on Second Life in Section 14.2.1 of Module 1.5 at the ICT4LT website:

EUROCALL has incorporated a virtual strand into its last two conferences, 2006 and 2007. The archives are here:

EUROCALL 2006 blog:

EUROCALL 2007 virtual strand, which includes streamed videos of the keynotes:

EUROCALL 2008 in Hungary will also include a virtual strand - details to be announced later:

Graham Davies

Copyright - new tricks to catch you out!

A colleague drew my attention to the following article at the website of the Computer & Technik Magazin, which summarises a TV broadcast on 16 February 2008:

For those of you who cannot read German, here's a brief summary: A couple in Germany, Marion and Folkert Knieper, have put together an online cookbook with lots of photos taken by Folkert Knieper, e.g. the sort of photos of food that teachers like to use in their worksheets, blogs and online worksheets. The online cookbook includes a lexicon and has lots of links to other sites - which puts it high on Google's hit list if you are doing a search. So you search (in German) for an image of tomatoes, carrots, a cup of tea, etc. You find the image in the cookbook and add it to your website, blog, or online worksheet. Now here's the catch. Folkert Knieper uses the image search facility in Google to find his own photos. Bingo! The photo that you have added to your website turns up. He then asks you to pay for it and takes you to court for breach of copyright if you refuse. In Germany the law on copyright is much the same as it is in the UK. If you take a photograph and publish it on the Web you automatically own copyright in the photo unless stated otherwise. Apparently, Folkert Knieper is making hundreds of thousands of euros out of this venture. Nice little earner, eh? It could catch on...

Selling digital photos is a growing business these days: