Welcome to my CALL blog! I hope that it generates some great discussion & sharing amongst professionals from all types of contexts & backgrounds! Feel free to share ideas & leave comments!

ICDL: The International Children's Digital Library

Well, being primarily a K-12 teacher, I am occasionally browsing on-line resources for my ESL students. Unfortunately, I typically end-up at work-sheet sites or sites with simple games that do not have much curricular value...then I remind myself why this is an occasional rather than frequent habit. When I came across the International Children's Digital Library the other day, I was, to put it mildly, ECSTATIC!!! WOW...what a gold mine! This is an on-line reading library with books in a variety of languages, and it spans primary to teenage reading audiences. Finding teen literature is difficult enough, let alone in different languages, so this site is a unique and rare find for any ESL teacher or parent! It is free, and you can just click on books and read them!!!

The ICDL is an amazing example of how technology and the internet can be used as tools to bring L1s and culture into a classroom. This has incredible potential for developing cross-cultural understanding and tolerance, as well as self-esteem and literacy development for ESL students. The site provides the following description of the ICDL:

The ICDL was initially created by an interdisciplinary research team at the University of Maryland in cooperation with the Internet Archive. Members of the team include computer scientists, librarians, educational technologists, classroom teachers, graphic designers, and graduate students from the University of Maryland's (UMD) College of Information Studies (CLIS) and the UMD Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL), a leader in children's interface design.

Other important contributors to the research are the members of the College Park Kidsteam, a group of six children, ages 7-11, who work regularly with the adults in the Lab. The approach used is called cooperative inquiry, a unique partnership between children and adults to develop and evaluate computer interface technologies that support searching, browsing, reading, and sharing books in electronic form.

The ICDL is now the principal activity of the independent not-for-profit ICDL Foundation, which continues to work closely with the University of Maryland by providing generous support for ICDL related research in the Human Computer Interaction Laboratory and the College of Information Studies.

I am so excited about following this site, and would recommend it to others. The only drawback for me is that there are not enough Chinese and African books in the selection, however, this may develop over time. I think that the ICDL is an initiative worth contacting and supporting...they are looking for contributors, and I think that this would be a meaningful initiative for school parent groups from a variety of cultures to get involved with!

If you have seen any other sites like this one, please let me know...it is a fantastic teaching resource!!! As well, consider encouraging others to support the building of this site...there is such a lack of multi-lingual reading resources out there!

Free Online Journal: Languge Learning & Technology

Recognizing that not all ESL instructors are currently affiliated with a university (and hence do not have unlimited and free access to many on-line journal publications and archives), I decided to browse the internet to look for free but refereed on-line research journals dealing with computer assisted language learning. "Language Learning & Technology" is one of the sites that I found and was interested in. It provides a detailed and focused description of its own mission and operational information in the "About LLT" section:

"Language Learning & Technology is a refereed journal which began publication in July 1997. The journal seeks to disseminate research to foreign and second language educators in the US and around the world on issues related to technology and second language education."

  • Language Learning & Technology is sponsored and funded by the University of Hawai'i National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) and the Michigan State University Center for Language Education And Research (CLEAR), and is co-sponsored by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL).
  • Language Learning & Technology is a fully refereed journal with an editorial board of scholars in the fields of second language acquisition and computer-assisted language learning. The focus of the publication is not technology per se, but rather issues related to language learning and language teaching, and how they are affected or enhanced by the use of technologies.
  • Language Learning & Technology is published exclusively on the World Wide Web. In this way, the journal seeks to (a) reach a broad audience in a timely manner, (b) provide a multimedia format which can more fully illustrate the technologies under discussion, and (c) provide hypermedia links to related background information.
  • Beginning with Volume 7, Number 1, Language Learning & Technology is indexed in the exclusive Institute for Scientific Information's (ISI) Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), ISI Alerting Services, Social Scisearch, and Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.
  • Language Learning & Technology is currently published three times per year (February, June, and October).
I would recommend the free on-line LLT journal to all teachers of ESL. I browsed many of the back issues and found that the CALL topics were diverse and relevant, and the archives were easy to navigate. One article that caught my eye reviewed the development of research in the area of m-learning, also known as mobile assisted language learning, or MALL (Chinnery, 2006). The use of cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and i-Pods in regular and ESL instruction is starting to surface in pedagogical conversations and debates, and, although this is an under-researched area, it was interesting to read a summary of what research has found so far. As a teacher of teenagers, this is a very relevant topic!

A HUGE bonus on the LLT site is the section listing CALL thesis papers from the years 2000-2009. I am particularly interested in checking out a thesis entitled, "The effects of computer-assisted language learning on English language learners with and without disabilities in an elementary school setting" (Beaird, 2007).

Anyways, enjoy your browsing on LLT...I know that everyone in the ESL field will find something of interest in the CALL research sited here!

The 21st Century Learner & Multiliteracy

I was surfing through a variety of ESL/CALL/technology blogs today and found a VERY exciting and intriguing site, called Educational Origami. Educational origami caught my eye because, first of all, it is a combined blog and wiki (the blog is at edorigami.edublogs.org , and secondly, it focuses on a hot topic...the 21st CENTURY LEARNER. The author of this site is Andrew Churches, the Curriculum Manager and Computer Studies and Learning Technologies Trainer for Kristin School in Auckland-a large independent school that focuses on education for the 21st century. In 2008 and 2009, the Educational Origami wiki was nominated for the Edublogs Best wiki awards.

It is the issue of 21st century learning that is a burning hot topic among teachers, researchers, graduate students, parents, and school boards alike. Of course, the definition of the 21st century learner would not be complete without direct or indirect reference to terms like "digital generation" and "multiliteracy". My own school board is going through a redefinition of the concept of literacy for the 21st century, and it is placing a heavy focus on student engagement through technology and multimedia...in my opinion, this is an important and timely consideration.

The Educational Origami blog/wiki presents many, many stimulating pages which not only examine the digital learner and how information and communication technology pedagogically fits into the classroom, but also how it relates to topics such as assessment, learning styles and multiple intelligences, and get this...Bloom’s DIGITAL Taxonomy! WOW, COOL!!! There is an interesting chart comparing traditional pedagogical approaches to digital approaches, and some handy quick sheets which demonstrate the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy with technology and Web 2.0 skills listed on them. I got to this blog/wiki from another blog which was quite interesting as well, ESL Technology.com...a great blog to browse once or twice per month for CALL topics and suggestions for engaging older and more advanced ESL students.

What I like about Educational Origami, is that, first of all, it challenges the reader to not only redefine how they think about learners in this day and age, but also encourages us to ponder the definition of a 21st CENTURY TEACHER! Secondly, the blog/wiki takes many old but foundational frameworks and ideas about teaching and learning and updates them into the 21st century by relating the ideas, in a detailed manner, to specific technology skills and digital learning. As with any wiki, the text is not directly focused on research study discussion, however, the author/moderator presents his ideas in a very detailed and academic manner, and does provide bibliographies for the major texts that he is presenting. I would encourage any ESL teacher or graduate student to browse and ponder on this site!

Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers.

I was looking online for a website that provides interesting and diverse ESL reading for professionals with interests spanning the K-12 system as well as the adult education setting (because most sites are either one or the other), and came across the site for the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers.

The CASLT website is a membership site, with an annual fee of $45 per year for established teachers, or a free membership for any individual who is enrolled in a Faculty of Education program (perfect!). It deals with teaching French as a second language in one section, and teaching English as a second language in another section. There are many articles that can be accessed by non-members, and a few free resources. The CASLT site includes access to an E-newsletters, podcasts, presentation videos, research articles, assessment documents, and, of course, lesson plans and lesson materials. The research articles highlighted deal with issues such as assessment, technology in L2 learning, project-based learning, and literacy in L2. The lessons span K-adult education, and deal with a variety of themes. The assessment documents include 20 formative activities and instruments which have been developed to assess the four ESL skills, of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. What I found REALLY COOL about this site was the Provincial Curriculum Guides section which provides links to ESL curriculum documents for all of the provinces in Canada...being primarily a K-12 teacher, this got me really excited-it is an easy way to see what other provinces have to say about teaching ESL students, without having to look-up each link separately!

In my opinion, this is a fairly useful site for both K-12 ESL educators as well as adult educators. A site user will likely want to sign-up for a membership, in order to have full access to the lesson ideas and assessment prototypes. One disadvantage is that the podcasts all deal with teaching FSL (French as a second language). I believe that every ESL teacher will find something interesting to read on this site, even without a membership. The CASLT approach of having French and English teachers share a second language teaching site is something that I found to be uniquely flavoured with a Canadian spirit of bilingualism!

Tattoos are cool...RIGHT?!?

A huge issue in this age of digital lifestyles is the complex network of footprints that each of us accumulates online. ESL students who are not internet savvy must be helped to understand the implications of using the net and placing personal information in their digital footprint.

This “digital tattoo” began, for many of us, before we were even born, and it will inevitably extend beyond the day we die. Passwords, banking info., images, chats, tweets, social networking accounts...on and on it goes, getting lost in an infinite digital graveyard. But does this information really die once we stop accessing it? Do we know where it is stored, or how to delete it? An excellent website for learning about digital tattoos is digitaltattoo.ubc.ca . The site provides very informative tips, surveys, and articles for adults or teens, and provides a thought-provoking video called “Andy’s Digital Dossier”, which would stimulate excellent discussion in an adult or pre-adult ESL classroom (see screencap image above).

For adults, this can be an overwhelming thought...or maybe not...I guess it depends on whether you think about your digital identity or not. For teachers and parents, however, this is an important issue to consider when planning technology lessons or setting-up a family computer station. As a K-12 teacher of regular and ESL students, I was interested in finding a web resource that discusses internet safety and this digital tattoo idea in a kid-friendly way. I have found, much too often, that my young students are so comfortable with the digital world that they do not think twice about the permanency of their involvement. One of the best sites that I found was www.kidsmart.org.uk . This site is very interesting and informative, and would definitely appeal to kids and teens. It uses pictures, and colourful, well-organized, short but thorough lists and descriptions to teach kids how to use the latest technology skills in a safe way (like downloading music and social networking, etc.), seen in the screencap above which was taken from the homepage.

I really liked the kid-produced art that the site uses in their “Net Nasties” menu. The Net Nasties section talks about several internet dangers, like identity theft, addiction, and unreliable information, and uses student artwork to create links to these descriptions (see screencap above)...definitely check this website out if you have younger learners, or your own children! You will also find other interesting links that deal with computer awareness and safety for children of all ages, at BBC’s www.teachingenglish.org.uk

Best of luck with this topic, and remember...we cannot assume that our students REALLY understand how to be safe in the digital world!