One can be certain that a visit to the Electronic Village at TESOL will always result in a learning experience. With multiple mini workshops to attend within a single hour, the only challenge is deciding where to start. Yesterday I first sat down at Randall Davis’s computer station. Randall, who teaches at the University of Utah and maintains the well-known site Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab, presented several applications to support listening and speaking practice. In his session “Online Listening: Tricks, Tools, and New Directions” he demonstrated possibilities with free resources, such as Download Helper, Google Voice, and CinchCast. (To download his presentation slides, click here.)
DownloadHelper is a tool for downloading videos from the Internet. Randall demonstrated how a teacher can combine that tool with VLC Media Player as a portable app. This combination allows teachers to make use of VLC Media Player’s wonderful feature of variable speed during playback of a video AND the selected video doesn’t have to be downloaded onto the computer. Instead, one can keep the portable version of VLC Media Player on a flash drive. This solves any problems a computer administrator might have with users downloading content onto school computers.
Randall also explained how his staff at the University of Utah has made use of Google Voice to collect student audio files in mp3 format. While keeping your actual phone number hidden, you can invite students to call your Google Voice number and submit audio recordings. Imagine the possibilities. You can use this application to collect speech samples for assessment, oral answers to questions, and more. The main convenience is that all the files are sent to and kept on your Google Voice account. The process of collecting and organizing such files becomes far less cumbersome, and it’s entirely free save for the minutes students use to place their calls. Randall passed along the tip to collect students’ cell phone numbers to aid in the identification of submitted files.
With the time we had left, Randall shared his knowledge of CinchCast, an application that allows users to make audio posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The beauty is that this free app allows one to create audio podcasts on the go. Also, the audio posts have no time limit. Whereas Google is recommended for student submissions to the teacher, CinchCast was presented as a tool for the teacher to send audio messages to the students. Randall suggested using this medium for sending homework assignments and discussion questions. There are other possibilities, of course.
Indeed, mobile apps were a hot topic yesterday. If time allows, I’ll share more ideas from other presenters. From making flashcards to holding group brainstorming sessions with movable sticky notes, the apps being discussed this year at TESOL are showing how much technology is reshaping and facilitating language study and instruction.