TESOL 2016 Highlights: Part 4 (Tech Buffet)

TESOL is a bit like an all-you-can-eat buffet. You attend as many sessions as you can, you speak with numerous TESOLers, and your head is full of ideas on the plane ride home. It takes a while to digest everything. But that’s the beauty, isn’t it? The TESOL experience continues upon our return to our desks and our classrooms.

For me, a TESOL convention wouldn’t be complete without at least one visit to the Electronic Village. A couple hours at the Technology Fair allows me to walk away with new knowledge and ideas worth sharing.

Zoobe: I learned about this free voice-messaging app from Sara Okello (ESL Professional), Jolene Jaquays (University of Michigan-Flint), and Kathrine Colpaert (University of Michigan-Flint). Their session Practicing Speaking Skills with Zoobe emphasized the need for interactive, contextualized speaking practice. The presenters demonstrated the process of choosing a character, selecting a scene, recording one’s voice, and producing a 30-second animated video that can easily be shared via Twitter, WhatsApp, and more. Teachers could use Zoobe for announcements. Learners can use it for self-intros and speech acts, such as invitations. By choosing an animated character and modifying the tone, learners are able to share anonymously with the class. That option might reduce the pressure of performance before one’s peers or give an alternative to those who wish to use technology but don’t want to appear on screen. Moreover, as the presenters noted, students are given ownership of their work and can decide when a recording is ready to be shared. Sara (formerly of University of Michigan-Flint), Jolene and Kathrine have used Zoobe in their listening and speaking classes for activities, practice, and assessment. For more details, click to view their presentation handout and slides: Practicing Speaking Skills with Zoobe handout and Zoobe ppt.

Budzer: Oh, the fun teachers are discovering with apps! Anastasiia Kryzhanivska and Tanya Bychkovska from the Department of Linguistics at Ohio University attracted the interest of many with their session Bringing Jeopardy-style Game into an ESL Classsroom. Budzer is another free app, but this is mainly for group work in a live class. See Anastasiia and Tanya’s BudzerHandoutTESOL. (Note: The questions at the end were used to model a Q&A game.) They demonstrated how a teacher can quickly set up a game on one device, and then small groups of students join the game. Each team has one device that serves at their buzzer. Unlike when someone hits a bell or slaps a desk to answer a question, the app is objective, detecting who buzzes first. The presenters have used the app to engage students for reviews, warm-ups, and more.

TinyTap: Luis Jordan and Miguel Perez of VenTESOL had a lot of ideas to offer within their 20-minute EV session on TinyTap — a free educational app used by teachers, learners, and families. The robust platform allows for easy creation and delivery of interactive materials, for example, attaching audio to stories or puzzle pieces. Digital textbooks become interactive soundboards. Drag-and-drop puzzles become listening tasks. Users can also search for materials already made. Luis and Miguel discussed the potential for home practice and formative assessment, and they shared a number of models. They have posted their detailed presentation slides on SlideShare. You can follow these two on Twitter @maperezramos and @jordanquero.

Pizzaz!: With so many new apps, we can easily forget about oldies but goodies. At the Technology Fair of Classics I met Leslie Opp-Beckman of the University of Oregon. Leslie has maintained the website Pizzaz! since 1995. She offers simple creative writing and oral storytelling activities. Everything is organized and presented clearly in three main categories: poetry, fiction, and a bag of tricks. Leslie links to other great resources. Click on Wacky Web Tales and you’ll be redirected to a set of Mad Libs-like activities on Education Place.

Presentation Software: Okay, so you’re thinking why is this listed here? Because it can be a healthy process to rethink how we use a tool that’s been around for a long time. John Madden of St. Cloud State University talked to TESOLers about using presentation software to support discussion. I was joined by Susan Gaer when John demonstrated the benefits of learner-developed slides. On a blank piece of paper, Susan and I had to summarize John’s talk with few words and plenty of visual representations. In choosing our words and deciding how best to show the flow of ideas, we experienced how interaction fosters acquisition. I highly recommend that others learn about visual rhetoric. John Madden’s article Using Visual Slides to Spark Interaction and Acquisition was published in the Spring 2015 MinneTESOL Journal.

My sincere thanks to all the presenters who so generously shared their ideas and materials with me!

Thank you also to the CALL Interest Section of TESOL for making so much available to teachers.

Photo credit: Buffet (January 2010) by Suzette – www.suzette.nu. Retrieved from the Creative Commons on Flickr.



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