Skip navigation

Category Archives: technology

>By Maria Spelleri – Manatee Community College, USA

Building a learning community in an asynchronous course is a challenge but worth the effort. Of course face to face meetings at the beginning, middle and end of the course are great community-builders, but not practical for true distance learning courses where students can be miles away from the class center. Some ideas from adult classes I have both taken and instructed:

1. Request students to post a brief bio. Adults in the US mention their educational and professional background, areas of professional interest, anything interesting about one’s family, location, why they are taking the course, etc. US students always seem to end with an upbeat “I’m looking forward to learning about X in this course and getting to know other students” or something along that line. Encourage students to respond to these as people would in face to face introductions. ”The Peace Corps? How interesting! Where have you been stationed?” The instructor sometimes needs to lead the way so students know it is ok to do so.

2. Ask students to post a photo or at least a representative avatar.

3. Require students to use their real name, not a made-up user name, for on line work and communication.

4. Interaction, even asynchronous, is the key to success. Every course should have forums where students have assignments in which they respond to each other. Some courses require students to post something, but don’t require students to read and respond to others. That kills the perception of audience and interaction. Students should also be encouraged to respond informally to as many others as they wish in addition to their required response. I recently took a course in which the instructor did not want us posting to the forum other than our official, academic, works-cited response. That meant our natural instinct to agree or disagree with someone, to add to someone’s statement, or to ask for clarification or more information was quashed, and so was our interest in the course content. It was the worst on-line class I’ve ever taken. We were all just jumping through hoops to get to the end. (Also have a forum where students can communicate freely about

5. On-line courses need to be held together by the instructor who has to be a highly visible presence on the site. Good instructors join in the discussions to let others know they are present, send private emails of praise or constructive criticism to students, and continually post new links and current information that might prove interesting to the students and to demonstrate the course is alive and dynamic, not wound up on day one and let go. One of the best professors I have had on-line commented on every single thread so everyone in the class could read the professor’s reaction to each student-initiated discussion thread. I’m sure it took time, but the results were the 25 of us became a group. By the end of the course, students were saying that they would miss the group and hoped others were taking the next online course the next semester.

6. Run the course with the same degree of rigor as a classroom class. Don’t let the students think that the on-line medium means games and fun and do- what- you- want. Have definite due dates, a syllabus (or of sorts), objectives, tests, etc. If you are going to have synchronous skype-like discussion, be sure that the students know the scheduled times of these and the technology involved well in advance. In addition, have a clear behavior model in mind for these discussions. How will students take turns? How will they be graded? What will there tasks be and how will they get immediate feedback before the period is over?


>By Maria Spelleri, Manatee Community College, USA

I use the internet a lot in class even though my students don’t have individual internet access in the classroom. Our classrooms “only” have an instructor computer station and an overhead projector so the whole class can see. I find it invaluable for giving students a variety of interesting input that I used to have to pull together myself from pictures, books, movies, etc. Let me give you an example of a typical day from recent weeks, with four different classes:

In my lower level class, I have bookmarked some video clips from YouTube, movie trailers, or an advertisement. We review grammar concepts with the video as I elicit a narration of the video and ask questions about what is happening or is going to happen.

In my upper-intermediate reading class, the students are working from a text chapter that has an academic article about DNA analysis. They have to read a complicated article on DNA studies on Oetzi the Iceman. Since no one has a clue who Oetzi is/was, I use the internet to show them photos and simplified background information about the topic, as well as a map showing his possible trek through the mountains and valleys of Europe. (Most of my students only had a vague idea where the Alps are.) I will also use my textbook publisher’s website to do a review on Fact vs. Opinion in the format of a series of brief examples we can easily read as a class from the screen.

In my advanced writing class, we are working on personal essays. I link to archives of a radio program that features personal essays from readers. I quickly copy and enlarge the text so students can see it, and play the audio of the author reading his or her own essay, which really makes the essay come alive and also makes it easier to comprehend.

We then discuss the differences between a typical academic, informative essay and a personal essay. For homework, students will go to this radio website, choose an essay to read, and then write in the class blog why they recommend this essay to others. Eventually, students will write their own essays, post them on the class blog, and then read and comment on-line on each other’s work. The class votes on their favorite, and this student submits it to the radio station, as the station has requested its listeners to do.

In my speech and listening class, I show students wonderful animation and video from a website that has video representation of sounds. On this day, we are working on long ee versus short i sound.. We look at the video and animations and try to copy the facial and mouth movements prior to further practice from the book.

I remember the old days of collecting photos and cutting things out of catalogs, running to the photocopies when I stumbled across some writing I wanted to use, spending entire weekends making class materials- how time consuming it was, and how richer I feel the input in my classes are now thanks to the vast resources of the Internet.

>By David R. Boxall, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia

With Microsoft Word and Excel it’s easy to create one’s own corpus and concordancer.


  1. Use MS Word to put every sentence in your text on its own line. A quick and dirty way to do that is to Find-&-Replace every period in the text with a paragraph marker. (See Edit menu.)
  2. Do the same thing with question marks and exclamation points.
  3. Convert you text to a table. (See Table menu – Convert text to table) Your objective is a single-column table, with each cell containing one sentence.
  4. Copy and paste your table into Excel.


  1. Go to the Data menu in Excel, select Filter, and click on Auto Filter.
  2. Notice that a downward pointing arrow appears on the right of the top row of your corpus


  1. Click on the downward pointing arrow.
  2. Select Custom
  3. Select contains from the drop-down menu.
  4. Type your search string in the right-hand window.

Excel will then display all cells in your corpus which contain the search string.

>By Laura Waters

Over the last 2 months, I have been ‘chatting’ using Skype computer to computer calling. I have had 7 such sessions.

The purpose of using this technology is to give the EFL language learner practice in listening and speaking to a native speaker of English. The chats are schedules for 1/ 2 hour twice a week. The primary tool we use is the verbal, but often the learner will type a word that she feels I can’t understand, or she’s not sure how to pronounce, using the text chat feature.

I find that I need/use the text chat option of SKYPE to describe phonetically, (though not IPA) pronunciations – long ‘e’, I”ll type as eeee, for example. I’ve had good success with the connection- clear audio – only a couple of times have I had to terminate and place the call again – the line seems to clear up. Once, the text was slow to appear. I’ve not had a line dropped.

We don’t use a web cam. I had a previous experience (social) with one and it really slowed down the response time. I use a headphone/mic headset – inexpensive brand – works well – we both have hi-speed service.

I would like to have a whiteboard and have heard from somewhere (TESL-L perhaps?) that some are using Yahoo. I checked recently MSN and see they have whiteboard and audio, though I haven’t tried using it for any purpose.

I know she uses a bilingual dictionary while online. I just sent a couple of websites, asking her to explore/use on her own. I don’t know how that has worked for the learner because we are on a hiatus – work/vacation schedules and will resume next month. I think we could use and visit them while on SKYPE, and I”ll try that. I have sent clip art and notes a day or two prior to the chat, to the learner’s e-mail address in a WORD document to help with vocab.

I have also sent her WORD files of text and dialogues ahead of the next chat- I don’t mean her to practice it, but to use as a visual while we practice – stress, intonation, rhythm etc. Then I have sent .wmv files after the chat with my voice recorded to be used as a model in the event she wants to practice/listen. I have sent WORD documents to her through SKYPE,during the chat, and that worked well – not too long to receive or open, but prefer to do it ahead of time, as during the chat the waiting/anticipation is kind of a distraction.

Hope this is helpful to some. I’d love to hear of others’ experiences and ideas for use.