Today I came across a post recounting comments made by The Sims and Spore game designer, Will Wright. This supreme video game designer (second only to Nintendo guru Shigeru Miyamoto) asks:

“We’re taking the idea that you can have a million people engaged not just in entertainment, but also have them creating huge amounts of content for other people to experience,” said Wright.

“The question is how can you transfer that to other fields besides games.”

And that is the all important question. Continue Reading »


Today I came across a blog post likening research writing to marathon preparation. I imagine this is good advice – in fact, I remember my thesis chair giving me similar kinds of advice when I was an MA TESOL student.

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Because my wife and I live in a rural development about 30 minutes south from where we work, we have taken to listening to audio books during our commute. For the most part, we have listened to young adult fiction (entertaining and never contains questionable content like adult fiction), but while I was at the public library one day, I picked up a copy of “Creating Disney Magic” by Lee Cockerell. We had just been to Orlando the month before, so I was curious to see what were the “secrets” behind Disney leadership strategies.

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A few weeks ago, I posted a short description of my experience giving a mini-workshop on Technology for Language Teaching. I had tried to incorporate sound pedagogical research into my presentation, but based on audience participation and other non-verbal clues, I concluded that the teachers attending the session really just wanted me to demonstrate so “cool tools.” Ironically, this was the very attitude that I was trying to change with my presentation: I wanted teachers to see technology as a means to accomplishing existing curricular goals, rather than using a technology activity simply because it was neat (and possibly unrelated to the purposes of the course).

The program director collected evaluation feedback from the attendees, and their explicit feedback confirms my suspicions. Every form indicated that they wanted more demonstrations. Surprisingly, they did rate the session highly, though part of me thinks this was just because they were being polite.

In any case, should I be asked to give a similar presentation in the future, I will do a better job at demonstrating one or two “cool tools” but I will still stick to a message that insists that technology is only as good as the planning and teaching that it supports. Technology cannot replace good teaching/learning, but it can certainly enhance both.

Despite the fact that I am a native speaker of English and work in an English-speaking country, currently I am what the TESOL culture would call an “ex-pat.” This term, which I have never liked the sound of, refers to someone who lives outside of one’s native country. I live in the USA, but I am from Canada.

I never planned to become an ex-pat. In fact, I don’t really consider myself to be one. When I hear that term, I think of Westerners who abandon their homelands in exchange for exotic locales where they reside for the rest of their lives. Certainly “ex-pat” is rarely used to describe such an extreme, but I have never thought of myself as “leaving” my homeland (i.e., ex-pat) but rather as just “visiting” somewhere else. As it is, the latest visit has lasted just over 5 years this summer. Continue Reading »

Today I lead a mini-shop as part of a teacher development day for the university’s intensive summer language program. Although I don’t teach in this program directly, the coordinator got my name from my boss as someone who could lead a discussion on technology integrated language learning.

I’m not so sure the session was successful. Those who attended seemed to be newbies and technophobes and even though I tried to keep my presentation to an introductory level, I got the sense that they just wanted to be shown exactly how to use one or two specific tools. Instead, I gave a survey of a few tool-types (wikis, blogs, etc.) and left it up to them to figure out the specifics of using the tools.

In other words, I think they wanted a how-to, and instead I presented a why-to. My entire discussion was “couched in the context” of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). Should they ask me to help out with this program in the future, I will just stick with one or two simple tools and provide more exact descriptions of how those tools could be used (even though I think this is a backwards approach).

Here are a couple slides from the discussion (which wasn’t very active since they did not seem to want to participate and instead were mostly passive, did not ask many questions). Certainly room for improvement on my part.

Please note that the TPACK diagram is taken from http://www.tpack.org

Technology for Language Learning2Technology for Language Learning

When I was working on my Master’s degree, my chair suggested that I consider doing some Think Aloud Protocols with the writing raters in order to better understand their rating process. I had read a few articles that used this technique, so I falet fairly confident that it was appropriate, but I wanted a book reference that described the method and its appropriateness in L2 research. That’s when another committee member suggested I check out a new book by Gass and Mackey (2005), which I did. Although the text did have a short section on verbal reports, it did not contain the detail I was hoping for.

That’s why Gass and Mackey expanded on the data elcicitation part of that orginial book, and published a new one dedicated exclusively to L2 research data gathering.

Gass, S. M. & Mackey, A. (2007). Data elicitation for second and foreign language research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.

I won’t go into great detail about this book except to say that I think it’s a great reference for language researchers who want to investigate a variety of research questions, but want to gain additional insight into the theory and practice of standard and emerging data gathering methods. In any case, this book has cause me to further consider the fact that my dissertation needs to be based on good qualitative research, and the test data and scores should just be a compliment rather than the other way around.