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Reports on the JALT CALL conference

Bill Pellowe, Kevin Ryan, Robert Chartrand

Podcast Notes

Today's panel is:

  • Bill Pellowe, Kinki University Kyushu School of Engineering, and ELT Calendar.
  • Kevin Ryan, Showa Women's University, the University of Tokyo and kevinryan.com.
  • Robert Chartrand, Kurume University.
On June 2, the four regular participants of this podcast got together at a conference in Tokyo to give a presentation. The presentation was on using Skype to create a collaborative podcast. Dominic wasn't able to attend in person, but he joined us on video conference via Skype.

The conference was held by the Computer-Assisted Language Learning Special Interest Group (CALL SIG) of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT).

Today we'll talk about some of the topics raised at the conference.

The first topic was keitai, or mobile phones that have web access and mail capabilities. Glenn Stockwell gave a presentation entitled "Vocabulary on the Move: Investigating an Intelligent Mobile Phone-Based Vocabulary Tutor." One surprising finding was that students preferred to use a computer, rather than their own mobile phone, for accessing learning materials. This result supports findings by Chris Houser and Patricia Thorton in their investigations.

We also talked about electronic dictionaries. In John Paul Loucky's presentation on electronic dictionaries, he reported that many schools ban the use of electronic dictionaries. Robert, who used to work at a high school, offered the explanation that was given for this ban at his old job: The schools want students to use paper dictionaries, because they contain more content. While this claim may have been true years ago, it's a ridiculous claim to maintain nowadays. (Loucky's website is here: www.call4all.us.)

We digressed into an electronic dictionary issue important to us as non-Japanese in Japan, namely the dictionaries that would allow us to input Japanese kanji characters through handwriting recognition. The issue here is that the stroke order of these characters is very important to the Japanese, and even though one can often guess the correct order (generally, top left to bottom right, with many caveats), it's more often the case that an unfamiliar character will be 'traced' in the wrong order. Bill reported that the Casio models he'd tested were unable to recognize the character for 'book' when he wrote it in the wrong order. Robert reported that the dictionaries made by Sharp worked better for him than the ones made by Casio.

Another dictionary presentation was given by Jack Bower and Brian McMillian. They conducted two surveys of how students use their electronic dictionaries. They had large-scale questionnaires with thousands of students as well as smaller focus groups for discussion. The most surprising finding was that none of the students had read their dictionary's instruction book. The presenters recommend teaching general functions of electronic dictionaries in class, as well as having small groups of students with the same make of dictionary teach each other how to perform certain tasks. Also, despite many having a 'voice' function that reads words aloud, most students did not use it out of embarrassment. (Most apparently do not carry the headphones with them, nor do they realize that their iPod headphones may work with their dictionary.)

Paul Daniel gave a presentation on a 'Day in the Life' project with his students, using an open-source online photo organizer called Gallery. Paul's students could upload photos to Gallery through their mobile phone e-mail or computer e-mail accounts.

Robert attended many presentations about putting together online magazines or podcasts with students. The whole notion of student-generated content online goes back a decade to such projects as Tom Robb's famous Japanese and Bill's kanji names, to mention just two. What is new nowadays is the ability of students to use greater technology so that instead of just the written word, they can use their own voices, videos, pictures and more.

mp3 file
size: 27.6 MB
time: 28:42
Jun 24, 2007

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