Digital & Mobile Language Learning Thu, 18 May 2017 03:28:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Digital & Mobile Language Learning 32 32 Story Dice: Easy and Endless Speaking and Writing Prompts for the EFL Classroom Mon, 12 Dec 2016 23:30:21 +0000 Continue reading Story Dice: Easy and Endless Speaking and Writing Prompts for the EFL Classroom]]>

At the 2015 JALT conference in Shizuoka last year, I attended a presentation that highlighted a variety of online and digital resources for EFL teachers. As a huge fan of teaching tools that are easy and effective to use, Thinkamingo’s Story Dice application for iPhone and Android ($1.99) caught my attention right away. I bought and downloaded the app during the presentation and quickly saw its potential for creating interesting and challenging prompts for speaking and writing in my classes. In fact, I shared it with the attendees of my later presentation in the few minutes before it started, resulting in a short but lively discussion about its possible uses.

Since then I have been exploring how to use the Story Dice app in my classes at Tokai University. In this article, I will give a brief overview of the app and some suggestions for use.

As can be seen from the image above, the white dice with black images appear on a brown, wood grain surface. With a touch of the screen, a new set of dice appear on the screen, accompanied by the sound of rolling dice. One nice touch is that the sound actually corresponds to the number of dice on the screen.

You can easily change the number of dice on the screen from one to ten, and with a selection of over 200 images, the combinations are almost endless.

For the iPhone app, touching the button in the upper right corner labeled “MORE” accesses the settings to change the number of dice that appear on the screen, turn off the sound, or deactivate the “Shake to roll” feature.

For the Android app, swipe left or right to do the same.

The following are some EFL writing and speaking activities that I have successfully conducted in my classes using the Story Dice app:

One die

  • Students create sentences that uses the image.
  • Students create sentences using the image, then share with partner.
  • In groups, each student creates a sentence to share. Group votes on best sentence. Winner writes sentence on blackboard

Two dice

  • Students create sentences that includes or connects two images.
  • Students explain what the two images have in common or how they are different.

Four dice

  • Students divide four images into two groups of two and explain their reasons for their groupings.

10 dice

  • Students create a story that uses all of the images. If the teacher uses a screenshot of 10 dice, an appropriate story can be written beforehand to use after students write their own stories. The teacher’s story can be projected onto a screen or dictated to the students to be written down.
  • Students write the first line of a story using one image.  Their papers are then passed to the next student who continues the story using a different image.  The process is continued for all 10 images. The papers are then returned to their original students, who read the stories to themselves, their partners, or in groups. Groups can vote on the best story.

If you have used the Story Dice app before and have some good ideas, or you can see other ways to use it in your EFL classes, please feel free to comment and share below!

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Quizlet.Live: Classroom based social vocabulary game Fri, 02 Sep 2016 23:37:09 +0000 Continue reading Quizlet.Live: Classroom based social vocabulary game]]> quizletlivemadness

Quizlet Live is a website-based classroom vocabulary game where teams of three or four students work together to be first to match vocabulary terms with their correct definitions. Quizlet Live is a new feature of Quizlet, an excellent digital flashcard website and smartphone application already popular with many teachers. It is free and easy to use, allowing teachers to create customized flash cards with text, images and audio, as well as share with and borrow from other users.

To use Quizlet Live in the classroom, the teacher and students will each need to have an Internet connected computer or mobile device. It is important to understand that this is a website-based game (NOT the Quizlet smartphone application) and is designed to work on any device, even older mobile phones. Students do not need to download any programs or applications nor register/sign up for anything. While not necessary, it is very helpful to be able to project the computer or device display onto a large screen so students can see the appropriate websites and track their teams progress during game play. 


Before introducing Quizlet Live

First, teachers must create a free account on the Quizlet website:  Next, create your own deck of flashcards or search through any of the thousands of sets created by other teachers. To see a good English/Japanese example, here is a link to a deck of flashcards about “Vacations” that I have used successfully. (


Introducing Quizlet Live in class

While logged into, chose a deck and click on the blue box labeled “Live” at the top right of the website page.” This will open the Quizlet Live page where it is possible to create a game, watch an instructional video, or try a demonstration version of the game.

live button

Clicking on “Create Game” leads to a new page with instructions for students to go to the URL “” ( and enter the six-digit “Join Code.”  Write the website ( and the game code on the blackboard (If you have already taught the class how to use the Quizlet website and/or app, which I normally do, it can cause confusion. Be sure to let them know this is not the Quizlet app, but a website they need to access with their browser.)


If possible, project this website screen from the teacher computer or device onto a large screen so the students know where they are supposed to go. It is also a good idea to log into this website on a mobile device to carry around the room and show students what webpage they should find. There are two common problems at this point:

  1. Students go to “”. 
  2. Students open the Quizlet smartphone application if already downloaded.

In a few cases, my students have been unable to enter the code number using the Japanese “flick” style smartphone keyboard. A possible solution for this type of situation is to change the keyboard to the traditional QWERTY keyboard. If there is no QWERTY keyboard, try having the student switch back and forth between the English flick keyboard and their native language flick keyboard after entering each number. Quizlet has already been alerted about this potential problem, so it may be fixed soon.

Once students enter the code and push the “Join Class” button, they will be prompted to enter their first name. If another student has already taken that name, they will be asked to enter their last initial. If a student makes a mistake and it is necessary to change the name, click on that name on the teacher screen and delete it, and the student will be prompted to enter a new name.

At this point, their display will say “Waiting for your teacher to start.” Their name will also appear on the the teacher game screen, as well as the number of students who have logged in. When first introducing Quizlet Live, during this logging in process, it will probably be necessary to circle around the room, troubleshooting problems. It is recommended to become familiar with the process beforehand to quickly get everyone logged into the game.


When all the students have logged in, click the “Start Game” button to go to the next stage.  If students fail to login correctly before the game starts, they can be added after the current game is over. If at any point students who were correctly logged in lose Internet connection, return to a previous web page, or close the webpage, the game will give them the option to “Refresh” or  “Re-join the game I was in.”

At this point, Quizlet will create random animal named teams of three or four students depending on the total number.  The students’ screens will display their animal team name and image, as well as the names of other teams members.  Instruct the students to stand up, find the other members of their team, and sit together. This is where the beauty of this game really shows, students must physically stand up and move around the room to form groups and work together. 

Once everyone is ready, select “Start Game”, and students will begin to work together to match the vocabulary term with the correction definition. Each member of the team will have the same vocabulary term at the top of the screen. Below that term will be three or four definitions from the total of 12 questions. Only one of the definitions on one team member’s screen will be correct. The team must work together to identify the correct definition.  If successful, the definition will turn green and disappear and the next vocabulary term will appear. If the choice is incorrect, the definition will turn red and all screens will then show the correct answer before starting the team over from the beginning. The first team to correctly answer all 12 questions in a row is the winner.


The teacher can then choose to exit the game, play the game again, shuffle teams and play again, or review the cards with the class. For an alternative idea, try using trivia sets such as this “Sports Trivia” set. Or, search for sets which use images instead of definitions. Great for certain types of vocabulary like “kitchen tools“.



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Peer Grading in a Speech Class using Google Forms Mon, 28 Mar 2016 14:46:15 +0000 Continue reading Peer Grading in a Speech Class using Google Forms]]> 2015-01-22 11.03.18A simple way to increase student involvement during a speech class is to have listeners fill out a form answering questions about the speech content. Another idea is to engage students in peer assessment. This can reinforce the skills being taught and reduce the burden on the teacher for a fair assessment of the speakers[cite num=”1″].

As an example, I often use the textbook Speaking of Speech[cite num=”2″]. The text is fairly straightforward, and the skills taught are universally useful. I have created a Google Form based on the skills taught in the text which I use for peer assessment. I share it with my students using a QR code. A template can be found here. All that remains is to add a list of the students names in the first drop-down list.

Grading based on this form can be done in Google Sheets using basic formulas such as:


peer assessment sheets

Additionally, results can be sent to a chart and shared back with students.


Also, a summary of responses can be had from within the from creation app.

peer assessment sheets

A look at the summary of responses from one class grading session can show major trends. This can help to pinpoint areas which may need additional attention in a course.

summary of responses

In conclusion, Google Forms can be used to increase students involvement with the course through peer assessment. It can also provide useful metrics for both students and their teachers to assess progress.


  1. [cite num=”1″ return=TRUE]Toping, K. (1998). Peer Assessment Between Students in Colleges and Universities. Review of Educational Research, 68(3), 249-276. Retrieved from
  2. [cite num=”2″ return=TRUE]Harrington, D., & LeBeau, C. (2009). Speaking of Speech. MacMillan.
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CALLing all Brains! (2016) Sat, 30 Jan 2016 05:53:57 +0000 Continue reading CALLing all Brains! (2016)]]> call and brain 2016Are you interested in the role digital technology can play in second language learning? Do you want to find out more about the intersection of neuroscience and language acquisition?  If so, join us at the JALTCALL2016 Conference!

JALTCALL2016 will be held at Tamagawa University (Tokyo, Japan) from June 3rd to 5th. This year we are having a joint conference with the recently-formed BRAIN SIG (neuroscience). The theme is “CALL and the BRAIN” and we are planning to host a wide range of presentations and workshops on these topics.

Our keynote speaker this year will be Mark Pegrum (University of Western Australia),  a key researcher in the field of digital literacies, and the author of Mobile Learning: Languages, Literacies and Cultures. 



There will also be a virtual presentation by our plenary speaker, Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa (FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador), leading researcher in the neuroscience of learning, and author of 
Making Classrooms Better and Mind, Brain, and Education Science.

The call for proposals is open so if you have something to share, please make a submission. The deadline is February   15th, 2016. For more information about submissions and the conference itself, please go to

Hope to see you there!


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Language Datasets and You: A Primer Fri, 01 Jan 2016 00:49:31 +0000 Continue reading Language Datasets and You: A Primer]]> Collocate Clusters

What are language datasets? An example of such datasets most teachers will be familiar with are word lists such as the General Service List or the Academic Word List.

There are some publicly available sources for language datasets (for example the Speech and Language Data Repository or the Language Goldmine) yet most won’t be of much immediate use to teachers. Furthermore some teachers like Paul Raine are using such datasets in a form that is usable by fellow professionals.

I would like to make the case that playing with such datasets ourselves can be beneficial.

It is reasonable to assume that to write well it is necessary (but not sufficient) to read well. Similarly spending time playing with language data can have positive benefits for language awareness or knowledge about language.

For example, I was reading an article titled Towards an n-Grammar of English which argues for using continuous sequences of words (n-grams) taken from corpora as a basis for an alternative grammar syllabus. It uses a publicly available language data set of 5-grams to make its case. As I was reading the paper I wanted to see how the authors derived their example language patterns.

The first thought was to download the text file and import it into Excel. One problem, the text file contains more rows than Excel can take. An option here is to split the file over several sheets in Excel. However this is cumbersome so another option is to use what is called an IPython Notebook.

IPython Notebook is an environment that allows you to use computer code, text, images, graph plots. It was originally designed as a way to show reproducible work.

Below is a screenshot of an (incomplete) notebook for the article I was reading. Learning commands is relatively straightforward depending on what you want to do.

Screenshot from example notebook

The screenshot shows the first command is to import a module called pandas that will be used to query the data. The next command imports the data file which is tabbed separated. For those interested in exploring python notebooks there are many resources available on the net. Usually when I want to look for a command I include the word “pandas” in a search.

As an example of how making an ipython notebook helped me understand the article, is my initial confusion of why “I don’t want to was not in the top 100 n-grams. “I don’t want to has 12659 instances. Using the ipython notebook I saw that the grammar pattern which instantiates this [ppis1 vd0 xx vvi to] has only 51 types (or rows in the dataset) whereas the number one ranked pattern [at nn1 io at nn1] has 7272 rows.

ppis1 – 1st person sing. subjective personal pronoun (I); vd0 – do, base form (finite); xx – not, n’t; vvi – infinitive (e.g. to give… It will work…); at – article (e.g. the, no); nn1 – singular common noun (e.g. book, girl); io – of (as preposition)
from Claws7 tagset.

Note. Links to information on how to set up a python notebook and to the n-gram grammar paper are included in the example notebook.

Datasets can also come from research papers. I have used a word list of the top 150 phrasal verbs and their most common meanings to create a phrasal verb dictionary. This is a step beyond simply querying a dataset (as can be done using an IPython Notebook or Excel) and may not be for everyone. However, I imagine many teachers have used paper based word lists when designing lessons, hence such datasets and ways of manipulating them will not be completely unfamiliar.

Luckily, as mentioned before, people like Paul Raine are using publically available datasets that are easy for teachers to use. On his apps4efl site he has a paired sentence app that uses the Tatoeba Corpus of sentence pairs (which internet users have translated), a wiki close app (that uses Wikipedia data), video activities (using YouTube) and so on (see list below).

The most well-known type of datasets are corpora. Interfaces to such data such as the BYU interfaces to COCA (Corpus of contemporary American English), or the BNC (British National Corpus), are most popular. I won’t go into detail about exploiting such data, for those interested you can read more about such datasets on my blog, or over at the G+ Corpus Linguistics community. Suffice it to say that this kind of data is becoming better supported now on the net.

Hopefully this short primer on the value of language datasets may encourage you to start to explore them; or, if you are already, why not drop a comment? Readers may also know of publicly available language datasets that they would like to share. If so, please share!

List of datasets:

Speech and Language Data Repository

Language Goldmine

COCA n-grams

Thanks to Paul Raine for the following that he uses for apps4efl:

Wikis (Creative Commons license)
Native English Wikipedia (via API)
Simple English Wikipedia (via API)
Native English WikiNews (via API)

TED (via download) (Creative Commons non-derivative)

VOA Learn English (via download) (Public Domain, copyright info here:

Example sentences
Tatoeba corpus (via download: (Creative Commons license)

The Open Multilingual Wordnet (via download: (Creative Commons license)
CMU Pronouncing Dictionary (via download: (BSD license)

The New General Service List, New Academic Word List (via download: (Creative Commons license)


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A Very Merry Minecraft Christmas [with Grandma] Fri, 25 Dec 2015 05:16:22 +0000 Continue reading A Very Merry Minecraft Christmas [with Grandma]]]> Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 2.59.14 PM

My son has an infatuation with Minecraft and watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. Some may find it strange that a parent let their child spend so much time watching YouTube videos, but they have been an important supplemental source of authentic English for our children.

Trying to raise bilingual children in Japan is challenging, so we try and find authentic sources of English wherever we can. However, we are careful to make sure they are watching safe Youtube channels. A great Minecraft related channel for kids is Joseph Garrett‘s channel featuring an orange cat named Stampy.


Minecraft is a sandbox game, meaning players have a lot of control over the environment. In Minecraft, players and can freely build structures and make up their own games. It provides a lot of room for creativity. Think Legos, but digital.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 1.46.30 PM

The First Person View (FPV) aspect of Minecraft, inspired me to try and connect students telecollaboratively using Minecraft as a virtual classroom. I thought that at the very least, learners from different countries could collaboratively build structures using English as their lingua franca. In fact, I spent nearly 6 months in preparation to teach such a course using a modification to the software created for teachers called MinecraftEdu.

Not only does MinecraftEdu offer great LMS style features, there is also a thriving community of educators surrounding it who share the worlds they create. There are over 100 worlds free to use in the MinecraftEdu world library. There are also a number of great mods available through MinecraftEdu which add interesting features such as support for teaching computer programming (computercraftedu), and quantum physics (qcraft).

Unfortunately my university’s computer center refused to open what is commonly referred to as the Minecraft Port (port 25565) through their server firewall, listing some very generic “security” concerns. This sent my research to simmer indefinitely on the back burner.

Recently, however, I have been using a private server to host minecraft interaction between my 7-year-old son here in Japan, and his friends in the United States. Collaborating with other parents, we use Skype (video off) as our Voice over IP to engage our children in telecollaborative Minecraft play.


My son also plays Minecraft with his grandmother in the United States. Yes, that’s right, I said grandmother! Another grandson (U.S. based) had already installed Minecraft on her computer at home, and so it wasn’t too difficult to set up an account so she could try it out. She is highly motivated to figure it out, so that she can interact with her grandchildren in Japan. As Christmas approached this year, and grandma was feeling particularly detached from her grandchildren, we organized a special 2-hour Minecraft play session.

My son is not the only one who can play. His 4-year-old sister also interacts with grandma using the keyboard and mouse to move her avatar through a virtual world. Here they are playing hide-and-seek.

As you can see in the video, they are using English to communicate. Playing Minecraft telecollaboratively has increased our children’s pool of English speaking play partners, helped them keep in touch with friends who have moved away, and even allowed them to spend time over the holidays with grandma.

unnamed The kids have a lot of fun keeping in touch with family overseas using Minecraft. It’s become so much a thing in our house that we plan on making some customized “skins” for our Minecraft avatars so that they better represent grandma and the grandkids during their digital play. My son is happy with a zombie avatar, but for grandma, we may need something special.

More Articles on Minecraft in Education

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Teaching Digital Literacy with Inanimate Alice Mon, 07 Dec 2015 23:00:59 +0000 Continue reading Teaching Digital Literacy with Inanimate Alice]]> 2015-12-05

An extremely useful and engaging resource for teaching and learning about digital literacy, ICT, and language, is the interactive multimodal fiction series Inanimate Alice. Some have declared that, “there is nothing else like it on the net,” and I tend to agree.

2015-12-05 (1)

The main Inanimate Alice website <> allows students to interact with each of the multimodal episodes where user interaction is required to advance each story. The website also contains:

  • A gallery of student and teacher created content, which students are encouraged to contribute to.
  • A series of interactive travel journals which follow Alice, aged 18, during her gap year in Indonesia and Japan. The journals contain a mix of audio, visuals, films and interactive word games.
  • Links to associated sites where students can download templates, images and sound effects in order to create their own Alice adventures, for example:
  • A link to the development blog for the latest Alice episode so that students can provide input and ask questions.

2015-12-05 (2)

Most educators are extremely familiar with the teaching and learning goals of language and ICT. However, many are not as confident when it comes to the idea of ‘digital literacy’. Digital literacy does not replace traditional forms of literacy, “it builds upon the foundation of traditional forms of literacy”. It is much more than just the combination of the terms, digital and literacy. A digitally literate person possess a range of digital skills, they have the ability to engage in online communities and social networks, they possess critical thinking skills, and perhaps most important of all, they are able to find, capture, evaluate, and interpret information. To follow is a short practical guide for how to use Inanimate Alice in an EFL or ESL context.

Some important things to keep in mind before teaching with Inanimate Alice include:

  • Most episodes have been translated into Japanese, Indonesia, Italian, Spanish, French, and German. These translations are easily accessed and give teachers and students the opportunity to move between the student’s first language and the one which is being learnt.
  • There is plenty of support for teachers that wish to use Inanimate Alice which includes a Facebook page, various classroom blogs, various teachers’ wiki sites, and educator packs which are available from the official Inanimate Alice website. Examples of these links include: Facebook, university sites (here, and here), ICT and educational reviews, and school blogs.
  • There are currently five episodes completed, with a sixth in production, and a plan to make a further four. The episodes span Alice’s life from the age of eight through to her early twenties. The stories become more complex and more interactive as the episodes progress.
  • There are many approaches that can be taken with this resource, which include: literature and narrative study, developing English language skills, development of reading skills, creative writing, group discussion and collaboration, digital literacy, social studies, and personal development.

2015-12-05 (3)

One approach that I have employed is to use Alice as a way of introducing students to digital literacy, while at the same time developing their English language skills, reading skills and discussion skills. Whenever possible, I try to use a class blog or wiki as the means by which students complete work during a teaching sequence involving Alice. My teaching sequence usually follows the following plan, with each session being between one to five lessons long.

Session 1: Introduce the print version of Inanimate Alice.

  • Discuss the title of the story – Inanimate Alice. What does the title mean? Do students recognize any words, or parts of words? What information can we obtain from the dictionary? What do we think the story will be about?
  • Read one-third of the print version as a whole class. Have the students generate questions and ideas (T-chart) about the story as each part is read. Model questions and ideas as necessary (think aloud).
  • Have students read the remaining two-thirds of the story in groups and allow them to discuss and share their ideas. Groups are asked to write down three important questions and three important ideas from the remaining two-thirds and post these on the class blog.
  • Reflect on the work produced. Discuss inference and ‘reading between the lines’.


Session 2: Introduce the digital version of Inanimate Alice.

  • Watch Episode 1 of Inanimate Alice using a Smartboard or data projector with the whole. I generally prefer to watch it first with no sound, and then a second time with sound. This enables me to discuss the different elements, and how the visuals and audio add/create different ideas and feelings.
  • As a whole class compare and contrast the print version and the digital version.(T-chart, or through blog entries)
  • Have students reflect on the various strategies they used to make sense of the two different versions.

2015-12-05 (8)From here, depending on how much time I have, I usually continue with sessions such as; Session 3: Narratives and the structure of stories, Session 4: Inference and reading between the lines, Session 5: Creative writing and writing an episode of Inanimate Alice, and Session 6: Making our episode digital. For ideas about how to expand these latter sessions, or for other approaches to Alice, I would strongly suggest looking at the two educator packs that are available for Inanimate Alice: Pack 1and Pack 2 These packs will aid you if you seek to use Inanimate Alice to teach digital literacy, character development, making connections, building schema, to teach critical thinking and evaluation.

The first pack contains resources and lesson plans, focusing on the development of digital literacy. There are four lesson plans in this resource, addressing:

  1. Connections between story and medium
  2. Linking narration and autobiography with sound effects and music
  3. Multimodality and autobiography
  4. Character development and progression

Each of these plans is supported by a number of ready-to-use student resources.

The second pack contains a additional four lesson plans supported by ready-to-use student resources. These cover:

  1. Exploring character development and paragraph structure
  2. Appreciating difference; cultural differences, oral stories and podcasting
  3. Adolescent and young adult issues, for example: peer pressure, friends and school
  4. Life skills; focus on transportation

I strongly recommend that you and your students take the time to interact with Inanimate Alice by visiting

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Netflix for Extensive Listening Thu, 03 Dec 2015 23:05:41 +0000 Continue reading Netflix for Extensive Listening]]> With Netflix now available in Japan, at ¥650 a month (¥950 for HD), one should consider recommending it to students for extensive listening. One of the highest and simplest correlations for language learning is time of exposure to the target language. With a wealth of material, Netflix allows for plenty of listening time and choice.


As teachers, it would be wise to give some specific recommendations, depending on the students. Master of None is the hottest new television show in the US. It Aziz Ansari, previously in the hit comedy Parks and Recreation, is a 20-something Brooklyn resident with parents from India. It deals with race and human relations in a sweet and funny way, without making fun of people. It does, however have some rough language and a few sexual innuendos, which would be advisable to warn people about if they are sensitive to such things. Best, though, to show students how to read reviews of the TV shows so they are aware of the content before they watch. They could use Netflix, or IMDB, or Common Sense for parents, or choose from another 10 sites. You could even contrast reviews with sites like Christian Spotlight on Entertainment.

The best TV series in the last 10 years is Black Mirror. Netflix allows people to watch many episodes in a row (called “binge watching”) without commercials. Not recommended for Black Mirror as it is so intense, a series of near-future science fiction dystopias. But for something light, a sitcom like the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, one could watch the 20-minute episodes alone or in a bunch. Netflix allows you to watch on your desktop, laptop, mobile.  With an adaptor like Google Chromecast or Apple TV, you can watch on your regular TV.

Language support is in the form of English Closed Caption subtitles, and for most foreign content, Japanese subtitles. Sadly there are few English subtitles for Japanese content for those learning Japanese.

There are also thousands of movies available. This could conceivably entice students away from their traditional two hours a night of Japanese prime time TV, the quality of which we are all aware.



A teacher could even start a movie discussion group by buying a class set (Premium Subscriptions can be used by 4 people at the same time. See above.) for a short time (minimum 1 month, but you can quit any time), and giving the student the login information. You might think of using a release form or other to protect yourself from accidental exposure of material to sensitive students.

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Preliminary Results from a Telecollaborative Exchange between Japan and Taiwan using Facebook Groups Mon, 30 Nov 2015 11:51:00 +0000 Continue reading Preliminary Results from a Telecollaborative Exchange between Japan and Taiwan using Facebook Groups]]> IMG_1836According to David Crystal[1. Crystal, D. (2003). English as a Global Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. DOI 10.5785/20-1-80], a British linguist, nearly 3 out of 4 English users are “non-natives”. From a sociolinguistic perspective this means that English is no longer the language of the few, but the lingua franca of the many[2. Canagarajah, S. (2014). In search of a new paradigm for teaching English as an international language. TESOL Journal, 5(4), 767-785. DOI 10.1002/tesj.166] [3. Jenkins, J. & Leung, C. (2013). English as a Lingua Franca. The Companion to Language Assessment IV, 13(95), 1605–1616. DOI 10.1002/9781118411360.wbcla047] [4. Ke, I. C., & Cahyani, H. (2014). Learning to become users of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF): How ELF online communication affects Taiwanese learners’ beliefs of English. System, 46, 28-38. DOI 10.1016/j.system.2014.07.008]. Mutual ownership of English as a lingua franca comes with the shared responsibility of intercultural communication[5. Houghton, S. (2009). The role of intercultural communicative competence in the development of world Englishes and lingua francas. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 15, 70-95. Retreived from] [6. Hülmbauer, C., Böhringer, H., & Seidlhofer, B. (2008). Introducing English as a lingua franca (ELF): Precursor and partner in intercultural communication. Synergies Europe, 3, 25-36. Retrieved from]; however, this can be particularly challenging for those from a homogeneous society like Japan[7. Neulip, J. W., Chaudoir, M., & McCroskey, J. C. (2001). A cross-cultural comparison of ethnocentrism among Japanese and United States college students. Communication Research Reports, 18(2), 137-146. DOI 10.1080/08824090109384791]. And yet, the Japanese Ministry of Education[8. MEXT. (2010, June 21). The Concept of Global Human Resource Development Focusing on the East Asian Region. Retrieved from] has decided that exchanges between Japanese students and East Asian students are vital to Japan’s future. Therefore, finding ways to increase Japanese students’ intercultural experience is paramount.

Social Learning Benefits Learning Performance

Social learning offers the potential to increase learning performance[9. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New York: General Learning Press. DOI 10.2307/3340496] [10. Bruffee, K. A. (1999). Collaborative Learning: Higher Education, Interdependence, and the Authority of Knowledge. Baltimore, MD. Johns Hopkins University Press.] [11. Stahl, G., Koschmann, T., & Suthers, D. (2014). Computer-supported collaborative learning: An historical perspective. Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences, 2014, 479-500. DOI 10.1017/cbo9781139519526.029]. One interdependent learning model emphasises its importance, specifically in cases of computer supported collaborative learning.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 5.58.44 PM

Social media seems to offer the most accessible platform for distance social learning. However, according to Kreijins et al.[12. Kreijns, K., Kirschner, P., Jochems, W. (2003). Identifying the pitfalls for social interaction in computer-supported collaborative learning environments: a review of the research. Computers in Human Behavior, 19(3), 335-353. DOI 10.1016/s0747-5632(02)00057-2], we should not rely on the platform to instigate communication.

The Thoeory: Digital Sojourn

Digital Sojourn is an idea that has been on my mind ever since reading Michael Byram’s[13. Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.] description of the sojourner, and the way one develops through prolonged interaction with another culture. The goal of digital sojourn is to engage learners in a deep enough level of interaction that they can develop interculturally. To do this, three methods are combined: (1) interdependence, (2) multimodal communcation, and (3) reflection as part of the experience.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 5.40.57 PM

The Experiment: An Eight-Week Facebook Exchange

In order to test out this method, I solicited the help of a teacher / researcher from Taiwan named Brent Kelsen. We first met through Research Gate <>.

After a few Skype chats, we decided to engage our students in 8 weeks of intercultural exchange using Facebook. For our initial pilot study we placed the students into Facebook groups which had on average 4 Taiwanese students and 4 Japanese students in each group.

Each week these students shared digital artifacts on topics such as food, music, movies and anime, tourists destinations, and the like. We also made sure to include a few weeks of free choice topics at the end.

As teachers we were concerned about whether students would participate, so we modeled the interaction ourselves each week by posting our own content.

In addition to sharing digital artifacts, students in Japan also engaged in weekly classroom based reflections on the exchange. They discussed the value of the exchange and what they hoped to get out of it, and how they could best engage the Taiwanese students in the exchange. At the end of the term, they also gave presentations in class concerning what they learned from the exchange and how it had helped them grow.

In order to measure intercultural development, I gave my students a questionnaire designed to measure intercultural sensitivity once before the exchange and once again after the exchange. The instrument I used was Chen and Starosta’s[14. Chen, G. M., & Starosta, W. J. (2000). The development and validation of the intercultural sensitivity scale. Human Communication, 3, 1-15. Retreived from] Intercultural Sensitivity Scale, a 24-item self-report questionnaire measuring 5 factors of intercultural sensitivity.

The Results: An Increase in Respect for Cultural Differences

Results showed a marked increase in respect for intercultural differences among participants (M diff = 1.6, SD = 1.2) over control (M diff = 0.1, SD = 2.5) with the conditions (t(52) = 2.73, p < .01, d = 0.7).

ISS - T2 vs C2** = p < .01

Exchange Metrics

I used a tool called Netvizz[15. Rieder, B. (2013). Studying Facebook via data extraction: the Netvizz application. In WebSci ’13 Proceedings of the 5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference (pp. 346-355). New York: ACM. DOI 10.1145/2464464.2464475] to “scrape” the Facebook posts and found that a total of 15,014 words were exchanged (including about a 15% contribution by teachers). Participants also supported their communication through paralinguistic means by sharing 94 photographs and 77 videos. Here is a wordle made from the 15,014 words exchanged by participants which highlights the most frequently used vocabulary by enlarging it in proportion to the others.wordle4


According to the results of the Intercultural Sensitivity questionnaire, participants learned to respect cultural differences. It was good to see that even when the exchange was not a physical one, intercultural development could be supported through the mixed methodology of digital sojourn. I feel that classroom reflections were the most interesting part of the exchange, as I was able to see how students grew through the process. With that in mind, I will close with a reflection from one of the student participants in this exchange.

I wanted to see Japan objectively, so I asked the question, “What images of Japan do Taiwanese have?” According to them, they think Japan is a traditional, innovative, and high quality country because of old structures, culture, nature, economy, and technology. However, some people hate Japan due to historical problems. This fact made me a little depressed, but one of the Taiwanese students mentioned that these problems can be resolved by communication and respect. I was amazed at his words and admired his thoughts, and then I realized that such exchange between younger generations are crucial to deepen mutual understanding. Therefore, I’ll find opportunities that bring me to exchange with foreign people again, and make efforts toward mutual comprehension.


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Kaiten Presen Fri, 27 Nov 2015 08:36:53 +0000 Continue reading Kaiten Presen]]> Wasabi_at_Tysons_Corner_Center_conveyot_belt

Kaiten Presen are raw, bite sized presentations of unedited, unscripted, impromptu speech. Kaiten Sushi is the japanese name for “Rotating Sushi”. Kaiten Presen are “Rotating Presentations”.

I must give credit where credit is due, this idea was inspired by the CUE Forum at the JALT 2015 International Conference, in Shizuoka. At the conference, presenters gave 5 minute pecha kucha style speeches at small tables, and then the audience rotated around the room to a new table while the speakers stayed in place.

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 5.28.21 PM

Materials: smartphones

  1. Divide students into groups of between 4-6 members.
  2. Have the members sit around a table facing each other.
  3. Assign one student in each group to be the “lucky person”. I specifically use this language, though certainly seen as a joke by students, to place a positive spin on presenting in English.
  4. Give the “lucky person” 1 minute to find an image of something they want to share with the group. This is essentially a show-and-tell.
  5. Give them 3 minutes to talk about the topic they have chosen.
  6. Give the listeners 1 minute to ask questions.
  7. Have the “lucky person” stay where they are, and have the listeners all move to another table. Have the class move in a rotation so that the listener groups stay together as they go to a new table with a new “lucky person”.
  8. After each listener group has heard the 3 minute presentations from each “lucky person”, review the content discussed by each “lucky person” as a class, asking the class to remember what each speaker talked about and what they learned. Make sure to have the audience applaud for each speaker.
  9. Assign a new “lucky person” for each table, and repeat.

This activity seems well suited to larger classes where traditional speeches are fraught with nervous speakers and silence from the audience for 90 minutes.

Students are generally nervous at the beginning, but excited and confident by the end. They are able to talk about the same topic each time with a new audience, and this seems to improve their fluency. They are generally smiling and boisterous by the end.


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