Monday, March 26, 2007

TESOL 2007 report

Seattle was rainy every day. Sometimes it poured; sometimes it drizzled; sometimes it just looked rainy and didn't get around to raining until later. Mostly the local folks slung their fish around and didn't seem to mind. There was a lot of traffic. Out in the city there were a lot of old Volvos and Saabs. Here's what I did:

Leverett, T. (2007, Mar.). Student weblogging for fluency, skills and integration. Writing IS Demonstration, TESOL Convention, Seattle, WA. Accompanying script:

Leverett, T. (2007, Mar.). Weblog portfolios in an intensive English program. eFairs Classics, CALL-IS Electronic Village, TESOL Convention, Seattle WA.

Leverett, T. & Moody, L. (2007, Mar.) Defining, detecting and dealing with online plagiarism. CALL-IS Discussion, TESOL Convention, Seattle, WA.

Another high point of the convention was a webheads reunion, well-documented with pictures, not to mention a great visit with my daughter, who also documents such things very well. I'll get to it myself, and to the cesl blogs, as soon as I can- maybe some sleep first!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

TESOL 2007 presentation

I'm on my way to Seattle, WA, USA, to go to the TESOL this slow-loading program carefully and you'll find me twice. A third time, I'm hidden in the e-Fairs classics, off the grid.

I've worked long and hard on a collection of my thoughts on weblogs, which I will deliver as stated, on Saturday. It's somewhat informal as it's written here, but that's because it's basically a speech, slightly expanded. I have no plans to carry it further as of now; this could be as far as I go. I'll give the complete reference upon my return.

Here's one that found its way onto the web though, as I said I'd hoped.

Leverett, T. (2007). Same world, different glasses. Global Study Magazine online.

This is a very interesting magazine.
Cheers, and hope to see you upon my return!


Thursday, March 08, 2007

principle wanted, again

I'll never forget this title of a help-wanted ad I encountered years ago when looking for an esl/efl job, perhaps the one I've got now. It was run by an elementary school, and I was inclined to suggest to them that I had a few principles to offer, the first being, learn how to spell when you publish. But I veered off, stayed out of public primary education, and ended up where I am today instead.

Speaking of principles, however, I am looking for a name for what I have been working on: a series of principles that deal with the learner and how the learner begins to adapt to picking up and incorporating elements of a language.

When Krashen first came on the scene, parts of his philosophy resonated deeply with thousands of language teachers, especially the part about the distinction between learning and acquisition. Speaking jut for myself now, I could relate to that, having seen it in the classroom and understanding it in myself and my own experiences with learning a language. Other parts of his theories, namely the "language acquisition device" which, due to its awkward name, sounded like some little machine placed in one's innate machinery, made much less sense.

Acquisition researchers came to scorn him for several reasons: first, he was way too popular. Second, how can you define acquisition vs. learning? How can you quantify it? And, this "device"- what's up with that?

Krashen, I believe, is now at the end of his career, much more involved in the bilingual-ed controversies especially as they have played out in California, and may not be so worried about the way acquisition researchers have scorned him over the years. He is, after all, famous in his own right, and for good reason. He at least laid out a system that made sense to thousands of people who recognized the kernel of truth that it captured.

This is why, twenty years later, I'm beginning to wonder: exactly why is it impossible to quantify the distinction between acquistion and learning? I have seen it played out in front of my eyes for years. I have seen people store information temporarily, pass tests with it, and go on to prove, sometimes in the same hour, or same sentence, that the aspect of grammar in question was no more part of their working grammar than encryption code. They learn a structure, pass tests using it, recognize what they need to know and prove they know it, yet it's somewhere way way down the road, that they actually slip into using it in appropriate circumstances.

The answer to this lies in the mind's internal sense of prioritizing, reorganizing, making life simpler and smoother. We have a surface organization and a deep organization, and we're not likely to mess with the big potato until we're good and sure it's worth our while. But the mind is a ruthlessly efficient organizer, and if a new reality truly intrudes upon it, it can and will act upon the new information...that's because we're survivors, and have learned to read the writing on the wall.

I've moved the work here while I stew on it, and decide how to incorporate things like this post into it. I've written a bit about Krashen; that's here. For now, the looming tesol presentations forces me to keep my eyes on the road.

But for the record, what I'm getting at is this:

I believe that the point at which the learner reorganizes, acquires and uses something, whether it be using a structure regularly, or putting knowledge of a word in an active memory-retrieval site, can be found, measured, sought and exploited. We can orient our teaching and learning around the systematic crossing of these thresholds; teachers can work with learners to say, hey, it's not enough that you just learn this. What you want to do is use it enough until you convince yourself that it's something you want to use every time, and put it somewhere where you have access to it every time you open your mouth.

Now this is a kind of rustic way to put it, but it boils down to this: the learner has control; the learner's personal organization system, the mind's own secretary, works on its own schedule, and it may not be as cooperative as the learner himself/herself, who will often learn, understand, and use information to pass tests quite well, even intending to improve his or her grammar, to no avail. The acquisition preceeds at an entirely different pace than the learning. Yet it does proceed, and we can see it.

I need a better name than "volume theory," but, it'll come to me.

Back to work. But first, I'll get some sleep. 071 just ended, and spring's a-poppin', lots going on, and young ones growing, right in front of my eyes.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

lest ye thought i'd forgot
Integrated Voice coming to Second Life, ZDNet
In Second Life, the ring of revolution? ZDNet
Second Life's first millionaire, Business Week online
Breathing Second Life into business, Business Week online
Your Second Life is Ready, PopSci Com
Second Life Screenshot Gallery,

(from the screenshot gallery)



I've been working on a tesol presentation, and deep within this, specifically talking about developing student writing skills, I finally decided to incorporate and explain my version of volume theory, which I first made real at this very blog. In the course of that tome, I tried to dredge up my old favorites, Peter Elbow and Marie Wilson Nelson, but they are both on paper, not on the web, therefore requiring a physical walk to a brick-and-mortar library, forget it, it's not real. Not gonna happen in this lifestyle. But I did also, run across some other interesting tidbits:

Sierra, K. (2006, Jan.). Crash course in learning theory. Creating passionate users blog. Accessed 3-07.

Gordon, S. (2005, Sept.). Is technology good for us?
The Speculist. Accessed 3-07.

This last is the home of the Einstein story- where Einstein is being teased about not remembering his own phone number. Why should I remember anything I can look up? he says. I knew this story already. But, I was glad to find an interesting discussion of the very philosophical subject that I label, "what good is spell-check?"

At the moment, honing in on what's good about blogs, etc., it's kind of a diversion. An interesting one, though.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

the view from the peak of 071

The term is coming to a close very quickly, and the weblogs are getting a lot of action. I myself have contributed heavily in all three classes, AE1 Novel (Horse Whisperer is the novel we read; I'll spare you the picture since so many of my students provided it); AE2, where we did crime and students did weblog posts on such topics as Alcatraz, Jesse James, Qat and the death penalty; and, EAP2 Editing class, where I didn't get them on the weblogs until late in the class (and was sorry). At first I had trouble justifying using the weblogs with that class, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that editing what is online and editing when you put stuff online is really the kind of editing that will matter to them in their futures anyway. A tour of what they said about grammar etc. (and of all the classes) will show that:

1. The weblogs are a work in progress. Some people clearly aren't finished and may not be finished by end of term, tomorrow at 4.
2. In general, they have interesting things to say. I liked where a teacher stumbled across the novel class and ended up leaving useful comments on the first four posts. I'm not sure these particular students knew that; I'm not sure that all of them were aware that anyone could read them...I wasn't used to dealing with such a low level, and forgot that sometimes you have to say such things several times.
3. They have worked hard on most of what they've done, and should be proud of it!

Some of my students are leaving very interesting comments on the posts below- and I want to say, before I go to bed: Thank you! Good luck on finals! Good luck on the TOEFL!

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