Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Using Facebook

Yes, it's true, I've been running the CESL Facebook account. That means I get in there every once in a while and announce whatever activity we're having. If I have time, I make it into an "event" and invite everyone; doing so often means that a few more people will attend it. Some are people from the community who simply want to stay informed about CESL and what it does. So yes, this seems like a worthwhile use of my time, not that I haven't offered to share it.

The question around Facebook is really this: Should an organization like CESL exploit it to its full advantage, getting out there as much as possible, attracting fans, using it to store pictures, etc.? Or, should we take the opposite approach (as a recent CoLA Council decided), shunning it, avoiding it, its viruses, its phishers and its social nature like the plague? Obviously I have taken a middle-ground approach. My stand is that of course we need a page (as we need a phone number, for example); of course we need to maintain it (as we should our web site also); and, of course we want to at least appear to be a happening place with an interesting social life...which means that, if we encounter good pictures of people having fun, we should put them there.

Having said that, I can now say that any problem that the SIUC web system is now having with its photographs, and its responsibility for what happens on its web system, will ultimately move over and apply to whatever any organization here does with Facebook, Twitter, or the social media. It seems like a good venue now; it seems like it's where all the young people are, and it is. But it's a place that makes its own rules, and an organization that really wants to use it will have to play by those rules, which might change.

I always figured that if people found us and joined, fine, they could put up with whatever phishers came to them through us. If we solicited their membership, however, we would become responsible for whatever happened to them through our site. If we solicit their pictures, similarly, we become responsible for whatever happens to those pictures through our site. No thanks to soliciting, was my response. I've become quite conservative in my ambitions for the site, based on reading I've done pertaining to organizations and Facebook. I'd point you to those readings, but the bibliography that had them was recently removed from CESL's website. Click on Facebook below, though, and you'll find some of them.

Labels: , ,

New CESL web site

One can't watch fifteen years, and over 300 pages of CESL web resources go under without at least commenting. There were many reasons for the new, simplified look of the CESL main web, which I will get to below, but mostly I want to say that although I recognize the reasons and can't argue with them, I feel sorry that an era of CESL's putting resources out to the public is now apparently over.

Here are some of the reasons the web site is now smaller, slicker, and less ambitious. Its 300 pages once included student work display (old CESL Todays), TESOL presentations by faculty (mostly me), teacher links and resources, student links and resources, and directories meant to help the ESL/EFL community in general. These pages were widely linked to from all over the world and contributed to CESL's good standing in Google, which rates highly the generous well-connected nature of a benevolent organization. But the directories were hard to maintain; they took precious faculty time; their links easily got outdated and sometimes the outside places they linked to were bought out from under whoever started them. Thus our links became like an unweeded garden with snakes everywhere. Also, SIUC has become increasingly sensitive about all pictures on the SIUC web system: are they marked? Do we own them? Are the rights clear? Are they Alt-tagged properly? There was no way we could go back and find the authors of all those photos; it wasn't possible. We had hundreds of pages of photos that were for all intents and purposes given to CESL, but completely unmarked. Finally, SIUC constantly changed its requirements; it would force us to put a template on our pages, but then make those templates unsightly; it had marketing requirements and space restrictions, but these often changed. A strategy to use the actual SIUC space as little as possible actually makes sense in the big picture, as long as we can move the other functions elsewhere in a reasonable amount of time.

The days when CESL could make a directory that people in the field could use and appreciate are apparently over. Although Google searches involving tesol organizations, plagiarism/esl, facebook/esl, twitter/esl, second life/esl, chat/esl, and esl program marketers all call up CESL pages in their first page (and this, presumably, was good for CESL), these are now dead links, and may not be returned to life; if they are, visitors will be forwarded to some site which is willing and able to hold the resources. Students looking for writing, reading, listening, grammar, and speaking links will be directed to the weblogs where these can be held without the restrictions of the SIUC system; people looking for past published student work (some of which won awards, or was used in other venues) may or may not be able to find what they are looking for. The era of resources was a good one, and made us famous, in our own way; I'm not sorry we did it, only sorry that it seems to be over.

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 12, 2010

Using Voxopop

LMC, Tuesday Feb. 16, 12:00-1:00
Thom Thibeault and Tom Leverett

Voxopop is a voice-recording tool, easy to use; we will also show and discuss VoiceThreads and other new toys that teachers can and should use. Why be stuck with old cassette recorders? Find out what's happening and take advantage of it.

I should mention that this is part of CESL Colloquium, a regular attempt to educate language teachers about language teaching issues. Want to present? Contact me; I'd love to make it possible.

i wish i could write about

Times are busy here, so I've neglected this blog a little. My computer time at night is limited; in the day, it's all I can do to prepare and make sure my classes have productive things to do. So, some of these are being neglected. In some cases, I'm thinking about them but not writing about them. In other cases, I'm just wishing I could even think about them.

CESL web reorganization is coming. CESL's web will be cleaner; no more dead links or holes. CESL is going out of the directory business. More on this later.

Voxopop and voice tools...come to the workshop (above) and see what's the latest, if you like using computer tools to record voice. The presentation will cover VoiceThreads also.

CESL Moodle...I'm slow to learn this, having gotten a little behind, by teaching extra classes and having family situations. But it's a new way to put everything on the web, yet hopefully save a modicum of privacy for those students who don't want their grades out there like so much dirty laundry.

Elluminate...more and more, my webheads friends, rather than merely chatting, get into this virtual room where they can chat, tour the web, draw on the board, talk and be heard, and pass the mike around. I found an article that called this "your grandchildren's classroom" and felt that it was probably right. SIUC just saved $3 billion by changing the lightbulbs...they could probably save another $200 billion by just putting people in electronic rooms. So why wouldn't they? Not until someone else does it first, I guess.

Movies...I'm making some, but I'm not good at it yet. I'll keep you posted.

TESOL...gosh, I wish I had something to report.

My current Newstalk class, which watches movies that interest me very much, sometimes, including one on the iPad, and another on Super Bowl commercials. I'll link you to these as soon as possible.

More later; I've got to fly. The Lunar New Year falls on Valentine's Day this year; I have a son turning 18; another graduating from university; a daughter having a baby, and aging parents from whom I would like to learn about the Leverett line, quick, before I'm off to Boston to see the old gravestone of the guy I was named after.