An International Webinar: A Fervent CALL in the Digital Wilds
Innovation and dedication are the two outstanding qualities of the latest webinar I attended. Virtually speaking, it was inspiring to once again be surrounded by the real vanguards of education. Coming from different parts of the world (e.g., Australia, America, Croatia, and more), they are the professors who earnestly go above and beyond their call of duty in order to provide quality education. Aside from that, this was definitely the meeting of the minds of the trailblazers whose interests are both language and technology.
This worthwhile webinar was a noble largesse of the Asia-Pacific Association for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (APACALL). They live by their objectives that are centered on pedagogy, language, and technology. Given this idea, for me, the first international APACALL webinar has its spectrum of strengths and challenges.
STRENGTHS OF THE WEBINAR
Without a doubt, this was another successful professional service given by the APACALL organization. Starting from the invitation, program, and a wide range of topics that were interconnected with each other, every attendee would commend that this was a well-thought out webinar. As their invitation said, “This webinar explores trends, issues, and challenges we face in computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and technology-enhanced language teaching (TELT)”. Proceeding in a forthright glance, I felt the gradual escalation of interest and impact.
Being able to watch the 19 presenters of varied CALL and TELT research papers was akin to being able to read an e-book in one whole day. Fantastic, right? What’s more, APACALL International Webinar 2021 was offered for free to everyone. This was definitely a service from the heart that must be emulated.
Further, the organizer was a stickler to the program and assured that all presenters would have enough time to present. House rules were every now and then announced and posted. If there were small technical snags, the organizer could quickly address these. This was especially convenient for the newbies in a Zoom webinar.
It is also worth mentioning that the moderators looked savvy and friendly, especially Natasha Ruzic. When the discussion was getting seriously technical and highly cognitive, her spark of sincere connection was the heart of the webinar. She introduced the presenters in a light but complete manner and would give commendation and gratitude after each presentation.
In general, you know that it would be a time well spent if it were an event led by “The Jeong-Bae Son”. He is the APACALL President who perpetually shows that he is a man of no nonsense and a dear friend.
Congrats to Mr. President and all the hardworking organizers!
STRENGTHS OF THE PRESENTERS
It started with a bang. Practical yet cutting-edge topics on helping language learners study independently through technology-mediated listening, understanding thoroughly the nature and branches of CALL, and engaging education stakeholders through electronic village online (EVO) were delivered by Phil Hubbard, Claire Bradin Siskin, and Vance Stevens respectively.
They are considered the iconic pillars of CALL who set the right tone for this conference; hence, the succeeding presenters performed their roles with ease. To boot, all presenters were primed and their PowerPoint slides were organized and straightforward. During their presentations, their varied academic styles manifested which could enrich the audience’s ideas in presenting a study. Personally, I appreciated the part when they gave the background of their studies and empirical observations. Most especially, they were thoughtful to immediately provide us with their PowerPoint Presentations and other related articles which made us confidently follow the discussion. In a nutshell, they were ingenious and inspiring.
Kudos and thanks to all the presenters!
TO BE A GAME CHANGER
Indeed, attending an international webinar similar to this one could give a life-changing experience or a change of heart (as Angel, my graduate student, said in her blog). This event could widen your pedagogical perspective and inspire you to think outside the box by becoming more resourceful with the technological trends that are most appealing to your students. Who would ever think that some video games (for instance, Minecraft) can be valuable tools to teach language? Yes, gamification was another pivotal discussion in the presentations. In addition, attendees will not be empty-handed because each presenter shared ideas that can make their teaching innovative. For a country like the Philippines, where full online classes are implemented for almost a year now, it would definitely be a game changer if Filipino teachers could explore the electronic, realistic, and holistic aspects of CALL and TELT, such as:
1. Twine software by Gavin Young
2. Quest-based learning by Andrew Philpott
3. Electronic village online (EVO) by Vance Stevens
While some teachers are already creating and requiring YouTube and TikTok videos as their class activities, Twine software can be another alternative for an interactive and non-linear storytelling type of class activity or requirement. Although, Quest-based learning (QBL) is my personal favorite and I am excited to utilize this. Related to my latest study (Sharot’s 2011 Optimism Bias), QBL is a good strategy to incorporate game techniques and build a game-based community in my classes. Speaking of community, EVO can enhance communication and enrich collaboration among teachers and students. Being a member of a team in our university, I am planning to recommend this type of online community to make our work enjoyable and sustainable.
4. Segmental division of lessons by Alan Bessette
5. Self-dialogue for researchers by Thomas Webster
Consequently, as part of EVO, we can discuss the segmental division of lessons that is enduring for both teachers and students. This can surely be effective to full online classes during this pandemic. Inculcating the value of quality over quantity can avoid any types of fatigue (e.g., Zoom fatigue or pandemic fatigue). Given this situation, self-reflection for teachers as researchers can become more meaningful and fruitful.
6. ECCR by Jeong-Bae Son
7. Digital Wilds by Phil Hubbard
In essence, Son’s (2018) Exploration, Communication, Collaboration, and Reflection (ECCR) model is essential to every digital language teacher and student. In fact, his framework can also support the digital immigrant teachers who are now forced to be immersed in full online classes due to the pandemic. His framework can easily be achieved if unity is the goal. Realizing it now, our small team of teachers (headed by Jeanne Purpura) has been applying this. Similar to ECCR, our team is using – The 4D’s: Discover, Discuss, Demonstrate, and Deepen (4D’s) in creating our online modules to help the other teachers.
All the six concepts are under the umbrella of the digital wilds. I have personal affection with the “digital wilds” because I have been advocating this in my seminars and blog articles. It is about time to upend the status quo – we need to revise our curriculum and set aside some traditional means that are no longer effective to our Gen Z students. Thanks to Sauro and Zourou (2019) and the other zealous advocates of quality education because the clamor for “natural and fluid digitally-assisted human interaction” (p. 1) and “out-of-class language learning” (p. 2) are getting stronger. At the end, following the fervent call in the digital wilds can promote self-directed learning which is innovative and sustainable. This, until now, is a big challenge for all of us!
THE NEXT APACALL WEBINAR
APACALL organization has been inspiring many practitioners for two strong decades now. While APACALL Webinar 2021 offered important practices in the digital wilds, they can still address some points to step up the game. Creating a more dialogue-oriented webinar experience and issuing an online certificate can make this webinar attractive more than ever.
While the presenters’ time is sacred, the Q & A segment as stated in the program must also be considered by both the organizer and the presenters. The questions ask by the audience may break the barrier of an online setting, correspond to having the same interest with the presenter, or show a sign of respect to the presenter’s hard work. Concurrently, a real-time discourse can better assist the audience to absorb the information and can be timesaving if another audience has the same question with the other. Having a congenial Q & A can be an obvious result of a fluid interaction among the webinar's participants which can build a stronger online community.
Also, giving a certificate can encourage more attendees. A certificate may just be a piece of paper but in some Asian countries like the Philippines, it can help beef up the teachers’ resume and document their experience. Most importantly, this could garner points for the Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and promotion. But since this webinar is for free, maybe they can just consider providing a certificate upon request.
Overall, it was a pleasure attending the APACALL Webinar 2021 because this can remind us that computers are not just there to assist us but we, humans, have the power to enhance technology to foster quality education for all.
COVID-19 pandemic is telling us that there is no going back; hence, we all have to switch to the fervent CALL in the digital wilds!
Again, a million thanks to the APACALL’s generous professional service!
Cheers and may your tribe increase!
Sauro, S. & Zourou, K. (2019). What are the digital wilds? Language Learning & Technology, 23(1), 1-7. https://doi.org/10125/44666
Sharot, T. (2014). How to motivate yourself to change your behavior. [Videofile]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=61&v=xp0O2vi8DX4
Son, J.-B. (2018). Teacher development in technology-enhanced language teaching. Palgrave Macmillan.