We’re Listening: an Interview with Randall Davis
President's Message and Board Nominations
Technology is the Subject
From Researchers to Practicing Teachers:Noticing Hypothesis and Explicit Instruction
Letter from the Editors
By Wanda Huber and Adam Clark
This is an exciting time for AZTESOL with the upcoming conference featuring H. Douglas Brown with the push to make the diverse knowledge and skills of our community more accessible and collaboration more likely through the lightning speed of social media. Yes, we're talking about that blue bird, Twitter. AZTESOL News has been tweeting! We’re tweeting about teaching opportunities, learning opportunities, topics that affect our industry.
Before tweeting on behalf of AZTESOL News, our impression of Twitter was that it was a platform for people to talk about themselves, which really didn’t interest us. We're ashamed to say we didn’t recognize how it could enrich us professionally and help us engage with our professional community that we care about.
Our goal is for twitter to be a conduit for a statewide conversation, a way to get quick book reviews, article ideas, and conversations about those ideas, a way to engage our whole community. Writing articles takes time, which is so difficult to find. However, a 140-word review is doable, a link to a helpful website doesn’t take much effort, a question about teaching in our new expanded roles can be answered if we follow AZTESOL on twitter.
Lizi Harner, Behance
ELL Teacher, Sage Elementary, Phoenix, AZ, Contact Kurt Walker 602-955-0355
Innovative Middle School ELA Teacher, SySTEM Schools, Phoenix Contact Angelica Cruz 602-714-5068
Highly Qualified 7th grade ELA Teacher, Union Elementary School District No 62, Tolleson, AZ Contact Dolores Villanueva 623-478-5020
What led you to create Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab? Has it become what you imagined it to be? What next?
I address this question, in part, on my Web site at: http://esl-lab.com/faq.htm#create. I never could have imagined that I would still be developing Web sites 17 years later. My interest now in not simply driven by providing new content to improve students’ English skills; rather, I am motivated by sharing experiences that improve lives and expand our world view of others. For example, our son, Joshua, died by suicide in 2012, and this experience has helped us realize that so many people struggle daily to make sense of life and find fulfillment in what they do. Thus, many of my listening topics not only focus on building language skills but also seek to help people use English to understand themselves and the world around them. I see that I will continue to make interesting and humorous language activities as well as other deeper and expansive conversations that engage learners in finding meaning in the lives. Teaching English isn’t all that interesting until you use it to talk about the world around us.
Are you planning on creating more science related texts? Are the Academic texts related to any Academic standards? (AWL?)
I’m always considering different directions in which to grow my sites depending on the comments made by teachers and students who visit. Science-related topics are certainly what I enjoy creating, and when I think of science, I often think of the social sciences. Most recently, I have created listening activities on cyberbullying, suicide, and substance abuse to address some of these areas. I am surprised when people say that such topics address similar issues that their students are confronting in their own lives. I also have created some on earth sciences. There are so many possibilities.
Why do you think Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab is such a popular site?
I think the site has been popular because of the personal nature of my conversations that reflect many aspects of my own life and the lives of so many who use them. All of my children’s voices have appeared on the site for years, and many of these conversations flowed from our experiences. I tried to make the conversations as natural as possible; many started from semi-scripted transcripts that evolved as we recorded them in our bedroom where I do most of my work. Furthermore, it was impossible to ask a four-year-old to read a transcript, so the rawness of the conversation made for interesting, authentic listening. I’ve tried to keep the site easy to use, and my kids joke that it looks like I haven’t changed its design for years. That’s true because my focus hasn’t been on flashy design, but on meaningful content.
How many English learning sites are you involved with? Do you think there’s a formula for creating a successful site?
I have worked on about eight Web sites over the years, and a successful formula is to try to focus on one specific skill area rather than attempting create a Web site that does everything. Depth, not breadth, has been the key for me. I’ve seen so many Web sites that started out with great energy only to dwindle into obscurity because it was too overwhelming to try to do everything. Furthermore, because my most important job is being a father and husband, I can’t do this well if I am so dedicated to my online activities that I forget their names and birthdays. Simplicity, realistic expectations, and balance are key.
Obviously you are a very busy person. How are you able to manage what you do for the Lab and your other time consuming hobbies, like traveling and conquering the mountains?
Balance. At the beginning of my career (perhaps like many people), I wanted to make a name for myself, so I accepted every invitation and opportunity to travel and present. It was fun to see the world and meet so many wonderful people. I treasure those experiences; however, I also realized that my family needed me even more, and nothing would compensate for my being away from them. Over time, I learned how to balance things better, including adding my kids into my listening activities. This helped gave me time to nourish my own soul and build memories with them. Over the years, we have spent a lot of time in the outdoors in Utah, and I realized that older kids need even more bonding time with parents. One year when my fourteen-year-old daughter wanted to go snow camping in the frigid mountains of Utah, I didn’t blink. When kids that age want to spend time with dad, you jump at it because that feeling might not last. In that case, we had a blast eating clam chowder and crackers over a fire. Finally, my wife and I have found that when you don’t take care of yourself, emotionally, physically, and mentally, it is impossible to take care of others, including your own work. Now, I work on different parts of my sites every day, but I am able to balance the things that I want to do and those things that I need to do. Many things in life can wait for tomorrow.
How do you generate and organize your ideas? Do you have other people working with you and for you that assist or even inspire you?
I am inspired by so many other colleagues in the field who have done amazing projects in so many unique directions. For me personally, I generate many of my ideas by seeing the learning and life struggles of my own students, and then, I often come up with ideas as I go trail running in the mountains. This might sound like an unorthodox way of being inspired, but it works for me. Sometimes, the more distant I found myself away from technology, the more refreshed I feel as I approach new tasks using in.
I heard an interview with you that your wife conducted. In what other ways, does she support your commitment to helping English language learners?
Support is so important in any relationship. In the first few years, I was so involved in the Web site that there were times that I would be up late into the night trying to get a Web page to work and trying to fix problems on the Web sites. She patiently gave me room to grow professionally, but I also knew there were limits. Without perspective on how such work can consume your time, there can be the tendency for your work to spill over into family time. Fortunately, I have taken my wife with me on some of my trips to conferences and have enjoyed these experiences together.
Do you happen to cooperate with any International organizations, schools, universities?
Over the years, I have provided training to such groups in different parts of the world, specifically with regards to teacher training and educational technology. There is nothing better than rubbing shoulders with so many colleagues that are yearning to learn and share ideas and concerns with others. I have found that true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing, and if I remain teachable in all aspects of my profession, I might be able to learn and share ideas with others who have similar interests and goals.
What would be your advice for all ESL teachers who look up to you, envy your achievements and experience?
When I was 21, I thought I knew about everything; now, decades later, I realize that I know almost nothing. What I mean to say is that I tend to view every moment of the day as a learning opportunity to discover something new. I don’t mean to be philosophical about this, but rather, I find that being open to change, to correction, to advice from others, allows you to grow and flourish personally and professionally. Teachers and students write me all the time with advice or suggestions, and I appreciate their willingness to reach out and share. If I could share some advice to teachers, students, and future Web site designers, it would be to “keep falling forward” in everything you do. If something doesn’t work as you planned, try something else. If one idea flops, consider a different approach. If someone believes you’re heading in the wrong or unprofitable direction in your career, allow some room for self-reflection. A few years ago, I participated in a 100-kilomter mountain running event that almost chewed me up. There were points when I felt overwhelmed and worn down, but I kept telling myself to keep falling forward. I was the last finisher in the event, and it took me over 22 hours to complete the race but I had to remind myself that one third of all those who started with high hopes and great energy a day before dropped out sometime during the even due to injury or fatigue. Likewise, I encourage teachers to keep moving forward in their work, one day at a time. Great things can happen with every small step we make.
You provide materials and lessons that support CALL. Right now there are so many applications and programs available that the time it takes to learn and use it to the benefit of our students can be overwhelming. On the other hand, many of us get excited at the prospect of using a new technology often at the expense of the class objective. What’s a good teacher to do?
We have a tendency to follow a herd mentality. We often think that if it’s a new device, and there is a booth at a language convention that displays it, then it must be better whatever we currently have. However, all too often, we choose a technology and then try to spend a huge amount of time trying to figure out how to weave it into the classroom, usually unsuccessfully. Rather, we have to select course objectives and learning outcomes first, and then choose a gizmo or gadget that can address that need. In many cases, the most efficient and effective gadget is simply a marker and whiteboard, and not an iPad or computer. Less is often more. We simply shouldn’t get caught up in the rhetoric that technology enables learning with a wave of a magic wand. Furthermore, I don’t believe that administrators should evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness if you appear to employ technology in the classroom. Otherwise, they will feel forced to use something that might stall learning rather than facilitate it. Open communication is key.
About the author:
Iryna Kovalenko teaches English Language learners at Global Launch, ASU.
President's Message and Board Nominations
By Richard Bailey
My involvement with professional organizations started about fifteen years ago with a brief conversation. I was at a professional development seminar in the Seattle area where I lived at the time, and I asked a simple question to Tatiana Gabriel, the woman who was presenting on the subject of content-based instruction. “Has anyone done any work on integrating Understanding by Design with content-based instruction in ESL?”
Tatiana’s answer was just as simple. “Why don’t you do that?”
I thought about it for a while, and I began to realize that there really wasn’t any reason why I couldn’t do that. So, I slowly entered into what eventually became a year-long process of developing instructional strategies and unit designs within my own classroom that worked to integrate these two approaches to teaching and learning. I theorized. I developed. I tested. And I revised. And, finally, when I thought I had something worth sharing with others, I wrote my first proposal for a professional conference.
A couple of months later, I received an email notifying me of my acceptance. At first, I was surprised. Then, I was excited. Then, I was nervous. Did I understand my subject well enough to tell others about it? Was I interesting enough to keep the attention of my colleagues? As a high school teacher, I wondered if I could even talk to my colleagues. The fact was that I felt much more comfortable talking to teenagers than to adults. Well, in the days preceding the conference, I practiced. I revised. I timed myself. I filled in the holes with additional research. And I practiced some more. I got there early on the day of the conference. I brought all my handouts and my PowerPoint and my laptop and even a projector from my school district. I didn’t expect more than twenty people in my session, but in the true spirit of anxious preparation, I made a hundred copies. As people began to file in, I welcomed them and handed them a copy of my handout. More people came in, more welcomes, more handouts, and before I knew it, I was out of handouts. I was a little apologetic about that, but perhaps more importantly, I was scared to death. I had no idea how to manage a crowd that large and appear competent. I estimate that at least one hundred and twenty people must have attended my first presentation. It was a disorganized, nerve-wracking mess, but I got plenty of compliments and encouragement when it was over. The conference organizer even asked me to do a second presentation that afternoon in a larger room. The larger room even had a microphone of all things so that I could better communicate with these people who just a few days ago I was convinced I couldn’t communicate with at all. To me, this is the beauty of organizations such as AZTESOL. They push us to be better, to go further and do more than we thought we could.
I still remember the excitement and the nervousness, and the fun that went along with that first presentation. I also remember all the people such as Tatiana who helped and encouraged me not just through the presentation but who saw potential in me and encouraged me to run for offices on the Board of Directors and to pursue more education and to be innovative and creative and to be a problem solver and to encourage and to support others as they strove for the same things. Now, fifteen years later, after taking on various roles in TESOL, WAESOL (the Washington State affiliate) and here in AZTESOL, I can look back and say that my involvement has challenged me both as a person and as a professional educator. Professional organizations such as AZTESOL are unique spaces where we can step out of the bureaucratic confines of our own workplaces and play by a different and more flexible set of rules. The hierarchy dissipates, and the opportunities for collaboration and innovation coalesce. Sure. We get plenty of discussions that begin with qualifiers about what happened back at “my old organization,” or “where I work, we do…,” but the beauty of this space is that it isn’t your old organization or your current workplace. We can take ideas from those other spaces, but this is a unique space where like-minded people can come together and be creative as we work to solve problems that we all agree are important.
I am coming to the end of my term in office, and I will soon move on to other projects. As I go, I will take with me the pride of having been able to contribute to this unique organization and the strength of the many friendships I have made as I have worked closely with so many of you. I want to thank you all for your time, your patience, your understanding, and ultimately for your dedication, friendship, and hard work.
I also want to introduce to you the next generation of AZTESOL volunteers in preparation for an election at the general meeting during the conference. This is actually the first time in many years that we have had enough interest in various positions to make it necessary to hold a vote. This is good news, and we should take this as a sign of the growth and strength of our organization. Several years ago, the AZTESOL Board adopted a new mission statement that has challenged us to grow through networking with other groups while also initiating more involvement from our own members. The tangible results of this mission statement have become evident in a variety of ways including new software to manage our membership, increased use of social media and online registration, a new look to our website and our newsletter, stronger connections with other professional organizations such as TL3C, the inclusion of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) within AZTESOL, and, of course, more interest among our members which means more interest in Board positions. I am grateful to everyone who is willing to put their name on the ballot and take on this responsibility. I wish you the best of luck if you are elected. If you are not elected, I hope that you will remain active in AZTESOL as we need everyone’s talents to be effective in our mission.
At the conference, we will ask our members to vote for a new round of leaders who can carry on with these initiatives while also finding their own projects and new ways of creatively solving problems. As we go through this election process, I hope that we can all realize that our organization works best when everyone contributes. This election shouldn’t be about choosing winners and losers. It should be about finding the best place within AZTESOL for all of us to make our contribution and work on solutions to issues that are most important to us. Whether you are on the ballot or not, I encourage you to get connected with our organization. Join a SIG, or form your own. Get to know your area representative, and ask what you can do to help out. Propose a new initiative, or perhaps draft a position statement that you would like the board to approve. This is your organization which means it can only work properly when you contribute to it.
Here is a preview of the list of candidates. Full biographies will be provided on the day of the conference. If you are a member of AZTESOL and you are not able to make it to the conference, please contact me to request an absentee ballot. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second Vice President
Dean of Innovative Learning and Academic Support at Mesa Community College Nora has worked with AZTESOL as a co-chair of the Community College SIG and as a member of the SIG development committee.
Tamara MC Instructor at the Center for English as a Second Language at the University of Arizona
Judy Nguyen Instructor at Global Launch at Arizona State University. Judy has worked with AZTESOL in the past as our Northern Area Representative.
Nicole Schmidt Doctoral student at the University of Arizona
Rules and Resolutions Chair
Nancy Hamadou Lead faculty in ESL at Pima Community College. Nancy is a Past President of AZTESOL.
English and English as a Second Language Instructor at Mesa Community College. Lutfi is currently a co-chair of the Community College SIG and was a member of the SIG development committee.
Education Program Specialist at the Arizona Department of Education
TL3C Project Director and Adjunct Instructor. Megan has played a key role in organizing the 2015 AZTESOL conference.
Technology is the Subject
By Chi Cheung Ruby Yang
An engaging way to use technology in the English class is to make it the subject. With technology as the subject, English teachers can create opportunities for students to show, tell, share, teach, and engage with each other about their real world use of technology even in classrooms where technology is limited, dated, or non-existent.
To introduce technology as a topic for discussion, consider one or both of the following:
Use a lesson or chapter on the topic of technology from an accessible ESL or EFL textbook to introduce the topic, key vocabulary, and useful expressions. Today, technology is as common a topic in multi-skills textbooks as family, occupations, and leisure time.
Write these broad categories across your classroom board: recreation and entertainment, communication, social media, buying and selling, news and views. Invite students to come to the board and list under each category the names of websites, programs or apps that they use. For example, under social media, they might list Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Line, and others. These lists can help begin a conversation about the forms of technology and the devices students routinely use. They can also serve to show the depth and breadth of student experience with technology and suggest how teachers might capitalize on this knowledge and experience in class.
More lesson ideas
Use YouTube, ESLvideo.com, TED.com as home “work” assignments such as
What is their favorite movie and why? Students show the movie trailer without sound and briefly narrate the story.
Ask if they share funny videos with friends through social media. Have students come prepared to show a partner a video recently enjoyed. Then extend the lesson by having a partner summarize the story.
Using Mobile Devices
Mobile devices such as smart phones, electronic notebooks, tablets, and iPads are becoming affordable and widely available. Access is 24/7. The possibilities for in-class use of mobile devices for engagement, learning, and collaboration are nearly limitless.
What sites did they visit? Describe how information is communicated? Are there images? Where are they on the screen?
What did they do? Did they call, text, or take pictures of friends? Did they listen to music, play games, read the news, or check on social media contacts? Did they schedule meetings, get directions, read or write a restaurant review, or check the arrival time for their bus or train? No matter what language they use for these interactions, they can describe, compare, and evaluate them using English.
Imagine a series of pair or triad warm-up questions/activities on routine use of mobile devices:
What app or website is most useful to you as an English student?
Copy one of your recent text messages on the board then “translate” it into full and standard English.
What is your most useful app? Why? Can you show me how to use it?
What mobile plan do you have? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
How do you try to protect your data in a digital world?
What is your opinion on these statements: Mobile devices foster or hinder communication?
Students are already engaged with online communication and collaboration in social media, gaming communities, and club, hobby, or professional circles. Teachers may be surprised to learn that their seemingly passive English students manage an English language website or blog. Using technology as the subject has the potential to engage students and help them make connections between their required study of English and their real world interests and goals.
About the author
Chi Cheung Ruby YangChi Cheung Ruby Yang is a teaching fellow at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Institute of Education. She completed her Ph.D in Applied Linguistics at Lancaster University and obtained her B.Ed., MEd., and M.A in Applied Linguistics at The University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include second language teaching and learning and gender and language.
From Researchers to Practicing Teachers:Noticing Hypothesis and Explicit Instruction
By Aysenur Sagdic, MA TESL, Northern Arizona University
What is Noticing Hypothesis?
Proposed by Schmidt in 1990, Noticing Hypothesis claims that input does not automatically become intake for second language (L2) learners if it is not noticed by them. Therefore, it advocates that L2 learners should consciously pay attention to the language to learn it effectively.
Why did I find “Noticing Hypothesis” important?
Since 1990s, Noticing Hypothesis has influenced many researchers and L2 classroom practices, so I wanted to see for myself whether L2 learners become better at English when they closely pay attention to forms and rules as I’m always looking for ways to tailor my teaching methods to make my lessons more effective.
What were my expectations?
As I myself learn better when I consciously focus on something, Noticing Hypothesis sounded logical to me, so I was expecting form-focused instruction with explicit explanation to be more effective than implicit instruction, especially in the context of teaching L2 pragmatics.
How did I implement the hypothesis in my ESL classroom?
My students werematriculated freshmen ESL students studying at Northern Arizona University. I had been teaching them about L2 pragmatics, and I wanted to focus on the speech act of refusals for that particular lesson. In my 40 minute lesson, I did the following:
I told my students about the importance of being pragmatically competent and then, I explicitly told them that they were going to practice the speech act of refusals in English.
After setting the context, I asked them to analyze an example of a text message in which someone refuses an invitation to a birthday party. I also asked them to answer a set of questions, which guide students to find and underline specific patterns in refusals in English.
Having answered the questions, the students came up with the patterns in refusals in English.
Then, I split the students into groups and gave them some scenarios where they had to refuse someone/something.
I reflected some of the refusals I collected from the students on the board and asked others to find and underline the patterns in their friends’ refusals. Then, we discussed what made them effective or less effective.
What are the results?
Based on the students’ refusal examples they produced in the classroom, I can say that the lesson was successful because most students were able to refuse an invitation in English without being pragmatically inappropriate.
What are some of the implications and suggestions for L2 classrooms?
Reflecting on my lesson on refusals, I realized that it was very useful for students to know the purpose of the activities in the classroom. My metalinguistic explanation on pragmatic competence, speech acts and why being good at them matters grabbed their attention immediately. My students also told me that they liked seeing an effective example and finding the underlying patterns in refusals. Then, it was easier for them to produce a successful refusal as they “noticed” the pattern and the forms before.
Noticing Hypothesis was especially useful in my lesson because pragmatic rules are usually not salient to L2 learners as Schmidt says due to the fact that L2 learners have different cultural expectations based on their background and experiences. Therefore, I recommend L2 teachers keep in mind that certain pragmatic rules and forms are not easily noticeable, so helping them “notice” the patterns and use them effectively can really support their learning and add to our effectiveness in the classroom.