Thursday, April 8, 2010

My TESOL Slideshow for MEI Faculty

Kind of by accident, and thanks to Steve Sharp, I have discovered that a Google Docs presentation (similar to a PowerPoint) can be embedded into a website or blog.  At the Maryland English Institute (University of Maryland/College Park) where I work, those of us who attended the TESOL Convention shared some of what we learned with our colleagues today.  I made up this little slide show and will put this new technology to the test here (You have to start it, but after that the slides should advance automatically every 10 seconds):

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Boston & TESOL

When I first planned to sign in for the EV sessions, I was very excited. I carefully went through the sessions offered and opted for Multiliteracies and Images4Education. Soon I got too overwhelmed with work that I couldn’t keep up with any. I would read as much as possible. Whenever there would be a possibility to take part in a webinar I would, but it was quite frustrating. However, in the process I virtually met Nina, Vance, Rita Z, Hanaa and was looking forward to meeting some of them face to face in TESOL.

I was already an invited speaker to co-present in the CALL-IS academic session. The purpose was to discuss the role of educators in e-learning from an EFL perspective. It wasn’t easy preparing for that presentation simply because e-learning is not what I would call a widespread acceptable method in Lebanon and especially not at the school level which I teach. The invitation was initiated by Dr. Leslie Opp-Beckman who contacted the RELO office in Jordan. The RELO office generously sponsored my trip and also offered me the chance to participate in the English Language Fellow Program, a one-week workshop organized by Georgetown University and sponsored by the Department of State. It was my first trip to the US and the first time I present in such a context. 34 educators from 32 different countries benefited from the program. So the experience was rich culturally and educationally. Unfortunately, the program set for us left me no time to meet with some of the people I had met online via the EV sessions.

After one week in Washington DC, we arrived in Boston on Tuesday, March 23. It was a rainy cold day after a whole week of beautiful sunny days in Washington. Somehow, I managed to break my eyeglasses and wasn’t at ease using contact lenses. I was worried about my presentation and the work I still have to do putting the final touches to the presentation. Despite the drizzly weather, I fell in love with Boston at first sight. Everyone was so friendly starting with the bus driver who took us to the hotel. All the way, he told us about the major landmarks, and managed to point to us certain restaurants. After checking in, we headed to No Name, a seafood restaurant. I found the restaurant’s setting very attractive and the food was what most of us
needed after a lot of junk.

The Convention Center and the TESOL experience all in all is quite overwhelming; so much to esperience and such limited time! On Thursday, I met Nina by chance in the EV. I was very happy as I was looking forward to it but it was only 10 minutes before my first meeting with my co-presenters for the academic session. I knew many Webheads and friends were meeting on that same evening for dinner, but our group was scheduled to meet RELOs and Dept of State Fellows in a ceremony organized in our honor. So I had to miss that get together. The pictures look great by the way. It is obvious everyone was having F.U.N.

My meeting with co-presenters went great. Everyone’s feedback was quick and comprehensive. I couldn’t find Nina after that and failed to attend her discussion. I had filled the survey and was very curious about some of the findings she was planning to discuss.

My experience co-presenting in the CALL-IS Academic Session was a lot of fun in a way I hadn’t anticipated- not the same kind of fun for sure! I enjoyed sharing my experience and offering a new perspective about the kind of challenges an educator in Lebanon could face to involve young teenagers in online learning communities. I also enjoyed the interaction with the audience; I could somehow tell some people were not only educators but also parents. More on the session is available on

I had learned a lot about collaboration since I took my first online course offered by the University of Oregon in 2008, and many of the people I met online since then contributed to that learning process. One of them is Nina who is so committed and inspiring. Thank you Nina for activating this kind of sharing…and thank you for posting the lovely picture :-) I wish we had more time to get to know each other f2f as well as other webheads & friends. Maybe in future conventions…one never knows..

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holly's TESOL Boston 2010 photos and VoiceThreads

Here are a series of links to photos and VoiceThreads I've created relating to TESOL 2010. I will be creating more, too:
Here's a link to my blog on EnglishCafe:

and here are several other links to individual posts and to Flickr photo links:
blog/boston-flower-and-garden-show-63586 (process drama workshop at TESOL)

 Enjoy!  Your comments and questions are welcomed,

It's About the Community and Networking

Boston has been dear to my heart for so many years now. My sister lived there for 13 years, and when I was in the US, I'd spend my summer with the boys there. Great memories and just fantastic to be there with friends, meet other like-minded educators, and the highlight always, the Webheads!

It was a super intense week, first enjoying the city, then immersed in the Convention Center in betweent the Leadership Certificate, presentations, webcasts. Though I saw some nice presentations, the networking and exchange of ideas is, for me, what truly matters, for today in this virtual world, you can learn almost anything from others. In fact, I learn much more from my online circles than at conferences where there are so many variables until you get to a very nice presentation. I'm not saying the f2f conferences are irrelevant. On the contrary. Nothing better than a tight hug and a new acquaintance. However, the online formats for learning we see nowadays are certainly very powerful ones and more sustainable along time.

Here are some of the academic highlights in Boston that I'd like to share with you:

Webcasts recordings at

Howard Gardner's Plenary Session

The Reading Brain Plenary Session with Dr. Maryanne Wolfe

Presentation Skills by Thom Upton

Interesting Power Point Presentation from presenters in TESOL available at

As for the social part, I guess the images are worth a thousand words! Thanks again to my dear friend Dennis Oliver for the wonderful red roses and to Tom for findind such a lovely Italian restaurant for our get-together. Cheryl Oakes came from another state only to have dinner with us! Webheads rock!

Friday, April 2, 2010


Friday was another raw, blustery day in Boston--it even snowed in the morning. What's with that? I travel from Canada and get snowed on in Boston! The weather was better back home--a balmy +14C.
I did better today with the sessions that I went to; I stuck to the CALL ones. I'm always looking for ideas that can be incorporated into my strange, totally asynchronous teaching environment. I call it the revolving door--students in and out all the time; others call it the revolting door. It does have its advantages, but it does lead to some constraints in teaching.

A group of eight of went for dinner that evening--we went to the No-Name on a wharf within easy walking distance of the Convention Centre. Photos are of Aiden and Buth, ,Nina, Aiden and Silence in the foreground ( the mystery woman whom we met on her way out of the ev.
The seafood meal was great--delicious chowder, followed by fish and chips. That's the English in me coming out. The restaurant even had malt vinegar.
The last photo shows Buth, Cara, Tom and Ibrahim.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I was honoured to be part of the group of webheads on hand to cheer for Elizabeth when she received her award last Friday. It was a very special occasion--congratulations Elizabeth:-))
It was also a nice opportunity meet with Aiden and Buth for the first time.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Volunteering at the Electronic Village on Thursday morning gave me an opportunity to meet several friends from my previous conference in Seattle--hugs all around from Nina, Carla, Erika, Tom, and Rita. Some sessions were good, some not so good--I often wish that presenters would provide more accurate abstracts! After that, I resolved to stick with CALL presentations. Dinner was great--the restaurant was excellent (thanks, Tom) and the company was the the best:-)) And it's always good to meet new webheads--sorry I don't recall all the names.

A Week Ago--Touring Boston

It was exactly a week ago that my colleague, Cara, who promises to join ev online next year, and I toured Boston on a very blustery day. We took the Super Trolley--a hop on and hop off affair, but given the cold wind, we didn't do much hopping off. I did get a photo of the famous Cheers, and here's another one of spring trying hard to put in an appearance.

After that we went to the Boston Aquarium; it came highly recommended, and it was worth the trip. Note the fancy seahorse--actually called a leafy seahorse--and the fish whose name I've managed to forget.

Dinner was at Dick's in Quincy Market --it was best bib and tucker; the
plate was a sheet of grease-proof paper on the table, the food was served in a bucket, but here's Cara digging in and enjoying!

TESOL 2010

This is the restaurant where we went on Sat.; it was an old fish market on the harbor & was wonderful!

Thanks for making the blog, Nina! I had a good time in Boston, but it was too short, and I missed some webheads and that makes me sad. Thanks for the roses, Dennis; as usual they brightened up the rooms they were in and gave some continuity to webheads gatherings; I think we've had roses at each one? Anyway that part was fantastic.

Thought I'd share my presentations with you, if anyone is interested, and if I make pop art from the pix below I'll point you to that too.

Next year (New Orleans) is a little bit more in my territory; hope to see you all there!
-Tom Leverett

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sunday (Nina)

 I got back to Bijou's apartment around 5:30 and found Bijou and her daughter Lila (who is an ESL aide in a western MA high school!) preparing for the party in my honor at 7:00.  Almost all my Boston area family came, and we enjoyed delicious food and conversation until midnight, when I fell into bed, absolutely wiped out!  

This morning I awoke "late" (7:00) and dropped in at Tapped In for a while before breakfast. I spent a blissful day in Bijou's apartment doing absolutely nothing and only going out to walk the dog around the block--wonderful after the past four frenetic days! Bijou drove me to the airport, Christoforos picked me up at BWI, and I was home around 9 pm Sunday night.  A very full  five days! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday (Nina)

I got to the BCEC at 6:30 this morning! These photos were taken from the walkway over the highway leading from the T station to the BCEC. 

Yesterday I attended webhead Tom Leverett's presentation "Making Sure They Know from Wikipedia."  Tom pointed out that students need to understand that Wikipedia, while useful for gaining general knowledge about a topic (as a student might wish to do before starting a paper), is a "reference", not a source and is not appropriate as a source for an academic paper.  Tom uses articles about the reliability of Wikipedia as sources for exercises designed to teach students what Wikipedia is and is not appropriate for.

Following Tom's excellent presentation, he and I took advantage of a very nice free breakfast offered by Pearson-Longman Publishers, in the Westin Hotel.  We ate with Joel Bloch (of Multiliteracies) and Steve Sharp (CALL-IS and MEI). After that, I went back to the EV for another EVO Classics Fair presentation, but I did not stay for the whole time because there were other moderators and only a few people came.  So I went instead to Joel's presentation on plagiarism (I can't find the entry in the program book!), which was interesting. Joel and his colleague reporting the results of a survey they had administered to new international students at the Ohio State University. The results showed that students had very inappropriate ideas about what constituted plagiarism, what practices were not acceptable, etc.  

Jennefer Lebedev, aka JenniferESL, presenting at the EV Classics Fair

with Ibrahimjon at the EV

At 11:00, I went to a session on Using Corpora to Enhance Language Teaching by Michael Barlow.  Ever since I heard a plenary talk by Michael Lewis at WATESOL years ago (and subsequently read a couple of books about his "lexical approach"), I've been interested in corpora and concordancers but have not been able to get up to speed using either.  Barlow sells his own concordancer software and had a lot of ideas on how to use "specialized and general wordlists, collocation lists, online concordancers, text-analysis software, Web-based exercises, and data-driven learning materials," according to the program book (I actually don't remember all of that!).
Webheads Nina, Carla and Berta outside the EV

And then Mary joined us!

At 12:30, I attended an excellent mini-workshop at the EV on using Jing to make video tutorials.  I have actually done this (last year when preparing for Enhancing Lessons with Web 2.0, I created a couple of tutorials on Tapped in and (I think) Bubbleshare [since defunct]), but I had kind of forgotten how to do it and wanted to get some tips.  We saw some examples, listed some best practices, and each got to create a tutorial.  I made one about  (As usual, I lost track of time, talked too much, and was cut off mid-sentence.)  While at the workshop, I met Leslie Sapp, an EVO moderator from Takoma Park whom I had not yet met f2f.  That was fun. Holly Dilatush, Leslie and I are hoping to get together for a webheads Maryland encounter in the future. You can see that we were quite surprised to find each other!

 Amazingly, about 12-15 people came to my discussion at 3 pm (the next-to-last slot, after people had been leaving all day) and it went pretty well.  Webheads Claire and Holly and Joel Bloch from Multiliteracies were kind enough to come; the others were people I did not know. 

I am at Logan Airport, sitting at the gate waiting for my flight to board in about 45 minutes.  I connected my laptop to the airport wifi, but every time I try to access a webpage (iGoogle, Facebook, Blogger, gmail...) all I get is the stupid airport site. Am I doing something wrong, or is the wifi messed up? I don't know. [I figured out later that wifi wasn't free...:-(  ) So I am back to my Plan B, writing my post on Notepad to be copied and pasted to the blog later. :-(  (and only got around to posting it Tuesday morning!)

After that, I went by myself to get something to eat (a bowl of chowder) while thinking about my discussion, which was scheduled for 3:00.  I was not expecting many people to come; people had been leaving the conference all day (Why would you pay all that money to attend a three day conference, only to spend only two days??).  But I was pleasantly surprised to have around 10-12 participants, most of whom were strangers to me. Claire, Joel, and Holly were kind enough to participate.  I shared the results of the Striking a Balance survey, as concisely as I could, and we talked about the difficulties of finding time to spend online and shared strategies for striking that balance.  I felt pretty good about how the session went.  I was not nervous and managed to keep an eye on the time, so I finished on time. Now I need to write an article about it.

There was one more session after that, and I had planned to help break down the EV, as I did in NY, but I ended up just going home.  I was really tired.  I even forgot to go upstairs to where Berta and her friend Maggie had been presenting to tell her goodbye!  I had to retrieve my jacket from the Security Office; then I walked across the footbridge for the last time and took the T home to Brookline. (I met Mary Hillis on the T, and we took the Red Line together for one stop, so she was the last webhead I saw).

Suffice it to say that the final day of the Convention was good; I went to some interesting sessions, including a mini-workshop at the EV; I saw some people I had not seen yet (Juan Soto, Leslie Sapp), said goodbye to many friends.  After it was over, I was too tired to attend a final session or even (as I had intended) help break down the EV; I hopped onto the T and came home to Bijou's.  TESOL Convention--done for this year. All over but the shouting (and the blog repair, to be done later.) Thanks for reading/blogging with me.

Friday (Nina)

Today was a very different day! It started the same (up at 5, breakfast, catch the T at about 6:20), but it was cold and rainy instead of nice and clear.  I got to the BCEC at 7:00 and checked my coat and umbrella. Then I went straight to the EV, where I was signed up to volunteer until 12:30. I sat at the table just inside the door, welcoming people and answering questions (and uploading yesterday's photos to this blog!).  I made sure to tell people about EVO and the webheads when I had the opportunity.  The time passed pleasantly.
Aiden Yeh came by the EV while I was volunteering!

At 12:30 I met my friends and former colleagues, Karen Taylor (who moved to New Mexico with her husband and twin toddlers last year) and Shirley Thompson (who still lives in Takoma Park MD, but whom I see too infrequently).  We got lunch at the Food Court (I used the $10 coupon in my TESOL bag) and took it upstairs to eat.  Karen and Shirley are starting a business to market their Color Vowel Chart.  They are also hoping to go into the business of training teachers to teach pronunciation more effectively.  We enjoyed our time together, which made me miss the awards ceremony at which Elizabeth H-S received an award. I was very sorry to miss that but glad to have that time to spend with Karen and Shirley.
Karen and me (Shirley had gone to a session)

At 3:00 I went back to the EV for another EV Fair, and I attended Tom Leverett's presentation on Grammar and Technology, For Better or for Worse.  Tom feels that students do not have the language needed to process the information given them by grammar checkers, which are often wrong anyway. For example, if a student writes, "They liked each others", the grammar checker, relying on corpus data, might suggest "other's" as a correction, rather than "other." The student, not knowing the difference, might leave the sentence as "They liked each other's." This is not an errror the student would have made on his/her own, but one that is caused by the grammar checker.  Grammar checkers are imperfect, but students may not have the confidence to override them.
Tom presenting at the EV Fair

At 4:00 I had a ticket to the mini-workshop by Stephen Kraemer, "Improving Spelling with"  I had never heard of this site, which is really good.  The teacher can input a list of words and the application generates materials (including tests and games of different types) using those words.  We had the chance to register for the site and play with it, which was fun.  I noted that it is imperfect, like all software; for example, it generated the sentence "The scrumptious dessert was expensive" for my word scrumptious.  One of the games involved unscrambling the words of the sentence, but when I made the sentence "The expensive dessert was scrumptious," the program said it was not correct.  Oh, well, nothing is perfect, and the site has a lot of potential. Stephen assured us that even his advanced students in a university ESL program enjoyed it, although it was clearly conceived with younger students in mind.

At 5:00, several of us (Aiden, Ibrahimjon, Tom and I) went to the Annual Business Meeting at the Westin Hotel to see the passing of the TESOL presidency from Mark Algren to Brock Brady.  I wanted to go because Brock is a friend of mine (he was WATESOL President when I served on the baord as SIG liaison). As a matter of fact, I also know Mark (from when Karen and I were in charge of Energy Breaks at TESOL 2003 in Baltimore).  In addition to the passing of the gavel to Brock, much was made of the retirement of TESOL Executive Director Chuck Amorosino, who has been in that position for 12 years.  I was glad we went.

After that we met up with Veronica, Buthaina, and two others (Veronica's colleague Cara and another woman named Silence) and we went to dinner at a well-known Boston seafood restaurant called No Name.  It was informal and very crowded but lots of fun. Their New England chowder is famous, so I had a cup even though I had had it for lunch (but the No Name chowder was much better). We ate very well, and no one had room for dessert.

Tom and Ibrahimjon

after dinner

Tomorrow is the last day of the Convention, and my discussion on Striking a Balance at 3:00.  Unfortunately, most of the webheads will have already left! I hope there will be at least a few people there to talk about how to manage our online time better.

Carla, Erika and Ronaldo´s presentation on Friday

A complete sucess, as usual !!!

More pics from Thursday

Doesn´t it show we had a great time together? Huge smiles in every photo !!!