Sunday, September 22, 2013

New blog: Guangdong in Pictures

For those interested in discovering the southern Chinese province of Guangdong through every-day life pictures, here is my new blog:

I'll try to keep posting some interesting pictures from time to time and add a comment to give some kind of perspective.

Subscribe and share if you like it! :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Need Help to Publish in TESOL and/or Applied Linguistics?

I came across these two documents that would definitely be useful for teachers or researches who want to start publishing in the field of TESOL and/or Applied Linguistics:

Choosing the right international journal in tesol and applied linguistics by Willy A Renandya
This document provides good advice about the approach to find journals which would suit your needs.

Periodicals of Interest in Applied Linguistics & TESOL
This document provides a list of journals in the fields of Applied Linguistics and TESOL (more than 830 journals and magazines). This can help you locate a journal which would best fit your paper.

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Website: Comics English

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been working on a new website:

I created this website so that:
  • English (EFL/ESL) learners can get help to understand comic strips, while developing their English and reading skills. Learning English can be fun as well, and comics certainly help in that matter!
  • EFL/ESL teachers can find interesting, entertaining and useful resources that can be used for teaching.

Enough said here, visit:

Friday, May 31, 2013

Collaborative Asynchronous Writing in the ESL/EFL Classroom

This page had been created to provide an overview of the research literature related to second language acquisition and asynchronous writing. This  will help:
  1. researchers and/or students who look at how asynchronous can influence second language learning; and
  2. ESL/EFL teachers who are interested in wikis and their applications to second language learning in the classroom.


Matsuda wrote in 2003 that “the changing currents in the field of L2 writing are driven by  various  extemporaneous  changes  —  demographic,  technological,  and  disciplinary — and L2 writing researchers’ effort to respond to those changes” (My emphasis. Matsuda, P., Canagarajah, A. S., Harklau, L., Hyland, K., & Warschauer, M., 2003). What is of interest here is how the technological part influences second language writing. More precisely, we focus on asynchronous collaborative writing forms – which mainly consists of wikis, since they present specificities: “Wikis turn traditional CMC activity around” (Warschauer, 2010, p. 5). Collaborative writing involves the use of technology since computers and online communication rendered the process feasible. This project focuses only on asynchronous writing and will not explicitly include synchronous writing research, although this area of research would also deserve some attention.
The new technologies that made collaborative writing possible and widely accessible were mainly developed in the last decade (e.g. Wikipedia was founded in 2000). Consequently, the field of research is only starting to respond to that new technology. In particular, the area of L2 collaborative writing is even more recent; and there does not exist a place online that provide researchers potentially interested in that area with a bibliography of the most relevant research and publications on that topic. This type of resource appears necessary since this particular area of research is fairly young: Warschauer (2010) cites only two references dealing with wikis and L2 writing. This resource website examines the literature that can help us answer the following questions: does collaborative writing benefit second language learners? If so, in what ways?

Collaborative Writing & Second Language Learning (SLL)

Chen (2009)

Chen (2009) conducted a study in an EFL setting in Taiwan. Her study was designed to determine (1) whether students who used wikis during the six weeks of instruction (the experimental group) would score better on listening and reading tests than those who did not; and (2) whether students who used wikis have a different approach to language learning than those who do not. Chen’s results suggest that:

  • The experimental group outperformed those who did not in activities testing their listening and reading comprehension.
  • The experimental group was “more satisfied with the instruction, improvement of language skills, and cooperative learning in terms of support [for] their learning” (p. 68).
  •  Wikis were easy to use and provide a simple way to complete collaborative work.
  • To coordinate efforts related to wiki projects, the experimental group often used face-to-face communication and synchronous computer-mediated communication devices.
  •  Wikis were a powerful tool for the experimental group to “fulfill their role duties, negotiate, cooperate, manage contribution, and learn from each other” (p. 69).

McDonald (2007)

McDonald conducted a case study in a summer EFL school in Japan where the participants collaborated towards the development of a Wikipedia web page. McDonald stresses the fact that web-based projects:

  •  “foster communication with an authentic audience”
  •  “are flexible in subject matter”
  • are “intrinsically meaningful”
  • extend “beyond the traditional audience of classmates and teacher”
  • are motivating because of the use of technology
  •  “promote the development of essential computer skills”
More precisely, in the case study, McDonald claims that the students:

  • were able to use and improve their critical skills to process writing
  • were able to collect various sources and conduct research
  • were able to organize and logically synthesize  information in English
  • were able to revise and edit the writing of their peers
The students also learned some technical aspects of online writing (edit wiki-pages, adding pictures to wiki pages, follow a precise style; and track changes on a wiki).
Overall, the project was beneficial to the students. However, the author admitted to have encountered problems related to the wiki. The student edited pages on Wikipedia. While Wikipedia is probably the most famous wiki example, its writing rules and policies are quite strict and writing on Wikipedia is not as free as it is believed. More precisely, McDonald  had issues with the fact that: (1) Wikipedia discourages original research; (2) Wikipedia also discourages articles of local interest; (3) Wikipedia encourages a neutral point of view; and that Wikipedia does not allow pictures that are not under the GPL license.

Kessler (2009)

Kessler conducted a study in an EFL context with students in TESOL in a Mexican university. The students worked together on a wiki-based project. The main point investigated in this study is to “identify students’ autonomous language learning ability, specifically focusing on their attention to grammatical accuracy throughout the task” (p. 79). Kessler looked at how language learners were able to correct their own writing as well as writing from their peers.

The benefits of collaborative writing in this case are, according to Kessler, that “students are exposed to valuable input from others, encouraged to produce enhanced output, given more opportunity for practice, and provide effective linguistic feedback for themselves and peers” (p. 80); all of which is encouraged in SLA classes.

Because the teacher was not directly involved in the wiki writing process, the students felt that they did not need to be concerned about grammar and syntax as long as it does not impede the meaning: “Although the students were capable of achieving a level of grammatical accuracy in their more formal writing, they seem to consider a web-based collaborative activity to be less form demanding. They tended to defer to meaning, and often even design and style, rather than attend to grammatical concerns. In many cases they were willing to devote a great deal of time altering font and adding links to support the content of sentences that contained numerous grammatical errors. When asked about this observation, some responded that they had no problem understanding the meaning of the sentences in question and, thus, they did not bother to correct these errors” (p. 84). The case would certainly be different if the audience of the wiki was not solely the class, but also included participants other than the classroom community. Students did, however, comment and edit on each others’ writing:  “Considering the high frequency of peer-edits, the students appear confident in their collaboration. The nature of peer-edits also suggests that students were not afraid to critique one another” (p. 90). But they did not consider it necessary as long as the form did not interfere with meaning. It appears that knowing who will read and make changes to their writing does influence the attention students give towards form: “two astute observers mentioned that since they hadn’t been corrected explicitly they didn’t bother to focus on the form of their contributions” (p. 90). Not only meaning was considered more important than grammatical issues: “In fact, students frequently overlooked glaring grammatical issues that they later demonstrated ability to correct, while attending to rather insignificant issues of formatting, font, and other personal stylistic preferences” (p. 90). Although formatting, font and stylistic choices do matter and influence the rhetorical aspect of the writing, they may constitute a distraction for the language learning editing a wiki.

Kovacic, A., Bubas, G., & Zlatovic, M. (2007)

Kovaic, Bubas, and Zlatovic argue that “wikis can be used for collaborative writing and can support various content-based and form-based language learning activities like composition writing, the creation of reports, presentations and graphical pages with links to external sources.” The authors conducted a study with two undergraduate classes in an EFL setting in Croatia to test two hypotheses, both of which were confirmed:
1. “The  use  of  the  wiki  in  ESL  courses  is  positively  evaluated  by  the  students  who perform  various  wiki-based  e-tivities”; 
2. “Various wiki-based activities are not equally evaluated regarding their usefulness and interestingness for the students who have to perform them.”
Kovaic, Bubas, and Zlatovic argue that using wiki in English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and ESL courses can help students:

  • develop their ICT skills
  • learn vocabulary
  • develop their writing skills
  •  be more engaged in the topic and content
  • collaborate online
  • edit their peer’s writing
  •  with their critical thinking
  • be more creative

They warn, however, that using wikis in ESP/ESL courses necessitate “careful planning and preparation, monitoring and moderating of students’ work, as well as reflection and adequate feedback to the students after they had completed their wiki-based assignments.” This correlates to the second hypothesis of this study, which was confirmed. In other words, it is important to assess correctly the needs of the students in order to design activities based on wikis that are relevant to the students.

Franco (2008)

Franco conducted a study in an EFL setting in Brazil to determine whether students can improve their writing skills through the use of wikis. Franco argues that today’s education should embrace (1) technology and help students use it; and (2) cooperative learning. Franco investigated two issues:
 1. “Do learners develop their writing skills if cooperative learning strategies were applied into the digital context, namely through wikis?” (p. 51).
2. “How do learners of English evaluate the process of collaborating in the digital environment to improve their writing skills?” (p. 51).

Franco reports that the wiki project was beneficial to students:

  • Students “became more responsible for their own learning” (p.55),
  •  “Students were punctual to the deadlines” (p.55),
  •  “Students as a whole acquired a better command of writing strategies.” (p.55),
  • Students do not compete against one another but cooperate,
  • Students do not rely as much on the teacher as in traditional settings; they become more independent and autonomous,

Franco’s survey also offers useful information to assess more precisely how EFL students perceive wiki writing projects:

  • “Most students (61.1%) would rather write using a wiki than writing on paper” (p. 53).
  •   “Most learners believe peer-correction is a differential aspect of wikis which makes it inviting” (p. 53).
  • “44.4% of the students claim that they prefer wikis because can spot and correct my mistakes” (p. 53).
  • Most students (66.7%) “claim that it is not time-consuming working with wikis” (p. 53); although
  • More than half of the students (57.1%) “find traditional writing faster” (p. 54).

Franco also observed that students who generally perform well when writing compositions on paper also did well when writing on wikis, and that students with poor writing skills also benefited from the wiki activity since they became more aware of their mistakes thanks to the corrections of their peers.

Warschauer, 2010

Warschauer (2010) gave a brief overview of how new technologies can be applied to language teaching. Warschauer argues that “wikis turn traditional CMC activity around. Whereas e-mail and chat facilitate informal, author-centric, personal exchange, writing on a wiki facilitates more formal, topic-centric, depersonalized exchange” (p. 5). This correlates with others studies that argue that students are more focused on the topic and the meaning, but also with the fact that it creates shifts in terms of authorship in the educational system (Lund, 2008; Franklin, 2007).

Warshchauer indicate that initial research (Mak & Coniam, 2008; Kovacic, Bubas, & Zlatovic, 2007) argue that students who use wikis in second language learning “increase their quantity of writing, develop more confidence in their writing, and find such assignments motivating” (p. 5).

See also:

  • Hampel (2009)
  • Kol & Schcolnik (2008)
  • Mak & Coniam (2008)

Collaborative Learning

Warschauer (1997)

Although Warschauer’s article was published before the advent of wikis, it constitutes an essential theoretical reference to collaborative learning linked to second language acquisition.
Warschauer argues that the sociocultural perspective (cf. Vygotsky) is the best approach to understand how learners:

  • “become competent members of a speech community or social group”
  • “gain important cultural knowledge or content matter”; and
  •  “develop literacy skills or critical thinking skills”
This approach has been advocated by Vygostky who introduced the notion of Zone of Proximal Development (ZDP), in which collaborative learning plays an essential role. More precisely, it through collaboration between students and students or students and teachers that learners are most likely to progress towards their ZDP. Warschauer mentions that there are essentially two distinct approached to this theoretical argument: modeling and text mediation. Text mediation is the interpretation that is the most relevant for our purposes here. Calling on Bayer’s model of collaborative learning (Bayer, 1990), Warschauer argues that “the teacher assists, not as a model but rather as a guide, while students collaborate to ‘make connections between new ideas … and prior knowledge,’ ‘use language as a tool for learning,’ and develop ‘language and thinking competencies’” (Warschauer, 1997, p. 471)

This paragraph in Warschauer’s article is particularly relevant to our purposes here:
“According to Wells and Chang-Wells (1992), the opportunity for cognitive amplification is too often missed in school, because texts are used primarily for performance (e.g., for reading aloud) or for information (e.g., for dictionary look-up). These researchers urge that texts be used  epistemically, that is, treated "as a tentative and provisional attempt on  the part of the writer to capture his or her current understanding ... so that it may provoke further attempts at understanding as the writer or the  reader  dialogues with  the  text  in  order  to  interpret  its meaning" (pp.  139-140). When students attempt such interpretation by writing  down  their  responses, they can "capture those insights and perceived connections so that they can be returned to, critically examined, reconsidered, and perhaps made the basis for the construction of a further sustained text of one's own" (p. 140).
Taking all this into consideration and Lund’s article (Lund, 2008), it becomes apparent that wikis constitute a powerful tool for collaborative learning.

Lund (2008)

Lund considers collaborative work as essential part of society: “Collaborative practices are increasingly seen as keys to going beyond what we know and  developing  the  capacity  to  solve  complex  problems  that  are  typical  of  the knowledge  society  but  beyond  the  capacity  of  the  individual.  Collaboration involves participants jointly working together on a task and not by dividing it into individual sub-tasks that are later assembled” (p. 36). Although the traditional educational system tends to favor individual work and participation, it seems more rewarding in terms of accomplishment for the society at large to accomplish collaborative work. Lund calls for a change of the establish production practices in school through the use of wikis, which involve “epistemological shift” (p. 36). Lund argues that all this paradigm shift is “theoretically linked to the sociocultural notion of sociogenesis – that we come to knowledge by taking part in collective  activities  that  evolve  over  time,  and  where  language  and  material  artifacts function as collective structural resources” (p. 36). This correlates Cress and Kimmerle’s article with the idea that knowledge is fabricated through collaborative learning.

Lund’s article bridges the builds the bridge between the field of collaborative learning and the field of language acquisition, because it analyzes critically how collaborative work is conducted through the use of wikis. In this article, Lund investigates the following research question: “what kind of interdependent activities do learners engage in and what is the impact of wikis on collaborative work in the foreign language learning classroom?” (p. 36). Lund’s assumption is that language is always learned in a context. Consequently, he is right to point out that learning language through the use of wikis will present particularities of its own: “The rationale is that language learning cannot be seen as de-contextualized from the socio-technical affordances and constraints of the wiki  learning  environment  and  that  we  also  need  studies  that  address  such  issues  in order to evaluate language learning processes and outcomes” (p. 36). Furthermore, collaborating on such wiki will create speech communities of their own for which the interaction norms will develop. Lund calls for more study on this issue – both theoretical and empirical studies. More precisely, Lund finds the matter of knowing “how learning and knowledge advancement can be conceived as processes of sociogenesis” (pp. 36-37) most interesting.

Another interesting point in this article is that Lund’s consideration of collaborative work to learn languages marks a departure from the traditional generative grammarian stance which was widely adopted in the field of linguistics after the 1960s. Lund argues that “first, there are epistemological as well as ontological implications. Adopting a sociocultural perspective implies a shift from theories of universal generative grammars, genetic blueprints and innate structures. Instead, there emerges a view of language as cultural conventions and sets of resources, and as a cultural tool that serves to invoke and share attention” (p. 38).

Lund identifies an issue that is involved when implementing the use of wikis in the classroom. Since institutions have traditionally favored individual work, this had encouraged students to write and solve problem individually. Lund argues that “such an inheritance is not easily discarded or transformed. On the one hand we have an object for the activities that is characterized by individual ownership of technologies (pen, paper) as well as finalized outcomes (essays, translations etc). On the other hand we see the emergence of objects that cannot be recognized as the work of an individual and that are always in flux. Task construction and assessment that address collective practices are but two major challenges in the wake of such practices” (p. 50). However, the potential benefits of collaborative writing remain highly valued in this article. Lund reminds the reader that is not necessarily the technology that brings the different but what we do with it. If used adequately – if there are exchanges and interventions from various users and that they build on each other – “the wiki is as much a particular setting or environment for a collective ZPD as a tool that mediates such processes” (p. 42).

Cress & Kimmerle (2008)

This article is in the middle of the field of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning. Cress and Kimmerle argue that wikis are powerful tools that help with the development of social knowledge: “Wikis’ potential for collaborative learning lies in their ability to allow for debate-based learning experiences or to facilitate shaping of knowledge. Wikis can be regarded as media which support learning due to their ability to facilitate collaboration, to allow for design-based learning, to enhance inventiveness, and to support inquiry learning and the co-construction of knowledge.  Overall, wikis can be considered to support social constructivist learning in general” (p. 107).

Cress and Kimmerle’s article provides a powerful framework to analyze how knowledge is built in a wiki. Cress and Kimmerle “combined Luhmann’s systems theory with Piaget’s cognitive theory” (p. 119) to analyze how social and cognitive process between wikis and users influence each other.

Cress and Kimmerle also draw on the process of externalization and internalization, both of which are processes used to create knowledge at the individual level:
Externalization: externalization takes place when contributors to a wiki introduce information on a wiki that reflects part of their knowledge. After such a process of externalization, the knowledge that is present on the wiki somewhat matches the contributor’s knowledge. Cress and Kimmerle argue that externalization is a powerful learning process, since people who externalize their knowledge first have to clarify and organize it. In other words, by going through the process of externalizing one’s knowledge on a wiki, learning is involved. 
Internalization: internalization takes place when readers of a wiki assimilate and integrate new knowledge.

Through an interaction of both externalization and internalization where the new knowledge interacts with prior individual knowledge, new knowledge can be created. Cress and Kimmerle call this type of knowledge “emergent knowledge” (p.112).

The externalization and internalization are processes that take place at the level of the individual. Cress and Kimmerle examine through examples of Wikipedia whether there are “equivalent processes in social systems such as wikis” (p. 107). To do so, they call on Piaget’s model of equilibration. “[Piaget’s model of equilibration] explains how people take in new information from their environment, then how they perceive and encode this information from outside and integrate it into their own knowledge. The equilibrium theory describes the way people try to maintain a balance between the environmental information on the one hand and their prior knowledge on the other hand. If information is new and not in line with existing knowledge this incongruity causes a cognitive conflict. When information cannot be promptly decoded and integrated into existing knowledge, people have to adapt to this new environment” (p. 112). When users are confronted to a cognitive conflict, they can either assimilate the new information or accommodate their pre-existing knowledge. Cress and Kimmerle argue that these processes of assimilation and accommodation take place in wiki environments. Putting all the various processes together, they indentify four different ways of creating knowledge and learning:

  •  “Internal assimilation (quantitative individual learning),
  •  internal accommodation (qualitative individual learning),
  • external assimilation (quantitative knowledge building), and
  • external accommodation (qualitative knowledge building).” (p.113).

Cress and Kimmerle’s article constitute an essential framework to understand how knowledge is built and created through wikis. Although Cress and Kimmerle do not talk about language learning specifically, it could be argued that these processes of externalization and internalization can apply directly to language learning.

Franklin 2007

Franklin’s article indicates how various Web 2.0 technology can implemented in educational setting. The part that relates to collaborative learning deals with wikis. Franklin defines a wiki as “a system that allows one or more people to build up a corpus of knowledge in a set of interlinked web pages, using a process of creating and editing pages” (p. 5).
Franklin also provides examples of how wikis can be used for educational purposes:

  •  “Wikis can be used for the creation of annotated reading lists by one or more teachers
  • Wikis can be used in class projects, and are particularly suited to the incremental accretion of knowledge by a group, or production of collaboratively edited material, including material documenting group projects.
  • Wikis can be used by teachers to supply scaffolding for writing activities – thus in a group project a teacher can supply page structure, hints as to desirable content, and then provide feedback on student generated content.
  • Students can flag areas of the wiki that need attention, and provide feedback on each other’s writing.” (p. 5)
Franklin also illustrates how universities can implement Web 2.0 in their teaching. Franklin’s article touches on many issues (ownership, control, law, hosting, accessibility, security, etc.) that would anyone willing to implement Web 2.0 for an institution should be familiar with.

Cole (2009)

Cole (2009) highlights the paradigm shifts in British higher education. Cole rightly point out that teachers have to adapt to the fact that there is a tendency to move away from “teaching-as-instruction towards student-centred learning” (p.141). Consequently, new technology where users become contributors, as in Web 2.0, presents “student-centred personalised learning environments” (p.141). Cole mentions that these new technologies (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, and discussion forums) create many opportunities for educators to move towards the student-centered paradigm. Cole’s study question was to assess whether wiki can support student’ engagement.

Cole mentions that two theories of learning best support the use of wiki in educational settings: constructivist learning (the idea that learners learn best when they construct their knowledge) and cooperative learning (the idea that knowledge is constructed when it is shared, and negotiated).

Cole taught an undergraduate course in a British university and created a wiki space where the students could post and build together the knowledge they acquire through the course. They were told that part of the final exam would be based on the content of the Wiki. Cole reports this experience as a “failed experiment to use wiki technology to support student engagement” (p.141). The students were not involved in the wiki project and after a few weeks of instruction, there was still not post on the Wiki. Cole conducted surveys and interview to understand why the students were not willing to participate. Here are the main reasons:

  • Educational constraints (too much work for other classes)
  • Technical constraints (students were not sure about how to use it)
  • Personal constraints (students were shy about writing in public)
  • Lack of interest
The author mentions, however, that the failure of engaging students through the use of a wiki is not due to the technology itself, but more likely to an “unattractive course design” where “the integration of a wiki into existing teaching formats is poorly designed and supported” (p.146). More precisely, the purpose of the wiki revealed that the teacher did not completely do away with the teaching paradigm that focuses on content, since the contributions to the wiki were supposed to constitute a collaborative work towards a final content on which they would be assessed.

Franco (2008)

Franco’s article is discussed in more detail in the section related to collaborative writing and second language learning, but there is a quote that is relevant to this section: “when learning is centered on cooperation or collaboration individuals seek outcomes beneficial to themselves and all other group members” (p. 50). Once again, it is interesting to note the audience users write to consciously or unconsciously influence their writing and their learning outcome. It appears that learners’ efforts are more beneficial when their work is not limited to the only person of their teacher.

Leung & Chu (2009)

Leung and Chu reviewed the research literature on wikis. The positive results suggest that:

  • wikis constitute  “an effective tool for collaborative learning  and  writing” 
  • wikis are appropriate tools for “knowledge  creation  and  management”
  • wikis are generally user friendly and not require extensive IT skills
  • wikis easily provide the option of allow users to edit with different rights
  • wikis help students write better when they write together on a wiki

On the other hand, Leung and Chu mention that using wikis do not automatically lead to positive outcomes:

  • it is essential to have appropriate prior training to use wiki optimally
  • both wiki and face-to-face interaction is necessary to improve learning opportunities
  • students do not always interact when they use wikis
  • teachers need to raise students’ awareness about the implications that using wikis involved
Overall, Leung and Chu argue that using wiki needs to be conscious motivated choice, which entails appropriate preparation and planning.

Leung and Chu carried out a study of an undergraduate class in Hong Kong using wikis and analyze the history logs to “understand how students use wiki as a collaborative tool in their group projects.” The class was divided in various groups of 4-6 students, for all of which a group leader was assigned. Leung and Chu’s finding suggest that:

  • group leaders contributed more to the project and felt the responsibility of assignment the students’ role and the overall structure of the page.
  • students interacted through the wiki, but also face-to-face and by email, which is the reason why Leung and Chu argue that “a wiki is used to supplement other publishing and communication tools in the process of collaborative learning.”
  • students consider the wiki more as publishing tool rather than a collaborative tool, although there is collaborative work involves through the wiki when the members of the group edit each other’s writing.
Leung and Chu provides relevant information in the sense that when contributors to a wiki have other mean to interact with each other (face-to-face, email), they will usually prefer to use those means and consider the wiki as a publishing tool rather than a collaborative tool. This is possible only when the contributors to a page are clearly identified and when they are able to communicate through other channels. In the case of a wiki widely available such as Wikipedia, the collaborative role of the wiki would significantly different.

See also

  • Stahl
  • Hampel (2009)
  • Mak & Coniam (2008)
  • Nguyen (2010)

Collaborative writing

//Wikis are used for knowledge-management …as well as for educational purposes; in economical … or in political contexts. Wikis are mostly used to develop written text// (Cress & Kimmerle, 2008, p. 106).

++ Franco (2008)

France posits that “Contemporary theory argues that students should understand writing as a process of constant fluidity” (p. 50). Consequently, it appears are rational to use wikis to highlight that process of fluidity in writing. France argues that “it is necessary to raise students’ awareness on the constant change expected from their language learning skills” (p. 50), whether in their first language or in a foreign language.

To discuss writing in wiki, Franco points out that one should differentiate between “product  writing  and  process  writing” (p. 50), as identified by Thornbury. The product approach focuses only on the final product: what ones read once the writing is finished and completed. However, this approach does not reflect all the processes that are involved in writing. The process approach acknowledges the different steps writing often entails: “planning (generating ideas, goal setting and organising), drafting and redrafting; reviewing, including editing and proofreading, and, finally, ‘publishing’ (Thornbury, 2006, in Franco, 2008, p. 50).” If learners are encouraged and/or forced to accomplish all these steps on a wiki, they could retrospectively look back on all the processes involved when writing and become more aware of the stages necessary to planned writing.

++ Lund (2008)

Correlating with Franco’s point to differentiate between product and process writing, Lund argues that “the wiki does not only document the product of these processes but also documents the process itself, even  over  long  timescales,  as  each  version  of  a  page  is  saved,  adding  up  to  the  full history of its development” (p. 50). The processes that Lund refers to in this quote, however, refer to the collaborative interaction to arrive to knowledge: “A wiki … does not make sense on an individual level. Consequently, wikis embody the essentially sociogenetic Bakhtinian … notions of dialogicality, polyvocality and heteroglossia – that we come to knowledge through adding ours to the many and different voices that envelop us” (p. 50). Lund and Franco’s observations indicate that using wikis is not only beneficial to highlight the evolution of a piece of writing at the individual level but also at the collaborative level, which has strong implications to the notion of sociogenesis.   

++ Cress & Kimmerle (2008)

Cress and Kimmerle’s article directly follow suit to Lund and Franco’s arguments. Cress and Kimmerle posit that: “Besides assimilating information the wiki can also accommodate. This happens when new information is not only attached to the existing information, but the information in the wiki is organized in a new way. Majchrzak et al. (2006) also report activities that correspond to accommodation processes. With respect to the corporate wiki examined by the authors these processes play an important role. Accommodation processes incorporate the integration of ideas which have already been contributed, the reorganization of pages, or the rewriting of complete paragraphs” (p. 113). It is important to note that writing is a the heart of this collaborative process of accommodation and sociogenesis development.

++ Lundin (2008)

Lundin indicates how new teaching approaches in the field of rhetoric and composition lead towards the idea of network and connectivity. Lundin argues that writing is now viewed as a social process and a “networked activity” (p. 432). This has the benefit of “providing real audiences for student writing and emphasizing the situatedness of each piece of rhetoric among a constellation of others” (p. 432). In such a pedagogical framework, wikis become a powerful tool to be used to promote writing as a social process. Lundin argues that although wikis are widely used by teachers in the field of rhetoric and composition, the literature related to this issue lurks behind. In this article, Lundin highlights how wikis challenges assumptions in the areas of:

  • new media composition –  wikis transforms the definition of writing, due to changes in the forms and process of writing; institutions are still reluctant to accept styles of writing other than the essay;
  • collaborative writing – although the transparency of the evolution wiki pages is available through the page history, the notion of authorship seems to cause reluctance to the adoption of wikis (cf. Lund, 2008); wikis have enables “teachers call to experiment with collaboration in all phases of the writing process” (p. 439); wikis also “challenge the mode of composition teaching in which unconnected assignments are written by individuals and read solely by the teacher” (p. 440);
  • critical interaction – wikis are another way students can think critically about each other’s work (of course, not the only one), but the way students can respond is different: students can edit the writing itself, post a response, add other elements, add links, etc. Since readers have the opportunity to edit content, this raises students’ critical skills since they always have to assess what they read and write if they know someone could edit it;
  • online authority – when much of the content and assignment of a class is present on a wiki, Lundin argues that the authority is more equally distributed between the teacher and the students than in traditional settings, something that  “composition scholarship has, to various degrees, attempted to lessen … in order to ‘encourage students to use language to resist as well as to accommodate’” (p. 443). Another issue is that the initial other of a wiki page does not necessarily have a final say with what the message that the last edited version of the page actually communicate. Lundin’s arguments about this notion of authority and the implications that follow seem to be relevant only in the scenario where the teacher has set a wiki as the main medium of interaction with the students and post the assignments and assess student’s writing;

Lundin concludes that:

  • wiki use “could broaden the definition of writing to include new media elements and deep collaboration” (p. 445).
  • “wiki use could help us realize and enact a more fully social view of writing in which each text is, plainly and literally, connected to and developed by a number of people” (p. 445), which is done through writing.
  • Finally, Lundin poses several questions that are related to the use of wikis in educational settings in general and in the field of rhetoric and composition and would call for more research.

++ Morgan & Smith (2008)

In this very short and simplistic article, Morgan and Smith indicate how they used a wiki to encourage students to post reports to “enhance collaboration between student peers, the classroom teacher, and the college students” (p. 80). Morgan and Smith’s observations of the project are summarized in the following paragraph:
“Our experience using the wiki has been entirely positive. The track changes feature of the wiki made the writing process more visible to the students and teacher, and in that way the writing process became emphasized and revision consisted of a continual process of slight collaborative modification. The ease of collaboration strengthened students’ abilities to engage with text as writers and readers. The environment provided immediate, contextualized feedback, thus strengthening the relations among audience, purpose, and structure of the writing” (p. 81).

See also:

  • Farabaugh (2007)
  • Shirky (2008)


The three main sections of this wiki review the relevant research literature that deal with collaborative learning, collaborative writing, and collaborative writing and second language acquisition. All the studies analyzed here except one consider wikis as a tool fostering the development of writing skill through collaborative work.
It is important to remind readers that wikis can be used in many different ways and that each teaching situation being different, it is essential that instructors evaluate adequately the needs of their students and assigns tasks using wikis accordingly. Furthermore, all studies point out that using wikis requires clear organization and planning.
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the “Useful links” section where I hope it could be possible to create a list of possible ways in which wikis can be used to benefits students in their writing.


Adams, M. (2007). The Critical Dictionary and the Wiki World. English Today, 23(2(90)), 9-18.
Barrett, D. J. (2009). MediaWiki : [Wikipedia and beyond] (1st ed.). Beijing ; Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly.
Callis Kristine L. , Christ Lindsey R. , Resasco Julian , Armitage David W. , Ash Jeremy D. , Caughlin Timothy T. , et al. (2009). Improving Wikipedia: educational opportunity and professional responsibility. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24(4), 177-179.
Castaneda Vise, D. A. (2008). The effects of wiki- and blog-technologies on the students' performance when learning the preterite and imperfect aspects in Spanish. Dissertation Abstracts International, A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 69(01), 0187.
Chen, Y. (2009). The effect of applying wikis in an English as a foreign language (EFL) class in Taiwan. Dissertation Abstracts International, A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 69(11), 4300.
Choi, J. (2009). Asian English language learners' identity construction in an after school literacy site. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 19(1), 130-161.
Chu, H. (2005). Critical Thinking through Asynchronous On-line Discussions. Journal of Pan-Pacific Association of Applied Linguistics, 9(1), 117-137.
Cole, M. (2009). Using Wiki technology to support student engagement: Lessons from the trenches. Computers And Education, 52(1), 141-146.
Cress, U., & Kimmerle, J. (2008). A systemic and cognitive view on collaborative knowledge building with wikis. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 3(2), 105-122.
Ebersbach, A., Glaser, M., Heigl, R., & Dueck, G. (2006). Wiki : Web collaboration. Berlin ; New York: Springer.
Farabaugh, R. (2007). 'The Isle Is Full of Noises': Using Wiki Software to Establish a Discourse Community in a Shakespeare Classroom. Language Awareness, 16(1), 41-56.
Franco, C. d. P. (2008). Using Wiki-Based Peer-Correction to Develop Writing Skills of Brazilian EFL Learners. Novitas ROYAL (Research on Youth and Language), 2(1), 49-59.
Franklin,  T.,  &  Van  Harmelen,  M.  (2007).  Web  2.0  for  content  for  Learning  and  Teaching  in  Higher  Education.  Bristol:  JISC.  Retrieved  March  28,  2010  from:
Garza and Hern, 2005 Susan Loudermilk Garza and Tommy Hern, Using wikis as collaborative writing tools: Something wiki this way comes—or not!, Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments 10  (1) (2005) Available: [Accessed: March 28, 2010].
Hampel, R. (2009). Training teachers for the multimedia age: developing teacher expertise to enhance online learner interaction and collaboration. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 3(1), 35-50.
Hasebe, Y. (2006). Method for Using Wikipedia As Japanese Corpus. Doshisha Studies in Language and Culture, 9(2), 373-403.
Kessler, G. (2009). Student-Initiated Attention to Form in Wiki-Based Collaborative Writing. Language Learning & Technology, 13(1), 79-95.
Kitade, K. (2008). The Role of Offline Metalanguage Talk in Asynchronous Computer-Mediated Communication. Language Learning & Technology, 12(1), 64-84.
Kol, S., & Schcolnik, M. (2008). Asynchronous Forums in EAP: Assessment Issues. Language Learning & Technology, 12(2), 49-70.
Kovacic, A., Bubas, G., & Zlatovic, M. (2007). Evaluation of activities with a wiki system in teaching English as a second language. Retrieved from
Leuf, B., & Cunningham, W. (2001). The Wiki way : quick collaboration on the Web. Boston: Addison-Wesley.
Leung, K., & Chu, S. K. W. (2009). Using Wikis for Collaborative Learning: A Case Study of an Undergraduate  Students’  Group  Project  in  Hong  Kong. Paper presented at the Paper  presented  at  the  International Conference  on  Knowledge  Management  2009. from
Lund, A. (2008). Wikis: A Collective Approach to Language Production. ReCALL, 20(1), 35-54.
Lundin, R. W. (2008). Teaching with Wikis: Toward a Networked Pedagogy. Computers and Composition, 25(4), 432-448.
Ma, W. W. K., & Yuen, A. H. K. (2008). News writing using wiki: impacts on learning experience of student journalists. Educational Media International, 45(4), 295-309.
McDonald, K. (2007). Wikipedia Projects for Language Learning. CALL-EJ Online, 9(1).
Mak, B., & Coniam, D. (2008). Using wikis to enhance and develop writing skills among secondary school students in Hong Kong. System, 36(3), 437-455.
Matsuda, P., Canagarajah, A. S., Harklau, L., Hyland, K., & Warschauer, M. (2003). Changing currents in second language writing research. Journal of Second Language Writing, 12(2), 159-179.
Morgan, B., & Smith, R. D. (2008). A Wiki for Classroom Writing. Reading Teacher, 62(1), 80-82.
Münzer, S., & Borg, A. (2008). Computer-mediated communication: synchronicity and compensatory effort. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22(5), 663-683.
Nguyen, L. V. (2010). Computer Mediated Collaborative Learning within a Communicative Language Teaching Approach: A Sociocultural Perspective. Asian EFL Journal, 12(1), 202-233.
O’Reilly, T., (2005). What is Web 2.0? Retrieved March 28, 2010, from
Platten, E. (2008). Gemeinsames Schreiben im Wiki-Web - Aktivitäten in einer untutorierten Schreibwerkstatt für fortgeschrittene Deutschlernende [Activities in an Untutored Writing Workshop for Advanced Students in German]. Zeitschrift fur interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht, 13(1), [np].
Rasmussen, I., Lund, A., & Smørdal, O. (2007). Wiki design for teacher interventions in collaborative production. Paper presented at the 8th iternational conference on Computer supported collaborative learning.
Reilly, C. A., & Williams, J. J. (2006). The price of free software: Labor, ethics, and context in distance education. Computers and Composition, 23(1), 68-90.
Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody : the power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press.
Sorapure, M. (2010). Information Visualization, Web 2.0, and the Teaching of Writing. Computers and Composition, 27(1), 59-70.
Stahl, G. (2007). The role of a wiki in supporting group cognition. Paper presented at the Open Learning Initiative, Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved from
Stahl, G. (2008). Integrating a wiki into support for group cognition. Paper presented at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2008), Utrecht, Netherlands. Retrieved from
Warschauer, M. (1996). Comparing face-to-face and electronic communication in the second language classroom. CALICO Journal, 13(2), 7-26.
Warschauer, M. (1997). Computer-Mediated Collaborative Learning: Theory and Practice. The Modern Language Journal, 81(4), 470-481.
Warschauer, M. (2010). Invited Commentary: New Tools For Teaching Writing. Language Learning & Technology, 14(1), 3-8.
Warschauer, M., & Meskill, C. (2000). Technology and second language learning. In J. Rosenthal (Ed.), Handbook of undergraduate second language education (pp. 303-318). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. Retrieved from:
Wikipedia (2010). Wikipedia: School and university projects Retrieved March 28, 2010, from
Woo, M., Chu, S., Ho, A., & Li, X. X. (2009). Collaborative Writing with a Wiki in a Primary Five English Classroom. Paper presented at the 2009 International Conference on Knowledge Management Hong Kong.
Wurffel, N. (2008). Kooperatives Schreiben im Fremdsprachenunterricht: Potentiale des Einsatzes von Social-Software-Anwendungen am Beispiel kooperativer  Online-Editoren [Cooperate Writing in Foreign Language Education: The Potential of the use of Social-Software Applications by the Example of Cooperative On-Line Editors]. Zeitschrift fur interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht, 13(1), [np].
Zeng, G., & Takatsuka, S. (2009). Text-based peer-peer collaborative dialogue in a computer-mediated learning environment in the EFL context. System, 37(3), 434-446.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rubric for TESOL conference proposals

If you are going to submit a proposal for the annual TESOL conference, you probably want to increase your changes to get accepted. Knowing about what the reviewers will look for can really make a difference. Here is a the rubric that the reviewing committee for the annual TESOL conference will look for.

Proposal Rating Rubric

(1 Point)

(2 Points)

(3 Points)

Very Good
(4 Points)

(5 Points)

1. Currency, importance, and appro-priateness of topic to the field

The topic is not current, and/or lacks importance or appropriateness to the field. It does not appear to be a worthwhile

The topic is only tangentially related to the field, not completely current or important to the field and/or to the potential audience. It may not be a worthwhile session.

The topic may not be completely current or groundbreaking, but it is relevant to the field and potential audience. It might be a worthwhile session.

The topic is current, important, and appropriate to the field and potential audience. It appears to be a worthwhile session.

The topic is cutting-edge, relevant, ground-breaking, or significant to the field and potential audience. It appears to be a very worthwhile session.

2. Purpose, participant outcomes, and session type

The proposal is inappropriate for the session type, and/or the objectives are not clearly stated or implied.

The proposal may be appropriate for the session type. The objectives and participant outcomes may be too general or broad to be achievable.

The proposal is generally appropriate for the session type. The objectives and participant outcomes are stated or implied but may lack sufficient focus.

The proposal is appropriate for the session type. The objectives and participant outcomes are clear.

The proposal matches the session type. The objectives and participant outcomes are very clear.

3. Theory, practice, and/or research

The proposal does not mention theory, practice, or research, or it is unclear how this session is connected to the field.

The proposal provides background references to theory, practice, and/or research, but it is not specific, or it does not relate the theory, practice, and/or research to the content of the presentation.

The proposal refers somewhat to the theory, practice, and/or research on which the presentation is based in an understandable way and relates it to the content of the presentation.

The proposal refers clearly to the theory, practice, and/or research on which the presentation is based in a thorough and comprehensible manner and relates it directly to the presentation content.

The proposal refers specifically to the appropriate theory, practice, and/or research on which the presentation is based in a detailed, thorough, and comprehensible manner and relates it directly to the presentation content.

4. Support for practices, conclusions, and/or recommen-

The proposal makes claims with no indication of the support for those claims.

The proposal makes some stated or implied reference to support, but it is not clear whether sufficient support will be provided for practices, conclusions, or recommendations.

The proposal give some indication as to how practices, conclusions, or recommendations will be substantiated.

The proposal provides details indicating that the practices, conclusions, or recommendations will be substantiated.

The proposal provides ample details indicating that the practices, conclusions, or recommendations will be well substantiated.

5. Clarity of proposal as indicator of presentation quality

The way in which the proposal is written suggests that the presentation may be poor.

The way in which the proposal is written suggests that the presentation may be weak.

The proposal is adequately written but suggests that the presentation that may be uneven or of moderate quality.

The proposal is clearly written and suggests that the presentation will be of very good quality.

The proposal is very well written and suggests that the presentation that will be of professional quality.

Enjoy writing your proposal and good luck being accecpted. I hope this helps!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Skype in the Classroom

About a month ago, Skype in the Classroom came out of beta. What is it? Well, I think it can be used in many different ways. The main idea is to have different teachers/classes collaborate with one another. As for as language learning is concerned, I think it would be quite interesting to have EFL students, for example, interact with English speakers who are also learning the EFL students' first language. In other words, there's room for pilot studies! Give it a try:

About Skype in the classroom

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Using Google Docs to Work on Lists of Vocabulary

Vocabulary Lists
I am not a big fan of vocabulary lists to learn by heart, but one has to admit that they can have some advantages. At the ESL institute where I work, every student is supposed to learn a vocabulary list of approximately 300 words for each level they go through.

Until now, each student had to individually labor through the list – spending considerable time looking up every word that they were not familiar with. I thought that combining all students’ efforts towards that task would be more constructive.

I uploaded the vocabulary lists on Google Docs in a spreadsheet. I then divided the workload equally among students (assigning each student to work on 10-20 words depending on the number of students and words). They had to complete the spreadsheet with the help of (online) dictionaries to provide the following information for each word:
  • Word category (Noun - Verb - Adjective - Adverb - Article - Pronoun - Determiner)
  • IPA transcription
  • English Definition
  • Example (English)
  • A potential translation of the word in their native language

Depending on the level and computer skills of the students, the process can take more or less time to complete the document, but overall the students will certainly save time. I would recommend starting this work in class to make sure that the students know what to do and how to do it, but this activity can easily be given as homework.

I have created one document for the vocabulary of each level at the English institute where I work. I have shared all the links with my colleagues so that everybody has access to the documents and that collaboration is optimal. How are these documents going to evolve over the weeks, months, or years to come? This remains to be determined. I imagine it depends on how my colleagues and the students use these lists.

  • This type of project reinforces collaboration among peers
  • The lists can be shared across different sections of a same level
  • The lists can be passed on to the future students who will be working on these words
  • The lists can keep improving as time goes by (correcting potential mistakes; adding more translations in different languages; more examples; etc.)
  • The students will save time
  • The students can download an excel version of the online document and make changes according to their personal preferences to learn those words
  • The students who build the lists feel they have accomplished something constructive
  • Relatively low computer skills are required
  • And probably some more

With tools such as Google Docs, it has become easier and easier to collaborate. This brings almost infinite possibilities to improve language learning and teaching.

Leave a comment :)

Example - Click Here
One of my classes (level 1) worked on this. By clicking on this link, you have the right to edit the document – so be considerate of their work (although this technically allows anybody with the link to delete or sabotage the content in the document, I always have the possibility to retrieve an earlier version of the document)