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CALLing you to join us in Kurume

Writer(s): 
David Ockert, Nagano City Board of Education

 

The Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) Special Interest Group (SIG) 2011 Conference, Building Learning Environments, will be held 3-6 June at Kurume University’s Mii Campus in Kurume City, Fukuoka. Kurume University’s facilities are state-of-the-art, providing an excellent venue for our conference presenters, attendees, and commercial sponsors. This year’s conference, with 136 presentation abstracts submitted from thirteen different countries, will be certain to have something of interest for everyone.

Our keynote speaker, Carla Meskill, will be presenting on Saturday. She is a professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Her keynote presentation, Environments for language teaching: Designing online instructional spaces explores the kinds of online environments that language educators design and make use of in their blended and online teaching. Such systems and the teaching processes made possible with them will be discussed and illustrated. Of particular interest are the instructional conversations afforded by such designs and the growing empirical research that supports the effectiveness of conversation-centered design.

Furthermore, we are proud to have two plenary speakers. Our first speaker, Charles Browne, is a professor of applied linguistics and the head of the EFL Teacher Training Program at Meiji Gakuin University. He is sponsored by EnglishCentral. His presentation, Comprehending authentic video: The importance of high frequency vocabulary will focus on the many online resources for accessing authentic video in and out of the classroom, arguing that the gap between the average vocabulary size of typical Japanese EFL language learners and the amount of vocabulary needed to comprehend those videos is usually quite daunting. Browne will begin by developing the argument for the importance of teaching high frequency vocabulary, citing some of his background research on the serious vocabulary gaps that face EFL learners in Japan. Participants will be introduced to an approach for rating the difficulty of videos by their vocabulary content and developing targeted, special purpose vocabulary lists based on corpus research of the transcripts of the videos.

This year’s second plenary speaker, Mark Warschauer, is presently a visiting professor at Waseda University, Tokyo. He comes to us from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), where he works in the Department of Education and the Department of Informatics and also serves as the Director of UCI’s Ph.D. in Education program. His plenary speech, Re-imagining reading in digital learning environments will focus on the fact that the basic block paragraph format of texts hasn’t changed much in the last 1,200 years, but the transition from page to screen allows previously unimagined possibilities. This presentation will introduce visual-syntactic text formatting (VSTF), which uses natural language processing techniques to parse sentences and present them in a way that highlights meaning. Specifically, VSTF breaks sentences up at salient clause and phrase boundaries, fits each row of text into one or two fixation eye spans, uses a cascading pattern to denote syntactic hierarchies, and creates visual clusters across multiple rows that help readers retain and integrate multi-phrase images in their minds.

Research on use of VSTF among both college and secondary students has found that students using VSTF read 20% faster, comprehend 25% more of what they read, and, after an academic year of VSTF usage, increase their reading proficiency in English substantially, even when the proficiency tests are given in traditional block format. This presentation will provide an overview of the transition in reading from page to screen and its importance for English language learning and teaching by illustrating the potential value of VSTF and other new approaches.

This year we hope to have several commercial sponsors both presenting and displaying their goods for your consideration. Their tables will provide attendees with a wide-variety of materials for consideration, and they will be happy to speak with conference goers to share information. Last year’s commercial sponsors included Alma Publishing, Bridge Learning, BTB Press, EnglishCentral, Macmillan Language House, Momentum Education, Oxford University Press, Pearson Longman, and Speedlingua.

All attendees are also invited to attend the networking reception on Saturday evening. Every year, this reception provides a venue to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and enjoy the latest discussion in a friendly atmosphere of technophiles both young and young at heart (Note: the networking reception cost is covered for those who have pre-registered). We look forward to seeing you at the conference. For more information, please visit the CALL SIG website: <jaltcall.org>.

 

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