Using Siri in the Classroom

This isn’t really a post about how to use Siri in the classroom. Well, it could be. This semester I have a deaf student in my class. He’s fluent in Russian, Uzbek, American Sign Language, and Russian Sign Language. He’s here to learn English. Communication with him involves an interpreter or a series of notes on paper.

Enter Siri. After class, his interpreter had to leave but he still needed to talk. Honestly, I got tired of writing/typing everything. It was slow and annoying. I opened up notes on my ipad mini and started using Siri. I could say whatever I wanted and it would be written in real time. He would then type his response. It sped up our communication and was fun for both of us. Siri, thanks for making my job easier and enjoyable!

Watch this!

Help me win! Watch this video:

I am participating in a competition in Instructional Design at BYU. The first part of the competition was pitching our product to a panel of judges. My team won! For the second part, whichever design team gets the most people to watch their pitch video wins an ipad. Please watch our video. I get 10 points for every unique state or country that views it and 1 point per person. Please tell your friends to watch it too. The deadline for the competition is April 7, 2011 at 11:59pm.

Dana Ferris at BYU

The Linguistics and English Language Department at BYU is sponsoring a lecture series on second language literacy. Today, Dana Ferris was the speaker. It was great to here her speak. She is a very intelligent person with a clear perception of the field. She provided some very helpful insights about teaching. She listed 10 things she feels are the most important in developing literacy.

  1. Extensive reading
  2. Vocabulary Development
  3. Text Selection
  4. Reading Strategies
  5. Reading/Writing Assessment
  6. Peer Response
  7. Teacher Feedback
  8. Grammar Instruction
  9. Written Corrective Feedback
  10. Collaboration Among Faculty

One of the things that I enjoyed about her was her attitude toward working with others. She said we don’t need be prideful and that we don’t need to have a chip on a shoulder. We should be willing to work with English departments and all departments to help ESL student write better. This really stuck out to me. We, as ESL professionals, don’t know everything.

She also brought up some things that teachers do that are “mean.” She said that the high-stakes timed writing is mean. She said that when teachers wait to give feedback until the final draft is “mean.” I agree.

iLife, ESL, and the Past Tense

I recently did a Poster Session at an Apple Education Conference: AcademiX. It was a lot of fun. I thought that I would share what what I did. For more information you can look at the Poster Session PDF.


For starters, this is something that I did with my intermediate ESL students.  In order to help them with them learn the past tense, I gave them an assignment.

The student videos were comprised of two parts. First, the students drew their story as if it were a comic. Second, the students narrated the story.


1. The students were divided into groups of four or five.
2. Each group was assigned one of the four topics:
•    Frightening Experience – Fire
•    Frightening Experience – Car accident
•    Frightening Experience – Getting Lost
•    Most Embarrassing Moment
3. Each group brainstormed to find a good story to tell for their assigned topic.
4. The students then began to take turns drawing pictures to go with their stories.
5. While not drawing, the other students would review and practice their portion of the speaking part.

During this portion the students had great authentic language use.

Brainstorming – The students told personal stories about their past while thinking of good topics. The students negotiated ideas as they decided on a story whether fictional or real.
Practicing – The students were able to use more language as they practiced their presentation. They helped one another and corrected each other.

I should note that this was done over the course of a week. For each class period, they were given 30 minutes to work on the project.

Day 1 – Brainstorming
Day 2 – Creating a Story
Day 3 – Drawing the Pictures
Day 4 – Recording their stories

Putting it all together

1. The students pictures were scanned and imported into iPhoto where they were edited.
2. Students recorded their dialogs using GarageBand, Sound Studio or WireTap Studio Pro. The students used iMacs with their built in microphones.
3. The audio and pictures were imported into iMovie where it was all put together.


It was a fun activity for everyone. It did put a lot of the burden on me to put it all together, but it was worth it.

TESOL Part 3: Everything Else

This is the last in my TESOL series reporting on the 2009 conference.

One thing that I did differently this year is that I spent more time networking and more time in the Electronic Village.

As far as networking, I met some big names in CALL, like Phil Hubbard. That was good. I spent a lot of time talking with publishers. Part of this was me hoping to get a job offer somehow. I actually think that I wouldn’t mind working for a publishing company.

In the Electronic Village, I spent time talking to other tech gurus. It was fun. One of the highlights for me was the Hardware Fair. I finally got to get my hands on an OLPC. Great Idea, but I wasn’t two impressed. It looks like a good idea for children in countries with poor economies. Really, wouldn’t we be doing them a favor by providing something that has a more prolific OS. Even Ubuntu might be better. With the dropping prices in computers and the growing popularity of the netbook, the OLPC and Classmate may soon be a thing of the past.

I also learned about Alpha Smart Keyboards. Basically, they are keyboards that are not attached to a computer, at least not full time. They store the characters in a buffer and are displayed on a screen on the keyboard. When you connect it to a computer, the buffer can be sent to whatever program you have open at the time.

I also played with a Nokia tablet. IPOD touches and iPhones have got this beat. I have nothing else to say about that.

I look forward to playing a more active role in the Electronic Village next year. I hope that I can get funding to attend.

I hope that you enjoyed my brief reports on the conference! Feel free to comment.

TESOL Part 2: The sessions

I didn’t go to that many sessions this year, but I would like to talk about a few.

VoiceThread – I went to a great presentation on VoiceThread. VoiceThread is a web app that allows for group conversations around images, documents and videos. It seems like it might be a great tool for use with language learning.

Audacity – This is a recording tool I have used before. I really didn’t like it. I thought I would go to the presentation and see if my mind would change. It did. Audacity seems to be a program with hidden tools! I may use it again . . . or stick with garage band.

Past, Present and Future of CALL – This was an interesting ‘presentation.’ It was done by a panel of past chairs of the CALL-IS. They each talked about CALL. Some talked about the past and others about the present. Many of them said that it is hard to envision the future. Most dreamed of practical technologies are here. I, however, thing that I can. What will we see is the unification of technology. What does that mean? Well, we will see a unification in data. Think of Star Trek. No worries about compatibility. Need to talk to someone; just say their name and the computer does the rest. We will see an end to contact lists . . . I think and hope. We’ll see, I could talk about this for ever.

Online Resources for Literacy – I actually just happened into this session. It was directed toward k-12 teachers. I found the resources to be interesting, especially for use in lower proficiency students. I’ll be passing some of those links along to our committee that is working on materials for lower levels. I may also review some of them here as well.

TESOL Technology Standards – This was a good presentation. I was there with Neil Anderson and Troy Cox. It is interesting to see how they have organized the standards and have some for both teachers and learners. Once again, this might be something I will review on another post.

TESOL Part 1: My Experience

I really enjoyed TESOL this year. I won’t talk about the things I didn’t particulary like about the conference organization. I think that there were some problems that could have been devastating to my experience. I complained a lot about then, but I made sure I would have an awesome time at TESOL.

How did I do it? Well, that’s a good question. I took a different approach to TESOL this year.

Previous Approach: I wanted to get the biggest bang for my Institution’s Buck. I made sure that I went to all the sessions I possibly could. For example, even if I couldn’t find something I like during the 10am sessions, I would pick the one that seemed the least painful to go to and go to it. This made for a long day filled with unproductive sessions.

New Approach: This year, I only went to sessions I really wanted to go to. I probably went to half as many sessions, but I found it to be much more beneficial. I didn’t go to as many sessions, but I felt like I learned just as much.

How was this more productive?

  1. I was more alert and enthusiastic about the sessions I actually went to.
  2. I found some interesting thing to do when I wasn’t in a session.

What did I do?

I really enjoyed the electronic village. They have presentations, but they are smaller and more hands on. At first I thought that I wouldn’t learn anything, but actually I learned a lot. These activities combined with interviews with possible employers, networking, and quality discussions with publishers, I really filled the gap. This was a great conference!

Check back later for more details!


I got back from TESOL today! It was a great conference. I have lots to post about; I’ll be back on Monday with lots of great stuff!

My Profession

I recently recieved and email from a former student. He is taking a class that is helping students explore various careers. One of the assignments is to interview someone in a profession you might be interested in. He asked me a few questions, and I thought it might make for an interesting post.

1. What do you do?
I teach English as a Second Language, develop ESL Curriculum, and train student teachers.
2. How did you get interested in this type of work? Get started in this job?
I have always been interested in language. I have always known that I wanted a job that would require langauge skills. When I came home from my mission, I took a Spanish class. The teacher was also and ESL teacher and told good stories. That got me interested. Later, I met my wife who was an ESL teacher. I observed her class, and I was hooked!
3. How long have you been doing this kind of work?
5+ years

4. What are 3-5 of the most common activities you do on a typical day?
teach, grade, write curriculum, email, talk to students
5. What is your ultimate career goal?
I always want to teach. In the long run, I want an administrative position that works with language teaching and instructional technology.
6. How did you prepare yourself? Any special schooling, classes, volunteer experience? How much did it cost?
I got an MA in TESOL from BYU. It took a little more than 1.5 years (past my BA) and cost me about $3000 after scholarships.
7. What classes or projects can I do to prepare myself for this career? What is the most valuable thing you learned in college that helped in this career?
Classes: Any TESOL classes. If you want to be involved in this career, you should get a graduate certificate(at least) in teaching ESL.
Projects: Observe ESL classes, volunteer as a teacher or TA
Most Valuable thing learned: not to procrastinate
8. Knowing what you know now, would you take this same career path? Why?
Yes. It is Rewarding! It is fun! It’s what I love to do!
9. What do you like the most about your job?
Helping students learn English, and helping teachers helps students learn English.
10. What are the least rewarding aspects of your job?
Grading long exams.
11. What skills or personal qualities are necessary in this career? • What type of people do you work with?
You should be outgoing, happy, punctual, responsible, understanding, intelligent, willing, and dilligent. You should have experience learning language. These are the type of people I work with.

12. What are other specialties in this career area?
Test Development, teacher training, materials development,
more specific focuses in grammar, reading, writing, vocabulary, listening, speaking, pronunciation, culture

13. Would you advise young people to enter this career area? Why/why not?
If you want to work in the US:
This is a tough question. If you are a woman and are interested in it AND planning on depending on your spouse for your main source of income, definitely. Due to the lack of full-time job opportunities, if you are a man, you need to think twice. Supporting a family may require private insurance and teaching part-time at multiple institutions. It can be tough. However, if you are devoted, go for it. It will take a lot of work to get a stable full-time job, but if it is what you want to do, do it!
If you want to work in other countries:

14. What is the job outlook? What will affect its growth or decline?
The job outlook is always good for part-time teaching. Full-time teaching is much more difficult to find. The number of visas given to applicants in programs and the exchange rate are the main things that affect job outlook. For example, the two countries that provide BYU with the most students, Mexico and Korean, are both having some exchange rate issues with the dollar. In Korea, their money just became half as valuable as it was a year ago. This can really affect the number of students and the number of jobs available.

15. What are the main challenges in this industry?
Visas issued and exchange rates.

16. What do you think one should expect as a starting salary?

17. What is the salary range for someone with 3 years experience? 7 years experience?
3 years: 36k – 50k
7 years: 36k-55k

18. How does your job affect your family and leisure life? How do you balance the many life roles you play (employee, spouse, parent, community volunteer, church worker, etc.)?
It works out really well. I am only obligated to be at the workplace when I am teaching. I am obligated to work 40-50 hours a week. Some weeks I spend 50 hours at work, others only 20 and I do the other 30 at home. I can also work at anytime (besides the classes I teach). I have often worked on curriculum development or grading late at night after family and church obligations are over or early in the morning. I can also use my off-time in the summer to spend with my family and go camping with youth groups in the summer.

19. Do you have any specific advice for someone who is considering entering into this particular profession?
Network. the best way to get a job is to know people, or better yet, for them to know you.
Think carefully if you are going to be the sole income provider for a family. You will probably need to have some special skill to get a job that does not just involve teaching in order to have a stable job with stable income and healthcare benefits.