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(C)opyright 2004 Vance Stevens

Enhancing online communities with voice and webcams Webheads in Action Pre-Convention Institute (PCI) at the annual TESOL Convention, Long Beach
Tuesday, March 30, 2004 from 9 am - 4 pm


Abstract and Summary | Timetable | Equipment | Notes | References

Participants in this session will experience hands-on use of chat (text only, and voice and webcam enhanced) in safe, educator-friendly online environments. Participants receive information on free software, explore techniques and resources for community-building, create lesson plans for their students, and learn the most appropriate uses of synchronous communication resources for language learning.

Abstract and Summary | Timetable | Equipment | Notes | References

Language Teachers around the world are incorporating online components into their classes to offer students opportunities to interact authentically with speakers of the target language. This session will help teachers improve skills needed to meet this challenge by providing opportunities to experience voice and webcam enhanced chat hands-on.

In this PCI, practitioners with experience in a wide range of chat modalities will introduce a rationale for use of chat by presenting case studies providing evidence of the value of chat and its compatibility with curriculum goals. Theory will be discussed after participants have had opportunities to explore ways to use chat with peers online and have some idea of its potential for use with students.

The main objectives of this PCI are:

  • Familiarize participants with a modest level of technology (e.g.Tapped In) and show how easy it is to interact with nearby and remote participants in text-based chat augmented with voice and webcam (e.g. using Wimba and Yahoo Messenger).
  • Extrapolate from interactions with peers in a professional development context to pedagogical advantages of using media-enhanced chat with students.
  • Raise awareness of the importance of developing a sense of solidiarity among students online using community building techniques involving use of images and voices, with YahooGroups as a example of a community portal.
  • Help participants devise projects that can be implemented on return to work/school. Participants will work in groups to develop such projects utilizing chats in their classes.

Presenters will show example class projects to demonstrate a wide range of potentials for exploitation of chat in language learning. Students and teachers enjoy participating in the projects, meeting other students and educators online, and entering an environment that fosters community support and out-of-class language development.

Hands-on activities include:

  • using voice and webcams in chatting with online partners worldwide,
  • creating or joining YahooGroups,
  • and preparing photos and sound files for upload to shared web space.

Handouts will be distributed detailing resources for further exploration and practice utilizing synchronous CMC tools in the context of developing effective and productive communities of practice devoted to language learning.

(346 words)

Abstract and Summary | Timetable | Equipment | Notes | References

Topic Intros and Ice-breaker (small groups reporting to whole-group)
Objective Start on developing sense of community within group to facilitate conditions for scaffolding, get comfortable asking questions

Get settled/set up, introduce ourselves and get people to say who they are and what they use CMC for currently (or why they want to in future).

Prior preparation, something along the lines of


Plan and schedule for the workshop is introduced. Hopefully there will have been some interaction among participants prior to the PCI. In that case, we can pull up participants' blogs (if they've got that far) or have them write out an intro to say who they are and what they use CMC for currently or why they want to in future before the session starts, like when they come in the door, hand them instructions to do that and use it in their introduction and save it to the PC or Mac with intent to posting this on blogs they will create later. Mention that Aiden will be taking photos, as will I. One of the facilitators, any of us, can start a Geocities or Tripod site under the name pci2004enhancing and leave it 'up' on that computer, and we can be uploading pics to the site in order to give each a URL, which we can use later. No small groups yet, as participants will meet in groups later in chat areas


Topic How we use chat (brief presentations by two or three presenters)
Objective Introduce rationale for use of chat inductively through preview of example case studies, so that participants can be aware of evidence of the value of chat before embarking on these sessions, and see that our presenters are experienced with applying the tools we will show creatively. Another purpose of this section is to dispel notion that chat is frivolous and establish that it can fit in well with curriculum goals.
Activity Several of our presenters have engaged students in creative online chat projects, richly documented on the Internet. The presenters will introduce themselves and their projects, and invite participants to turn to their computers and follow along online. Handouts will include case studies and documentation of communities of practice for both professional development and language learning which participants can explore at greater leisure later.

As presenter's projects will be shown in greater depth later in the session, this is simply a preview, though these pages will remain projected for group reference as participants work on the following activities. The idea here is to establish perspective and credibility as well as foster an atmosphere conducive to scaffolding in the first hour of the session. After that we want the participants online and engaged in interacting through chat enabled computers.


  • Dafne's Taxonomy of Chat
  • I wonder if we could get Rita to come on line and tell us about her Vindicating Chat ppt. There isn't time to go through the whole thing, but we can at least move that file to our YahooGroup (with her permission) and she could tell our audience why she created it. Right now it's at - maybe we can get Rita to formalize her bibliography for it. It occurs to me that Rita could be available at Tapped In and discussing her presentation would give students a task for the chat. We could group participants and give each group two or things they must find out from Rita about her presentation. There will then be many questions, some oblique, all getting at answers participants are supposed to glean from a conversation with Rita.
Topic Text Chat with Tapped In (hands on)
Objective Get participants familiar with a modest level of technology in the form of Tapped In and show how easy it is to interact with nearby and remote participants in text based chat. Extrapolate from interactions with peers in a professional development context to pedagogical goals in focused chat with students.
Activity Introduction to text chat via Tapped In and Yahoo Messenger (YM). Participants go to their different computers (ideally each to his/her own, but pairs at computers would work too). With presenter guidance they log on to Tapped In and go to their assigned areas (the presenters' offices). It could be arranged for an online visitor to be waiting in each or some of the offices. Their task on arrival is to interview each other for 15 min in order to then turn away from the computers and report back to the group on anything of interest they found out about each other, and also introduce any remote participants found online during the exercise. They might also comment on any differences in interviewing each other through chat as opposed to doing it face to face in small groups.
Notes Remote participants will be invited members of the online Webheads community of practice joining us from all over the world. We can usually rely on such participation at special online events such as this one. Vance has written TESOL for list of particpants and will prepare instructions at the PoC site (that's Portal of Convenience - this is the PP or Presentation Portal)
10:45-11:00 Break Participants will be informed (if they haven't caught wind already through the YGroups) that the next activity will require someone at their computer to have a Yahoo ID (they will have been asked to have obtained one before coming to the PCI either through the EVOnline session, or email to registered participants beforehand. Many participants can be expected to have a Yahoo ID anyway.
Alternately Anyone who doesn't already have a Yahoo ID, or who isn't activated in the pci2004enhancing group, or who needs a password for TI or any of the other communities, or who wants to start a blog for the purpose of greater involvement in the next activities can be helped during this break.

Topic Voice and video conferencing using Alado and Yahoo Messenger (presentation and hands on)
Objective Get participants familiar with a higher level of technology by showing how easy it is to interact with nearby and remote participants in voice and web-cam activated text chats using the conferencing features of Alado and Yahoo Messenger (YM). Extrapolate from interactions with peers in a professional development context to pedagogical advantages of using media-enhanced chat with students.

Voice chatting at the Alado site is pretty straightforward, but we are using an Alado beta product whose free availability is perpetually in doubt, so there needs to be a brief explanation of voice and video with YM. Vagaries of contacting each other via Yahoo ID and conferencing using YM need to be anticipated. Voice chat requires mention of mic adjustment and troubleshooting, which can be explained in a few minutes and then monitored by presenters as the activity unfolds.

Hands on: participants will contact each other online using voice and video, and locate, talk to, and observe any remote participants joining us. Activities can include: (a) identify an unusual mystery background noise and after speculation on its source have it revealed on web cam; (b) enjoy a rotated web cam tour of remote location premises; (c) info gap activities where answers depend on view in webcam; (d) or construct such an exercise for online participants viewing our webcam(s). Here we can start anticipating here how participants might themselves prepare lesson plans utilizing text, voice, and video enabled CMC tools in synchronous chat. Last 15 minutes of this activity participants will be brought back into whole-group mode (facing away from computers) to report and discuss results of experimentations.

As well as explaining what participants need to know about YM, our handout will detail other options to voice and video besides Yahoo Messenger. These can be discussed, and other chats shown briefly to any of the participants wishing to experiment during the hands on time. We will also need to explain mic adjustment and troubleshooting.


Notes If there are only two or three webcams, then these can pan different groups, each broadcast through a different person's Yahoo ID. If each workstation has a webcam then anyone with a Yahoo ID can broadcast. Participants should also be able to see webcams of remote participants. Webcams will have to be set up on computers before participants arrive. Vance to check with Steve Sharp that there are YM, webcams, mics on all machines.

Topic Introduction to community building (presentation)
Objective Inculcate notion that sense of community can be fostered through use of easy to use, free interfaces to create online portals for students

The presenter will introduce the importance of developing a sense of community among online groups. Techniques for doing this will be mentioned, and the concepts of blogging and YahooGroups will be introduced. Handouts will contain a description of YahooGroups features and provide details on other easy ways to make web pages and set up web sites or web presences (such as blogs).

Other communities will be included in the discussion:

There is a description of these communities here:

Notes The timing of this presentation allows presenters to consolidate the morning's achievements and anticipate activities that will follow lunch, which will be along the lines of: 'now you know what it is, what do you do with it?' Participants will be able to mull over their handouts during lunch.
12:00-13:00 Lunch Break During lunch, presenters will photograph participants with digital cameras and have photo files ready for afternoon activities.
Alternately As chat lines will be open and familiar to online participants by now, some participants in these sessions may wish to explore further the tools introduced so far, create blogs, or experiment with other chat environments mentioned in the handouts.

Topic Community building continued - how we do it (presentation)
Objective Familiarity with socialization process in an online environment; show through example how a web presence can be created to give students sense of pride, ownership, and community

Our presenters will show the best of their class projects developing sense of community; e.g. Aiden and Michael's Fear of Being Too Good project (with voice and video), "What's In a Name", Aiden's project with Arnold Muhren on TPR. It will be evident from viewing these projects that chat has many potentials for exploitation in language learning, and that students and teachers enjoy participating in these projects and meeting other students and educators online, and that they enter an environment that enjoys community support and fosters out-of-class language development.

Other examples:

Notes There are many other examples which we can identify once our proposal is accepted, such as bravenet map tool, etc. Our handouts will document samples of our work that we might not present due to time constraints and desire to involve participants with as much hands-on as possible.

Topic Community building in the Blended Environment (presentation and hands on)
Objective Understanding goals of community building process; show techniques for use with students that help them get to know each other in an online environment

The presentation will elaborate on techniques for helping people know each other through pictures (a little bit on image manipulation, cropping, resizing) and recorded voice (Windows sound recorder, Wimba email, PureVoice). As a hands-on activity, participants will upload photos made earlier in the session to the community YahooGroup. They can also create a sound file and store it in the files area of that YahooGroup. The more experimental participants can create and send Wimba voice mail or PureVoice files by email, or put pictures of themselves on their blogs. Handouts will detail photo manipulation techniques as well as options for creating and sending voice across communities synchronously and asynchronously.




There isn't time to accomplish all that is set out here! If we work on techniques we'll have to take time from something else. I'll need at least half an hour or better, 45 min. and that would be to just point to the more information points. Any suggestions?



Includes break as needed
Topic Project development (brainstorming in small groups)
Objective Help participants come up with projects that could be implemented on return to work/school
Activity Participants can work in a mode they feel most comfortable with. Some might wish to sit in small groups with one or more presenters. Others might by now want to discuss via the online chat forums with other participants, presenters, and remote guests. In whatever mode is most comfortable and productive for them, this activity allows time for brainstorming and planning and initial set-up for their respective projects. Last 15 min the groups come together to report on their plans.

Arlyn comments: "I'm not sure how productive we can really be in getting people to create lesson plans in this environment. More likely participants will ask questions related to how they can adapt the activities shown to their personal situations/populations, given the equipment/limitations available to them. So we'll be offering creative problem-solving, and looking for ways... (truncated email)" Vance: "We will have to provide guidelines in foregoing segments to prepare conditions for facilitation of this activity"


Topic Theoretical issues (presentation)
Objective How do we justify using this with students? Becoming aware of pedagogical justifications for online community creation

We can prepare a cogent and well referenced handout covering this topic in some detail, but will in presentation overview salient points, drawing on our experiences in and reflections on our Webheads in Action EVOnline sessions, as well as PhD studies of communities of practice in general (and Webheads specifically) conducted by Webheads members John Steele and Chris Johnson. Of particular value in this presentation are websites where Webheads members have documented benefits from learning through scaffolding in a constructivist online environment utilizing synchronous and asynchronous CMC tools.

Some examples:

Notes We have conscientiously decided to handle theory after participants have experiential grounding in what chat is and an idea of its potential. "How about making this a discussion, including further chat with online presenters as below?-E chat in small groups first?"-E)

Topic Theoretical issues (hands on)
Objective Explore arguments pros/cons and pitfalls/advantages of using synchronous CMC with students. Exercise and develop skills in what has been learned in working in a synchronous online environment
Activity Participants meet in small group CMC tool of choice (offices at TI or Alado or Learning Times voice or YM voice/text conference - or as we often do, a combination of these) to discuss pedagogical uses of CMC with onsight and online participants and record findings. The groups should be "mixed ability," including both novices and those currently using CMC. Our handout could include a chart for them to fill out suggesting a final 'report to group'. Participants gather ideas from each other and interpret these in context of what they are learning from practice working with topics online. In the last 15 min. of this activity participants face away from computers and report back from each group their list of reasons for using CMC with language students as well as possible drawbacks and how they might be faced.

Participants meet in small group CMC tool of choice (offices at TI or Wimba voice or YM voice/text conference). Discuss TOPIC, record findings.
Notes Elizabeth: Depending on how micro we want to manage, we could devise a chart for them to fill out suggesting final report to group. Can optionally break after 20 min or continue chat to end of half hour.) {I'd swap with presentation above--report here from small groups/chat on the answer to the question, then discuss in whole class mode-E -- "the theory part can come through the chat itself, eh? This is what we did in the mini-presentation at CATESOL. I posed the question "why use chat with students," and Daf and Sus picked up the ball and ran with it. So we have even rehearsed the routine." - Elizabeth / "Discussion of CMC - 45 min. Break into small groups to discuss pedagogical uses of CMC --advantages and disadvantages -- [recall above] "case studies" drawn from our WIA files describing people introducing CMC to students; groups are "mixed ability," including both novices and those currently using CMC. Report back from each group, creating a list of reasons to use CMC and some possible drawback and how they might be faced." Elizabeth
Topic Closure and continuity
Objective Wind down on charged note and suggest ways of proceeding with community online after session ends

We will recap the advantages of pursuing both language learning and professional development as a member of a community of practice. The Webheads projects will be used as examples, which leads to an invitation to continue working with the presenters through these communities using the tools just learned. Handouts will be distributed giving details and sources for further exploration and practice utilizing synchronous CMC tools in the context of an effective and productive community of practice.

Notes Handouts with documentation of CoPs distributed.-E

For comparison, wrapping up the recent TESOL Online Academy 'Enhancing' session:

Abstract and Summary | Timetable | Equipment | Notes | References

Presenters will bring presentation computers with Ethernet cards and expect to configure them to LAN, and expect that firewall should allow delivery each way of voice and video enabled chat packets. Participants will also need IBM computers in any LAN networked computer lab configuration. We also requested additional microphones, a white (dry ink) board, an IBM compatible LCD projector,

[X] IBM base system: IBM compatible (3.5 in.) Pentium/200 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Windows 95, mouse, and color monitor with CD ROM
[X] Other: Please specify. Fees will be indicated in the invitation to present
The specifications on the above computers are obsolete. 64 meg minimum (would be slow) with 128 meg RAM preferred, Windows 98 or 2000 or XP. Computers should be equipped with headsets (headphones, mic in one unit). Video cam installed on each computer or at minimum some computers would help presenters accomplish objectives, though we can still do it without webcams provided by TESOL (we'd have to bring our own web cams and install them to lab computers)

Software required: IE6 browser and Internet access, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, PureVoice
PureVoice was written in on the hard copy of the Professional Development Proposal Form which was faxed to TESOL office but never received May 1, 2003. It was not included in the Word version of the file sent to Lou Leto by email on the same day

Abstract and Summary | Timetable | Equipment | Notes | References

Notes on further development:

Abstract and Summary | Timetable | Equipment | Notes | References

Almeida d'Eca, T. (2004). Webheads in Action (WiA): An online community for professional development – from past to present. Humanising Language Teaching, Vol. 6, No. 1. Retrieved February 13, 2004 from

Alothman, Buthaina. (2003). How participation in a CoP informs and influences personal teaching. Retrieved February 17, 2004 from

Alothman, Buthaina. (2004). First live webcast of project by students (2003-2004). Retrieved February 17, 2004 from

Bonk, C. and Cunningham, D. (1998). Searching for learner-centered, constructivist, and sociocultural components of collaborative educational learning tools. In C. Bonk & K. King (Eds.), Electronic Collaborators: Learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship, and discourse (pp. 25-50). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved February 15, 2004, from:

Coghlan, M. Welcome to Michael Coghlan's website. Retrieved February 17, 2004 from:

Dieu, Barbara. (Feb 2004). Blogging and Presence Online. Retrieved February 17, 2004 from:

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Egbert, J. (2001). Active learning through computer-enhanced activities. Teaching English with Technology Vol. 1, Issue 3 (May 2001). Retrieved February 17, 2004 from:

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González, D. (2003). Teaching and learning through chat: A taxonomy of educational chat for EFL/ESL. Teaching English with Technology, Vol. 3, No. 4 (October 2003). Retrieved February 17, 2004 from

Healey, D. (2001). Are Technology-Using Students Better Learners? Article form of presentation webcast at the Teacher to Teacher Conference: The Process of Language Learning, held in Abu Dhabi November 6-7, 2001. Retrieved February 15, 2004, from:

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Johnson, C. (2003a). CoP Theory Overview. Retrieved February 15, 2004, from:

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