Vance Stevens presents Learning2gether episode 411 on ‘Big G’ & ‘little g’ games for NileTESOL LTSIG

Learning2gether episode #411

Hanaa Khamis, the Learning Technologies Special Interest Group (LTSIG) Coordinator and Professional Development (PD) Committee Chair in NileTESOL, invited me to present a one-hour webinar (interview style) to an audience of 16-18 who attended in Zoom on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Hanaa produced a poster for the event:

The topic was: Gamification: Big ‘G’ vs. small ‘g’

The slides I used for this presentation are here:

The Zoom chat logs are here. In this version I am writing in answers to questions that participants left in the chat during the event:
Check here if you asked a question 🙂

Although it was to be an interview, I prepared for the event by preparing the following show notes:

James Paul Gee has written for decades about game-based learning. To be clear, he rarely, if ever, mentions “gamification”. A search on his papers at his web site, reveals no publications with the word “gamification” in the title. Nor, in the papers I have seen for which full text was available, could I find that word used in any of those publications. There is one slide where the use of the term is attributed to Gee (slide #3 here, where Gee is quoted as saying, without reference, that gamification “has been taken over, at least in America by business,” though I can’t get any hits on these exact words, apart from to this slide, by Googling that quote). Apart from that I’ve come up with nothing from Gee on the record that I have seen so far specifically mentioning gamification. This does not mean that the topic has not been touched on by such a prolific writer on games in learning, but only that it has been hard for me to find where he has addressed the issue.

Gee is known, among other things, for cogently articulating 32 principles of game-based learning, given in Gee (2008b), distilled into the 16 principles listed on the Legends of Learning blog, here:

1) Players build a sense of identity

2) Interaction between the player and the game

3) Production: Gamers help produce the story

4) Risk Taking

5) Customization to competency level

6) Agency: Players control gaming environment

7) Well-Ordered Problems promote mastery/growth

8) Challenge students’ assumed expertise

9) Just in Time information

10) Situated Meanings through experience within game

11) Pleasantly Frustrating

12) System Thinking: players see how the pieces fit

13) Explore, Think Laterally, Rethink Goals

14) Smart Tools & Distributed Knowledge to share

15) Cross-Functional Teams: players have different skills

16) Performance before Competence, not vise versa

On the other hand, people who write about gamification often mention J.P. Gee; e.g.

Mascle, D. (2017). James Paul Gee & Gamification in My Classroom. [Blog post, Jan 2, 2017]. Metawriting. Retrieved from

“Gamification, the use of game-design elements for a non-game purpose, interests me because I do not want my classes to be about the grade. I want my students to stop obsessing over what will please me enough to give them an A and instead focus on exploring and experimenting. Every semester and every class I find myself adding more elements of gamification to my classes because I believe gamification supports learning by motivating and engaging students and it supports writing development. And there is something about gamification that encourages community and collaboration that a traditional grading structure does not.”

I wrote those words about “Why Gamification” in May 2014 and I continue to be struck by how true they continue to be for me. Gamification has revolutionized the way I teach and I strongly urge other teachers to consider the ways they can gamify their classes. James Paul Gee is an expert on the connections between gaming and learning. He notes: “A [game] genre teaches players what to expect and how to play when confronted with a similar game.”

Also, “youngTeacher” (2016), an anonymous blogster who posts copyrighted materials on the Internet (but not me; this is screenshot from his/her blog) …

has this to say about gamification, the word that Gee rarely actually uses …

In the article, “Good Video Games and Good Learning,” James Paul Gee discusses the advantages of video games in learning certain cognitive skills and interpersonal, socialization skills. I found it interesting in the ways this article relates to the rise of gamification in education.

“Challenge and learning are a large part of what makes good video games motivating and entertaining. Humans actually enjoy learning, though sometimes in school you would not know it.” –Gee, 34

Both these writers are typical of what you come up with if you Google the words Gee and gamification. You get hits on articles about gamification whose authors support their points with remarks made by Gee about GBL. These writers don’t mischaracterise Gee’s work. They simply apply what he says about GBL, with validity, to what they say about gamification. I chose them from among many many others because their contributions were colorful.

So what does Gee, actually write about?

One of Gee’s concepts is his distinction between Big G and little g games when played in what he calls “affinity spaces” (and years before he turned his attention to games, Gee was known for distinguishing little d discourse, what people actually say, from Big D discourse, or how what they say fits into the larger social and cultural context shared by others in their discourse community).

Kuhn and Stevens (2017, and also writing about understanding gamification of learning through meaningful play in Minecraft)) used this concept to discuss the language benefits of students using Minecraft to learn languages, suggesting that they were benefiting mainly from the Big G affinity space found on p.4 in the version of the document linked below. They say: “Gee (2008a) distinguishes a little ‘g’ game, the software comprising a game such as Minecraft, from the big ‘G’ Game or social setting where players communicate, collaborate, and share with one another about the game.”

Gee (2011) speaks about the impact of this concept on research into game-based learning. On p.5, he says

Finally, we come to, perhaps, the most important point and yet one that has played little role in the empirical research on games and learning. Some people who have made the claim that games are good for learning are not making a claim just about a piece of digital software (Gee 2004, 2007; Gee & Hayes, to appear). For me and other games-and-learning scholars (e.g., Barab, Zuiker, Warren, Hickey, Ingram-Goble, Kwon, Kouper, & Herring 2007,; Shaffer, 2007) it is important to distinguish between the game as software (let’s call this the “little ‘g’ game”) and the whole social system of interactions that players engage in inside (for multiplayer games) and around the game (this is sometimes called the “meta-game”). We can call the combination of the game (software) and the meta-game (social interactional system) the “big ‘G’ Game”.

and on p. 6: “researchers are not, in fact, claiming that games (little ‘g’) are good for learning. They are claiming that Games (big ‘G’: game + meta-game) are good for learning. Thus, researchers seeking to test games empirically for learning need to specify clearly what was in the game (or games) they tested and what sort of meta-game (if any) was in and around this game or these games.”

Gee is a prolific presence on YouTube and in other recordings easily found on the Internet. It’s not difficult to find him talking about GBL in his own words in any number of online venues. At (2015) one of Gee’s webinars is introduced in this way: “Game-based learning should involve more than a game as a piece of software. It should involve designing what Arizona State University Professor James Paul Gee calls “Big G Games.” In the 50th webinar for the Game-Based Learning community, Gee discussed how Big G Games integrate a game as software with good interactional practices, good participatory structures, smart tools, and an emphasis on production and not just consumption.”

The webinar recording is available:
(just provide an email address and country to watch the recording)

Miller (2013) also interviewed Gee and quoted him as explaining the little g / Big G concept in these words:

“Good game designers produce a well-mentored, well-designed problem space (the software) and help produce and enable interest-driven groups on the Internet that discuss, research, reflect on, mod, and theorycraft the game. This software, and the socially-driven discussion, learning, and productions sites together, are what I call the “Big G game” (software plus learning community). The Sims has, for example, enabled a massive amount of online interest-driven discussion, design, production, writing, and research. Players design things for the game (clothes, houses, environments) and give each other challenges to see if they can play the game in certain ways that are particularly challenging or illuminate a particular theme (poverty). Civilization and many other games have done the same.”

Frías (2012) reports on attending a keynote by Gee and deconstructs the little g / Big G distinction as follows (from the blog post pictured above):

Gee highlights the importance of social interaction as part of the game experience. As Gee indicates «people play together as they share passion to solve a challenge». He distinguishes between the little g game «game» and the big G game «Game». He (2008a: 24) defines both concepts as follows:

  • «The “game” is the software in the box and all the elements of in-game design.»
  • «The “Game” is the social setting into which the game is placed, all the interactions that go on around the game.»

A big G Game is the result of the creation of an Affinity Space plus a set of principles.

  • Gee (2004: 67) defines an Affinity Space as «a place or set of places where people affiliate with others based primarily on shared activities, interests, and goals, not shared race, class culture, ethnicity, or gender» (quotation taken from Wikipedia).
  • Somehow it constitutes a space for informal learning.

Sasha Barab is a well-known researcher on games. At his personal website, where his posts are not dated, he usefully lays out common genres and infrastructures of little g and Big G games, respectively, to help others better understand the concept.

Key genres of small “g” games:

  • Adventure (optimized for enabling students to take on identities and solving problem in an engaging, narrative context)
  • Simulation (optimized for students to experience real-world scenarios that contextualize learning vs. optimized for pure fidelity itself)
  • Strategy (optimized for students to solve complex problems balancing multiple variables to accomplish desired outcomes).
  • Toolbox (Optimized for students to create content with powerful tools to realize diverse goals and develop new media literacies).

Big “G” game infrastructures are open-ended and seamlessly integrate the small “g” games into a larger, flexible ‘meta-game’ structure and affinity space that fosters user-driven extensions and adaptations in support of real-world goals and outcomes. It is with the Big “G” components that we transform individual experiences within a game into a dynamic interaction to enable learning to be applied and extended beyond the classroom walls.

Key components are:

  • Data and Analytics Dashboard (Allow teachers, students and other key stakeholders to not only see data, but also interact with the game and optimize the learning experience based on this data).
  • Social Communities and Affinity Spaces (a framework for engaging in discussion, co-mentoring, tutoring, critique, reflection, “theory crafting”, and designing)
  • Achievement-based framework and gamification layers (carefully designed extrinsic reward systems and intrinsic motivators to focus attention, motivate action and provide a trajectory of advancement)
  • Meta-game identity (framework for personalized avatars, meta storylines, and open APIs that unite small “g” and real-world experiences.
  • Smart tools (tool systems which can be used as templates for real-world applications and move learning beyond the classroom walls)
  • Modding tools (powerful tools, opportunities, and support structures so students and teachers can extend, shape, and augment the core platform)

He further says (to put in machine readable text what is says in the screenshot above, “To be clear, while individual small ‘g’ game experiences can and do achieve learning success, we believe the deeper learning outcomes come through the seamless integration of the small ‘g’ games with a Big ‘G’ infrastructure that both connects and extends each of the individual learning modules.”

What’s the difference between Game-based learning (GBL) and Gamification

Having explored multiple perspectives on little g / Big G distinction, we turn now to gamification, and how it differs from use of the “serious games” referred to in game-based learning.

So what do we mean by gamification?
David Squires (2018) characterises gamification as “motivating people to complete everyday or mundane tasks, helping them to sustain interest and keep up with activities or goals that they find difficult to complete or lack the motivation to keep on track.

If you think of fitness, health and wellbeing apps, badges, stickers, rewards and virtual ‘whoops’ (not dissing this – growth mind-set theories demonstrate the impact of positive strokes), you’ll get the gamification picture.

The best approach is where a game and the game mechanics have learning value of themselves, where learning is intrinsic to the gameplay.

So, in L&D or training terms, gamification is a great way to reward, motivate and sustain interest in repeat tasks, daily procedures or long-term goals – from following a standard operating procedure to learning a language.

It can be applied to anything that might need a boost or extra motivator for people to complete and/or compete. It surrounds a learning intervention (a programme, course, campaign), but – here’s the important bit – it’s not a learning intervention itself.

That’s where game-based learning (GBL) comes in.”

Khidar Bin Abdullah is pictured here giving a talk on differences between games and gamification at the PELLTA conference in Penang, April 2019. I took this picture at a main juncture in his presenation and posted it at

Regarding comparison number 1, where gamification uses game elements to engage, I think that Bin Abdulla means that gamification uses game elements to engage people by motivating them to carry out a series of steps that the game designer wishes them to accomplish. These could be getting them to fly farther by offering them award points and status that will get them into airport lounges, or it could be in getting them to work more at associating a set of vocabulary items with pictures and definitions (as with Memrise, by offering similar incentives: awarding points for success at time on task posted to a game board where high scores are compared across the past week or for all time.

In the case of Memrise there is a learning objective, though it is clearly gamified, and content is placed there by the user, but in GBL, where Bin Abdullah points out that game-based uses games to meet learning objectives, the learning objective is baked explicitly into the game.

Andre Thomas gave a talk on the Effective Use of Game-Based Learning in Education for TEDxTAMU and at this point in this video he gives an excellent example of an immersive game designed for use in a calculus classroom:

Called Variant Limits, it lets the user become an avatar who must apply calculus concepts in puzzle simulations. Game play is controlled to force the player to solve each puzzle designed to help him/her visualize concepts set out in progressively increasing difficulty. Each puzzle requires mastery before moving on to the next step. Here is a video walkthrough of the game.

You can see that the game uses many of the 16 game elements noted above to engage the learner, but it’s not gamified because content is fixed and agency is narrowly controlled. The player does not explore so much as come to a juncture where passage is prevented until an elaborate in-game tool can be adjusted to cause a light beam to shine just so, and only then does a path forward become available.

Trace Effects is another such game for English language learners. Players become the character Trace and essentially resolve puzzles in order to help the learner return to the future,

As to Bin Abullah’s second point (gamification entails points, levels, badges, and achievement; whereas in game-based, learning is achieved by playing the game) Memrise and Variant Limits each do both, though to a different extent. Learning is achieved by playing both games, but I believe Bin Abdullah means that this is the case with Variant Limits because the content to be learned is encountered by each player of the game, built into its design; where as with Memrise, or Duolingo for that matter, learning is achieved by playing the game, but in these cases the rewards lead the user through the content in a more addictive, insidious way than with Variant Limits, where the user might not be so incentivized to race through the game just to accumulate points, a behavior I’ve noted in my students who use Memrise. Another difference is that the content in Memrise can be learned quickly, and even reinforced, but the players often continue playing beyond the point of saturation, and even return to that point to continue playing just for the extrinsic rewards. I imagine students working through Variant Limits do so in a one-off manner. Once a problem is solved, there is no real incentive to return again to the same problem.

By the same token, Bin Abdullah’s point number 3 does not so neatly categorize games (in gamification, learners are motivated by extrinsic awards; whereas game-based is associated with cooperative, digital, competitive, serious educational games, and non-digital). Games falling under GBL are often called “serious games” but ‘serious’ is more an understanding than a definition. Cooperation is possibly stronger in GBL but not unknown to a gamified space, if you consider Minecraft to be gamified. Minecraft cannot be GBL because it contains no content in and of itself, yet it is highly cooperative, and that would stand for any multiplayer ‘serious’ game; e.g. a flight simulator that allows players at a distance to land simultaneously at the same airport working virtually on a server somewhere. Such a game is clearly designed to train a certain content which players will learn while playing the game, but it also inculcates cooperation and competition for air space between pilots and virtual tower operators.

But on the gamified side, point number 3, that players are motivated through extrinsic rewards, seems mainly in the province of gamification, though I recall Nicholas Carr’s brief chapter/interlude in The Glass Cage (2014) on how he struggled and failed over and over again to deliver a load of bodies in a horse-drawn cart from a graveyard into the hands of a grave robber so that he could move on in the ‘serious’ game of Red Dead Redemption. He spoke of how the game had him in the flow, and he simply could not stop until he had mastered the task, and worked intently until he finally, with great satisfaction, achieved it. I don’t think he was intrinsically motivated to operate the horse cart per se.

He would have been intrinsically motivated to reach the point where, by accomplishing this task, the grave robber would put him in touch with the people he needed to contact to proceed in the game. But a teacher observing a student might miss identifying that kind of motivation (and maybe people are intrinsically motivated to earn enough award points so they can finally use the airport lounge). In any event, the short chapter in its 3-page entirety is available for reading online, here (just click on Interlude with a Grave Robber). I recommend it; Carr is an accomplished writer.

Hanaa Khamis gets at the distinction between Gamification and GBL in a series of polls she posted on Facebook

As we see, classifying games is tricky business, since the categories are not really hard and fast, and games that appear to be in one category  often have elements overlapping another.  I myself in writing this out am trying to better understand the classification system, as was Hanaa when she posted a series of polls like this one:

Hanaa’s source for her assessment is Patten (2015), who makes the distinctions shown below:

“Serious game or GBL refers to simulation or unique game that is created specifically to cater to the evident need for a group. They are designed with distinct game paths that are strategically geared toward learning objectives. They comprise immersive experience that enables learners to think and plan logically. A key characteristic feature that distinguishes GBL from gamification is the fact that it balances game playing and subject matter with the aim of retaining and applying the subject matter in the real working environment.

On the other hand, gamification can be referred as a process of applying mechanism of existing game-based elements to learning platform just to increase learners’ motivation. The key characteristic of gamification is that it is a process that takes something that is not a game and makes it a game.”

Patten’s distinctions are useful; for example, where he notes that GBL “balances game playing and subject matter with the aim of retaining and applying the subject matter in the real working environment;”  and I like also the idea that gamification takes something that is not a game and makes it a game. So if we consider language learning to be not a game and embed it in a game matrix such as Minecraft, Memrise, or Duolingo, then we can see where these might be examples of gamification though the first one is a serious game, and the other two contain user content that helps people meet learning objectives by playing the game and competing with one another.

In order to accommodate these notions, further classification would be helpful. Many are now breaking gamification into two separate categories to be able to differentiate structural gamification games like Memrise and Duolingo from ones like Minecraft, where users are able to alter the content.

What is gamification? Karl Kapp’s video suggests there are two distinct types


Kapp (2013) elaborates further on this:

Structural Gamification

This is the application of game-elements to propel a learner through content with no alteration or changes to the content itself. The content does not become game-like, only the structure around the content. The primary focus behind this type of gamification is to motivate the learner to go through the content and to engage them in the process of learning through rewards.

Content Gamification

This is the application of game elements and game thinking to alter content to make it more game-like. For example, adding story elements to a compliance course or starting a course with a challenge instead of a list of objectives are both methods of content gamification.

According to the bloggers at Designing Digitally, Inc. (2019), there are five advantages that both structural and content gamification makes the learning process interactive and engaging by

  • Recognizing and rewarding goals
  • Shortening feedback cycles
  • Providing clear learning pathways
  • Encouraging collaboration
  • Identifying talent

But similarly to Kapp, the Designing Digitally website makes the following distinctions

In structural gamification, game elements are added to the structure of the content, but the content itself remains unaltered. The ultimate aim of structural gamification is to push the learner through the learning process; for example, to make them complete one more task. Through the use of rewards, it motivates the learner to finish the course content.

In content gamification the content is altered to be more game-like by using elements such as challenges, feedback loops, and storytelling without actually turning the training into a game. This technique enhances the learner’s engagement with the material without designing an elaborate game and keeps the content at the forefront of the training.

This leads me to suggest that we might properly classify these games as follows:

Examples of Structural Gamification Examples of Content Gamification

According to this, Minecraft would be an example of  content gamification:

Suppose you are training your students in language learning and you have them play Minecraft without explicitly covering the learning objectives. This would:

  • challenge them to apply their learning and create their own content in the game
  • get them communicating with each other in ways that force them to use the target language in communicative ways to solve problems and challenges as they arise in the game.

To further understand why I have included Minecraft here, see the four example Minecraft Challenges meant for EFL language learners here,

These challenges give students opportunities to read about Minecraft while acting out the tutorials, explore the tools available in the game in greater depth, and create new content in both benign (creative) and dangerous (survival) modes, and then write and speak about it afterwards, and read more in order to probe more what you can do in this almost limitless little g game space. And then there’s the Big G participatory cultures surrounding the game for those who want to branch out, learn from others, and share their knowledge, all in a common target lingua franca.

Here comes the test: Which kinds of gamification are included here? (my example)

Tournaments in medieval times are an example of a gamified learning environment. Consider a knight in shining armor with a lance and a deck of playing cards. He is employed to engage in war, and he spends summers on field campaigns sitting around campfires, talking technique with his fellow knights, comparing equipment, and learning a few tips from squires and other camp hangers-on (an affinity space). Sometimes he plays in Tournaments, a big G Game event, and uses his lance in jousting, a game with a small g.  He also enjoys playing cards. There are pictures of knights, knaves, kings, and queens on some of the cards, but apart from the talk around the card table (card games take place in the affinity space), this game is irrelevant to the big G Games of War or Tournaments.

Is the knight engaging in Structural or Content gamification?

I would appreciate your comments on my examples, even (and especially) if you disagree with my logic. I am not sure who the definitive authorities are on this topic at this point … until J.P. Gee weights in.


Barab, S. (n.d.). Small “g”, Big “G” Games [Blog post]. Sasha Barab. Retrieved from and in pdf,

Carr, N. (2014). The glass cage: Automation and us. New York, NY.: W.W.Norton.

Designing Digitally, Inc. (2019). Structural gamification and content gamification [Blog post, Jan. 30, 2019]. Designing Digitally. Retrieved from 

Frías, E.R. (2012). Gee’s vision on game-based learning, affinity spaces and education. uweaving the web. [Blog post from Aug 27, 2012]. Retrieved from

Gee, J. P. (2008a). Learning and games. In K. Salen (Ed.) The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, pp 21–40. doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.021. Retrieved from

Gee, J. P. (2008b). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy, revised and updated. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gee, J.P. (2011). Reflection on empirical evidence on games and learning. In Toblas, S. & Fletcher, J.D. (Eds.). Computer Games and Instruction. Information Age Publishing.

Kapp, K. (2013). Two types of #gamification [Blog post March 25, 2013]. Karl M. Kapp: Intelligently Fusing Learning, Technology & Business. Retrieved from:

Kuhn, J. and Stevens, V. (2017). Participatory culture as professional development: Preparing teachers to use Minecraft in the classroom. TESOL Journal 8, 4:753–767. and Pre-publication proof available:

Miller, P. (2013). What’s Next? Learning researcher James Gee on games in school. Gamasutra. Retrieved from

Patten, B. (2015). Game based learning and gamification are not the same thing: here’s why [Blog post, Dec 8, 2015]. Memeburn. Retrieved from

Squires, D. (2018). Gamification is… what, exactly? [Blog post, Jan 4, 2018]. TJ Training Journal. Retrieved from

youngTeacher. (2016). Gamification in education & distant reading skills [Blog post, February 24, 2016]. Notes from a young teacher. Retrieved from

More resources:

Deborah Healey’s presentation materials on gamification from the PELLTA conference in Penang, April 2019:

Notice has active links



More announcements on Facebook Groups


Certificate of appreciation



For a recording of the previous webinar in this series, Learning2gether episode #410, from …


Earlier events

Wed May 8 1900 UTC NileTESOL LTSIG interviews Deborah Healey on Teachers as Researchers


Wed May 8 1030 ET – Last of 3 TESOL Webinars free to TESOL members – Multilingualism in the Classroom


Supporting Multilingualism in the Classroom: Teachers Generating Knowledge through Innovative Practice
Presenter: Jim Cummins
Date: Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Time: 10:30 am–12:00 pm ET

Registration Deadline: 6 May 2019

Register to attend or be notified of link to recording:

Register for FREE! (free for TESOL members; $50 for non-members)  


Fri May 10 1500 ET TESOL SLWIS Webinar on A More Just Campus for Multilingual Students

TESOL’s Second Language Writing Interest Section in collaboration with the Conference on College Composition’s Second Language Writing Interest Group presents a webinar: A More Just Campus for Multilingual Students

Date: May 10 2019 

In GoToMeeting; recording will be posted to TESOL’s YouTube channel later


This workshop offers ideas for teachers, tutors, and administrators on how best to support multilingual students. The presenters will discuss how to identify multilingual student populations on your campus; give examples of readings, classroom activities, and assignments that engage with multilingualism and push back on narrow language standards; provide models of learning outcomes and assessment criteria that support multilingual students; and discuss effective plagiarism policies and ways to talk to students and administrators about academic honesty.


  • Norah Fahim is a Lecturer at the Program in Writing and Rhetoric as well as Associate Director at the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking at Stanford University. Her research focuses on the experiences of non-TESOL trained TAs working with an increasingly multilingual student population, as well as the experiences and needs of multilingual students.
  • Jeroen Gevers is a PhD student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona. His research interests are multilingualism, language and identity, and English as an academic lingua franca.
  • Jennifer Johnson is a lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford. Her research areas include: SLA, applied linguistics second language writing and multimodal communication.
  • Greer Murphy is Director of Academic Honesty and Assistant Director of Faculty Development at the University of Rochester. Her current research examines how multilingual writing specialists at diverse institutions conceptualize and represent their labor.
  • Rachael Shapiro is Assistant Professor of Writing Arts at Rowan University, where she teaches courses in writing and literacy studies. Her research focuses on the politics of language and literacy.
  • Jenny Slinkard is a PhD candidate in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona. Her primary research interests are language policy, language ideologies, and World Englishes.
  • Missy Watson is Assistant Professor at City College of New York, CUNY. Her research lies at the intersection of translingualism and second language writing.


  • Betsy Gilliland, Chair TESOL SLWIS 2019-2020
  • Brooke Ricker Schreiber, Chair CCCC SLW standing group 2019-2020

Brooke Schreiber is an Assistant Professor in the English Department of Baruch College, CUNY, where she teaches courses in writing and linguistics.  Her research focuses on second language writing, pedagogy, and teacher training in ESL and EFL settings, as well as global Englishes and translingualism.

Started May 6 and lasts 5 weeks – Heike Philp hosts free Guinevere course on building game activities in virtual worlds



Hanaa Khamis interviews Deborah Healey about Ordinary Teachers as Researchers for NileTESOL LTSIG

Learning2gether episode #410

This posting archives the May 8, 2019 interview conducted by Hanaa Khamis, NileTESOL Professional Development Committee Chair and Learning Technologies Special interest Group coordinator, with Dr. Deborah Healey, current president of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) on Teachers as Researchers. The event was conducted in Zoom and webcast by Vance Stevens, founder and coordinator of


Deborah’s shared resources folder on Google Drive

Including the link to the PDF file she displayed showing classroom-based research resources

One of the images Deborah (screen)shared was to an EVO session on Classroom-based Research for Professional Development

The participants in that session have since produced an eBook
Stories by Teacher Researchers in an Online Research Community edited by Aslı Lidice Goktürk Sağlam and Kenan Dikilitaş (2019)

Zoom recording

The screenshot shows 18 participants including Deborah, Hanaa, and Vance

Announcements on Facebook Groups



Earlier events

Fri 19 April 0100 UTC Vance Stevens – Learning2gether 409 – Thinking SMALL at PELLTA in Penang Malaysia

Sun Apr 28 1300 UTC BrazTESOL Webinar – Marcella Harrisberger on Coaching in support of teachers


There was a catch. You had to have a CPF number (not sure what that is) and indicate that you are either a BrazTESOL member or want to become one; see If the latter, you had to somehow get a CPF number, so in practice, this webinar was available only to BrazTESOL members.

Thu May 2 – Kuwait eLearning Community webinar with Carmen Medina and Jinan Ghossainy

5:00 PM to 8:00 PM Arabian Standard Time Kuwait

According to this url

First Session: Ms. Jinan Ghossainy, Kuwait Technical College

Through the use of technological resources such as videos, students could acquire the target language efficiently. Audiovisual materials like videos are an integral part of students’ lives nowadays, so it makes perfect sense to extend the range of teaching resources by bringing them into the language classroom to engage students. This session will demonstrate how videos can be widely exploited to help students develop all four communicative skills. For example, a whole video can be used to practise listening and reading, and as a model for speaking and writing. Videos can also act as a springboard for follow-up tasks such as discussions, debates on social issues, role plays, reconstructing a dialogue or summarizing. Furthermore, this presentation will demonstrate how the activities can be organized into three main steps. Teachers will also gain knowledge on how to choose the right activities and tools to facilitate learning and acquire effective results.

Second Session: Dr. Carmen Medina, Higher Colleges of Technology, Dubai Men’s Campus

Nearpod is a user-friendly online tool. You can import lessons in pdf or ppt as well as add interactive features. In this workshop, you will be introduced to the free version of the tool. This workshop is intended for teachers who have never used Nearpod and would like to incorporate a new tool into their classroom practice.

Kuwait eLearning Community events occur the 1st Thursday of each month, except in June because of  the Eid holidays we will do it the 2nd Thursday of the month.

If you have any questions or inquiries email
or whatsapp +96595583118.

Mon May 6 11:59 PM UTC VSTE Minecraft Monday tricky maze 40 minute challenge

MINECRAFT MONDAY, May 6th,  8 PM Eastern time, Tuesday May 7 in many parts of the world east of Greenwich, UK

Time where you are:

Minecraft Challenge: Design a tricky Maze, to challenge others (Creative Mode). Try to include obstacles, dead ends and dark passages. Needs to be completed in 40 minutes.

VSTE is the Virginia Society for Technology in Education, VSTE Minecraft Mondays occur the first Monday of every month



Vance Stevens on thinking SMALL at the 2019 PELLTA conference in Penang Malaysia

Learning2gether episode #409

The Penang English Language Learning and Teaching Association (PELLTA, holds its international conference every other year in Penang, Malaysia. I was fortunate to be in Penang for the one in held April 17-19,  2019, and to get a paper accepted there entitled Thinking SMALL: A case for social media assisted language learning, presented in a half-hour slot on the last day of the conference.

CALL is by definition computer-assisted language learning, but computers are integrated into almost everything electronic. Bax argued that computers have become so normalized that the C in CALL is decreasingly descriptive. A better acronym would more accurately characterize the role computers play in language learning.

The purpose of language is communication, and students internalize languages through meaningful communication. Computers excel at facilitating communication among language learners and native speakers of a language, largely through social media. I believe that SM assists LL more than does the old C and over the past decade I have encouraged people to “think SMALL” in recognition of the diminished role of computers vs. how they help learners acquire a target language.

Many other acronyms have been proposed to replace the C in CALL; e.g. MALL, TALL, TELL, etc. In this presentation I review the case I have made in publications promoting SMALL since 2009, and show from my experience how using social media in my roles as editor, collaborator, and founder of several communities of practice helps teachers model productive social media techniques for one another, which in turn can inform their teaching practice.

I announced in my social media networks that my presentation would be webcast as Learning2gether episode #409  live from Penang, Malaysia, where I would present in half an hour a case for SMALL, social media assisted language learning. I noted that since there is too much information in this topic to present it in only half an hour, therefore the presentation would be flipped, in that the full version of the presentation is made available for viewing either before or after the brief version of the presentation itself.

I have been mooting the idea of calling CALL SMALL in the literature and web artifacts posted online since 2009. At the TESOL conference this year in Atlanta I was invited to join a panel on SMALL, the topic which had been proposed as the CALL Interest Section’s academic session at the conference. This event is archived here:

In addition, I have had a proposal on the topic accepted at the CALL Research Conference in Hong Kong this coming July 10-12, 2019.

The talk proposed for Penang is addressed at a different audience than for the two major conferences, and provides a slant on the topic that is unique to the other two presentations. The presentation materials therefore bridge the two and document the online presentations, articles, and recordings I have prepared on the topic so far. By presenting in Penang in Zoom, I intended for this presentation to augment that archive.

In Zoom webcast live from the biennial PELLTA conference at the Bayview Hotel, Georgetown, Penang,, Malaysia

The Google Slides with fully functional hyperlinks are on open access here:

I made two Zoom recordings

Announcements were made at the following Facebook Groups

and on Twitter



Earlier events

Tue Apr 2 thru Apr 5 – 53rd Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition – Online recordings available

4-6 April vLanguages VWBPE Virtual Worlds – Best practise in education

vLanguages @VWBPE Virtual Worlds Best Practise in Education

vLanguages is the new name of long running SLanguages, a web conference in virtual worlds (Second Life, OpenSim, Minecraft). vLanguages joins the highly academic VWBPE conference in Second Life.

Download and read the proceedings,


Tue Apr 9 2000 EST – Grand Opening of VSTE Place Minecraft server

Grand Opening VSTE Place Minecraft server Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at 8 PM Eastern!

The server has been updated and a brand new world spawned. Tuesday at 8 PM we will venture in, explore, and start building a new world. Don’t miss it! Many thankds to DarkJMKnight for his expertise and time to make this happen!


We use Discord for voice.

Join Discord and go to this voice channel.


The VSTE Place IP address is

As a reminder, this server is for educators. If you are using your child’s account to participate please do not encourage your child to use our server.

This Google doc has more info about the server:

Learning2gether asynchronously with the 53rd Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition

Learning2gether Episode #408

The 53rd Annual International IATEFL Conference and Exhibition was held in Liverpool, UK on the 2nd-5th April 2019 this year. It was in Liverpool for those fortunate enough to be able or available to make the trip. For the rest of us, it happened on our computers, whether deskbound or handheld, though the online recordings available of all the conference plenaries and a healthy selection of talks.


Meanwhile TESOL has sent out this email to attendees of its recent conference

If you missed purchasing the TESOL 2019 International Convention & English Language Expo Session Recordings at the convention it’s not too late!

Catch up on over 50 sessions you didn’t have time to attend at the convention, revisit your favorite speaker presentations and continue your professional development between TESOL events. Recorded sessions make great training tools and help you stay current on the trends facing the profession.

Click here to purchase the TESOL 2019 Session Recordings Now!
Attendees are eligible for a $44 discount using the discount code: 2019TESOL

The CALL-IS Interest section in TESOL has been working for years to redress the problem, and is starting to poke its head above the radar. Some of the principle instigators of this effort reported on their work in a recent article in TESL-EJ:


Bauer-Ramazani, C., Meyer, J., Reshad, A., Stevens, V., & Watson, J. (2017). A brief history of CALL-IS webcasting in the new millennium. TESL-EJ, Volume 21, Number 1, Available: Also available at:; pp. 1-16 in pdf.

I addressed the issue of open access to conferences in a blog post last year

In that post I pointed out that IATEFL has been putting recordings of selected conference sessions online since 2011. Just click on a session, and play its recording (for free, no need to log in):

That next to last page is labeled IATEFL Online 2018 and the videos are from 2018, but there is no link to 2019 from the text in bold, Watch recordings of talks from IATEFL 2019 Liverpool. But the videos are from 2018, and the hash tag to the right is hyperlinked to, where there are also a number of videos posted.

Anyway, I admire IATEFL’s spirit of sharing. Here are more recorded resources from IATEFL

And a novel idea for teaching/learning on the hoof blogged by Pearson, Scooped by Nik Peachey

Meanwhile, a search on #TESOL2019 on Twitter,, turns up a wealth of photos, including lots of shots of presentation slides, but no video presentations (at least in the first hundred scrolls).

However, from TESOL, something I first noticed in a tweet from Nathan Hall,

Here is the link to the tweet:

Now, this is a nice gesture. It says you can access the curated virtual issue of the TESOL Quarterly’s TESOL 2019 International Convention & English Language Expo here, for free, here:

BUT only through April 30, 2019

TESOL announced this on April 9 (I looked it up after seeing Nathan’s tweet)

Nathan tweeted on April 10, I saw it on April 13. dozens of others have either retweeted and / or liked Nathan’s tweet, and the news is now spreading throughout the PLN.

But the clock is ticking. You dear reader, might be coming on this in May? or June?? Next year?

TESOL is taking tentative steps, a welcome move, but is still hesitant of putting it’s CONTENT out there, permanently

as IATEFL has done for each of its conferences, and more, since 2011

What about Webinars?

IATEFL and TESOL both hold webinars series,

From the link above “Our monthly webinars are free of charge and are open to both members and non-members of IATEFL so please feel free to tell all your colleagues and friends about them. To register, just click on the link below.”

clicking on the links presents the following

TESOL Members: Free
Global Members: Free
Nonmembers: US$50

Upcoming Virtual Seminars

Past Virtual Seminars

TESOL members can access past virtual seminars for free in the TESOL Resource Center. Select virtual seminars are available to nonmembers for purchase in the TESOL Press Bookstore.

In fairness, recordings of IATEFL webinars are available only to members

The recordings of the webinars below and the slides used during their presentations can be found in the members’ area of the IATEFL website. Please log in using your membership ID and password and then click on “webinars” to access them.

But still, you get my point 🙂

Escape the room! logo

One more note, in the spirit of sharing promoted in IATEFL, Graham Stanley posted to his Google Classroom:
Hi everyone, just wanted to share my experience at the IATEFL conference in Liverpool with you, where I ended up doing a workshop (featuring the Mystery of the Mayan Mask) for 200 teachers. I’m happy to say it went well, and I have shared the presentation here:, I was contacted by a number of teachers who told me they were now inspired to do something similar, and by a couple of teachers who shared with me some of the escape rooms that they have already designed. If I get permission from them, I’ll share the materials with you all here. For me, the iATEFL Liverpool conference was the impulse for exploring escape rooms in ELT, as I put in to talk about them last August, with the idea that I would give myself until this conference in April to decide whether it was something I wanted to explore further.I think the reaction to the ideas has made me want to continue, especially as I see there is so much more that can be explored relating to how best to adapt escape rooms to language elearning and teaching. I hope that some of you feel the same way and look forward to you sharing what you discover here. I’m also thinking about repeating the experience of this EVO session and running it again next year.

Here is a link to the EVO session Escape the Room!!

And my point is?  ???
Sharing fosters collaboration and distribution of knowledge through robust learning networks and should be promoted in a professional organization seeking to educate upcoming generations of global citizens, starting with modeling the appropriate and relevant skills to and among teachers, encouraged through their positions of leadership.

Earlier events

Fri 22 Mar – ELT event at Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University webcast via YouTube

Sun 24 Mar – 4 Apr – VWBPE Virtual Worlds 2019 pre-conference Immersive Experiences

and for a full calendar of events through April 19

And beyond

View Recorded Conference Sessions

Did you miss a Keynote? Were you a little distracted and would like to see a session again? Many of the conference sessions were streamed and recorded by our Stream Team, and may be viewed at the conference YouTube channel playlist


Upcoming experiences April 1-4

Mon 1 Apr 1300 Los Angeles The Queen’s Heroes in the 5 Kingdoms

Past Experiences Mar 24-30

Tue Mar 26 1300 UTC – iTDi hosts Pete Sharma – How to write for digital material

Facebook live with Pete Sharma

We’re thrilled to welcome Pete Sharma for a very special Facebook Live interview event this Tuesday, March 26th from 13:00 – 13:30 UTC.
The event will be hosted by iTDi Co-founder and Director, Steven Herder, and Philip Shigeo Brown, iTDi Director of the TESOL Certificate Course.

Pete’s website:

The recording has been made available for free –

The above graphic links to

ELT event at Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University webcast via YouTube

Learning2gether Episode #407

On Friday, March 22, 2019, the ELT Department at Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University, Turkey hosted an ELT event, and simulcasting all sessions on YouTube. The presentations were in English.

While listening to this event, you can make comments & ask questions using
#boluelt* hashtag.


Morning Session:

The titles of the sessions and the names of the presenters are as follows:

09.15-10.00 Prof. Dr. Gölge Seferoğlu
Turkey’s 2023 Education Vision: Professional development as a mindset not a skill-set

10.15-11.00 – Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kenan Dikilitaş
Cultivating and transforming teacher identity through inquiry

11.15-12.00 – Prof. Dr. Aydan ERSÖZ
How reflective are we?

Afternoon Session:

The titles of the sessions and the names of the presenters are as follows:

14.00-14.45 – Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sumru AKCAN
Rethinking Practicum-related dynamics in Teacher Education Programs

15.00-15.45 – Prof. Dr. Amanda YEŞİLBURSA
In-service and prospective teachers working together to shape the future of ELT in Turkey: Practicum as a working context

16.00-16.45 – Prof. Dr. Dinçay KÖKSAL
Practicum in Practice: Pragmatic Approach

This information was provided by Assist. Prof. Dr. Sedat Akayoğlu
Abant İzzet Baysal University, Faculty of Education
Department of Foreign Language Education, English Language Teaching Program
Bolu, Turkey



Earlier events


Wed Mar 13 through Fri Mar 15 – Catch the live stream courtesy of CALL-IS Webcasting Team


Wed Mar 13 1700-1845 UTC  – CALL-IS Academic Session on SMALL: Research, Practice, Impact of Social Media-Assisted Language Learning


Vance Stevens presentation on Thinking SMALL: A Case for Social Media-Assisted Language Learning


Thu Mar 14 1430-1620 UTC – Best of EVO day 1 – Electronic Village Online 2019


At this event, Jane Chien and Vance Stevens present on EVO Minecraft MOOC

Jane’s slide deck:


Fri Mar 15 1430-1520 – Vance Stevens presents Learning2gether Episode 404 in the EV Classics Fair at TESOL Atlanta


Fri Mar 15 1830-2020 UTC Best of EVO day 2 – Electronic Village Online 2019


At this event, Vance Stevens and Jane Chien present on EVO Minecraft MOOC

Jane’s slide deck:


Thu 21 Mar 1900 UTC – IALLT Online Learning Series – Nina Vyatkina – Incorporating Corpora into Language Teaching


IALLT Online Learning Series – Incorporating Corpora into Language Teaching

Topic: Incorporating Corpora into Language Teaching

Presenter: Nina Vyatkina, University of Kansas

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2019

Time: 12:00pm PST / 1:00pm MST / 2:00pm CST / 3:00pm EST

Webinar Duration – 1 hour


Announced by CALICO on Twitter



Which links you to here




Vance Stevens presents Learning2gether webcasting from 4 events at TESOL 2019 Atlanta

Learning2gether Episode #404

Learning2gether, me, Vance Stevens, spent March 12 through 15 in Atlanta at the 2019 TESOL conference being held there.

As has been the case for the past several years, institutional funding being consistently refused, I have lately been paying my own way to TESOL conferences, as well as to most others I attend. As of last summer, I’ve no longer had an institution to apply to, but I was never concerned in any event, as going to conferences each year is one of my strongest connections to my profession, a chance to hook up and network with valued colleagues, and a passion I cannot resist.

This year I participated in 4 events at the recent TESOL conference in Atlanta. Having presentations accepted and being of service to the CALL Interest Section and its activities taking place at the Electronic Village, are two main draws; being involved in webcasting at the Technology Showcase is one of those services.  Connecting with old (and gracefully aging) friends is another.

Apparently my friends appreciate my efforts; as Christel Brody posted: 


I hope that this post might go some way to explain why I take the time and expense to be at the annual TESOL conference whenever I can make it there.

At this conference, I was involved as a speaker and animateur of 4 events, but the one that I specifically announced in advance as Learning2gether episode #404 took place on Friday, March 15, at the Electronic Village.  


Fri Mar 15 1430-1520 – Vance Stevens presents Learning2gether Episode 404 in the EV Classics Fair at TESOL Atlanta

EV classics are presentations of ongoing projects that have been well received in the Electronic Village at previous TESOL conferences. I was invited to present on Learning2gether in the 2019 EV Fair Classics in the Electronic Village in Atlanta, Georgia.

These presentations are done in two sittings over the course of a 50 minute session. The presenters sit at numbered computers and participants use their programs to select the presentations they’d like to observe, or they just mill about and drop in on anything that looks interesting to them. After the first 25 minutes a buzzer sounds and everyone is exhorted to “rotate”, meaning move on to another session. The conference wifi was weak and my Zoom disconnected toward the end of the first rotation. In order to prevent a repeat of that I ran the second rotation on my more robust T-Mobile Metro mobile hotspot. This resulted in two separate recordings for the two 25-minute segments.

Recording 1,

And recording 2,

Here was the announcement as it appeared in the program,

PC 3 Learning2gether to model collaborative learning for teachers to use with students
Learning2Gether is a wiki and podcast where teachers have organized over 400 free online professional development seminars since 2010. Those present f2f in the EV can interact with online participants in a live Learning2gether episode where they can learn how Learning2Gether came about and sustains itself, and how it expands participants’ personal learning networks and models peer-to-peer informal lifelong learning. Workshop participants are encouraged to join such networks or create their own.
Vance Stevens, Learning2gether, Malaysia (

And here is my handout with QR code:

Here were the announcements I sent out to my online communities of practice

Facebook Groups

Google+ Communities (scheduled to disappear in April, sadly)

Too much covfefe: I think I meant to tweet “in 20 minutes”

Here’s Greg Kessler’s TESOL 2019 Electronic Village Overview

Here are some other sessions I was involved in at the conference

Wed Mar 13 1700-1845 UTC  – CALL-IS Academic Session on SMALL: Research, Practice, Impact of Social Media-Assisted Language Learning

The writeup that was here has been moved to


Best of EVO

This writeup has been moved to

Earlier events

Thu Mar 7 0800 UTC Learning2gether 403 with Vance Stevens on Supporting student writing with the help of voice-to-text

Wed Mar 13 noon PT – Library 2.019 mini-conference on Shaping the Future of Libraries with Instructional Design

The first Library 2.019 mini-conference: “Shaping the Future of Libraries with Instructional Design,” was held online (and for free) on Wednesday, March 13th, from 12:00 – 3:00 pm US-Pacific Daylight Time (click for your own time zone).

This is a conference for librarians, instructional designers and educators to share their work and challenges, as well as for those who believe in the value of integrating instructional design into their practice to help them innovate and evolve library services for the future.

This is a free event, being held live online and also recorded.

If you registered (or can still register), you can view the recording

The event recordings are now on Library 2.0. You need to be registered (free) and logged into the Library 2.0 network to view them. The link to the recordings page is at the top of the front page, and also in the side and top menus.

Instructional Designers, technologists, and online learning specialists are in high demand across all levels of education as it shifts online. In 2004, the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community was established to promote the adoption of instructional design and technology as a vital skill set for librarians seeking to more deeply integrate their teaching and learning initiatives into the curriculum and community. Since then, instructional design and dedicated staff positions to support it, have become more commonplace in and critical to libraries, particularly at colleges and universities, but they are by no means ubiquitous.

This edition of Library 2.019 will bring together the community of librarians, instructional designers and other educators whose work happens at the intersection of instructional design, educational technology, learning, and libraries. This is also a conference for those wanting to learn more about how instructional designers are advancing the educational mission of their libraries and institutions, how the latest innovations in educational technology are being applied in libraries and classrooms, and what we can expect as instructional design and technology transitions from a peripheral to core function within libraries. While the future of libraries may be uncertain and unpredictable, this is an opportunity to explore how library professionals and their colleagues can shape it through the application of instructional design and technology.

Participants are encouraged to use #library2019 and #libraryid on their social media posts leading up to and during the event.

Learning2gether with the Best of EVO 2019 – Blending webcasting onsite and online from the Atlanta TESOL conference

Learning2gether Episode 406

As one of the coordinators of Electronic Village Online (EVO), I organized a pair of marathon blended events on the last two days of the conference where moderators of EVO sessions, some physically present in Atlanta, but many tuning in at a distance through Zoom, came together in the same virtual space that we orchestrated from the CALL-IS Technology Fair in Atlanta and streamed out on YouTube.

The presentations were held over two time slots


  • Virtually in Zoom
  • but physically in the Technology Showcase:
    Exhibition Hall at the annual TESOL conference in Atlanta


  • Thursday, March 14, 10:30-12:20 in Atlanta
  • Friday March 15 at 13:45 to 15:30 in Atlanta

More information can be found, including a roster of presenters and links to their presentations, at our crowd-sourced working document

Videos of all the presentations can be found here:

Thu Mar 14 1430-1620 UTC – Best of EVO (Electronic Village Online) 2019 – Day 1

The Electronic Village Online (EVO): Best of 2019  – Recording:

Fri Mar 15 1830-2020 UTC – Best of EVO (Electronic Village Online) 2019 – Day 2

The Electronic Village Online (EVO): Best of 2019 – Recording:

YouTube does not allow embeds of streamed videos. However there is a helpful link in the video-not-available error message that invites you to “Watch this video on YouTube.” And the direct links above should take you there as well.


This was a very challenging presentation to organize and put on. To organize it I created a Google Doc here,, opened it to anyone with the link to VIEW it, and invited anyone wanting to present to join as credentialed editors. This created a messy document at first, but as with a sculpture, the long-range vision of the artist and incessant fine tuning cleaned up the mess as we headed toward showtime.  A Table of Contents widget helped with organization and created a timetable that proved very useful on the day.

The main challenge with putting it on, converting what is proposed in the Google Doc into a show that will be attractive to a live on-site audience and recorded in YouTube and streamed to a live online audience, is that you don’t know precisely what tools you have to work with and how they will fit together until you arrive at the conference (and discover something you were counting on has not been delivered, or it was there but is being used somewhere else). Yet another challenge is that the tool sets change from year to year in seemingly minor ways, so solutions envisaged from one year’s experience might not apply to the next, and you might not know what has changed that was truly relevant to your plans until you get to the conference and then find out. Finally, once these are known, there is very little time to adapt what you find on hand to achieve the desired result. One relies on faith in others to pull together toward the best outcome possible, and eventually we cross the finish line and give each other well earned high fives.

In previous years, the webcasting team had broadcast to the stream using Zoom to share what was being projected to the room crisply in the stream. This was implemented on the fly at an earlier conference where we had previously tried to show projected slides via web cam. The slides had not been clear to the stream, so someone suggested we use Zoom, and that seemed to be the solution.

So assuming that Zoom would be running on the podium computer, I started my own Zoom on my laptop for the participants to join our session. I was sorry I had done that when I learned that the webcast team was no longer using Zoom for projection purposes, because running Zoom on a computer separate from the presentation one meant that my Zoom room audio was separate from the conference room audio and therefore was causing audio feedback crescendos to the room if I tried to speak to distant presenters in Zoom. On the other hand, running Zoom from the presentation computer would not have been practical because the presenters needed that computer for their live presentations while we needed to manage the distant zoom presenters on a separate computer, sometimes in blended presentations where one speaker was at the podium in Atlanta and the other should join the live presenter at a distance using Zoom as seamlessly as possible. What to do?

Once we got started (Christine Bauer-Ramazani speaking from the podium, Martha Ramirez on deck to join at a distance) we found that due to that serious constraint on audio, our presenters in Zoom didn’t know when it was their turn to speak (you may notice this in the videos). So we worked out hand signals that they could see on my webcam in Zoom.

We had by then realized that the distance presenters were expecting the program to be running in Zoom, where they could not hear us (again, because we couldn’t speak there), so we had to tell them in Zoom text chat, our only way of communicating with them, to tune in to the stream so they could follow our program in Atlanta. We also had to tell them when they did that to mute the stream when they were speaking, because they heard us on a delay which, if they didn’t mute the stream, got fed back to us via their mics so we would hear ourselves a few seconds out of synch as well as their voices in the present moment, which was terminally distracting to the live audience.  Eventually we found a way to make the program run smoothly.

At the end of the day I sent out the following message to the presenters for Friday:

There are some things you should understand if you are joining us in Zoom.

  1. The “show” is in YouTube, not in Zoom. We are using Zoom only to bring YOU to us HERE in Atlanta. The participants will be watching you and listening to you. We are simulcasting on YouTube. To hear us you need to monitor the stream here
  2. When you speak to us in zoom you need to MUTE your stream, or we will hear it in a delay in the auditorium and we’ll have to stop your webcast until you correct it.
  3. We have Zoom running for us to SEE on a projection computer. We cannot use that computer to manage Zoom. I have it running on a separate computer where I can interact with you via CHAT and hand gestures which you can see on my Zoom webcam
  4. When I use audio on my computer in Zoom it creates loud audio feedback. There might be a solution, but that’s the situation at the moment.
  5. So, yesterday, I managed Zoom without being able to speak in it. I can cue you when to speak. You need to watch my web cam for cues and zoom chat for instructions, and monitor the stream to know what’s going on, and TURN THE STREAM OFF or mute it when you unmute your Zoom to speak to us.
  6. You can enter Zoom at any time. You should play your web cam there so we can see you are there. MUTE your mic until we ask you to unmute.

A tech specialist appeared on Friday with a solution to the issue: a box that we could use to funnel room mic to my laptop to replace my mic audio input. This way, I was able to manage Zoom from my laptop but in such a way that I could speak using room audio and they could hear me in Zoom. The only problem then was that they had the box wired to the sound mixer, wired in turn to my laptop, so it was tethered to the mixer on the webcasting table, inaccessible from the presentation computer on the speaker podium at the front of the room, where I needed to be when feeding projection to the stream.

But the solution found for Friday was an improvement over what we had faced on Thursday, and we’re hoping that some of the lessons learned will apply to the next “Best of EVO” event scheduled for Denver in 2020.