Learning2gether with Vance Stevens at MMVC19 – Supporting student writing with the help of voice-to-text

Learning2gether episode 417

On Sunday Aug 4 Vance Stevens presented  “Supporting student writing with the help of voice-to-text” at the 8th annual Moodle Moot Virtual Conference MMVC19, hosted, as always, by Nellie Deutsch. The MMVC19 presentation took place online in Zoom and  Nellie uploaded the recording not long afterwards to this url, https://youtu.be/6QnTds__hf0 on YouTube:

Nellie posted on her Moodle site that we could access the live sessions of day 3 from:

Here is what the Google Doc looked like where my event was listed:

I prepared this presentation as a rehearsal for a live workshop I would do on Friday August 9 face-to-face at the GLoCALL conference to be held in Danang, Vietnam.

Here is the text chat from the live presentation

From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 09:52 PM Hi! This is Besma from Tunisia
From Harshita K to Everyone: 09:52 PM Good evening from India
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 09:52 PM Yes
From haifa aljuaid to Everyone: 09:52 PM yes
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 09:52 PM perfect
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 09:53 PM I remember we met in Mahdia long ago
From Harshita K to Everyone: 09:55 PM Maybe its because of internet bandwidth
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 09:55 PM voice is perfect, I mean
From Me to Everyone: 09:59 PM Here is the URL of the workshop where I met Besma
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 09:59 PM Yes! long ago.
From Zahra Shafiee to Everyone: 10:01 PM Hi Vance, Nellie, and Everyone
From Helen Chenoby to Everyone: 10:02 PM Hi Everyone
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:03 PM Hi Zahra You can go later. It’s in the conference area, too.
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:03 PM please put your link in chat
From Me to Everyone: 10:04 PM
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:04 PM thanks
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:04 PM Thank you
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:05 PM Anna, can you share the link of the discussion form under Vance’s webinar on Day 3 on the Moodle? Thank you.
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:06 PM Good!
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:07 PM Will do it Nellie
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:07 PM Thank you, Anna
From Laxmi Negi to Me: (Privately) 10:07 PM Vance I wanted to upload my documents but could not do it kindly guide me
From Harshita K to Everyone: 10:08 PM Yes
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:09 PM Google docs is amazing for language learning. There are so many Google add ons that you can use to help improve students’ writing and pronunciation, too.
From Hara to Everyone: 10:09 PM Hi Vance. this is Dr. Haraprasad I am a professor of Biotechnology. we have Google tools provided for us but have never tried to utilize the same. Hence wand to learn and optimise my skills
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:09 PM Done 🙂
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:10 PM Google docs is great for collaborative learning. Anna, did you share the link?
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:11 PM Yes I did sharing https://moodle4teachers.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=40511
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:13 PM I don’t see the link to the discussion forum, here, Anna. Sorry Thank you, Anna. Now, I see it. You can also add video conversations of Google docs.
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:13 PM Never tried but will
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:14 PM Anna, but you need to use Chrome not Safari.
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:14 PM OK will try to remember
From Fatima Mohammed to Me: (Privately) 10:15 PM I sent you my Google doc. too late
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:16 PM How can you see what all the students are doing ?
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:18 PM Yes
From Fatima Mohammed to Everyone: 10:18 PM me too
From Lyuba Stoycheva to Everyone: 10:18 PM yes
From Zahra Shafiee to Everyone: 10:18 PM yes
From Harshita K to Everyone: 10:18 PM Yes
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:18 PM yes
From Amalia Tipiani to Everyone: 10:18 PM yes
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:21 PM I have tried…
From Amalia Tipiani to Everyone: 10:22 PM how? it is not clear for me how to do it with the phone?
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:22 PM You record your voice.
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:23 PM super it works with mobile 🙂
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:23 PM I love my phone and using Google docs from there.
From Hara to Everyone: 10:24 PM do I have to download Google docs to create an account
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:24 PM So, the student can use their phone to respond.
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:26 PM is the mike microphone icon on ggogle doc; document?
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:26 PM Yes
From Fatima Mohammed to Everyone: 10:27 PM I shared you mine. where is it?
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:28 PM Vance, why not use the mobile for everything? Why do students need to use a desktop? Fatima, did you share the doc with Vance’s email?
From Fatima Mohammed to Everyone: 10:28 PM yes
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:28 PM need some time to check how it works
From Amalia Tipiani to Everyone: 10:28 PM yes I don’t understand how to put my voice
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:29 PM Amelia, you need to use a mobile device.
From Amalia Tipiani to Everyone: 10:29 PM I would like to know how to do it using the mobile phone because I don’t have an ipad
From Harshita K to Everyone: 10:29 PM Amalia you can download the googleDocs app on android phone
From Amalia Tipiani to Everyone: 10:30 PM thank you
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:30 PM good message Harshita Thanks
From Laxmi Negi to Me: (Privately) 10:31 PM I just share a document with you
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:32 PM You mean students send through google docs and the teacher comments through i PAD?
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:32 PM I just used it on my phone. It works
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:33 PM thanks vance
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:33 PM You need to open the doc on your phone and then speak.
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:33 PM but explain a little more
From Zahra Shafiee to Everyone: 10:33 PM I cannot find a mic icon on the comment box.
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:34 PM but what to do when I have to deal with more no of students at the same time
From Zahra Shafiee to Everyone: 10:34 PM thanks, I got it yes
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:34 PM OK I see
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:35 PM google docs needs more time
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:36 PM The same mic icon appears on you phone. You can also use your watch. Love it, Vance.
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:36 PM Go ahead please
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:36 PM same here Nellie
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:37 PM It’s great, thank you, Vance
From Viviana Diaz to Everyone: 10:37 PM Sorry I´m very late.
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:37 PM I hate my iPad. I prefer my iPhone.
From Laxmi Negi to Me: (Privately) 10:37 PM I didn’t get my answer Vance yet
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:38 PM Hi Laxmi! Did we meet in Morocco for the I-earn conference?
From Judy Wong to Everyone: 10:39 PM I prefer paper… I don’t i* anything 😉
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:39 PM Judy, I do both. I also need paper writing, but screen is fine, too.
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:40 PM no Bassoum, but I would surely love to meet you someday
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:41 PM My handwriting is very poor nowadays. Great idea, Vance.
From Hara to Everyone: 10:41 PM Vance mail I’d to share the Google docs file
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:41 PM Exactly mine
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:41 PM lucky I have got very good handwriting
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:42 PM Hara, it’s in the discussion in the conference platform. https://moodle4teachers.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=40511
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:42 PM sounds good vance
From Amalia Tipiani to Everyone: 10:43 PM Thank you I have already done it in my phone. I have understood how to do it.
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:44 PM This is handwritten Do you scan it to put on google docs?
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:44 PM He speaks it. So students improve their audio skills.
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:45 PM Great approach
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Everyone: 10:45 PM I’m for accuracy.
From Judy Wong to Everyone: 10:45 PM Great idea!
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Me: (Privately) 10:46 PM Vance, your time was up 2 minutes ago.
From Viviana Diaz to Everyone: 10:47 PM yes
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:47 PM yes
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:47 PM yes
From Dr. Nellie Deutsch to Me: (Privately) 10:47 PM 3 minutes ago
From Laxmi Negi to Everyone: 10:47 PM vance
From Anna Grabowska to Everyone: 10:49 PM Thank you Vance
From Zahra Shafiee to Everyone: 10:49 PM Thanks for your great presentation Vance.
From Harshita K to Everyone: 10:49 PM Thank you
From Judy Wong to Everyone: 10:49 PM Nice Vance!
From Viviana Diaz to Everyone: 10:49 PM I´ll watch the recording because I´ve missed almost the whole presentation. Thanks a lot Vance
From Bassoum Marmar to Everyone: 10:49 PM very interesting indeed!

Announcements of this Learning2gether event on Facebook Groups

Just before the event, I posted the following notice to all of the posts I had made in the FB groups above:

My workshop for #MMVC19 is ready for delivery at 1400 UTC today. I have written it all out at this Google Doc, https://docs.google.com/document/d/11GHi_E7u1yfcgsOW7DapcjLr9O9OCWKID3eQm3K9ljA/edit?usp=sharing. You can access the slides here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1DU67TWYqF2MxW0h36Js23upkTZKlw7oLsmVoi5nEUH8/edit?usp=sharing.

If planning to attend, please help me simulate a class for the workshop by doing this:
– Create a document in Google Docs
– Title it MMVC19 and your name
– Briefly, in just two or three sentences, introduce yourself, tell me why you are here, and what you hope to learn in this workshop
– Share your document, for editing, with vancestev which is my Google account.

Thank you, and hope to see you there.

After the event, I posted this notice in the same spaces

Thanks all who attended my presentation. Even if you didn’t attend you can see the complete show notes: write-up, link to the slides, read the chat logs, and replay the video, which is embedded where I blogged the event as Learning2gether episode 417 at
https://learning2gether.net/2019/08/04/learning2gether-with-vance-stevens-at-mmvc19-supporting-student-writing-with-the-help-of-voice-to-text/. Hope you enjoy it.

I also posted something similar on the following forums at
https://Moodle4teachers.org (https://moodle4teachers.org/enrol/index.php?id=249)


This event was one of many at the three day MMVC19 online event

Fri Aug 2-Sun Aug 4 The 8th annual Moodle Moot Virtual Conference MMVC19  hosted by Nellie Deutsch

The 8th annual MoodleMoot Virtual Conference (MMVC19) for 2019 is a free annual online event that will take place August 2-4, 2019.

Badges and Certificates will be awarded to presenters and participants for free.

For more information, see

See speaker details here:

Nellie says, in a related post, “The 8th annual Free MoodleMoot Virtual Conference (MMVC19) for 2019 will take place from August 2-4, 2019. The purpose of the conference is for educators to engage in learning best practices and challenges involved in teaching and learning face-to-face and online (blended and fully online learning) using Moodle and other technologies. The theme of MMVC19 is teaching and learning with and without technology.”

Partipants must enrol in the MMVC19 Moodle site to get access to the live sessions, content before and after the conference, your badges and final certificate for reflecting and presenting.

Enrol here https://moodle4teachers.org/course/view.php?id=249

Day 1 recordings are up on the Youtube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8JUcjyABKxm5uR9lWkqglcyRffHw0Apr&jct=MUQ2GP1owWqNq0v6vXpZnDZcdX1IYw

Sat Aug 3 Day 2 of the conference

You can access the live sessions from Day 2 of the virtual conference from

Please note that the meetings have a code at the end of the link.

The recordings from Day 2 are up on the Youtube playlist for MMVC19: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8JUcjyABKxm5uR9lWkqglcyRffHw0Apr&jct=MUQ2GP1owWqNq0v6vXpZnDZcdX1IYw

I gave essentially the same talk on August 9, 2019, at GLoCALL 2019 in Danang, Vietnam


A few participants tried gamely to document the conference in this twitter feed


Here I am trying to get Google Docs to work on my iPad, and discovering after only a few awkward moments that I had neglected to connect the iPad to the GLoCALL conference wifi in Danang. Photo courtesy of Joseph V. Dias.


Once I had corrected the problem, when participants shared their Google Docs with me during the event, I was able to interact with them afterwards. Here is one of the interesting responses that I got in the comment thread of one of the Google Docs shared with me.

In one of the afternoon session, a Vietnamese presenter commented that the government was pushing Microsoft. Perhaps that is why participants weren’t creating and sharing Google Docs. They might not be all that familiar with it. Or maybe they aren’t that used to interactive workshops. I teach in Hong Kong and I know my local colleagues are still very teacher centred and not comfortable with this sort of student centred, interactive approach.

My response

In my past teaching post, we also had office 365 and I found it quite inferior to google docs. Also, I mentioned that I have records of every student I ever interacted with in my Google Drive, but my records of every student I ever interacted with in Office 365 are gone now that I am no longer in the enterprise system where the MS product was purchased. Also the students I was teaching in UAE were also not used to the close interaction over writing process but since that’s the way I did it they got on board and benefited.


There was a modest Twitter feed active at the conference


Minh’s reply with links to the following videos is here: https://twitter.com/mrminhenglish/status/1160663818021720065

I wasn’t able to find any videos on the “school’s Facebook page” – assuming he means this one, https://www.facebook.com/pg/University-of-foreign-language-DaNang-739336339473227/ (but the newest posts there are from 2014)

Please note Minh’s admonition that the videos are not “public”  – however when I paste the links below (from the post above) WordPress opens them automatically.

Opening Ceremony & Plenary Session #1

Plenary Session #2

Plenary Session #3

Plenary Session #4

Earlier events


Fri, July 12, 2019 – Vance Stevens receives the Lifelong Achievement Award for 2019 at the CALL Research Conference in Hong Kong


Sun July 14 – Reach2Share Summer Conference

My social networks are lighting up with artifacts showing webinars that, when I find out about, have already happened

Reach2share is based here, https://reach2share.com/. There are tabs at the top that page pointing to blog, https://reach2share.com/community/l and community. The community space points to a Facebook Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/reach2share/ That’s where the conference announcements are. In order to join the group, you must first join the community Moodle.

The Facebook page invites you to register yourself at the Zoom meetings.

These meetings appear to have taken place July 14. I just discovered that I was sent a message on Twitter July 9 inviting me to this meeting. I only saw it a week later, my bad 😦

Ah, the courses themselves are not free

I wish Nellie and her presenters all success and in no way disagree with paid courses or fair compensation to presenters. This is a step in the right direction, and is further evidence of Nellie Deutsch’s  commitment to both her network of presenters and to continuing to provide both free and paid content to their audience 🙂


July 20 1300 UTC NNEST webinar on The NNEST Movement – Foundations and New Directions

Ana Solano-Campos has announced on myTESOL Lounge July 12, 2019

that NNEST is holding their first webinar of the year: “The NNEST Movement: Foundations and New Directions.”

Please RSVP via the following link:


According to the link,

The purpose of the webinar is to (re)introduce members to the NNEST movement and to explore the different theoretical perspectives framing the study of marginalization and privilege in ELT. There are three guest speakers:

  • Dr. Lia Kahmi-Stein, California State University
  • Yasemin Tezgiden, Winner of the 2019 Outstanding Paper in NNEST Issues, Middle East Technical University
  • Seyma Toker, NNEST IS newsletter Co-Editor, Georgetown University

THey will address topics such as “what is native speakerism?” “how is the term ‘native speaker’ understood?” “what should I know about how people position themselves and are positioned by others as ‘native’ or ‘nonnative’ speakers?” “what new scholarship has emerged in our field?”why is knowing more about native speakerism important for my role as an ELT professional?”

As she has announced to all and encouraged all to share, I believe that all are welcome at this event, that it is not restricted to TESOL members



Vance Stevens receives the Lifelong Achievement Award for 2019 at the CALL Research Conference in Hong Kong

Learning2gether Episode #416

I was supposed to attend the CALL Research Conference in Hong Kong in person, was on track to go there and very much looking forward to it, when something unavoidable came up and I had to cancel my trip. When I contacted Jozef Colpaert, the guiding spirit at the CALL Journal and annual research conference to tell him I would have to miss an editorial board meeting on the first day, followed by my own presentation, plus taking my seat on a reviewer’s panel on the final day of the conference, he took a couple of days to respond.

When he finally replied, he pointed out that there was one other event I had failed to consider, and that was my appearance at the closing ceremony where, I wasn’t supposed to know this, but a jury had selected me to be the recipient of the CALL Research Conference Lifetime Achievement Award for 2019. Another complication was that rules stipulate that the recipient must be present at the conference BUT as I had paid my registration fees, had been fully intending to come, and was legitimately prevented from traveling, and after all, this WAS a conference whose theme was Social CALL, perhaps I could receive the award via Skype.

The video shows what happened next. Jozef convened the closing assembly and handed off to my good friend and colleague, and 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Phil Hubbard, who gave what he said was the talk he would have given the previous year had he not been taken so by surprise at the time. After his remarks, he set about introducing me, and mentioned three of my websites in particular. I mentioned these in the post I made on Facebook after I had made a recording of the ceremony and posted it there.


This says: “I was honored and humbled to be awarded this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award for my contributions to computer-assisted language learning at the closing ceremony of the #CALL2019 Research Conference in Hong Kong today. I used Camtasia to record the event as it transpired in Skype: https://youtu.be/djNE0rzqCSI.”

Specifically cited were three of my websites

I said in my post that I was grateful to all concerned (I meant when I posted that, my colleagues at the conference) but now, a day later, also to all those who responded to my post. So far, in just one day, there are over 150 likes and almost 100 comments (at last count, up to 215 likes and 128 comments). The outpouring is heartwarming. But as I said in one of my replies to my own post, this award is for a collective endeavor:

Thanks everyone, I am a part of many deeply and broadly populated communities of practice that have made my work possible. I simply represent the people who have responded here. The award is deserved by all in these communities

Meanwhile Jozef had been kind enough to allow me to deliver from a distance my paper that had been accepted at the conference, “Thinking SMALL about social media assisted language learning,” in Zoom during its normal presentation slot two days earlier. As usual I had put online my prose preparation for the talk, the slides I created from those notes with all the URLs I referred to hyperlinked, plus recordings of me giving the presentation in both video and audio format, and called it Learning2gether episode #415:

I was going to append my award video to the bottom of that post but I decided instead to make it into a separate Learning2gether episode. After all, it’s not often one gets the chance to indulge oneself like that, at least not in my life.

As Phil mentioned in his introduction, his being awarded the same honor last year doesn’t mean that it’s all the icing on the cake of life served each person at birth. It’s just the start of what we have left to deliver in our time remaining in which to continue the story with more if not better accomplishments.

Here is the award ceremony as seen through lenses recording the event in Hong Kong

Here is 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Philip Hubbard making some opening remarks and introducing my lifetime achievements


Here, the award is being made, the audience claps

Phil shows me the award where I virtually “receive” it in Penang


Here, Prof. Dr. Jozef Colpaert shows me the audience


And here, the audience poses at the conclusion of the closing ceremony


Here is the paper version of the award


Here is me receiving the physical award in my home in Penang



Follow the Twitter posts on #CALL2019 here


Earlier events

Wed July 10- Vance Stevens presenting at the CALL Research Conference Hong Kong on Social CALL




Thinking SMALL about social media assisted language learning – Vance Stevens presenting at the 2019 CALL Research Conference, Hong Kong

Learning2gether Episode #415

My proposal was accepted at the Social CALL: The XXth International CALL Research Conference at the Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 10-12 July 2019, https://www.call2019.org/

On July 10 at 15:30 I presented Thinking SMALL about social media assisted language learning, as seen in the program here: http://www.call2019.org/schedule.php

The presentation was webcast in Zoom as Learning2gether episode 415. The YouTube video can be found here: https://youtu.be/bwG-4nNKSkE

A photographer in Hong Kong snapped this view of my audience during the presentation:


Here is the abstract from a draft of the paper submitted to the 2019 CALL Research Conference proceedings. The paper submitted was reduced slightly from this more detailed, draft


This paper makes a case for a more appropriate acronym than CALL to reflect the reduced significance of the microprocessor in language learning and emphasize instead the most salient affordances computers bring to the process. Early CALL theorists note that the term might not transition to an era of network based learning. This paper describes such learning, and its use with language learners from the time the terms social media and Web 2.0 were coined. Since social media is an enabler of the meaningful and authentic communication so critically necessary to effective language learning, the paper encourages language practitioners to “think SMALL” and model for one another the use of social media and Web 2.0 in language learning. The paper shows how engagement in communities of practice spills over into changes in teaching practices and reports results of a survey of teacher perceptions of how effectively students and teachers are able to transition use of social media in their personal lives to their professional ones, for the purposes of both teaching and learning.

This blog post with its embedded video and audio mp4s from the Zoom recording during the presentation is the Learning2gether archive of the event. In addition, my presentation incorporates the following documents:

  • A blog post where I introduced and articulated what I planned to say during the 30 minute presentation – Stevens, V. (2019). Why not call CALL SMALL? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://advanceducation.blogspot.com/2019/07/why-not-call-call-small.html
  • The final pre-publication version of the chapter I submitted to the conference proceedings containing my findings and shared publicly here:
    Stevens, V. (2019). Thinking SMALL about social media assisted language learning. In J. Colpaert, A. Aerts, Q. Ma, & J. L. F. King (Eds.). Proceedings of the Twentieth International CALL Research Conference: Social CALL (pp. 257-272). Hong Kong: The Education University of Hong Kong. The unpaginated PDF submitted for inclusion is available:
  • The slides I used in the presentation with all links working at https://www.slideshare.net/vances/. The direct link is the one pointed to from the TinyURL I gave out to attendees at the session, https://tinyurl.com/call2019vance. However, this is no longer the most up-to-date version of my presentation.
  • The updated and replacement version of my slides which I had to upload to Google Slides because Slideshare.net removed an essential function from its service, the ability to replace slides uploaded before giving a presentation with a version with the tweaks you make after the presentation. The latest and definitive version of these slides is here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1iqCH3O-b5XELHiUx77qhmC6_7DlBASB8_KET2Flrp1U/edit?usp=sharing.
    I will always be able to update these slides easily whenever needed in the future.
  • The recording of my presentation in Zoom which is embedded in this blog post and is available on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/bwG-4nNKSkE

And there are more notes on SMALL documenting my past decade of work on what I touch on here, at http://tinyurl.com/small2014

Here’s where I noticed that Slideshare.net, now owned by LinkedIn, had removed this essential functionality, in this forum:


Proposals for this conference consist of two parts, Research and Conference Theme. Here is the proposal I submitted (updated)

Part 1: Research

CALL is by definition computer assisted language learning, but computers are integrated into almost everything electronic. Bax (2003) argued that computers have become so normalized that the C in CALL is decreasingly descriptive. A better acronym would more accurately characterize the role of computers in language learning.

What computers do best is for language learners is to facilitate communication amongt them and with 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 themselves in the process of language learning vs. how they actually help learners acquire a target language.

The purpose of language is communication, and students internalize languages through meaningful, authentic communication. Although correct form in language shapes effective communication, and developing predictive knowledge can help with understanding by helping to decode what people are saying, these are best honed through practice during authentic communication which forms the substrate for sustained language learning. Social media is a ubiquitous enabler of that.

Many acronyms have been proposed to replace the C in CALL; e.g. MALL, TALL, TELL, etc. A panel has been formed at the 2019 TESOL Conference in Atlanta to discuss the case for SMALL. This paper will extend my brief remarks as one of the panelists there, where I review my published rationale promoting SMALL since 2009 and present survey data from peers (in preparation) on their perceptions of their competence and effectiveness in using social media in language learning vis a vis that of their students. This is to establish a benchmark while drawing from observations during my past two decades using social media with peers as editor, collaborator, and founder of numerous communities of practice (CoPs). Collaboration in CoPs shows teachers how utilizing social media creatively with one another helps them model social media techniques most effective in learning, and informs the teaching practices of everyone in the participatory culture. When practices change, then novel techniques for using social media with students can develop, such as those that served as the impetus of my research.

Bax, S. (2003). CALL – past, present and future. System, 31 (1), 13–28. Retrieved from http://www.u.arizona.edu/~jonrein/internettech10/bax_03.pdf

Part 2: Conference theme

My professional work since the turn of the century has always had a strong social dimension. I have worked throughout my professional life in contexts where information has not been easily accessible locally. I have spent the past 20 years in countries where libraries have been poorly resourced and I have turned not just to the Internet but to the communities of practice (CoPs) that congregate there for information and professional development (PD). In order to sustain my own PD, have founded CoPs that have thrived for decades, and more importantly overlapped and formed wider networks over that time. CoPs that I have founded range from one developing our keen interest in Web 2.0 at the turn of the century, through to multiliteracies and seeding MOOCs, and more recently, to nurturing online sandboxes where teachers can experience gamification.

As I work with colleagues in CoPs I find my practice changing. I have honed my online techniques through projects online with language learners and with other teachers in our various CoPs, learning environments where social media tools figure significantly. Techniques employing social media find their way into my face-to-face classrooms as well. My paid work with students has always been face-to-face, but I always have an online component in my classes, e.g. some form of course and learning management systems, but other free web tools as well that facilitate blended learning environments. Social media tools fit nicely into blended learning and become a means of collaborating with students, and them with each other, both inside and outside the classroom.

One area where I have been exploring use of these tools lately has been in working with EFL student writers. The challenge in working with this particular cohort has been their weakness and disinterest in writing vs. the overly-ambitious level of performance expected of them in our assessment-based context.  The research reported here draws from my ongoing exploration of using voice tools with a variety of apps these past few years, in this instance using Google Docs. The study analyzes progress achieved with students in terms of attitude to writing and revision through a technique I devised where voice was used to get students using iPads, despite their having to write without proper keyboards, more quickly into meaningful revision of their writing.

My interest in the topic of SMALL, social media (SM) as opposed to computer assisted learning, is something I have been writing about for the past decade. Until now, when I have suggested this acronym, colleagues have shrugged it off in favor of their own preferences, but at the 2019 TESOL Conference in Atlanta in March, I was asked to be on a panel discussing social CALL, and after some discussion and sharing of published work, my co-panelists agreed to accept my acronym in the title of the panel. For that panel I surveyed teachers in my networks on their perceptions of their own use of SM and that of their students, to learn which group has the better command of SM and, more importantly, is more knowledgeable in using it in the learning/teaching of languages.

These are some of the threads of inquiry I hope to bring together in addressing the challenges of social CALL and possible solutions under the concept of SMALL. This work includes the following dimensions:

  • Language for specific purposes (small target groups in that the population of students I was working with were pilot cadets who were interested more in soccer and flying than in improving their language skills, writing being a particularly low priority for them) and my research used a novel technique which addressed their particular needs.
  • As the work was done in a wiki (Google Docs) and involved my giving feedback and eliciting their response, there was learner-learner and learner-NS Interaction, the teacher being a NS of the target language, English.
  • Social media was used in the form of a variety of wikis designed to guide their learning and get them interacting in multiple blended learning spaces, but the paper addresses social media used with teachers in particular, and in so doing, the ecology of the teacher working within communities of practice.

Bio Data

Vance Stevens lives in Penang and podcasts occasionally on Learning2gether.net. His publications at http://vancestevens.com/papers/ elucidate how students use computers to learn languages, and how teachers learn to teach using technology by engaging in communities of practice and in participatory cultures. His most recent focus is on gamification in language learning through 5 years coordinating EVO Minecraft MOOC .



Earlier events

Thu Jun 27  Learning2gether Episode 413 with NileTESOL LTSIG – Hanaa Khamis interviews Csilla Jaray-Benn


Wed Jun 26-Fri 28 Learning2gether Episode 414 from Melaka at the ICCTAR conference



Postponed to Mon July 8 midnight July 9 UTC – Minecraft Monday is team-building a city in creative mode

The first Monday of every month is Minecraft Monday at 8 PM Eastern time, in Maine USA. This meeting was postponed to Monday, July 8 due to the holiday weekend in USA

You can join VSTE’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/vsteonline/

and the VSTE Virtual Environments Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/VSTEVEPLN/

VSTE are in several virtual environments, Minecraft being only one of them.

Meet at VSTE Place, VSTE’s Minecraft world; see this document for instructions

We get together in voice on VSTE’s Discord channel simultaneously. Once you are in Minecraft we will announce the Discord address if you don’t have it. Come early if you want help.


Vance Stevens Plenary at ICCTAR, Melaka, on Gamifying Teacher Professional Development through EVO Minecraft MOOC

Learning2gether Episode #414

On Friday, June 28 Vance Stevens was in invited to be a featured speaker at the ICCTAR conference in Melaka, Malaysia (International Conference on Creative Teaching, Assessment, and Research in the English, http://icctar.com/, organized by Prof. Dr. Jayakaran Mukundan). There I delivered a plenary 28 June 10:30 to 11:20, on Gamifying Teacher Professional Development through Minecraft MOOC

2019jun28vanceICCTARplenaryPhoto by my son, Glenn Stevens, who happened to be in the auditorium audience.
Glenn also recorded the video at the top of this blog post.

I decided at the last minute to record my presentation using Zoom from the podium with the laptop screen aimed at the projector and me standing with a handheld microphone between the laptop and the auditorium projection screen. This didn’t turn out so well because the acoustics on-stage were horrible. The sound was fine just outside the stage via the PA system directed at the audience, but on stage, the sound echoed badly as picked up by the computer mic. However my son Glenn was in the audience and he was recording on his Samsung cell phone. He got the recording which I’ve now placed at the top of this post, with reasonable sound quality. Meanwhile I uploaded the Zoom file to YouTube and here it is:


Minecraft is a game that has sustained the attention of teachers wanting to introduce elements of gamification into their classrooms despite their encountering two steep hurdles: (1) the complexity and depth of the game itself, and (2) understanding how students will experience self-directed critical and collaborative learning by engaging each other in appropriate video games. I started EVO Minecraft MOOC (EVOMCM) in 2015 to learn with teaching colleagues how to experientially address both these issues.

EVO (Electronic Village Online) consists of over a dozen sessions on topics proposed by language teachers who develop their proposals into professional development courses of interest to other teachers. The Minecraft EVO session has become an ongoing community of practice of language practitioners learning about gamification by interacting with each other in Minecraft for over 5 years now.

This talk is about the nature of learning in sustainable distributed communities of practice as embodied in EVO, and in particular understanding how video games can be leveraged into opportunities for language learning once teachers grasp the ineffable nature of their participatory cultures through engagement with peers, and in learning hands-on through meaningful play how games such as Minecraft might be used in their own teaching contexts.

This was conducted as a flipped presentation. That is, the link to the slides and to the prose write-up were given out to the audience at the beginning of the presentation. The audience were invited to follow along in the slides as I presented, if they wished, and have access to the links I referred to as we went along on our learning journey together:

The complete slide set here – https://tinyurl.com/vance2019icctar
And there is a text version of this talk at https://tinyurl.com/icctar2019vance

You can download the ICCTAE program book (onto your device) from here

Here is the schedule for the third day of the conference

I recently created a blog post, with slides and show notes, from a presentation given to a live audience at WorldCALL in Chile, Nov 2018, though there was no recording there of the presentation itself:

Photos from the event

Some participants at the conference have passed me their photos in which I was included. I’m posting them here as a souvenir of our time together in Melaka, Malaysia.


Pictured here are Kadek Sonia Piscayanti, Alan Maley, and Ni Made Ratminingsih to my right, To my left are Alvin Pang, Ken Mizusawa and Lee Su Kim.


On the left are Lee Su Kim, a Nyonya author, educator and cultural activist, and Alvin Pang. I am standing between Ken Mizusawa and Kadek Sonia Piscayanti, a literary figure from Bali who writes profoundly about women’s issues in her home country.


Kenny Ong Kian Meng showed me his poster on the Use of Audio Recording Applications on the Mobile Phone in Improving Pronunciation Performance among University Students. I thought he might like to look at this article about resources for teachers to help them teach segmental and supersegmental pronunciation features:

Cox, J., Henrichsen, L., Tanner, M., and McMurry, B. (2019). The needs analysis, design, development, and evaluation of the ‘English Pronunciation Guide: An ESL Teachers’ Guide to Pronunciation Teaching Using Online Resources’.TESL-EJ, 22(4), 1-24. Retrieved from http://tesl-ej.org/pdf/ej88/int.pdf (also available: http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/issues/volume22/ej88/ej88int/)



Earlier events

Thu Jun 27  Learning2gether Episode 413 with NileTESOL LTSIG – Hanaa Khamis interviews Csilla Jaray-Benn




Learning2gether with NileTESOL LTSIG — Hanaa Khamis interviews Csilla Jaray-Benn

Learning2gether Episode #413

On Thursday, June 27, at 1600 UTC, Hanaa Khamis from the NileTESOL LTSIG  interviewed Csilla Jaray-Benn, past-president of TESOL France, now living in Grenoble though she is originally from Hungary. The topic was the role of empathy in successful language learning and language teaching.

Hanaa created the following poster and distributed it on her various social networks.

Where? In Zoom, hosted by Vance Stevens, Learning2gether

Comments from the chatroom

Mohamed : hi
Azza : hi, thanks Van for hosting us. hi Hanaa and Scilla.
Vance Stevens : Vance Stevens, and this is Learning2gether podcast #413
elya Adly : no sound!!
Vance Stevens : hi elya, I notice you have no mic showing in the participants list
Azza : enable the zoom audio in your device.
elya Adly to Vance Stevens(Privately) : ok.. sound is on now.. Thanks
Hanaa Khamis : Dear Partipants, ask away, plz tupr yr Qs in chat box
Waleed Mandour : How can we build ’empathy’ within language students?
Hanaa Khamis : thx waleed, more Qs dear audience
Azza : which definition of empathy are we dealing with? and how do we apply it in total physical response TPR?
Hanaa Khamis : good Qs
elya Adly : how can a teacher adapt empathy in class activities?!
Hanaa Khamis : yes got those Qs
Vance Stevens : I think teachers are by nature empathetic, more so than people in other career paths, except maybe psychologists, but then teachers are part psychologist
Azza : Van, you are right considering the amount of time we spend with our students that helps building strong relationships with our students.
Waleed Mandour : I agree with you, Vance. We are intrinsically emapathetic. But how to develop it correctly in students?
Vance Stevens : that’s a good question
elya Adly : how can a teacher with a low emotional intelligence develope?!
Mohamed : can you mention us some empathetic activities???
Vance Stevens : she is describing one now
Mohamed : great
Azza : building on students backgrounds and experiences that they share in the classroom enhances empathy in the classroom, but again, how to employ this in a very diverse classroom?
Mohamed : how can empathy change students’ behaviors???
Waleed Mandour : Nice one
Vance Stevens : got it
Mohamad Fayez : yes thanks
Waleed Mandour : I guess in a way or another we indirectly pass ’empathetic skill’ to our students through our actions in class.
elya Adly : can we count EMPATHY as a psychological issue more than educational?
Mohamed : thanks a million dr Hanaa, interesting
Azza : what if a teacher doesn’t really care about students’s learning more than their grades?
Mohamed : do u agree with empathy sometimes can be bad or have side effect in classroom ???????
Waleed Mandour : Thank you all for the interesting session
Mohamed : for all of you
csillajaray-benn : It was my pleasure to be here and sorry for the questions that were not answered.
csillajaray-benn : Thank you all!


Announcements on Facebook Groups

Earlier event

Jun 23 Learning2gether Episode 412 with NileTESOL LTSIG – Hanaa Khamis interviews Nik Peachey



Learning2gether with NileTESOL LTSIG – Hanaa Khamis interviews Nik Peachey

Learning2gether Episode #412

On Sunday June 23, 2019, Vance Stevens contributed the Learning2gether Zoom room so that Hanaa Khamis could host the latest in the current round of summertime Nile TESOL LTSIG Interactive Webinars

Where? In Zoom, hosted by Vance Stevens for Learning2gether.

The Zoom recording is available here

And an mp4 version of the Zoom video has been uploaded to YouTube here:

What was this about?

Hanaa Khamees skillfully interviewed Nik Peachey, Freelance Learning Consultant, on the topic of  building your career and income through language learning materials writing.

Nik is the author of numerous materials himself and has produced a book called Becoming an E-Publisher which he markets through Payhip, https://payhip.com/b/w1x3. The price is only $2.99, but Nik kindly sent participants in the webinar a promo code which allowed us to download the book for free.

In the introduction to the book, Nik explains what the book covers, and why he thinks others should follow in his footsteps and self-publish, which is pretty much what he covered in his conversation with Hanaa during the interview. This was:

  • Crowd Sourcing Funding
  • The Writing Process
  • Creating the Product
  • Choosing a Distribution Platform
  • Marketing your Book

In his talk, he explained how he had “decided to crowd source the funding to develop my book and launched my crowd sourcing campaign in January 2014. I managed to raise £5,000 in 3 months and used that money to produce – Digital Video – A Manual for Language Teachers. When I raised the money to create the book I thought it would take me around 3 months to produce. I finally finished and published the ebook in the summer of 2015 about a year over schedule.

In 2016 the ebook was shortlisted by the British Council for an ELTon – Innovations Award – in the Teacher Resources category and to my utter amazement, despite some really string competition from the established publishing houses, it won.

This may sound like a fairy tale success story, but it’s not, well at least not yet and it may well never be, but it is a story or a road map of how you can make your own book a reality.”

In the Zoom chat, Nik provided a number of links of interest relating to crowd sourcing, self-publishing, finding images, and so on


01:36:51 Hussein Hassan: what do theses links refer to? should we use them??
01:37:43 AMANY: will the chat with links be available in record?
01:40:31 Hany Said : thank you for your info

And here are the links as promised – Vance

You can find out more about Nik and his work in the links in his email footer

Nik Peachey | Learning Technology, Writer, Teacher Trainer, Course Designer
Co-Founder https://peacheypublications.com/
Editor – Edtech & ELT Newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/technogogy/
Winner 2016 British Council ELTon Award for Innovation in Teacher Resources
Winner 2012 British Council ELTon Award for Excellence in Course Innovation
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NikPeachey
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikpeachey/

Nick and Hanaa are both frequent contributors to the Facebook group Webheads in Action, https://www.facebook.com/groups/webheadsinaction/

And Nik curates a number of interesting topics on Scoop-it, https://www.scoop.it/u/technogogy


Announcements of this Learning2gether event on Facebook Groups


Earlier events

Wed May 15 Vance Stevens invited to present Learning2gether episode 411 on Gamification for NileTESOL LTSIG



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



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



For the month of May 2019 Moodle MOOC MM14

You need to be enrolled in the course to see the link for the first webinar


Enrolment information:

Enrol: https://moodle4teachers.org/enrol/index.php?id=246

According to the link

Moodle MOOC 14 (MM14) will take place from May 1 – 31,  2019 on Moodle for Teachers and Moodle for Managers. The purpose of the MOOC is to connect educators for instruction and learning, reflective practice, social and collaborative learning, cultural exchange and peace, personal and professional development, community building, best practices and challenges involved in teaching with and without technology, student engagement with the content, peers, and the facilitator, and learning to teach online with Moodle course and learning management system.

The syllabus is here



June 12 American English Live on Motivating Your Students

American English for Educators

Join in on June 12th for the fourth event in American English Live Series 5. During this session, “Motivating Your Students with Rules, Routines, and Rewards,” Lisa Morgan and Sara Denne-Bolton will discuss creating student buy-in for classroom rules, identifying successful opening and closing activities, and the pros and cons of using rewards.

Additional Instructions:
To join the session, go to the American English for Educators Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AmericanEnglishforEducators) at 8 a.m. or 1 p.m. Eastern Time from Washington D.C. Check the local time in your region at:

You may need to refresh the page or go to “posts” if you don’t see the live session at exactly that time. Follow the page to make sure you receive notifications when we go live.

Sat Jun 22 – iTDi Teachers Room interviews Dorothy Zemach

Learn more about Dorothy Zemach and #ELT #Publishing in this special live interview on Saturday, 22nd June 03:00 UTC.

Check your local time: https://tinyurl.com/y4zgweun

Join the session, hosted by Steven Herderhttps://zoom.us/j/2519075028

Dorothy’s upcoming course sounds quite interesting. I am inspired to take her course though I can’t do it on such short notice. However for anyone with ideas they want to launch into the self-publishing stage, Dorothy would be an excellent mentor, and you would be working intensively for a month in a community of other writers.

Dorothy’s video of her plenary on “Sausage and the law: how textbooks are made” from the recent IATEFL conference, can be found here

and she mentioned that she would post this video on her FB page, so I’ll try to link to that.

This talk was one of a series in the iTDi Teacher’s Room, https://itdi.pro/itdihome/the-teachers-room/

Access to the TR is not free though there is a 6-month’s free trial available.

According to the link above, the Teacher’s Room operates currently on the following schedule

I like what iTDi does, they produce quality PD opportunities that have the potential to carry teachers into greater self sufficiency, and I admire that they are trying to support themselves through paid subscriptions.

Learning2gether promotes free PD opportunities, though of course there is no funding and no remuneration. Learning2gether has worked for me as a platform which had enough visibility that it could help me get my next paid job when needed, but for someone whose prospects for a next salaried position are tending more towards nil, the iTDi model would tend to attract increasing interest. One COULD do any of these together (just sayin’)

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, https://jamespaulgee.com/ 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 https://metawriting.deannamascle.com/james-paul-gee-gamification-classroom/

“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 https://home.edweb.net/big-g-game-based-learning/ (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 edWeb.net 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, https://www.memrise.com/) 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: https://youtu.be/-X1m7tf9cRQ?start=525

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, https://americanenglish.state.gov/trace-effects.

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

 Link: https://youtu.be/BqyvUvxOx0M

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, http://vancesclass.pbworks.com/w/page/117588981/49_Sections_5-6_EESP#Gameschallengeprojects.

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 https://sashabarab.org/projects/small-g-big-g-games/ and in pdf, https://gamesandimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Game-Infused-Theory.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 http://estebanromero.com/2012/08/gees-vision-on-game-based-learning-affinity-spaces-and-education/

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: http://karlkapp.com/two-types-of-gamification/

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. https://doi.org/10.1002/tesj.359 and http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tesj.359/full. 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 https://www.trainingjournal.com/blog/gamification-is%E2%80%A6-what-exactly

youngTeacher. (2016). Gamification in education & distant reading skills [Blog post, February 24, 2016]. Notes from a young teacher. Retrieved from https://notesfromayoungteacher.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/gamification-in-education-distant-reading-skills/comment-page-1/

More resources:

Deborah Healey’s presentation materials on gamification from the PELLTA conference in Penang, April 2019: https://sites.google.com/site/gamificationforelteachers


https://twitter.com/niletesol_ltsig/status/1126955385070419968 has active links


From: https://www.facebook.com/niletesol/posts/2314397608687561

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: https://sites.tesol.org/MemberPortal/Events/2019/PL19_VSM8/TESOL-Event-Detail?EventKey=PL19_VSM8

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