Archive for the ‘KOTESOL’ Category

Alternative Reality Gaming as an ESL Activity

October 11, 2015

I’ve just finished day one of two of KOTESOL International Conference.  Some presentations were better than others but one, though not the best transfer of information seems the most interesting to build on in the next semester.

An Alternative Reality Game has many of the following elements: fictional narrative, interactive, transmedia (takes place in the real world and online in a variety of media), “This is not a game” mentality (don’t break character), puzzles and codes.  The 1997 Michael Douglas movie, The Game, is an example and another one is given below.

Oh, the talk was given by Paul Starr of Seoul National University.  He gave a good talk that explained the basics but I don’t think it got into the “Participants will then be asked to design some basic ARG elements for their own learning environments.” part described in the conference guide.  To be fair, he had a lot to cover in a short time and I did become interested enough in the idea to want to learn more and that’s gotta be an indicator of success.

I think I’m at three now:  On the third hand, he also included a code game on his handout so some of us ignored part of his talk to solve his mini game.

I teach various classes at my university and also run voluntary activities at the “English Cafe”.  In the past, we’ve watched The Simpsons -with questions to be answered for a prize, played board games (again with prizes available) and every semester we have a scavenger hunt.  If I can get this going, next semester we will have an ARG instead of the Scavenger Hunt.

As my very first brainstormed ideas, I envision:

  • Some kind of code or QR code in the official class information for ESL students.  Leading to…
  • Posters randomly appearing on campus – at the English Cafe and elsewhere.
  • Interruptions or notices during half-times of sporting events or school festival week.
  • Directions to as many English locations on campus – the library has at least two floors with English hard cover books, the ESL profs’ offices, the TOEIC testing room, ….

The big thing lacking is a narrative.  As a sci-fi/ fantasy fan, could it be the signals of a future Dongseo student trapped in time by an experiment in the engineering or medical training spaces?  Or is that too cliche?  Whatever, I want to do this.

ARGs on Dave’s ESL Cafe

An old ARG that rests, slowly decaying, online.

Socks incorporated

Alternative Reality Gaming  Network

Brian is an active blogger

June 30, 2015

I gave a presentation at the Jeju KOTESOL Regional Conference on creativity and in the bio I wrote for their program, I described myself as an active blogger and gave this address.

I still think I am an active blogger but the most recent post before this one on this blog is from …2014, maybe?

I am active at and my presentation slides can be found here.

I do want to re-awaken this blog and some posts in mind.  I just needed to start by allowing any visitors from the conference to find my slides.

See you in a few hours at this address…

Call for articles: Kotesol International Conference reviews

October 24, 2012

To my dozen(s?) of readers, I will soon be reviewing the sessions I attended at the conference and want to know about other sessions.  I review somewhat critically but try to keep focused on the topic.  If you think you have what it takes to write Surprisesaplenty-quality material, let me know.


If you think you have what it takes to write Surprisesaplenty-quality material, let me know, please.

Encouraging creativity in your students

May 31, 2012

I recently gave a talk at the 2012 KOTESOL National Conference entitled “Creativity in the classroom”.  My presentation slides are here and Jeff leBow at Koreabridge recorded the talk.

I think I gave an excellent 80 minute speech: it is a shame I gave it in 50 minutes.  Indeed, my voice is high-pitched enough you might think I just spoke that much faster.


KOTESOL National Conference 2012!

May 14, 2012

The conference is here in Busan on the 26th!

KOTESOL national Conference website.

Koreabridge link to the event.

The goshdarn website is down again, but if you can, register on or before the 18th to get the re-reg discount.

Conference Timetable
9:15-10:00       REGISTRATION
10:00-10:20       Opening Ceremony
10:30-11:20       PLENARY SESSION: Tim Murphey (link to Abstract/Bio)
11:30-12:20       Featured/Invited Sessions & Pecha Kucha
12:30-1:20         LUNCH
1:30-2:20          Concurrent Presentations (50 mins)
2:30-4:00         Training Workshops (90mins)
4:00-4:50         Concurrent Presentations (50 mins)
5:00-5:50         PLENARY SESSION: Marc Helgesen (link to Abstract/Bio)
5:50-6:00         Raffle Draw
6:00-6:15         Closing
6:30                 Reception Dinner  (off-site, all invited, pay your own way)


Plenary Speakers

  • Tim Murphey (Kanda University of International Studies in Tokyo)
  • Marc Helgesen (Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai, Japan)

Dr. Tim Murphey’s plenary talk is titled: “Drive: Putting Students at the Wheel with Agency, Identity, and Altruism.”
“Once there was a country where there were almost no cars and the people in this country realized that for their growing economy it would be good to have a more mobile population with bus drivers, taxi drivers, and even individual car owners who could get around by themselves. The people in power reasoned  . . .” Come to Tim’s talk to find out where we are driving.

Prof. Marc Helgesen’s plenary is titled: “Happiness 2.0: New Ideas from the Science of Well-Being.
“Happy students learn more, work harder on tasks, and approach those tasks with enthusiasm – all keys to creating and focusing learner drive. Positive Psychology explores happiness, positive emotion, and those things that allow us to flourish.”

Featured Speakers

  • Dr. Hyesun Cho from the University of Kansas
  • George Scholz from RELO at the US Embassy
  • Special panel on English Education in Korea

Also on the program:
A broad array of presentations by local and national level speakers on a wide variety of topics focusing on the needs of Korea’s classroom English teachers. Including: Brian Dean, Lindsay Mack [the link is to ‘a’ Lindsay Mack involved in ESL.  I presume it is the same one.], Mizuka Tsukamoto, Amelie Kelly, April Abate, Phillipa Arthur, Alex Grevett, Thomas Baldwin, Scott Miles, Leonie Overbeek, Kenneth Moore, Tory Thorkelson, Steve Garrigues, Colin Walker, James Underwood, Rocky Nelson, Ksan Rubadeau, James Garner, Nico Lorenzutti, Alonzo Williams, Joseph Vitta, Ju A Hwang, Andee Pollard, Nate Kent, Martin Tuttle, Peadar Callaghan, and Roger Fusselman.



A slide this scary, it should be shown on hallowe’en!

March 19, 2012

At the recent Busan-Kyeongnam KOTESOL meeting, branch president Brad Serl gave a presentation on the new NEAT test.  Umm, I may have written ‘test’ twice.  I think the test is the “New English Aptitude Test” and it is intended to replace the current English test used in the University Entrance Exam.

There were two stated reasons for changing the test; one reasonable and achievable and the other…not so much.

The test -still three years away from actually being used – requires more English production from the takers and looks to be a better test to prepare for. If you do well on this test, you will likely also do well speaking English.  This is good and achievable part.

The second reason for changing the test is to reduce private education expenditures – money to cramming schools or hagwons for English.  In discussing this, we -(the people at the meeting consisted of  20+ people, including three Korean teachers of ESL, four to seven university instructors and ten or more middle and high school native English Speaker Teachers) did not think this goal would be achieved.  Cynically, the group consensus was that private spending for ESL would likely increase.

How much is spent on private education now?  The numbers on the presentation slide below are for private education for children in general so math, Korean language and other languages are included in the totals.

If you are a parent, you will want to be sitting down.  If you have a heart condition, go and get your medicine and put it where you can reach it quickly if need be.

If parents paid one million won a month (around $900 US or Canadian) for private education, their child would have an 11% likelihood of  qualifying for a Tier one university (Seoul National, KAIST, Yeonsei, maybe one or two others).  For even odds of attending a Tier one university, parents need to spend two million won a month…

Sorry, I needed to lie down and engage in some calming visualizations there for a moment.  Okay, the palpitations have eased.

As I see it, I can either educate my son to the level that he could attend a tier one university or I could save enough money to actually pay for him to attend one.  I am not sure that I could do both.


The main suggestions we came up with for teaching students so they can do well on the test were 1) Organize extensive reading programs and 2) teach writing (more).  A common complaint at the meeting was that students did not appear to understand how to write more than a sentence at a time in Korean or in English.  Teachers will need to work on organizing ideas then on paragraph and essay formation.

As Serl noted, these are good suggestions for teaching ESL regardless of what kind of test there is.  To paraphrase, “Teachers complain about ‘teaching to the test’.  This isn’t always a bad idea.  If the test is a good one, then teaching students how to do well on it improves both the test scores and absolute English proficiency.”

Kumaravadivelu at KOTESOL (Part 7 of conference remarks)

October 22, 2011

I feel sympathy for Dr Kumaravadivelu.  Like “The musician formerly known as Prince”, he name had devolved into a sentence that lazy people used rather than take the effort to work through the seven syllables.  I think he was even introduced as “Dr Kumara…whose name I can’t pronounce”.  I may have misremembered that but certainly everyone described him that way when mentioning his talks.  Justin McNulty, who introduced Kumaravadivelu, was nearly the sole exception went out of his way to pronounce the man’s name repeatedly in his introduction.  This prompted the man in front of me  to mutter, “show off.”

This is especially ironic as his talk was about using language teaching to transport and share cultural beliefs and practices.  Morrison, described (very) briefly in a previous post, discussed how Jin-hye comes to English class and becomes “Jenny” and how this is wrong.  I think Kumaravadivelu would agree.

Um, that’s about all I have to say about Kumaravadivelu and his talk.  It was moderately interesting  but a little too ‘big-think’ for me.  I did feel it was particularly appropriate for an Indian to discuss how English is a language of colonialism as well as globalism.

He was also interviewed by McNulty for Koreabridge.  The Korea Herald mentions him in it’s description of the conference.

I was satisfied by his talk, even though I didn’t take any notes -nor for any of the plenary speakers; a problem I should rectify at the next conference.

Those among his students who use Rate-My-Teacher seem to find him an interesting speaker if not the best of teachers.

blogging as teaching tool (part 6 of conference remarks)

October 20, 2011

Melissa Shaffer had a seminar on “Blogging and Bravery” and Christie Provenzano displayed a poster on a similar theme.

Here is Provenzano’s display:

Provenzano gave me permission to photograph her poster and I think I asked her if I could post it my blog.  If she wants it removed, I’ll pull it down fast!

I have used a teacher’s blog for years and am experimenting with student blogs this semester.  I agree with Provenzano that a teacher’s blog is good for “eliminat[ing] the “I was absent so I didn’t know what to do for homework” excuse.”  Well, it eliminates the validity of such an excuse but, as a few of us at Dongseo U have noted, it doesn’t eliminate the excuse.

We are wondering, my university coworkers and I, if the online form of notes holds less urgency or importance to the students.  Midterm exams just finished and perhaps a tenth of my students admitted that they didn’t visit the website and look at or print out the exam questions.  I don’t know how that compares to students in classes where questions and study notes were handed out in paper form in class, but a coworker claimed to see a decline in studying after making the switch to online.

Back to Provenzano.  She describes a few forms of blogs her students can use.  Group blogs allow students to feel supported by classmates and make it easier for the teacher to find all the content. Individual blogs can carry on after class is completed and allows students to find a unique voice.

She also mentions some gadgets: dropbox and an unnamed one that monitors extensive reading.  My photo is terribly blurry but it seems to be a part of library thing (here is a pdf that discusses using librarything for extensive reading) .

Shaffer’s seminar was on Sunday afternoon and was poorly attended although I found her content useful.  I am not sure how the ‘bravery’ in “blogging and Bravery” applies.  Perhaps everyone can use encouragement now and then.

In her classes, students needed to write one blogpost and two comments a week and were graded as “yes/no”.  She compared her desires for the blog component to the desires of Korea coworkers.  She wasn’t interested in accuracy or technical skill as much as the Korean English teachers.  She was eager to give her students freedom to be creative but the Koreans wondered why the emphasis on creativity and wanted to assign topics.  The Koreans, in short, were interested in the product and she was interested in the process.

I feel they were both right regarding creativity.  The information I have read suggests a blank page inhibits creativity and that some restrictions enhance it.  Assigning topics might have increased creativity.

In her first semester using blogs, she allowed students to use any platform they wanted.  Many chose Cyworld, which is a good platform but sometimes annoying for teachers to navigate and use.  I personally have had trouble with RSS feeds from cyworld blogs.  In her second semester, she used edublogs.  Whichever platform used, it is challenging to do this with a large number of students.

Peadar Callaghan at KOTESOL (part 5 of conference remarks)

October 20, 2011

Peadar is an acquaintance who has frequently spoken at the Busan Kotesol branch.  I don’t know that I have ever heard him speak, though.  There’s always been something else going on.  He spoke well and I wish I had seen his other talks, including use of comics in class.

This talk was a good bookend with Heidi Nam’s class on checking comprehension.  Both describe how we often question students on different subjects then we think.  Nam offered a nonsense sentence and asked us what the character was doing.  The verb was clear from it’s placement and ‘ed’ ending so we could answer and display our understanding of grammar without understanding the sentence.  In the same way, Peadar described the ‘listening window strategy’ (I think the phrase is a direct quote – it is close).  When we ask students to fill in the blanks in sentences like ” I went to ____ and ____ a shirt.” students wait for the “to’ and ‘and’ sounds and write down the next word.  I was able to do the same thing with a completely nonsense sentence in his class.

Instead of asking for specific words, we should first ask for the main idea, then focus down to specifics.  These ideas might fit a ‘T-chart’ – good points and bad points discussed in the audio – or on a mind map.

On the mind map, it is appropriate to do a ‘fill in the blanks’ exercise as the students are not listening for specific words, but ideas or general concepts.

Callaghan offered a hierarchy of activities moving from teacher -created to student-created.


He also suggested a more away from class-wide audio and instead using a number of cheap MP3 players (and split audio so a few students could share one player) to individualize the learning.  This was a great, new idea, and one that I had been moving towards in some fashion already.  I sometimes bring in a small battery-powered speaker for small groups to listen to.

One activity he had on his slide but didn’t have time to discuss was Audio Relays, an event that has always been enjoyed by my students

As with Sandy and Dudeney, he is eager to help students use their phones in class.  I like the idea of having students make MP3s in one class and then students in another class need to listen to them and determine the meaning.  This is not an out-of-the-blue activity: students need to be given time to prepare a conversation or interview, possibly have it checked by the teacher, then recorded.

Callaghan suggested the English Language Listening Library Online ( as a source for student-created audio.

He has an (under-construction) website and I found a short interview of him on youtube (audio only)

Gavin Dudeney at KOTESOL (part 4 of conference remarks)

October 19, 2011

Dudeney offered two talks on digital literacies and was interviewed by the Chosun Bimbo (or find it with others here).

Digital literacy is a tricky thing to explain:

  • Digital immigrants see technology as things or nouns.  Digital natives see the technologies as processes or verbs.
  • Should we say digital -immigrants and -natives or -visitors and -residents?
  • Young people are ‘tech-comfy’ but not always ‘tech-savvy’.  They may not know how to use it in the service of learning.
To test our digital literacy or footprint, he asked if we had used various services in the past week.  I answered yes to most questions but I noticed that he kept email, Twitter, Facebook update… as separate entities.  I feel that is outdated as they are all forms of digital communication.  Perhaps they should be grouped or sorted in terms of focus or directedness.
He discussed digital literacy skills and a big one was knowing how to search for information usefully.
One point I wanted to question him on but didn’t have time was the use of smart phones (and tablets) in class.  He and Shelly Blake-plock, champion hand held devices in class.  I want to, and try to,  encourage their use but often find students using internet chat.  I do encourage them to use dictionaries and such so I don’t want to (and can’t) completely police phone use.  On the other hand, a kid, a mere youngster (of 22 years) could not be pulled away from his chat to participate in class.  I resorted to asking him to leave class before he would put his phone away.  Anyway, do I need to make my class more interesting? Include more content so looking away would be disastrous?  Should students no longer vocally chat with neighbors but SMS with non-continuous classmates instead?  Basic conversation classes require conversation but not intense collaboration per se.
In the second talk, he offered a tour of various websites he uses with his students.  Lessonstream and photofunia (image featured below) were the big ones and he also pointed us to his presentation slides here (oops, that site no longer seems to be working.  Perhaps this is it). UPDATE: Dudeney responded in the comments and his link works.  This should, too.  Also see the consultants-e.
I liked his use of Wordle – a program that makes word clouds with the more common words larger.  I think it would be a useful way to help students know what words they should learn first.
I think Blake-plock (link in earlier paragraph) does a better job of explaining how technology can be used in the classroom, but he has months or years to get his point across at his blog and Dudeney only had an hour and a half.  I have some new ideas for class and some new concerns now more eloquently stated.  They were good presentations.