OC Chapter Updates Its Teaching With Technology

May 17th, 2017 | By | Category: Chapters, Orange County
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—This past spring, the OC CATESOL Chapter hosted its spring workshop, “Updating Your ESL Teaching Techniques With the Latest in Technology.” In total, the chapter was proud to offer six different presentations by up-and-coming innovators in the field of ESL.

Interact, Engage, and Learn: ESL Activities for Mobile Devices With Susan Gaer

author image of Savyonne Steindler

Savyonne Steindler


Susan Gaer’s lively presentation, “Interact, Engage, and Learn: ESL Activities for Mobile Devices,” illustrated how instructors can transform their classrooms by choosing to see smartphones as resources rather than distractions. Gaer began incorporating technology into instruction when she “discovered the Internet” as an EFL teacher in Southeast Asia. Since then, she has reinvented herself repeatedly, staying abreast of technological advances and determining how best to use them to meet the needs of her students.

Gaer argued that the most salient development today’s instructors should recognize is the ubiquity of mobile devices. According to Gaer, 80% of people use a smartphone every day, and a quarter of individuals do not have access to any other devices. Gaer demonstrated several applications and websites that teachers can use to capitalize on the smartphones already present in their classrooms.

Participants were exposed to a useful tool through Gaer’s slide show itself. The presentation was hosted on Nearpod (https://nearpod.com/), a website that allows teachers to create slide shows that students can follow and interact with on their own devices. A slide then linked participants to several other Internet resources. The first was Kahoot! (https://getkahoot.com/), a platform that allows teachers to build quiz games that students can respond to on their cell phones. Gaer then directed the group to Quizlet Live (https://quizlet.com/), a quiz website that has students leave their desks and collaborate in teams. Next, the presentation turned to Padlet (https://padlet.com/), a multimedia electronic bulletin board that teachers and students can use to teach the four skills at any level. Gaer then introduced Remind (https://www.remind.com/), a tool that allows teachers and students to text message one another without revealing private phone numbers. Gaer showed examples of how she uses the site to send students announcements, assignments, and Internet links.

Gaer’s last piece of advice for workshop participants was to make sure they had a “house,” any course-management system that contains all the files and links students need to access. She concluded the session by sharing pictures of technology use in her own classes, showing how mobile devices encourage collaboration, interaction, and engagement.

Going Guerrilla: Quick and Easy Filmmaking for Teachers With Meg Parker


Meg Parker’s “Going Guerrilla: Quick and Easy Filmmaking for Teachers” was an engaging and fun workshop for all who attended. Meg began by modeling two approaches to teaching: the past simple versus the past progressive. She demonstrated how an inductive approach using video with contextualized use of the grammar points is more interesting and engaging than a deductive, book-centered approach. Meg cited published research from several sources, including Brown (1980), Nunan (1988), and Wajnryb (1990), to support the importance of contextualizing language. She mentioned the strengths and weaknesses of valuable Internet resources for finding movie and video clips such as Real English.com, Side by Side TV, YouTube channels, and Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals. The weakness of some videos is not being able to find enough appropriate target language and Meg solves this problem by “Going Guerrilla!” Guerrilla videos are short, nonedited teacher-made videos in which target language is scripted in realistic and often funny conversations. Meg modeled three short self-made videos featuring specific grammar points.

The next activity was where the real fun began with participants making their own “Guerrilla” videos. Meg provided a step-by-step outline for partners to identify their target language and script the conversation. After the planning stage, participants were encouraged to find a place inside or outside the room to record their video with their smartphone and send it to Meg’s Schoology account. Upon returning to class, we could see some of the interesting video creations of the participants. It was impressive to see how in only 25 minutes a room full of educators could create so much useful grammar material using technology that all of us have in our pockets! This session of the OC Chapter Workshop was extremely valuable and engaging for everyone lucky enough to attend it. We are honored to have such a dedicated, creative speaker and colleague like Meg Parker.


Brown, H. D. (1980). Principals of language learning and teaching. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Nunan, D. (1998). Teaching grammar in context. ELT Journal, 52(2), 101-109.
Wajnryb, R. (1990). Grammar dictation. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Breaking Out of the Language Classroom With Brent Warner


When you attend a tech-oriented workshop, you probably assume there will be hands-on demonstration and a variety of activities. If you attended the CATESOL OC Spring 2017 workshop, you got exactly that. And if you sat in on Brent Warner’s workshop “Breaking ESL Out of the Language Classroom,” you got more!

The workshop started as usual: a brief welcome and bio of Mr. Warner quickly followed by a disclaimer stating how he dislikes presentations in which participants interact very little if at all. With only a few directions, participants were grouped together and given a task via video feed by an Anonymous-esque character in a hoodie. With this vague directive and a packet of more instructions, groups were left to their own devices to solve the puzzles—the devices, of course, being cell phones and a creative combination of free online social media tools, such as Instagram, Remind, Twitter, Flipgrid, Google Voice, and more. The activity got students out of the classroom and interacting in unique ways as well as generating a lot of group discussion, problem solving, peer-to-peer support, and motivation. Frustrated groups had redeemable coupons with which to buy directed clues, so slower groups could still make progress through the tasks to reach the goal.

The post-task discussion allowed everyone to deconstruct the tools needed to work together for a common goal. How to incorporate the elements used in the task was left to the participants to consider, but it was very clear that the social media tools could be incorporated in ways that create an organic dialogue among group members. Similarly, the media tools can reinforce a variety of objectives while supporting multimodal learning. One thing not discussed was the amount of time and effort to set up the elaborate Mission Impossible–style task. For most ESL classes and levels, the level of ingenuity and the complexity would not be necessary, but the workshop was a clever way to get instructors to think “outside the box,” just as we often try to get our students to do.

Hunting and Gathering in the 21st Century With Roger Dupuy


“What is your relationship with technology?” Roger Dupuy opened his first concurrent session with that powerful query. After a short discussion, Roger explained that his presentation would help teachers wrestle with technology, philosophically and practically.

Roger asked participants to discuss creativity. He reminded participants that creativity is hard work, but that everyone has creative ideas. We just forget them! Roger then introduced a metaphor that was infused throughout his whole presentation: hunting and gathering in the 21st century. Through a mix of analogy and clever drawings, he explained how we are like hunters and gatherers with technology. We catch something (e.g., an article) and consume it immediately. We are satisfied at that moment, but the article is lost to us later when we might need it.

According to Roger, like a hunter-gatherer we use certain tools when we interact with technology: a spear, a net, and a trap. Throwing a spear is like a targeted and deliberate search through apps, web browsers, email, calls and texts, and in-person chats. One practical tip Roger offered for this method was a password system (e.g., when creating accounts for apps, recycle your favorite password and add a very slight variation (Instagram password = Insta/favoritepassword). Casting a net is like doing a broad search (group emailing/texting and polling apps). Roger reminded participants that this method is only as good as the network you create.

Roger’s final parallel was setting a trap. You might set a technological trap with a news aggregator app (e.g., Flipboard) set to your interests. Then articles liked by you or your network are collected in a magazine. How can you save the articles you find? Roger suggests using the app Pocket and a tagging system. (Label the article with collocations. Later on you can use those thematic collocations to find the article again.).

Roger ended his session revisiting his initial reminders: Everyone has what it takes to be creative. We need to remember, though, that being creative takes work (downloading, tagging) and the discipline to make good practices into habits.

Leveraging Technology to Create and Cultivate Classroom Community
With Denise Maduli-Williams

image of author Brent Warner

Brent Warner


Denise Maduli-Williams has made a splash with CATESOL recently with her innovative presentations at the CATESOL Annual Conference, through her social media presence, and in her winning submission for the Ron Lee Technology Award. She was a natural fit as a featured presenter in CATESOL Orange County’s technology-themed workshop.

Denise warmed up participants in her session by having everybody join in a simple text-message poll from Poll Everywhere and displaying the results live as responses came in. As people started to share their ideas, Denise tied their ideas together into the bigger idea of her workshop, “Leveraging Technology to Create and Cultivate Classroom Community.”

The workshop pointed out that before Day 1 of class, students are already looking up teachers and making decisions based on social profiles and anything else that comes up on Google. Teachers, then, need to be aware of and properly cultivate their online presence well before any individual class starts in order to create a welcoming environment that students want to be a part of.

Of course a clear online presence only welcomes people in the door. Denise shared how many tools from the simple Photo Album on your phone to dedicated apps and services such as Animoto or Voicethread can be used to help give all students an opportunity to be heard equally and to feel as if they are not just a student in a class, but a member of an inclusive group.

Pointing out that 98% of her students have access to a smartphone, Denise clarified that technology is not going away. Engaging students with what they have makes them feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and it opens their minds to using the technology as a complement to the classroom learning objectives.

Embracing Canvas with Victorya Nam

author image of Christie Sosa

Christie Sosa


With more than 10 years’ experience teaching English, Victorya Nam has witnessed technology change the craft of teaching. In her presentation, “Embracing Canvas: Best Practices for Best Results,” she opened her presentation by explaining that she was reluctant to transition to Canvas. “It was incredibly intimidating,” she said. But, after making a lot of mistakes and asking a lot of questions, she has become a proficient user and encouraged everyone to remember this. “If I can do it, you can—trust me,” she said.

After a few words of encouragement, Victorya invited everyone to join her Canvas class, where she pointed out the major components of Canvas: modules, assignments, quizzes, and so on. Participants were then asked to take a quiz during which Victorya showed how Canvas automatically adds quiz scores to grades and how to adjust scores accordingly. This was especially appealing to participants who said they spend hours hand grading quizzes and inputting scores.

After showing participants other creative ways to use Canvas, for example, providing oral feedback, commenting on papers, recording student dictations, and so on, Victorya invited participants to begin creating their own Canvas webpages and to get them started, she provided her own Canvas shell (template). She ended her presentation by encouraging everyone to explore the expansive features and to remember that “anyone can learn Canvas; you just have to brave enough to get your feet wet.”

*Please note that all of the presenters’ materials (handouts and PowerPoints) are available at the OC CATESOL Chapter website: http://catesoloc.weebly.com/.


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