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New Information Technologies in ELT
IT Networks in ELT

Workshops presented by Vance Stevens
Group 1 (week 1) July 19 - 24, 2004, in Mahdia, Tunisia

Henda, Nadia, Habib, Radhia, me, Adel, Mongi, Besma, Dalel, Nasser

Workshop activities for Week 1

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday
Ofoto pictures album | Pictures with linkable URLs from Week 1

Monday July 19

I arrived at 8:00 a.m. with Tunis embassy personnel whose job it was to see that things went 'smoothly'. The good news was that we found the LAN was Internet enabled and functioning, but that most of the sites I was counting on using were blocked either by the Tunisian proxy (all of my, along with anything from or at the institute firewall. The firewall was preventing all email access (no, and along with that no YahooGroups access). There was no access to Tapped In (no Java on the browsers, so no java-based chats or interfaces, and when Java was downloaded, still no chat connection). Of all the sites I had intended to use, I had access only to Blogger and Buzznet. I retrenched accordingly and used to create URLs that I could note on the blackboard so that students could access the sites successfully.

  • I started the sessions by introducing myself. I had my laptop hooked into the LCD so I was able to show sites from my local files though could not actually surf the Internet from my laptop.
  • I ended with the portal site I had created (this one) and then went into my planned activity, as follows:

I thought the day ended well despite the many potential pitfalls. At the end of the day one of the students requested more clarity in guidelines and step-by-step instructions, and said I should 'check' that these steps were followed, and I pointed out to her that she had succeeded in creating her blog and that I had indeed 'checked' that all students had done so and made a list at my own blog. Furthermore it should be obvious that given the situation on the ground any advanced preparation I had made on this particular day would not have been applicable, and that each day's activities would have to be planned in response to what was available on site and to the needs of the workshop participants which, as I had been told, I would know when I got there.

By the end of the morning, email service at Hotmail and Yahoo, and also YahooGroups, were working and I was able to return that evening and prepare materials via my blog. However, interaction with the concurrent teacher training session in Maracaibo in which I had hoped to involve my trainees was out of the question (no tapped in and no instant messagers). I was also up to that point unable to get my laptop online at the institute, and Internet access via my hotel had not materialized, so I had no access to FTP and was unable to update this web page as I went. I fell back on my blog for planning and organization

Tuesday July 20

On this day we continued work on our blogs and started a YahooGroup at I showed students how to start the group and went through some of the features of the site. Participants were challenged to:

  • Obtain a Yahoo ID and password (if they didn't have one already)
  • Register for the group
  • Send an introduction message
  • Add links to their blogs to the Our Blogs folder of the Links area (by end of day only 3 students had done both tasks)

Below is the information I placed in my blog to facilitate formation of student enrollment in our YahooGroup.

To enroll, you must be a Yahoo member (Sign up at
If you are a Yahoo member, simply

  1. visit the YahooGroup website,
    or its Tiny URL:
  2. click Join this Group
  3. enter your Yahoo name and ID
  4. Let Yahoo use your default profile and email address
  5. decide whether to accept the default email setting or ...
  6. Write in plain text the numbers and letters on the graphic that you see (this is Yahoo's way of keeping spammers out by ensuring that a human is signing up for this service)
  7. Submit the data

You can also subscribe by email: (in that case you can receive email but you won't be able to utilize the Yahoo Group web site features at

Once you've subscribed, do the following:

Workshop participants at this stage were taking little note of what I was writing in my blog and expressed dissatisfaction that I had not brought with me paper handouts. I on the other hand had not been shown facilities whereby I could prepare such handouts. By the end of the week I had worked out how to print to the printer in the server room, but it was not then possible to have multiple photocopies made. On my Sunday day off I worked to attenuate this problem for the next week's batch of participants.

I made two very interesting discoveries today:

  1. I discovered that by going into the chat feature of YahooGroups I got connected to the Yahoo Messenger network. I was able to download MSN Messenger by end of day and get it working, but YM remained unresponsive.
  2. I discovered that my Geocities cites ARE available in Tunisia and presumably in China ... through Google's cached pages facility. I was able to pull up recent cached versions of my pages by elicting them in a Google search and then clicking on 'cached' rather than the URL offered. The links, even the internal ones, wouldn't necessarily work, but I was able to at least get at my pages which contained other URLs I could follow, and thus retrieve other cites whose URLs were otherwise unavailable to me. This was useful because students were asking me about online resources, which are catalogued at various places in my site stored at Geocities. I was now able to show them the (cached) URLs.

Extensive listings of tutor resources available on the Internet

I made links in my blog to an extensive set of tutor resource materials at my ESL_Home website, using the Google cached URLs as indicated above. My idea was that we should explore these sites and find ones that might help the teachers in their tutoring work. The participants would record their findings in their blogs.

In practice, the work on blogs at this stage was at a more basic level. I felt the participants were going along at their own pace so I didn't push my agenda. Also it turned out that there was a separate thread going on in the workshop. The Tunisian trainer was having the students do a similar project in the afternoons, and sometimes the students worked on these during my sessions. The project involved locating resources on the Internet and developing materials from these. When I saw this work taking place I tried to get participants thinking about how they might use online spaces to share their findings with others.

Some participants were expressing an interest in the logical next step: getting their pictures on the Internet. That evening I updated my blog (this portal page being still not available for upload) to include links to managing blog templates and to learning more about hyperlinks and picture links from my HTML tutorial at

Again I thought the sessions went very well that day, with students appearing to be enthusiastic about following wherever my guidance might take them. That evening Dalel gave me a thorough overview of the TVS site and explained how tutors would be using the forum and FAQ areas, and we agreed that she would give her presentation to our participants next day so that they could be put in the picture more regarding how this would work practically. We agreed that she should start next morning on it and I would start with photos in blogs after the break.

Wednesday July 21

On this day I got my laptop connected to the LAN. I was still not able to get my email or have FTP from behind the firewall, but I was able browse from my computer and transfer files via various other protocols, and I was able to reach Homestead and upload files to there from my computer. Some of these files were picture files, so I was on my way to placing student pictures on the web to give them URLs they could use as links in their blogs.

I also uploaded photos from my camera to, which I am using to take photos from my computer and put them on the Internet, where I can 'share' my photo albums by having the site generate a URL where my photos can be accessed. To do this ...

  1. I share my albums with my OWN email address
  2. I REMOVE the check box requiring my friends to sign in
  3. I send the URL I receive to others or post the URL in my blogs and web pages

I found that the above steps could not be done from behind the firewall at the Institute (clicking Submit has no effect) but I have since discovered that to 'share' your photo albums, no need to go through these steps. Simply open your album in your browser, copy its URL, and send that to your friends. There is no need for them to sign in to see the photos.

Our photo albums are here:

Later in the day I uploaded our photos to our YahooGroups photos area, and I started cropping them and storing them at my Homestead web space, in order to give them a fixed URL. There are two disadvantages to this method:

  1. The URLs are too long to be used in a Blogger profile. One of the participants and I discovered that Blogger has a 63 character limit to URL names allowable in the profile (and then template) and my homestead URLs exceed that.
  2. The tutors did not themselves have control over the process. To overcome both these limitations the solution is to open an account at Tripod (or Angelfire, another possibility, which I didn't test). I didn't have a chance myself to explore this solution until Saturday night after the workshops had ended, so I didn't know if the procedure would be possible through the firewall, but I discovered that it did indeed work.

I created a web space named mahdia2004. I uploaded one pic (to test that it works from Tunisia). Its URL is (capital letters are significant)

The program for the day:

Dalel's presentation ran through the break and almost through the end of the day. We all got a good look at the TVS site and practiced moderating forums and proposing frequently asked questions and answering them. I emphasized the fact that tutors need to have repertoires of answers to often asked questions. Students came to me with hypothetical questions such as: how can I be a good writer? Do I have to know grammar thoroughly in order to write? Henda had a good answer to these questions which she articulated at length. I challenged whether she could email each individual student with such an answer and suggested that tutors need to have web spaces where they have prepared such answers and associated hyperlinks and be in position to point students to these canned pages.

Dalel uploaded her PowerPoint presentation to our Yahoo Groups site:
Introduction of the Tunisian Virtual School's tutoring spaces and their functionalities

Thursday July 22 - decorating our blogs

Two or three students had seemed very keen on getting pictures up on the Internet. I started presenting the material linked from my blog (since copied to the chart below). My instructional strategy was to

  • Place the information online at my blog location and point out to students where each item of information they would need was
  • I expected that the participants would follow at least enough to register where they could find the information later, as I presented it
  • I intended that they would then work on the materials at their own pace, and as questions as needed.

The information density was thick and required concentration. During the presentation I was interrupted and it was suggested that I stop there and have the students work on what I had presented in stepwise manner. I preferred to complete the overview, but I had to take time out then and there to defend myself from this challenge to my credentials (see expectations mismatch below)

Here is what I presented, in my blog at the time, since transferred here ...

Description URL and why I presented it
Some good background on blogging: Barbara Dieu has written a great little webooklet on Blogging and Presence Online (Feb 2004).

A must-read for teachers both novice and those wanting to know more about the potential of blogs and how they can enhance language learning:

How to start a blog at Blogger:

Students had already started their blogs but I put the URL here for unity of presentation on blogs

How to insert links and pictures in the template:

I pointed out that there were three places you could put pictures in a blog hosted at

  • In a Posting
  • In the Blog heading through settings
  • In the Blog side-bar through alteration of the template

This document showed how to change the template so that pictures would appear there. It had instructions on resizing pictures.

All you need to know about HTML Vance's HTML Tutorial on Inserting Images into web pages

Students were beginning to glaze over by now but this tutorial page has the syntax for both displaying the picture URL and resizing it - students caught on eventually!!

Vance's HTML Tutorial on creating hyperlinks:

Similar to the above, this page explains syntax for hyperlinking - this was review from yesterday

I didn't get around to pointing out the following URLs, which were not crucial to the lesson:

Software for meeting on online . This page discusses effective synchronous communication software, and concerning the problems we'd had running Java enabled sites, as it was downloadable, there is a Java troubleshooting guide here (at the time we were still trying to resolve the problem with Tapped In) ...

By the end of the day most participants (and I) had recovered from the frustrations of the morning (see expectations mismatch below). Many were on their way to putting pictures up at their sites (i.e. blogs). I had taken a lot of pictures and was moving them from my camera to Ofoto and then collecting them on my laptop where I cropped them and made other enhancements in Thumbs Plus and then uploaded them to Homestead and displayed them on my web pages.. Dalel seemed interested in the potential for doing what I was showing them with video files and we agreed to experiment. One of the students mentioned that she wanted to know how to animate her images.

I later followed up on this:

Expectations Mismatch

During these workshops I frequently had to face challenges to my instructional technique that interrupted my presentations and compromised my ability to plan and implement my sessions as I saw fit. These challenges were not without merit but were sometimes poorly timed.

Actually, they were using it, and as the day progressed it became apparent that the small coterie of 3 who seemed to be following my lessons up to the mid-day break had expanded to at least half the participants who just needed more time to overcome the lack of clear instructions (or more correctly, misunderstanding about where to find the clear instructions). In other words, they had been listening, and they were capable of finding the information I had presented in my presentation, and with effort on their part, they were able to find and follow up on my directions.

Friday July 23

Reflecting on feedback from the preceding day, I felt we needed to have a discussion of online environments and how they are different from classroom ones. In particular I wanted to get students thinking about

  • the mismatch between their expectations and the way I'd been presenting the material, conducting the class, and setting up the educational structure.
  • I wanted also to get students thinking beyond Saturday, when the expert is no longer there, and whether they anticipated any further interaction with each other and the trainers in the course.

We discussed the following chart, which I prepared off the top of my head prior to class time:

Characteristics of pedagogical environments Face to face Online
presentation of material predictable order, linear hyperlinked, branching, non-linear
classroom management can be lockstep or project based self-paced
feedback from instructor Instructor responds 'on the fly', feedback ends when instructor stops discourse, or students pursue suggestions in notes can be comprehensive and hyperlinked to further information if well thought out in advance
most suitable learning paradigm any paradigm can be applied, but teachers tend to dominate classrooms as 'sage on the stage' favor constructivist paradigms, teachers function best as 'guide on the side'
Duration of learning stops at end of class continues beyond end of class with asynchronous modes of communication possible, even synchronous ones
Demands on teacher takes place during class times and marking after class tends to be very demanding
Individualization suppressed conducive to individual effort
Interaction with students many slip through the cracks can be intensively one-on-one
Mode of presentation tends to be paper-based no paper, works via web pages

To pursue these characteristics and nurture the online environment, we needed participation in the YahooGroup. Accordingly:

I asked students to revisit the Yahoo Groups exercise from Tuesday. In particular I asked them to post an introduction in the group messages. Up to that point there had only been three messages, two from one participant and one from me. I was trying to get some interaction going in the group, realizing that we had only two days left in the workshop, and if this group didn't start interacting online, it probably never would.

Again, as I was trying to get students to respond to my suggestions, I was interrupted and told that there had been complaints (from participants present in the room) about my methods and that one of the organizers of the teacher training sessions was 'angry'. I think the person interrupting me was responding either to an email or phone call that had just been received and had decided that the matter was urgent, but took that particular moment to start a discussion with me, in front of the trainees, about the direction I had taken the proceedings, which in the perception conveyed, was departing too far from the Tunisian context. Whatever cooperation I was getting from the class at that point was scattered and the class drifted aimlessly toward the break. No participant from that group ever posted an introduction to the Yahoo Group.

After the break I had meant to suggest how blogs can act as hyperlinkable notepads that can be used with any Internet connection to record in a replicable format what anyone learns or wishes to preserve from the Internet, and how this can contribute toward a compilation of resources that can be used in tutoring (such as addressing frequently asked questions). Toward this end I had hoped to revive my activity planned for the previous Tuesday, which was to get students looking at some of the links from my websites, and record their findings in their blogs so that they could be shared with the class.

After the challenges to my teaching over the past couple of days the students did not seem inclined to follow my suggestions, though all worked good-naturedly on their own projects during the afternoon, and I was resigning myself to the situation I'd got myself into. Here are my reflections from this afternoon.

Before leaving I asked one or two of them if they had ever used concordances and they didn't seem to be familiar with the concept so I decided to do that on the following day.

Saturday July 24 -

The morning (up to break time) was devoted to a project that Dalel needed to have the trainees complete.

In the last two hours of our last day we went into my plan to look at Concordancing as tutorial feedback, using the following program:

  • Here is the concordance program site
    If starting here, select English / Simple Search
  • The previous step brings you to the actual concordance page. You can start directly here:
  • Here, set your parameters and conduct the concordance:
    • set Search String equal to / starts with / ends with / or contains (and enter the text to be concordanced)
    • Select corpus (experiment here before using with students)
    • Sort on the words either to the left or to the right

Create a gap fill exercise where sets of blanks must be filled in by the students.

First we need a short list of problem vocabulary. I started looking for differences between 'greater' and 'bigger' as one of the participants had asked me earlier which adjective would best collocate with 'enthusiasm'. I ran concordances on 'great' and 'big' and we looked for classes of collocates to the right, and then checked collocates to the left; for example 'even' bigger and 'even' greater.

The words I had planned to use for the day (and whose concordances I had run in advance so I knew ahead of time what the output would be, were:

Next step was to run concordances on the words in question. At

Sources of text

The online concordance site allows you to choose among a selection of 'bodies' of text, known commonly as corpora. Some of the participants suggested that the output for such texts may not contextualize well for their students. I noted that I had in my own work used texts compiled from professors who were writing text materials specifically for my students and used these as my corpus, which I then concordanced to derive language learning materials. I also noted that the truncated output strings 70 characters long proved to be an advantage because I could prompt students to complete truncated words and otherwise recall what might have come before or after each string in question.

I recommended as a source of texts the project Gutenberg site: . This site aims to digitalize as many books as possible in several languages once their copyright has expired. Texts are available for download free and their use is unrestricted.


We then had a look at Buzznet, I had started one here, and I quickly showed the participants the interface and how to upload photos to it. Within 15 minutes at least two participants had downloaded photos from our shared album at and uploaded them to their Buzznet blogs which they had just created:

If any other students have Buzznet blogs, please notify us via one of our learning spaces (post a message at for example).

Blogs are very good for getting your thoughts up for a class to see quickly. It's better than using chalkboard because later you can copy your notes elsewhere on your computer. Due to this ease of creation and use, and for situations where a graphic interface is an asset, Buzznet appears to have some advantages over Blogger.

Comparison of Buzznet and Blogger




Appearance of Blog

Blogger allows much greater manipulation of appearance of the overall blog, with changes possible to template and blog heading that give users with knowledge of HTML and other web based tools great control over how the blog will look.

Buzznet presents a set interface (with advertisements) and does not allow much alteration to appearance

Organization of posts

Blogger lists recent posts in the side-bar according to their title, and as posts become old, they are 'archived' but not in a way they can be easily retrieved. There are ways to improve retrieval but knowledge of HTML and work with the template is required

Buzznet associates each posting with a photo. Thumbnails of the photos are arrayed and postings can be retrieved by clicking on the associated thumbnail. As the cursor is passed over the thumbnail, the title of the posting is displayed. Therefore it is possible to set up web spaces here which can be organized by picture association.

User Accounts

With Blogger, you can create as many blogs as you like within one user account. This is convenient from a management standpoint. Through one logon you can manage many blog URLs. As far as I can tell, Buzznet allows you only one URL per account, so to create multiple blogs, each has to have its own account.

Upload of photos

Blogger requires users to use <IMG SRC=""> and specify location of URL of photo already on the Internet in order for pictures to appear in blogs. I have noticed that there is mention of photo blogs in recent versions of the interface but haven't had time to check this out yet.

Buzznet allows users to upload photos stored on their computers. These are then stored on Buzznet's servers; no need to upload photos to spaces where each has a URL

Allowing comments from others

Blogger requires that you initiate the invitation to others to share comments in your blog. You provide that person's email address and Blogger sends the invitee an email (this means you must know the email of the person you want to share your blog with). The invitee can then respond and be added as a member of your blog. The invitee needs to have a Blogger account and is prompted to start one if this is not the case. When your invitation is accepted, your blog appears in the list of blogs available to the invited member, but the member can only post to, not edit, the blog.

The owner of the blog has complete control over editing and deleting anyone's posting. People who post have no write permission to alter anything they have posted.

Buzznet is set up so that anyone can initiate a request to comment on your blog. The only stipulation is that the user has to sign in to Buzznet to do so. That means that the user has to start a Buzznet account, but once signed in, the user can comment on your blog without your invitation. Comments can appear in your blog from anywhere without your having to do any setup.

Although users can write comments in your blog at will, the owner of the blog has complete control over editing and deleting anyone's posting. People who post have no write permission to alter anything they have posted.

Posting and editing posts

Blogger has a clear system of changing numerous settings to the blog. It offers many options but the existence of options can make it more difficult to use. If users only post and edit posts, the interface will remain simple, except that sometimes users get the HTML editor, and sometimes the WYSIWYG editor, which can be confusing when it happens. Also saving a posting (in a workspace) and publishing it (so others will see the change) are separate steps. Users might save but not publish. Also any changes to the template or settings require users to 'republish entire blog' which is also unclear to many users.

Buzznet has a clear system of changing postings, titles of posts, and pictures associated with posts. The user has little control over other features, such as the URL for the blog. However, the interface is consistent for most operations. Clicking on the Save button publishes the blog, and there are not settings or templates to be concerned with.


Sometimes users get the HTML editor, and sometimes the WYSIWYG editor, which can be confusing when it happens. If the WYSIWYG editor appears then there is a hyperlink tool which creates hyperlinks in a dialog box. Otherwise users must manually input the code: <A HREF="html link goes here">Text to click on goes here</A> Users must manually input the code: <A HREF="html link goes here">Text to click on goes here</A> in order to create hyperlinks in postings.


Sometimes users get the HTML editor, and sometimes the WYSIWYG editor, which can be confusing when it happens. I have not worked out how to control whether this happens or not. Also Blogger servers can be busy and have trouble synchronizing. You can edit a posting and publish it and not see the changes when pulling up the posting to re-edit it. When that happens it's best to call it a day and come back in the morning. I have also had problems seeing archived posts in my students' blogs. Buzznet introduces extra line breaks between lines each time a posting is edited and saved. These appear as <br /> tags in the posting text. All but one of these needs to be removed each time the posting is saved, or spaces between paragraphs will proliferate. Also some operations cause errors (you have no right to alter this setting). When I get this message, the change has usually been made to my blog, but it's disconcerting (and if you go back into your posting to check, you have to remove the extra <br /> tags as noted above.


There is no backup of your work on Blogger's servers. I advise students to copy and paste to Notepad their existing template before making changes to it (and save it to their hdd of course). Errors in the template can make the blog invisible (but not disappear; the blog with all its postings is there and will be restored with repair of template or selection of a new one). Old templates can be retrieved from backup if one has been saved previously, or you can change the template and restore changes you've made to it from the copies you've made. Copies of the blog can be made by doing a file/save as in your browser. You can also import your blog for hosting on another server. There is no backup of your work on Buzznet's servers. My own work style is to keep copies of my Buzznet blogs in text documents on my hdd. I work on the documents there and past them to the Edit postings area when ready to publish. This technique keeps a copy on my computer and also ensures that there is only one <br /> tag between each paragraph each time I publish.

Screen captures

One participant suggested that I include a graphic of our photo album in this web page. To do that I decided to bring the album up on the screen and then do a screen capture. To do screen captures you

  • Press the Im écran or Print Screen key; this records the screen image to the computer memory buffer or 'clipboard'
  • Use start / programs /accessories / Paint to open the Paint program
  • Paste the contents of the memory buffer or 'clipboard' to Paint
  • Save the image as a JPG file if possible (some versions of Paint force you to save as BMP or bitmap image)

In order to use the image you must manipulate it. For example, rarely will you want to display the contents of the entire screen. You need a cropping tool to select only the part you need. You might need to convert your huge BMP image to a smaller (compressed) JPG or GIF. You might want to resize the image or make other adjustments. Do this you'll need to trial or purchase image editing software. You can find some shareware products listed here:

Online Survey Tools

A survey was created at Yahoo Groups for this course. Members of Yahoo Groups can create surveys. Ours is here:

One disadvantage of YGroup surveys is you only can ask one question and you can only poll your group members. If you want to create more comprehensive surveys you can try:

We had a request for text manipulation software (e.g. storyboard, cloze)
From my papers and presentations:
I used to have online SuperCloze and other text manipulation softwares:

This software does not appear to be available at the above location. I did a quick Google search on such free software but did not find any listed.

This leads us to where you can go for help in cases where you have any questions where you need tutoring in your own professional development.

Questions such as 'Where can I find text manipulation software I can download for free?' can be posted to numerous lists which I suggest participants join. Some of these are:

See for information on how to subscribe to NETEACH-L, TESLCA-L and other relevant mailing lists.

In retrospect

I have really enjoyed working with this group of difficult and demanding and challenging Tunisian students. I think we reached a point where we were seeing eye to eye and intellect to intellect. I have accepted the critiques made to my conduct of the workshop by its participants in a spirit of honest and forthright feedback meant to help me improve my perception of the needs of the trainees and their level of expectations from their trainers, and to thus implement improvements for the second week. I hope the understandings reached have been reciprocal, and that participants can see where impossible demands have been placed, and where the guest expert has been striving to compensate and adapt.

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Last Updated: July 30, 2004

Copyright 2004 by Vance Stevens