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Vance Stevens's email: firstname.lastname@example.org
TESOL Arabia Conference,
Higher Colleges of Technology, Dubai Women's College
March 14th - 16th, 2001
Chat software focused on in this demonstration
A full description of this and similar software is at http://www.vancestevens.com/findbuds.htm
The following clients are the ones we are currently using with Writing for Webheads <http://www.homestead.com/vstevens/files/efi/webheads.htm>. First we locate each other online using ICQ and then we use:
Homestead for text chat: http://www.homestead.com/vstevens/
Excite voice chat: http://www.excite.com/communities/chat/voicechat/rooms
Tapped In, a MOO-like environment: http://www.tappedin.org
For those who can't make the live chat: leave your voice message at http://www.chariot.net.au/~michaelc/wimba.htm
The past year has seen great strides in text and voice-activated synchronous communications tools, with major players like Hear Me Voice Creator and Firetalk no longer supported. What can take the place of Hear Me in the way of easily used and implemented voice chat to promote listening skills with native speakers? What compelling text chat tools are available to promote writing skills? Why should educators in the UAE be interested in chat, and what's available to them if they are?
Why use chat?
Two presentations (Mynard, Campbell) at the TESOL Arabia Abu Dhabi branch conference "Connecting the Classroom and the Community" at the Al Ittihad Model School, Abu Dhabi, February 15, 2001, both by practitioners working in the UAE context, cited such benefits as
Chat activities can include
The presenter's experience with chat
The presenter has been using synchronous chat clients with students and professional colleagues since 1998, particularly in an online language learning community called Writing for Webheads <http://www.homestead.com/vstevens/files/efi/webheads.htm>.
In that time, some useful chat clients have come and gone :-(PowWow and Firetalk, for example), while new ones are frequently developed and available for language learning. In the demonstration, the presenter will show participants what latest developments he is aware of, and promote discussion of chat clients that participants have used and liked.
There are several factors governing whether a free chat tool is viable in an educational setting or not.
The chart examines chat clients with both voice and text chat features used by the presenter and his students and colleagues in some cases since 1998.
|Genre||Client||Setup||Ease of use||Reliability||Adaptable||Transcripting||Multiple users||Control||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Text chat||Homestead||must create homestead homepage, 20 min||users go to url with java browser||excellent||Intuitive GUI interface||cut-and-paste||no limit?||you set up dedicated chatroom with some control over who has url||Homepage creation easy with Page Builder||easy to miss people in chat, transcripts lost when buffer fills|
|YahooGroups (was Egroups)||simply set up egroup, 15 min||users enroll and get passwords to site||good||suitable to class groups||none||no limit? but gets slow||membership in group can be exclusive||many features associated with egroups||no record of chats; temperamental client|
|ICQ||download and install||intuitive||excellent||notifies you when buddies online||save as file||many: not sure of limit||little control over buddy lists, but some security features||widely used with best features available||talk facility not free|
|Yahoo Messenger||download and install||very intuitive||server logoff because 'you've logged on another machine'||notifies you when buddies online||cut-and-paste||not sure||you have little control over buddy lists||popular, has voice component, works well||voice only one on one|
|Voice chat||Excite||easy setup through website||fairly straightforward access||so far so good||implements voice contact||voice with rudimentary text contact||several at least||you set up dedicated chatroom||excellent voice quality||no group text chat|
|TelcoPoint||one-time setup through website||fairly straightforward access||poor||implements voice contact||voice with rudimentary text contact||not sure||you control url name; some control over who has it||Hear Me reputation, might improve||dysfunctional support, poor sound quality|
|Voice discussion||Wimba||must get code and install to own website||fairly intuitive access||wimba site sometimes down||threaded discussion||SUPER voice archive for class use||no limit||you control url name; some control over who has it||voice archive excellent for listening and speaking practice||threaded discussions hard to organize|
|MOO||Tapped In||enroll, optionally set up office||easy guest access||excellent||Pepperdine U. holds classes here||voice recorder emails you transcript||no limit||safe, monitored environment||cool features include ability to launch urls on remote browsers||MOOs, appeal more to some than others|
|Avatar-based||Palace||must setup on server or use existing Palace||download and install Palace browser||varies||many features to enhance online experience||cut-and-paste||no limit||possible to have intrusions||friendly environment, create own avatars||most Palace services no longer supported|
|ActiveWorlds||Just specify coordinates, or create own world||easy download and install browser||excellent||can create 3-D classpace here||not sure||no limit||not much control over who is where||coolest interface ever; users can even fly||big graphics load cuts out some users|
Once an appropriate client is found, adaptation and integration of the facility to the teacher's teaching situation or web site is critical, and the presenter will show how this is easily done with a number of these clients.
Text and voice-activated synchronous communication tools are changing all the time. At this demonstration you can find out what's new, what works best, and what's most easily adaptable to your purposes in the way of text and voice-based chat clients for promotion of your students' speaking and writing skills.
Vance Stevens is computer-assisted language learning consultant and coordinator at the MLI and has developed, published, and researched in CALL since the 1980's. He has conducted a synchronous online class since 1998. Email: email@example.com
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