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Reflections on a spontaneous online session

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  • Vance Stevens
    (This started as a message to Rif after our practice online session yesterday, in which Yaodong, An-Lian, and Susanne took part. While writing it I decided to
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31 8:51 PM
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      (This started as a message to Rif after our practice online session yesterday,
      in which Yaodong, An-Lian, and Susanne took part. While writing it I decided to
      send this out to the Webheads to let Yaodong, An-Lian, and Susanne and everyone
      else know what was going on.)

      The event I am writing about was meant as a practice for a presentation to be
      given 'live' next week by Rif and I. You can find out more about this live
      presentation at http://www.vancestevens.com/papers/


      It was a great pleasure to meet with your students yesterday. Today is a very
      pleasant weekend day out in Abu Dhabi which I will spend mostly indoors trying
      to catch up on all my projects.

      I hope today some time to have up on the web some record of our session which
      your students can view before their weekend starts on Friday.

      I'm becoming associated with an analogy I've often made in online language
      learning of 'herding cats'. You never know when you convene such a session who
      will turn up and what will be their objectives, let alone capabilities. The
      result can appear to observers to be confusing, what Susanne Nyrop calls 'chaos
      navigation', another notion I find of great interest in online language
      learning. I think I will develop both notions in our presentation next
      Wednesday. My task as live presenter is to explain in some orderly fashion what
      the heck is going on before the eyes and ears of the audience. Your task as
      copresenter is to manage the online portion as best you can. We both have a
      better idea now what that entails, and if Yaodong and An-Lian will be joining us
      from China next Wednesday (and Susanne from Denmark?), perhaps they can help
      with the management.

      One difference between our practice and the real thing is that at the real
      thing, I won't be available as manager. I will be among the observers trying to
      work the computers and interpret for the other observers what you guys are
      doing. I think I'll get someone to help me with the computer.

      What I wanted to say just now, on waking up and having a cup of coffee and
      reflecting a bit on what went on last night, is that one thing your students
      made clear is that they were kind of expecting a session with just me. We are
      committed now to putting on some semblance of a show for an audience next
      Wednesday, but as a reward for your patient students and as a fun thing for me,
      I wonder if we could arrange for me to meet with them some time just us, where
      they can have my attention and I can get to know them a little better. (Same
      offer for the students in China if you would like some time).

      I hope that you can share this idea with your students if you see them today and
      let me know their reaction.

      One of the fascinating things about the Internet is this ability to get to know
      each other. I think our natural curiosity about each other, our natural desire
      for insights into foreign cultures, and the impetus for communication that these
      give us, are the great strengths for language learning of synchronous multimedia
      online communication (SMOC - I just coined an acronym!). It will be interesting
      to learn more about your students' perceptions of that concept after their
      having experienced a bit of it firsthand.

      To help you and your students get to know me better, and if you haven't seen it
      before, here is where I will be today. I might go for a jog down the corniche
      at some point. You can join me:
      (That's my desk in the corner. I'm sitting there writing this now)

      All the best for a nice day in Turkey, China, Denmark, or wherever you happen to
      be today.

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