Why Did I Have A Good Time at EUROCALL2018? Advice for Marginalized Scholars

Why Did I Have A Good Time at EUROCALL2018_ Advice for Women of Color Scholars

I finally made it to EUROCALL! This year’s conference, EUROCALL2018, was held in Jyväskylä, Finland. Check this video if you are not sure how to pronounce Jyväskylä. I had a good time at EUROCALL2018 and here are the details why.

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Because:

The Nightmare of Visa Application Ended Happily!

My UK visa got rejected three times and I could not attend EUROCALL2017 physically (here is the link to the story: https://parisamehran.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/denied-yet-present-at-eurocall-2017-a-memoir/). If you have a powerful passport, I invite you to read my blogpost (please click here) on the nightmare of conference visa applications, which are very complicated for scholars who are from the Global South (yes, I dislike the term “developing countries” because outside Iran I realized that people are from the so-called “developed countries”, however, their behaviors are truly under-developed!).

Because:

I Educated Myself on How to Survive at Academic Conferences!

One of my Twitter friends introduced me to Raewyn Connell’s series, titled Survive and Thrive at an Academic Conference: A Guide for Beginners, in Five Outbursts and a Couch, about a week before the conference.

Finally, someone has said: “Academic conferences can be hard to decode, even alienating“, “cliques form, and ignore or exclude outsiders”, “you can have toxic experiences: harassment, bullying, or other aggression”, and I could not stop reading this paragraph:

‘Border protection’ by governments often excludes leftists, Muslims, and intellectuals from societies in conflict. I was at one conference in a rich white-majority country where a keynote speaker arrived, was seized by immigration police at the airport, and immediately deported – strange to tell, a woman of colour. Heroically she managed to give the keynote address by Skype.

After finishing reading the series, I googled and found more resources on this topic and the following part from a blogpost, titled Advice for Attending Academic Conferences (For Scholars on the Margins), is close to my heart:

We must be honest about the additional concerns and burdens of conferences and interacting with other scholars in general—the external burdens of microaggressions, harassment, stereotyping, disrespect and the internal burdens of self-doubt, mental health problems, and fear — for scholars on the margins.

Because:

I Decided to Apply the Lessons I Learned the Hard Way!

In 2014, I obtained the Japanese Government Scholarship and am now doing my PhD in Japan. I realized in the first few days of living in Japan that there are certain stereotypes about the Middle East, especially about Iran my homeland. Attending conferences has gradually become alienating and I always feel the tension in the air as all the micro/macroaggressions that I am experiencing on a daily basis have made me acutely aware of the inequities imposed by the intersection of race, gender, and physical appearance (please check this blog where I record my ouch moments: https://beyondyourstereotypes.wordpress.com/). Therefore, the question of “how should I look” is recently always with me!

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Because:

I Attended Wikipedia for Language Teaching and Learning Workshop!

My EUROCALL2018 journey started with attending Wikipedia for Language Teaching and Learning workshop by Teresa Mackinnon and Niklas Laxström.

You can find my notes at the following tweet:

That was a great start, because if you know Teresa, you can imagine how welcoming her session was ❤

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Because:

I Was the Virtually Connecting On-Site Buddy!

Last year, Virtually Connecting connected me to EUROCALL2017 and this year I was the on-site buddy! Check this link to watch the recordings:

http://virtuallyconnecting.org/blog/2018/08/05/virtually-connecting-at-eurocall2018/

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Because:

I Became Friends with Two Like-Minded EUROCALL First Timers!

Danyang Zhang

She is a CALL enthusiast and doing her PhD on MALL and Vocabulary Learning at the University of Cambridge.

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Jessica Zipf

She is a linguist and doing her PhD on Computational Linguistics at University of Konstanz.

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We had deep conversations about feeling marginalized at academia and explored EUROCALL2018 together, especially the parties which are the hardest parts of conferences to attend!

Because:

My Voice Got Heard and I Won the Best PhD Student Poster Award!

I stood beside my poster the whole day and I presented it to more than 50 people because I believe my story is the story of many scholars who are from the Global South and should be heard.

Here is the link to the poster:

Because:

My Allies Were Around!

On-site allies (in alphabetical order):

  • Sahar Alzahrani
  • Kate Borthwick
  • Mark Donnellan
  • Mirjam Hauck
  • Kym Jolley
  • Teresa Mackinnon
  • Louise Ohashi
  • Shannon Sauro
  • Michelle Stannard
  • Richmond Stroupe
  • Victoria Willingale
  • Sarah Winspear
  • Mari Yamauchi

Online allies (in alphabetical order):

  • Maha Bali
  • Martina Emke
  • Simon Ensor
  • Helen DeWaard

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Because:

I Dispelled Stereotypes!

At the dinner party, one of Japan-based colleagues approached me and asked:

-“Are you allowed to dance?”

I just said, “yeah” because he was drunk.

When he saw me the next day, he came to me and said:

-“Oh, you took it off!” (pointing to my head. He meant my headscarf.)

I replied:

-“Because I am allowed to do whatever I want!”

He said,

-“Yeah, you want to get some sun.”

I said:

-“No, because I am proving my humanity!”

He laughed, did not say anything, and left.

Here is the link to the blogpost of this story:

https://beyondyourstereotypes.wordpress.com/2018/08/30/are-you-allowed-to-dance/

For the record, here is a photo of me from EUROCALL2015 held in Padova, Italy.

BTW, have you ever changed your physical appearance to be treated fairly at conferences? If yes, please leave a comment.

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Because:

I Received the Nicest Comment Ever!

Talking to Shannon Sauro about my challenges, she said this at the end of our conversion:

You are an activist!

Because:

It Was My Birthday!

August 25th is my birthday and I received the best birthday present ever: The EUROCALL2018 Poster Award 🙂

In conclusion, I would like to share my experiences which might be used as advice for marginalized scholars. The things I wish I had known before becoming a conference goer:

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Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/2C9f9vs

  • I do not add people that I meet at conferences on Facebook.
  • I sometimes follow people on Twitter or LinkedIn. Recently, I have decided to not follow the big names. If I have the chance to get to know them, which means they are approachable, I’ll definitely follow them on social media but still do not add them on Facebook.
  • I do not say hi to everyone (this is so hard because greeting is a huge part of my culture and I need to remind myself all the time not to say hi!).
  • I do keep smiling! 🙂
  • I do not take the initiative to socialize with people, especially at the so-called “networking” events. If people want to communicate, they come to me.
  • I spend most of my time with first timers. Most of the time they are willing to communicate even when they do not belong to minority groups.
  • I find marginalized fellow scholars and socialize with them.
  • I do not take photos with keynote speakers, big names, or people I do not know.
  • I watch inspiring speeches by women before the conferences. This is my favorite: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/07/oprah-winfrey-nmaahc-exhibit-opens-sot.cnn
  • I hold my head high, feel proud of who I am, and I walk into a room, just as cool as you please! 😉

I am sure I’ll update this list as I get more experience. Please leave a comment if you would like to add to the list.

Peace ❤

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OUGEO Presence at JALT2017

Tech Resources from Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO)

Photo created by Canva

Mehrasa and I had two poster presentations on our joint PhD project at JALT2017.

1. Multimodal e-Feedback in an Online English Course

As online English courses are growing in popularity exponentially in higher education, providing electronic feedback is also gaining currency, as students might feel disconnected, unengaged, and unsupported if they are not provided with effective feedback. The provision of electronic feedback can be enhanced through multimodality, particularly in asynchronous online environments. There are also a number of factors such as social presence and collaboration which are related to feedback effectiveness.

In this study, we explored the use of online interaction platforms available on Blackboard Learn and web-based tools such as VideoNot.es to provide multimodal electronic feedback in an online course of English for General Academic Purposes (EGAP), entitled Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO). Additionally, we examined how Japanese learners of English perceive the multimodal electronic feedback they have received on their online writing and speaking tasks. We also investigated the perceived usefulness of the provided feedback in relation to learner collaboration and sense of presence in the online course. To collect data, we asked the participants to respond to a set of surveys and open-ended questions.

The findings indicated that the majority of students valued the multimodality of the feedback on their productive tasks. Furthermore, the students’ perception of social presence and collaboration was found to be related to their perception of feedback usefulness. Finally, we discussed the practical implications for providing effective online multimodal feedback as well as further facilitating collaborative online environments.

2. Developing a Blended Course: Why Quality Matters

In this poster presentation, we reported on the development, implementation, and evaluation phases of a blended course of English for general academic purposes targeting second-year undergraduate Japanese students at Osaka University. In general, the course aimed to develop students’ practical English skills to help them advance to higher levels of conversational and academic English up to B2 and C1 levels of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

The basic Successive Approximation Model proposed by Allen (2012) informed the design and development of the online course. In order to ensure course quality from the outset, we used the Quality Matters® Higher Education Rubric (Fifth Edition) as the major reference. The pedagogical practices within this fifteen-week course hinge on recent approaches in ELT, e.g., project-based language learning. As part of the evaluation process, we measured the students’ perception on the usefulness of the course quantitatively and qualitatively through an attitudinal survey instrument and open ended reflection questions. Furthermore, to deploy learning analytics, we analyzed the data generated by the learning management system Blackboard Learn, also known as CLE (Collaboration and Learning Environment) to further delve into students’ performance, track their progress, and provide insights into ways to improve it. Eventually, to examine learner achievement and the fulfillment of learning outcomes, we also examined the students’ scores on the placement test, weekly assigned tasks, as well as quizzes and the final exam.

 

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Tech Resources from Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO)

TECH RESOURCES FROM OSAKA UNIVERSITY GLOBAL ENGLISH ONLINE (OUGEO) (1)

Photo created by Canva

Today, Mehrasa and I presented at Kobe JALT Tech Day 2017. We introduced the following tech resources we used in our blended course, Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO).

  1. Google Sites: https://sites.google.com/view/ougeo
  2. Breaking News Englihs: https://breakingnewsenglish.com/
  3. English Listening Lesson Libary Online (ELLLO): http://elllo.org/
  4. TED Talks: https://www.ted.com/talks
  5. engVid (Free English Video Lessons): https://www.engvid.com/
  6. Simple English Videos: http://www.simpleenglishvideos.com/
  7. Perfect English Grammar: http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/
  8. British Council: http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/ http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/
  9. James Rogers’ videos and app on English pronunciation for Japanese learners: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh9O2hwEKshmr2WRGXsTepA/featured  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnJIxjrueNc&feature=youtu.be
  10. English Kikstart: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-sj0KDP3DnFH-acTOPj2eA
  11. Lyric Lab: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5bLw9Uguvv2CHaNKy4O9fpKGf8G3zSAK
  12. FluentU: http://www.fluentu.com/blog/english/
  13. UsingEnglish: https://www.usingenglish.com/articles/100-most-useful-emailing-phrases.html
  14. Global Digital Citizen Foundation: https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/
  15. Real Life English: https://reallifeglobal.com/
  16. Adobe Captivate: http://www.adobe.com/products/captivate.html
  17. iSpring Suite: https://www.ispringsolutions.com/
  18. Bb Student and Mobile Learn: https://itunes.apple.com/us/developer/blackboard-inc/id306716521
  19. BlippAR: https://blippar.com/en/
  20. The Spinning Wheel: https://tekhnologic.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/the-spinning-wheel/

Finally, I also created this AR poster on the real Iran 🙂

Tech Resources from Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO)

Here is the link to the video (the code might not work):

 

Here is the link to our slides:

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017: A Memoir

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017

Photo created by Canva

update: I received 74,192 yen from Takemura Lab, Osaka University, and 40,000 yen from the EUROCALL members. In total, I paid around 150,000 yen (translation fees included) and I was reimbursed the sum of 114,192 yen. I’d like to thank my supervisor, Prof. Takemura and the EUROCALL community for their support.

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Together with Mehrasa, we attended EUROCALL 2015 in Padova, Italy. This is how I became a EUROCALL member and got connected to the community.

We submitted two abstracts to EUROCALL 2017 to present the results of our joint PhD project, titled Osaka University Global English Online, and shared it publicly on Facebook.

Facebook 1

Both of our submissions got accepted and the UK visa journey then started.

First round of visa application

Mehrasa and I applied for the visa on May 25th, 2017, and we both got rejected. We announced the rejection publicly on Facebook.

Facebook 2

It is worth mentioning that we submitted a confirmation of invitation letter from the conference chair, Kate Borthwick, confirming that we have been invited to present our Research and Development papers at the EUROCALL 2017 conference. Our supervisor, Prof. Haruo Takemura, also wrote a letter and guaranteed that all the travel expenses to attend the conference are covered by Osaka University.

Second round of visa application

We applied again on July 11th, 2017, and provided stronger documents. We added the names of some of our British friends in the application form, and one of them wrote a recommendation letter for us. We wrote exactly the same reason for our travel (we did not paraphrase it):

“This conference presentation is part of the requirements for the completion of my PhD course at Osaka University. I will publish two papers in the conference proceedings, one with my name as the first author, then I will be able to defend my PhD.”

Our documents were the same to a large extent except for my marriage certificate and our bank transactions. I had worked part time at a university as an English instructor and I had received about 180,000 yen (1200 GBP) monthly from April 2017. Our scholarship (148,000 yen, 1000 GBP) is fixed, and I wrote in the application form that I had worked part-time and provided a copy of my contract in English.

Mehrasa luckily got the visa, and I got rejected again because:

“While I acknowledge that you have been invited to present a paper at the EUROCALL 2017 conference the evidence you have provided does not explain why it is needed for you to complete your PhD at Osaka University.” 

I announced the second rejection on Facebook.

Facebook 3

Third round of visa application

I applied for the third time on August 2nd, 2017. I submitted an extra letter I received from one of the coordinators of the EUROCALL Special Interest Groups (SIG), Mirjam Hauck, in support of my application for a visa to enter the UK so that I can be elected into my new role, secretary of the EUROCALL Graduate Student SIG, during the meeting on August 24th in Southampton.

I got rejected for the third time, and wrote on my Facebook page that I will be at the EUROCALL 2017 conference in spirit.

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Here you can find my “Refusal of Entry Clearance” letters.

 

After my first visa rejection, I read a visa story about an Iranian artist, Ehsan Abdollahi (#visaforAbdollahi), who was denied entry to the UK to attend Edinburgh book festival for illogical reasons, very similar to the ones I received regarding my bank statements, but decision has finally been overturned by the UK embassy in Tehran and fortunately he could attend and hold his workshops at the festival. Here, I would like to share his illustration in reaction to his visa refusal with which I strongly identify. It shows an animated Abdollahi in a bottle in reference to his book, A Bottle of Happiness, along with the words painted in colors: “I rubbed out the words ‘No Entry’ and wrote with all my colours: Happiness, Flying, Kindness, Hope, Love.”

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Photo source: https://goo.gl/EaLVUw

Feeling disappointed but hopeful, I decided to attend the conference online!


Twitter

I started checking the conference hashtag, #EUROCALL2017, every second, and I could connect to the conference by tweeting, retweeing, and communicating with the twitterers. Periscopes also really helped me keep connecting.

Here is the link to my EUROCALL 2017 Storify, and you can see all the moments of connection, hope, and love: https://storify.com/ParisaMehran/eurocall2017

I also created a list of tech tools based on the EUROCALL abstract book and asked the twitterers to help me complete the list.

Tech Tools from EUROCALL 2017


Virtually Connecting

Following the tweets, I noticed that I could connect virtually through Virtually Connecting (VC). I singed up for the two virtual conversations: the first one at 2 a.m. and the second one at 7 p.m. in Japan. VC connected me to the two of the keynote speakers, Steven Thorne and Shannon Sauro, and I got to know other CALL scholars. One of the virtual buddies I met online was Simon Ensor. You can read his blog post, This Stream Is Not Online at Present, where he asks:

“How many people do not have access to learning, to conferences as a result of visa restrictions, financial barriers, family constraints, statutory constraints etc, etc?   This was exemplified by Parisa Mehran who was accepted to present this year, but was unable to attend due to visa rejections.”

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Here are the screenshots I took during the virtual sessions, and I am happy to announce that I was just invited to join the VC team to set up virtual sessions as a virtual buddy:

 

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Skype

I was able to attend my sessions via Skype with the help of the EUROCALL organizers and my friends who set up everything before my presentations. Here I share some of the schreenshots. You can see excitement in my face!

 

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Here are some screenshots of the sessions Mehrasa helped me attend after our presentations:

 

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The Mobile Guide for EUROCALL 2017

I installed the app of the conference, virtually “checked in”, and stayed in touch with the attendees there as well.

 

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Shannon Sauro’s Keynote Speech 

I know Shannon from EUROCALL 2015, and since then I stayed in touch with her through Facebook and Twitter. She contacted me on Twitter and said that she wanted to mention my story in her keynote and the challenges I had faced in trying to come to the conference. I asked Mehrasa to get online on Skype to be able to listen to Shannon. Then, I saw Shannon’s tweet sharing the livestream link for her keynote “Looking to Fandom in a Time of Change”.

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Shannon started with talking about the Trump travel ban and recounting the story of a researcher, Shahlah Adi, who could not attend the CALICO 2017 conference because of the ban, and then my story. I was in tears and touched by her powerful talk. I filmed my screen and you can watch the video here.

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Photo taken by Mehrasa

Here are the screenshots of the tweets after Shannon shared my story:

 

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Louise Ohashi (Associate Professor, Meiji University, Japan) is a close friend and I know her through JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching). After Shannon’s keynote, she made an appeal (click here to watch the video Mehrasa took while Louise was talking) to the EUROCALL community to support me, and she collected about 350 (GBP) to cover my visa application fees.

In total, I paid around 150,000 yen (1000 GBP). Each round cost 21,000 yen (150 GBP) and for the third round I paid 30,000 yen (215 GBP) extra to use priority service. The cost of translating my documents was also about 40,000 yen (280 GBP).

After Shannon’s talk and when Mehrasa shared some photos, I received these massages on Facebook from CALL scholars:

Steve McCarty (Professor, Kansai University, Osaka Jogakuin, and the Japanese government (JICA), Japan):

“Parisa, that’s the global community of scholars in action, sharing common academic standards and ethics. Maybe at a suitable time I could contribute a paragraph to your blog or wherever on the ironies of demonizing Iran.”

Kalyan Chattopadhyay (Associate Professor, Bankim Sardar College, Calcutta University, India):

“Your story has become epiphanic of pain and anguish of thousands of academics who were treated whimsically. So you have a fandom and I’m proud to be your fan.”

Ali Bostanci (Lecturer, Nevsehir Haci Bektas Veli University, Turkey):

“Dear Parisa, I have attended the EuroCALL conference in Southampton (only for a short time on Friday afternoon) and participated in Shannon Sauro’s Plenary Speech in which she talked about the details of how your visa application has been rejected 3 times. Until recently you were in my friend list at least this is how I remember it. Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that many people were disappointed to learn about what happened to you in this process. I really hope that you this frustration will somehow turn into an opportunity for you.  I really do! One thing for sure is that you are very popular now among CALL researchers 🙂 I wish you best of luck in everything.” (Ali sent me this message privately and I asked for permission to publish it here).


Despite being denied, this was the story of my presence at EUROCALL 2017. Words fail me to thank all those who cared about my story, supported me along the way, and helped me cross the borders and be there.

During this journey, I learned and practiced how to take action by sharing stories as stories have the power to change the world. I am now impatiently waiting to receive my conference pack and a lovely T-shirt, and I am planning to wear it at EUROCALL 2018 online or hopefully on site 🙂

T-shirt

Photo taken by Mehrasa at the Elizabeth House Hotel, Southampton, UK

Keep calm, stay positive, take action, and share your story! 

OUGEO PRESENCE AT EUROCALL 2017

Learn to appreciate your freedom and respect other people's!

Photo created by Canva

Mehrasa (on site) and I (virtually due to three rounds of visa refusal, and I’ll blog the story and my virtual attendance very soon in detail) had two presentations at EUROCALL 2017.

Our first presentation focused on the iterative stages involved in designing and developing our EGAP (English for General Academic Purposes) blended course offered at Osaka University, titled Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO), which was implemented in the spring semester of 2017 over a period of fifteen weeks. First, the basic Successive Approximation Model (SAM) was introduced as the guiding instructional design model upon which the course had been created. Afterward, the stages of design and development of the blended course were explicated with a focus upon assessing Japanese students’ English language needs and their e-learning readiness, determining the course overall goals and module learning objectives, optimizing course technologies and the availability of technical support, designing the course syllabus, materials, tasks, and activities, organizing team teaching, as well as managing formative and summative evaluation. Additionally, the way in which the iteration process allowed for the discovery of some possibilities and problems at the early phases of the blended course design and development, and the refinements which were made to benefit from the affordable opportunities and to mitigate the difficulties were discussed. The use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) were also expounded in the light of Copy Right issues, and the authoring tools utilized in digitizing the materials alongside their merits and demerits were described. Finally, the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric and its effectiveness in raising course quality assurance were reviewed.

Our second presentation was about the results of the use of an AR application, called BlippAR, to augment poster carousel tasks in our blended course. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected through a usage experience questionnaire, an open-ended feedback form, and observations. The implemented AR application was described, and the overall positive user experience was reported, along with displaying the samples of collaborative student-generated AR work. The rewards and challenges of having students design AR content were also discussed. Moreover, the implications of AR for English language teaching and learning, the pedagogical potentials afforded by this technology, and recommendations for further research were provided.

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Behind-the-Scenes Google Site and Two Hashtags for OUGEO

OUGEO

Photo created by Canva

One of the reasons I don’t consider doing my PhD in Japan as a waste of time is that I learned how to define, manage, organize, and track projects.

My PhD project is focused on designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating an EGAP (English for General Academic Purposes) online course, entitled Osaka University Global English Online (OUGEO), targeting Japanese learners at Osaka University. Based on a needs analysis, the course was designed and developed guided by theoretical frameworks and models for online course design. OUGEO was implemented in the spring semester of 2017 (April–July), and offered at three levels (elementary, intermediate, and upper intermediate), each level containing 10 online and 5 face-to-face sessions.

To track the project and record what was happening in the process of designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating the course, I created a behind-the-scenes Google site for OUGEO. Here is the link to the site:

https://sites.google.com/view/ougeo

I also used two hashtags on Twitter to microblog about the OUGEO project and share its instructional materials:

Blog Post for the IATEFL Learning Technologies Special Interest Group (LTSIG) 

Mixed, Augmented, and Virtual Realities (MAVR)

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As Aaron Hogan truly tweeted, “Twitter is not going to change your life, but the educators you meet there will!” Recently, I have become active on Twitter and had the chance to get connected to teachers, researchers, and educators from different parts of the world! This is how I got to know Phil Longwell, also known online as ‘Teacher Phili‘. He kindly invited me to write a blog post for the IATEFL Learning Technologies Special Interest Group (LTSIG).

Together with Mehrasa, we wrote a post on Mixed, Augmented, and Virtual Realities (MAVR). We first defined MAVR, and then introduced some apps that help teachers bring MAVR to their classrooms. Following that, we shared our experience using BlippAR, an AR application, to augment poster carousel tasks in our blended English course (Osaka University Global English Online). Finally, we introduced the JALT MAVR SIG, which aims at promoting MAVR technologies in teaching and learning, especially in language education.

You can read our blog post, titled “How to Bring Mixed, Augmented & Virtual Reality to Your Classroom”, here.