Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017: A Memoir

Denied yet Present at EUROCALL 2017

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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! 

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OUGEO PRESENCE AT EUROCALL 2017

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

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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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Tech Tools from EUROCALL 2017

Tech Tools from EUROCALL 2017

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Inspired by Paul Raine’s Tech Tips blog posts, I’ve decided to list the tech tools which are going to be introduced at EUROCALL 2017 mainly based on the abstract book, because my UK visa was denied three times for illogical reasons and I cannot attend the conference. Fortunately, I’ll take part virtually via Virtually Connecting.

I am very much interested to know:

(1) the “five iPad apps to encourage active learning”, which will be introduced at Pecha Kucha MALL SIG symposium,

(2) the dictionary and tablet apps used in Toshiko Koyama’s study, titled “Bigger Is Better?: Smartphone Dictionary Apps vs. Tablet Dictionary Apps”, and

(3) the free mobile application that Selwood and Lyddon will ask the visitors of their poster, titled “Back to the Future: Re-mediating Postmillennial Posters in the Digital Age”, to download to have access to some digital data. (I asked Jaime Selwood about the app online on Twitter and added the app to the list)

I’d be grateful if you could help me complete the list.

  1. VEO – Video Enhanced Observation: A technological tool, available for iPads and iPad minis, which aims to promote teachers’ professional development by allowing educators to capture teaching practices for reflection.
  2. Linguacuisine (forthcoming): Free downloadable smartphone and tablet apps (Android and Apple) for learning European languages and cuisines.
  3. StratApp (forthcoming): A game-based app which aims to improve the English academic reading skills of university students, in various disciplines at A2/B1-B2/C1 CEFR level.
  4. busuu: A language learning app with over 60 million registered users to learn, practice and improve Spanish, English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Polish, Chinese, Russian, Arabic or Turkish.
  5. Italki: A social networking site for tandem language learning.
  6. BlippAR: A visual discovery app, using Augmented Reality (AR), machine learning and artificial intelligence to bring the physical world to life through smartphones and wearables.
  7. Book Creator: An app for making ebooks on iPad.
  8. Kahoot: A web-based program that allows students to take part in multiple-choice quizzes online through their smartphones, with instant results provided through a teacher-controlled screen displayed on the classroom  projector.
  9. Edmodo: An app to share videos and manage the students’ learning process.
  10. uTalk: An app to learn across 130+ languages.
  11. Padlet: A digital canvas to create projects that are easy to share and collaborate on.
  12. WordBricks (not sure about the link): A language independent MALL resource that enables learners to construct grammatically correct sentences.
  13. HelloTalk: A social networking app for language learning.
  14. Quality Time: An app that helps its users understand their digital diet and be more productive.
  15. PeerEval: A free app that is intended to be used by students in order to evaluate the presentations of the other class members.
  16. TELL-OP: A language learning app.
  17. SKELL: A simple tool for students and teachers of English to easily check whether or how a particular phrase or a word is used by real speakers of English.
  18. AntConc: A freeware corpus analysis toolkit for concordancing and text analysis.
  19. COCA (The Corpus of Contemporary American English): The largest freely-available corpus of English.
  20. Just the Word: A website that gives a detailed description of the company a word keeps in modern-day English.
  21. G Suite for Education: A suite of free productivity tools for classroom collaboration.
  22. #Lancsbox: A new software package for the analysis of language data and corpora.
  23. English Central: Online English lessons with tutors.
  24. MReader: A browser-based version of the Moodle “Reader” module and therefore can be utilized by those not having the Moodle LMS on campus.
  25. Xreading: A Learner Management System (LMS), designed specifically for Extensive Reading (ER), which also offers access to a digital library of graded readers, supplementing the classroom and school libraries of traditional, paper-based graded readers.
  26. Wordiser: A custom-built English language teaching and learning platform.
  27. Check your Smile (CYS): A free platform that is entirely devoted to English for Specific Purposes (LSP).
  28. edX: A massive open online course provider.
  29. FutureLearn: A digital education platform that offers free online courses from top universities and specialist organisations.
  30. Diigo: A social bookmarking website.
  31. PBworks: A commercial real-time collaborative editing system.
  32. CTAP (Common Text Analysis Platform): A set of tools that helps the students manage their text corpus and automatically analyze them for various purposes.
  33. Moodle: A learning management system (LMS).
  34. ThingLink: A tool to animate images and videos. EUROCALL2017 digital poster sample: https://www.thinglink.com/scene/954984913965154306
  35. Socialbakers: A social media analytics platform.
  36. Klout: A website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rate its users according to online social influence.
  37. Facebook Insights:  A tool for tracking user interaction on Facebook.
  38. TweetStats: A tool for tracking user interaction on Twitter.
  39. Amazon Echo: A smart speaker developed by Amazon.com.
  40. Amazon Alexa: A speech recognizer
  41. Sakai: A fully customizable, open source learning management system.

The following tools are still used and researched in the classroom:

Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, WhatsApp, WeChat, and WordPress.