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Speaking with your computer: how AI can transform your ESL class today

Gary Ross, Stephen Henneberry, and Glenn Norris

JALT-CALL 2019, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan

Session abstract:

The presenter will demonstrate a free online speaking system, open to all, where students can practice speaking with the voice recognition and synthesis systems built into their browser, and have the computer analyze speech patterns. Online speech represents a major development in how learners can practice language by allowing them to practice role-play, drills, and open-ended speech outside of the classroom while the computer can respond in varying dialects, speeds taking on varying roles and identities, and then grade both their accuracy and fluency.Furthermore, machine learning/AI can analyze hundreds of thousands of responses and discussions to discover patterns that are impossible to discern in a classroom or indeed in any setting. We can discover common clusters of words, patterns, tenses that Japanese students might use more than other learners. Unsupervised machine learning can even discover patterns that we aren’t looking for, and may enable us to assess speakers abilities with just a few questions. The system has been used extensively at Kanazawa University as part of the flipped classroom where students practice conversations or grammar points online in advance. Analysis of the data shows students who practiced in advance had a better understanding of the patterns when coming into the classroom thus allowing valuable class time to focus on the practice itself. (A separate paper presentation will explore the analysis of this data). The presentation will conclude with a discussion on the future of AI in the classroom particular in regards to speech.

An analysis of online speech in the classroom

Gary Ross, Glenn Norris, and Stephen Henneberry

JALT-CALL 2019, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan

Session abstract:

Speech Recognition (computerized listening) and Synthesis (computerized speech), generally shortened to Speech Recognition, is the most important interface development in technology, representing the final stage in human to device interaction. Technologies such as Siri promise to revolutionize our interactions with our devices. For the language learner, the ability to speak to a device that can simultaneously take on different genders and accents will enable learners to take control of their learning process, by both time and location shifting their practice while working at their own pace, providing learners with vastly more opportunities to practice speaking and receive immediate automated feedback.Speech Recognition’s power is that(i) students can practice speaking at any time and receive instant feedback,(ii) every utterance can be stored as machine-readable text in a database allowing computer analysis of student patterns to discern common errors which can then be displayed to the instructor automatically, (iii) machine learning (artificial intelligence) techniques can analyze massive amounts of data to discover deeper spoken patterns as well as syntactic and semantic errors.As the initial part of a 4-year cross-institutional research grant from the Japanese Government (Kakenhi), this paper will present (a) the challenges of setting up such a system for both desktop and mobile, (b) a pattern analysis of over 1,000,000 utterances using the system from 3 Japanese universities, (c) an analysis of the effectiveness of online speaking on student outcomes among those institutions, (d) student feedback and reactions regarding speaking to a machine.

Speaking with your computer: a new way to practice conversation

Gary Ross, Glen Norris, Stephen Henneberry

JALT-CALL 2018, Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan

Poster abstract:

Online speech recognition and synthesis, using technologies built into the browser, allow students to practice conversations using a PC or mobile device. This represents a major development in how we can implement speaking practice and will have a significant impact on teaching speaking skills, especially in conjunction with the flipped classroom. This poster session will demonstrate a free online system open to anyone, where students can have a conversation with the computer through role-play and drill conversations entered by the instructor, and can be used for both scripted and open-ended conversations. The scripted conversations can be automatically graded and analyzed. This presentation is funded by a research grant (18K00825) from the Japanese government (Kakenhi).

Digital Assessment of Analog Work

Digital Assessment of Analog Work

JALT-CALL 2017, Matsuyama University, Shikoku, JAPAN

June 17, 14:10

Session Abstract:

A look at different workflows for processing handwritten student work, whether in essay, journal, or worksheet form, using digital tools. Such workflows allow for students to maintain possession of their work for review and portfolio building while also allowing the teacher to maintain a similar portfolio for assessment and feedback.

Center of Community: Content-Based L2 Blogging

FLEATVIFLEAT VI 2015, Harvard University, Boston Massachusetts, USA

Session Abstract:
This poster session will discuss the Active Iwami blog project of a seminar class in a rural Japanese university. The concept behind the project was aligned with the universitiy’s “Center of Community” program, which aims to build stronger connections between the campus and the surrounding area. In this project the students researched and published blog posts about “active life” in the Iwami area of Shimane. The purpose for this topic choice was to confront the difficulties that many incoming students have when moving to the rural area. The goal is to use the student-created English language website to introduce new students to the wealth of activities in the area. In this way, the student authors are working towards building bridges to the community for other students to use. The poster session will share the details of the project, including the planning, authoring, and publishing stages. Information will also be available on how to develop similar projects using free web-authoring tools.

Managing Your Buzz: Generating Student Enthusiasm

Managing your buzz.001JALT-CALL 2015, Kyushu Sangyo University, Fukuoka

June 7, 13:20


Cross-Cultural Bilingual Blogging for Language Learning

KOTESOL 2014 Blogging image.001

KOTESOL-KAFLE International Conference 2014, COEX, Seoul, Korea

October 5th 9:00

Teacher Travel 2.0: Crowd-Source Your Next Trip

KOTESOL 2014 Teacher Travel image.001

KOTESOL-KAFLE International Conference 2014, COEX, Seoul, Korea

October 4th 14:00

When Bilingual Blogging Bears Fruit


オンライン語学学習交流研修会 (Online Language Learning Workshop)
Muroran Institute of Technology, Hokkaido

July 19, 2014


I Teach, Therefore iPad: Utilizing Your Tablet in the Classroom

Symposium on Integration of Emerging Technologies in Language Education: From Instructor to Institution, Kanazawa University Foreign Language Institute, Kanazawa, Japan

February 15th, 14:00-14:50

Presentation summary:

The portability and power of Apple’s iPad make it an excellent tool for teachers. This presentation will cover the use of an iPad in the language classroom for student assessment and course management. The discussion is based on one teacher’s use of an iPad as a portable device in a university English conversation course. The teacher uses the iPad in many ways, ranging from professional development to student assessment and presentation of course content. The use of the iPad as an assessment device allows the teacher to input student data and grades while students are on task and the teacher monitors classroom activities. The portable nature of the iPad allows the teacher to input data while walking amongst the students, and also allows for its use as a reference tool in one-to-one discussions with students. The iPad is also used in conjunction with both projectors and overhead document cameras for presenting slides, websites, and notes to the class. The discussion will include information about setting up your iPad for use in the classroom, applications used in the process, and lessons learned.