CALICO Conference 2010 Report

This year’s CALICO conference was held in beautiful Amherst, Massachusetts, from 8 to 12 June. Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl, director of the CLS, and I attended for part of that time. The staff at Amherst College did a good job of hosting the conference, so thanks go out to them. Special thanks to conference organizer Scott Payne and to all the CALICO staff and volunteers involved with running the show.

Things got off to a good start with the plenary keynote, delivered by Robert Blake of the University of California at Davis and the University of California Consortium for Language Learning. Blake’s talk, titled Homo Ludens: New Ways of Learning and New Paths for CALL,[1] discussed the role of fun in language learning. While he remains suspicious about the relationship between learning and play, the work of Prensky; Gee; and Thorne, Black, and Sykes (inter alia) has clearly shown that games are one way of expansion into Kramsch’s “multilingual self”. Posing Xenos and Façade as two possible ways forward, Blake asked us to consider how we push the research and practice in new and productive directions.

Of the many presentations I attended, two are particularly worth mentioning. The first, from Mathias Schulze of the University of Waterloo, discussed corpora use and language awareness. This latter was a new topic area for me, and I appreciated his accessible introduction to it, relying on work from Hawkins, Bolitho, and Schmidt. In the second, Mike Levy of University of Queensland (in transition now), discussed whether the CALL research frames ‘acquisition’ and ‘participation’ could converge. Referring in particular to work by Hanna & de Nooy and Darhower, Levy proposed that the terms, while not mutually exclusive, are both culturally defined and so must be understood in context. Perhaps, he suggested, each is a viable way of viewing the same process but with different metaphors of describing it. I found with both these presentations that the quality of the presentation was reinforced by the quality of the discussion afterward.

For other ways of viewing the conference, you could check out the presentation listing or walk through the tweetstream. This latter has some noise in it, but zoom in on the days and you’ll find it also contains invaluable links to works referenced and presentations posted online, as well as some genuine conversations about ideas raised.

[1] The talk is available as of this post date on UStream.

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