InterCom, a customizable weekly newsletter for language professionals, is provided by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) at the University of Oregon. InterCom is sponsored through a Title VI Language Resource Center grant.

Topic of the Week: Digital Tools for Learning to Listen

by Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

Learning to listen includes the development of skills to aid in the comprehension and analysis of a variety of types of language. Skill development enables learners to engage with listening needs ranging from the interpretation of an interlocutor's turns during interaction to a formal, academic research talk. Digital tools offer a number of possibilities for enhancing and expanding learners' listening repertoire.

First, the explosion of digital content makes listening passages more accessible and varied. The impact is the existence of digital collections as a critical resource for providing learners with language samples along the entire continuum of listening possibilities. For example, YouTube offers a wealth of possible video and audio samples ranging from informal commentaries to professional news clips and documentaries. These digital resources can be viewed individually and/or sorted into collections based on theme, genre, or text type. Furthermore, the comments sections allow for multi-modal analysis of each resource and the ease of content creation enables learners to create their own resources as an extension of their understanding of the text. While YouTube is just one example of thousands of resources for collecting and disseminating audio and video in digital contexts, it is a representative example of ways learners can explore, examine, and extend their understanding using a digital tool.

In addition to traditional texts and speech samples online, teachers now have access to a wide-range of digitally native content allowing them to extend the types of discourse their learners are able to understand. For example, TED Talks, while delivered live for recording, are essentially digital resources created for wide dissemination of information. These can be compared with other resources delivering the same information to help learners better understand how what we listen to also shapes content. Furthermore, machinima (digital animation and production) offers a completely digital genre that can enhance learners' listening abilities through both exploration of existing products as well as the creation of their own.

Finally, the digital nature of these resources makes manipulation of the discourse possible based on each individual learner's needs. Possibilities include repeating the passage, slowing down the text, glossing individual components, and delivering customized collections to different groups of leaners. As a result, learners gain the skills they need as they go. A learner who is highly proficient can move to the next resource that is more difficult. Simultaneously, a struggling learner can continue to work with a listening passage until they have mastered the skills needed to move on.

When used thoughtfully, digital tools can open learning spaces to new, interesting, and relevant frontiers.

Activity of the Week

  • Using Digital Tools to Explore Current Affairs

    by Renee Marshall and Patricia Roldan Marcos

    Listening is a tool for learning. Students can listen to videos or audio tracks as many times as they need to in order to get the information they need. They can pause, rewind, fast forward, use captions or subtitles, etc. There is software that can help them slow down audio tracks (e.g. Audacity) or take notes in a video (e.g. All sources of digital information are not created equal, so in addition to using digital tools to their advantage, students need to also develop online literacy. Where did I get this source? Who created it and for what purpose? Is it objective? How is it useful to me? This activity has students explore and analyze two authentic videos on the topic of Cuba-US relations by identifying key ideas and vocabulary and thinking critically about the sources and type of genre. A way to extend this lesson would be to ask students to create their own video or audio file using one of the sources as a model. These activities would be appropriate for intermediate-advanced level and they can be adapted to explore any current affairs topic.


    • Students will be able to identify key ideas and vocabulary while watching two authentic videos on the same topic.
    • Students will be able to analyze and discuss the characteristics of the video genres and think critically about the level of subjectivity in each.
    • For the extension activity, students will be able to record their own video or audio file following one of the sources or finding their own.

    Resource: Using Digital Tools to Explore Current Affairs handout


    Part 1 – Explore:

    1. Pre-viewing: Ask students to answer questions 1, 2 and 3 on a separate piece of paper.
    2. Then ask them to discuss and compare their answers in pairs. Get some feedback from the whole class and clarify vocabulary as needed. They should have the brainstormed vocabulary ready to use for the next activity, while watching the videos.
    3. While-viewing: Give students the Note-taking Guide handout, which will help them organize their notes on both videos (i.e. all the while and post-viewing activities).
    4. Make sure they understand they need to complete activities 5 and 6 while watching the video. Note: if students can work on computers individually, they would be in control of the videos, so they could pause, forward, rewind, etc. You could also show them how to use Audacity [1] to slow down the audio, or how to take notes on [2] instead of using the handout, although doesn't support videos from all websites.
    5. Get students to check and compare their notes in groups of three. Then whole class feedback to ensure all students understood the gist of the videos. You could write down the key vocabulary on the board and clarify meaning as necessary.

    Part 2 – Analyze:

    1. Post-viewing: Tell students they're going to analyze the genre of each video and the different characteristics of each genre. Go through the various aspects in the handout (format, audience, purpose, etc) and the examples to make sure they understand what the analysis will involve.
    2. In pairs, ask students to answer questions 1-6 for both videos. Then get some feedback from the class and discuss what aspects of each video were objective or subjective and why.
    3. Finally, get students to compare the two videos on a separate piece of paper.

    Part 3 – Extend:

    1. If you want, you can get students to find another source on the same topic and complete the above activities to analyze it. This could be done in class if they have access to computers, it could be set as homework for the following class, or it could have been set in the previous class in preparation for this one (i.e. "For the next class, find a video on the topic of...")
    2. Alternatively, you could also ask students to create their own video or audio file following one of the genre models analyzed in class.

    [1] Here's a video on how to slow down audio using Audacity:

    [2] Here's a demo video on using

CASLS Spotlight: Farewell to 2014-2015 OIIP Cohort

CASLS would like to congratulate the 2014-2015 cohort of the Oregon International Internship Program! This group of seventeen students from China completed a five-month study, internship, and home stay experience. As part of the program, they lived with host families and took courses at the University of Oregon. This was coupled with an internship program in local elementary, middle, and high schools where they shadow local teachers and work with students. At their farewell gathering, all of the students noted how this hands-on experience had made a significant impact on their understanding of educational systems around the world. We wish them all the best as they return home and move on to the next stages of their professional careers.

Language Corner

Losing My Welsh: What it Feels Like to Forget a Language

Source: Back to Quick Links


Ellie Mae O'Hagan writes a short but poignant piece about how it feels to lose a language. It could be a great discussion starting piece to read in a heritage language class, or any language class, about how language and culture are so intimately intertwined. Language is a part of ourselves and losing it (or being told / forced not to use it) can be painful.

Read the full article here:

Business English: Making Proposals and Suggestions in Negotiations

Source: Back to Quick Links


Alex Case posts a new lesson for about making proposals and suggestions during business negotiations. He provides a vocabulary handout with useful phrases for making proposals and suggestions, along with an activity idea and worksheet for practice using them.

Access the PDF of this resource at

Access this resource:

Documentary: Language Matters with Bob Holman

Source: PBS Back to Quick Links


David Grubin's documentary Language Matters will air on PBS nationwide January 25th 6-8pm (for the complete airing schedule, visit In addition to the airing of the documentary there will be many events held around the country (for the complete list of events, visit

As stated on the website:
"There are over 6,000 languages remaining in the world. We lose one every two weeks. Hundreds will be lost within the next generation. By the end of this century, half the world's languages will have vanished. The die-off parallels the extinction of plant and animal species. The death of a language robs humanity of ideas, belief systems, and knowledge of the natural world.

"...Language Matters was filmed around the world: on a remote island off the coast of Australia where 400 Aboriginal people speak 10 different languages, all at risk; in Wales, where Welsh, once in danger, is today making a comeback; and in Hawaii, where Hawaiians are fighting to save their native tongue."

For an article by about the documentary and events, visit:

For the documentary official website visit:

Speaking Activity: Creating a Conversation Box for your ESL or EFL Classroom

Source: HubPages Back to Quick Links


Get students talking by using a "Conversation Box." Check out Miss-Linda's (an ESL teacher in NY) latest post about how to create and how to use a "Conversation Box" for your ESL classroom.

Access this resource:

Digital Literacy and Responsibility

Source: So this is English Back to Quick Links


In this article, Michelle Worgan discusses some strategies that teachers can use to encourage students to be responsible online, like setting good examples, providing sources, using information adequately and introducing them to the Creative Commons licenses.

Access the article at

Mystery Skype

Source: Skype in the Classroom Back to Quick Links


"Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions." This interactive game can be really useful at different levels to practice question construction and to encourage imagination and creativity. There are different ways to play and teachers can come up with their own rules, as long as they agree with the other class teacher. Skype offers some ideas on what to do here:

Access the website at


Book: Family Language Learning: Learn Another Language, Raise Bilingual Children

Source: Multilingual Matters Back to Quick Links


Family Language Learning: Learn Another Language, Raise Bilingual Children
By Christine Jernigan
Published by Multilingual Matters

Family Language Learning is a practical guide designed to support, advise and encourage any parents who are hoping to raise their children bilingually. It is unique in that it focuses on parents who are not native speakers of a foreign language. It gives parents the tools they need to cultivate and nurture their own language skills while giving their children an opportunity to learn another language. The book combines cutting-edge research on language exposure with honest and often humorous stories from personal interviews with families speaking a foreign language at home. By dispelling long-held myths about how language is learned, it provides hope to parents who want to give their children bilingual childhoods, but feel they don't know where to start with learning foreign languages.

To look at the summary, review, and PDF of the Table of Contents visit the publisher's website at

Book: Gamify Your Classroom

Source: Peter Lang Publishing Inc. Back to Quick Links


Gamify Your Classroom
By Matthew Farber
Published by Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

This book is a field guide on how to implement game-based learning and «gamification» techniques to the everyday teaching. It is a survey of best practices aggregated from interviews with experts in the field, including: James Paul Gee (Author, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy); Henry Jenkins (Provost Professor at University of Southern California); Katie Salen (Founder, Institute of Play); Bernie DeKoven (Author, A Playful Path); Richard Bartle (Bartle's Player Type Theory); Kurt Squire (Games + Learning + Society Center); Jessica Millstone (Joan Ganz Cooney Center), Dan White (Filament Games); Erin Hoffman (GlassLab games); Jesse Schell (Schell Games/Professor at Carnegie Mellon); Tracy Fullerton (University of Southern California Game Innovation Lab); Alan Gershenfeld (E-Line Media); Noah Falstein (Chief Game Designer, Google); Valerie Shute (Professor at Florida State University); Lee Sheldon (Author, The Multiplayer Classroom); Robert J. Torres (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Asi Burak (President, Games for Change); Toby Rowland (MangaHigh); Jocelyn Leavitt (Hopscotch); Krishna Vedati (Tynker); and researchers at BrainPOP and designers from Electric Funstuff (Mission U.S. games). Each chapter concludes with practical lesson plan ideas, games to play (both digital and tabletop), and links to research further. Much of the book draws on the author's experiences implementing games with his middle school students. Regardless of your teaching discipline or grade level, whether you are a pre-service teacher or veteran educator, this book will engage and reinvigorate the way you teach and how your students learn!

Visit the publisher's website at:
Find the book on Amazon at:

A Multiliteracies Framework for Collegiate Foreign Language Teaching

Source: Prentice Hall Back to Quick Links


A Multiliteracies Framework for Collegiate Foreign Language Teaching
By Kate Paesani, Heather Willis Allen, Beatrice Dupuy, Judith E. Liskin-Gasparro, and Manel E Lacorte
Published by Prentice Hall

To meet the goals of outlining a coherent pedagogical framework grounded in texts and the concept of literacy and of presenting this framework in an accessible manner for novice collegiate FL teachers, A Multiliteracies Framework for Collegiate Foreign Language Teaching is organized into eight chapters and an afterword. Each chapter reconsiders traditional components of introductory and intermediate FL instruction (e.g., grammar and vocabulary, speaking, reading) according to a literacy orientation. The authors start with a discussion of what is familiar to readers and then emphasize how each of these traditional components works in concert to contribute to the development of students' FL literacy.

Each chapter begins with an Overview that serves to introduce the topic and provide an outline of its contents. The Conceptual Background section summarizes essential research and outlines key concepts and is followed by Pedagogical Applications, which puts theoretical and conceptual knowledge into practice and provides instructional models and examples. The Final Considerations section summarizes the main points of a chapter before readers move on to the two application activities in Transforming Knowledge; one activity is a reflective journaling topic and the other a research topic. Finally, Key Resources and For Further Reading identify important references related to the topic of each chapter; the former provides annotations of the most important research on the topic, the latter does not. Each chapter additionally includes several Learning Activities intended to encourage readers to engage with and think critically about the chapter's content.

See more at:
Find the book on Amazon here:

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