Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Aiden Yeh

Aiden (AidenY) teaches EFL in Shih Chien University and National Kaoshiung First University of Science and Technology. She received her MS degree in ELT (English Language Teaching) Management from the University of Surrey and TESOL Certificate from University of Leicester. She is an active member of TESOL and IATEFL and a die-hard Webhead. (Webheads is an online community of students and teachers who have been communicating and interacting since 1989.)

Aiden's Perspective

I cannot remember exactly the first time I visited TAPPED IN. However, I am pretty sure that it was Vance Stevens (the man behind Webheads) who introduced me to TAPPED IN. At that time, both Vance and I were moderating our own respective EV online sessions (see http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/evonline). I joined Vance's session, "Webheads in Action: Community formation online and its role in language learning" (see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/evonline2002_webheads) and I was hooked right away, not only to the use of technology, but also the people that make the community alive and vibrant. Webheads meet regularly online every Sunday, 12 noon GMT and these meetings are held at TAPPED IN. It was at one of those special meetings with the other Webheads when I got to learn more about TAPPED IN and meet the people behind the helpdesk (BJ, KeikoS, and SusanneN) who were/are always there for newbies like me.

As I became more familiar and confident in using TAPPED IN I realized the value of this extraordinary site and what it can do for EFL learners. I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive to introduce TAPPED IN to my communication skills class because this class does not fall exactly under CALL, therefore, I cannot make this online activity compulsory for all my students. My biggest hurdle was how to implement the use of technology without having to use computers in the classroom. Nevertheless, I was determined to explore TAPPED IN and make use of it as a tool to empower my students - to become self-driven and motivated language learners. One of the goals of this class is to enhance students' conversational skills. Class discussions allow students to speak up, but this kind of traditional setting is no longer enough. And what better way to ask my students to practice their communication skills but to communicate with people other than their classmates? The environment in TAPPED IN may be virtual, but the discussion and chats and the people participating in it are real.

Speaking of discussions, topics are assigned based on the lesson plan and the materials that we are using in class. I ask my students to interview the Webheads who are in TAPPED IN and try to get the necessary information and opinions of others by asking questions relevant to the topic. They print out a copy of the transcripts that they have to bring to class the next day for review and to correct the mistakes (grammar, etc) they made. I ask them to talk about what they have gathered from the chat and whatever personal insights they may have about the previous session.

What did my students say about their experience using TAPPED IN? Here are some of their comments:
Comments such as these, as well as the interactions evident in their transcripts, showed we had successfully created a viable social context within TAPPED IN that supplemented the classroom. We will be in TAPPED IN again this year.

On the other hand, my students also realize the benefits of such environment to learning English. Let my students speak for themselves:
Well, there is always a first to everything, but certainly the first chat we had was not the last. Those who participate online get extra marks for their efforts and contributions. Some of my students have been going to TAPPED IN at their own time and free will. This kind of initiative and personal determination to improve their English communication skills, with little or without teacher assistance, is evidence that such goals can be achieved. As a teacher, this kind of student development gives me a sense of fulfillment. I give them options and show them various ways of learning. The path that they take is of their own choosing. This is the time when I have to let go. I must say, that I could not have done it and would not be in this state of nirvana without the Webheads and the TAPPED IN HelpDesk volunteers.