MWIS Newsletter

MWIS News, Volume 22:2 (July 2009)

by User Not Found | 10/27/2011
In This Issue...
  • News
    • Letters from the Chair and the Chair-Elect
    • E-list Summary
  • Articles
    • TESOL Member 00116
    • Yes, Textbooks Are Still Relevant, but Shift Happens
  • Convention Updates
    • TESOL 2009 Session Reports
    • MWIS 2009 Annual Business Meeting Minutes

News Letters from the Chair and the Chair-Elect A Letter From The MWIS Chair
Gena Bennett, MWIS Chair 2009-2010

At the business meeting in Denver, MWIS members expressed an interest in hearing more news from TESOL Central Office (CO) and the organization as a whole. Keeping this interest in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to report on various organizational news passed on to IS leaders at the convention.

The TESOL Resource Center (TRC) The TRC began two years ago under the leadership of then-president Jun Liu. When Jun was asked where English language teachers could find the best online resources, he wanted to be able to answer, “TESOL”! TESOL believes that the TRC can be the future of the organization, especially with regard to the globalization of its membership. Global TESOL Members in Africa, for example, have been making much use of the TRC. Each IS leader has been asked to encourage at least five (5) submissions to the TRC per interest section. These submissions can include lesson plans, activities, quizzes, teaching tips, articles, presentations, research briefs, multimedia resources, among others. The TRC is vetted, so acceptance of a TRC submission can count as a professional publication. A small stipend is available for some TRC submissions. In addition to contributing materials to the TRC, you may also serve as a TRC reviewer. For more information about the TRC, to submit a resource, or to apply as a reviewer, visit

New TESOL Website TESOL will be launching a new website in one year and is interested in what members would like to see as part of the website. Please let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see the new website offer, and I will pass that information along to CO.

Essential Teacher Due to financial difficulties, Essential Teacher will cease publication after this year. As a replacement, TESOL Journal (TJ) will be offered to members as a free online publication beginning in 2010. TJ editor Margo DelliCarpini is currently seeking an editoral board. To find out more about TESOL Journal, including submission guidelines, visit

New Interest Section At the convention IS Assembly Meeting, TESOLers for Social Responsibility were officially accepted as a TESOL interest section.

Convention Length A resolution to return to a 4-day convention was introduced to the floor at the IS Assembly. The assembly voted to send the resolution to the Executive Board for review at its April meeting. The Board made no comment on the resolution. In addition, a request was put to the board to conduct an online survey of all IS members to gauge overall opinion on the current convention length. The Board denied this request, citing a 66% positive response rate on the length of the convention from convention attendee surveys.

TESOL Peace Forum Past President Shelly Wong is interested in establishing a TESOL Peace Forum. Originally proposed as a separate TESOL event to be held internationally, due to budget concerns, the TESOL Executive Director has proposed a Peace Forum in conjunction with the annual TESOL Convention. If you are interested in representing MWIS as part of a Peace Forum, please let me know.

TESOL maintains that ISes are the heart of our organization, and I’m honored to represent MWIS. Please let me know at any time if you have questions or concerns about MWIS, or if you are interested in participating in any of the events mentioned above.

Gena, MWIS Chair

A Letter From the MWIS Chair-Elect
Robyn Brinks Lockwood, MWIS Chair-Elect or

As the chair-elect, I have the honor of planning MWIS-sponsored sessions for the TESOL 2010 conference in Boston. Dates and times will be released via the MWIS e-list, in upcoming newsletters, and in other MWIS correspondence.

Our official MWIS Academic Session will discuss the “Negotiating ESL/ELT Publishing Contracts” document that is available in the web area of the MWIS site. The document is being updated and revised. Details will continue to be sent as the document and session develops. Panelists for the session in Boston will include editors from Oxford University Press, Pearson, and others.

I am happy to announce that MWIS will be cosponsoring TWO intersections for the 2010 conference! We’re leading a session with the Speaking, Listening, and Pronunciation IS to cover current issues and hot topics in Speaking, Listening, and Pronunciation. One thing we would like to achieve is giving more attention to speaking and listening since those areas have not received as much notice at recent TESOL conferences. We want to address such questions as the different ways these areas are currently addressed, how these ideas can be addressed better, and what skills and strategies can be included in materials and classrooms.

MWIS is also co-sponsoring an intersection with the Intercultural Communication IS that will discuss materials writing for intercultural communicative competence. Questions to be discussed include how we prepare students for communication in a globalized world, how we present information on cultures that aren’t often covered in traditional ESL/ELT materials, and how materials writing contributes to enhancing learners’ English skills and raising their cultural awareness.

Please feel free to send questions to me, and I’ll make sure the panelists get those in advance. There is also time scheduled for questions from the attendees during the session. I’ll send more details as the sessions develop.

I look forward to continuing work on our sessions, making plans for next year, and working with all of you.

Robyn MWIS Chair-Elect

E-list Summary


Bill Walker, MWIS E-list Moderator

Scores of email messages were posted and commented on during the past year. Here are some of the major issues that were discussed.


A perennial thread though the years has concerned the legalities involved in entering into contracts with editors and publishers. Most of the advice centered around some common sense issues such as being frank about your relationship with your editor and/or the publishing house, their “track records,” any reasons to trust or doubt them, and then finding out if the offer would prove a good investment of your time. Of course, it’s highly advisable to have a lawyer with relevant experience look at any contract before you sign it. An alternative to a contract is a letter of agreement that the editor could write up, but a bona fide contract is much better.

In 2005, Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz wrote "Negotiating ESL/ELT Publishing Contracts" for our interest section in 2005. This year, Dorothy Zemach applied for an "Interest Section Special Projects" grant to update this amazing document. Dorothy notes that this document “lives as a free download on our page on the TESOL Web site -- you have to go to the TESOL homepage, then ‘communities,’ then ‘interest sections,’ then ‘materials writers,’ then ‘MWIS Web area,’ then say a secret spell and spin around counter-clockwise three times, and then you can download the .pdf.” She goes on to say that “the document is intended as advice for both new and experienced writers. It features questions a writer might ask about contracts, and those questions are then answered both by representatives from ELT publishers and a contracts lawyer.”

Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz

Sadly, there was a flurry of postings to this list from mid-January to early March concerning the disappearance of Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz and the subsequent news of her presumed death. Many MWIS members expressed their condolences.

Posting Etiquette

Valerie Borchelt, TESOL’s Programs and Services Manager, sent out a message in which she reminded us that “Messages posted to this list should be germane to the field of TESOL and to the focus of this interest section. Please do NOT send or forward to this list: 1) job advertisements; 2) virus warnings; 3) commercially oriented messages, i.e., messages promoting the sale of products or services; 4) defamatory or obscene remarks of any kind; and 5) e-mail message attachments”

Book Titles

Because of Valerie’s admonition not to send messages promoting the sale of products or services, we all need to be careful when we mention book titles, whether they are ours or others’. A dialogue concerning how we could openly share information about book titles took place in October and November of 2008. Several members said we should be allowed to at least mention our books and some suggested that we create a forum, such as a wiki site, where we could list our titles. The point is that we must be careful not to promote or urge others to buy our books. “Mentioning” is fine, though “recommending” might be a little in the gray area. At any rate, Valerie Borchelt’s pronouncement on the issue was “it is acceptable for an author to mention his/her published material if the material is relevant to the discussion on the e-list.” So, is anyone going to create a wiki space where we can post our titles?

TESOL Conference Venues and Length

During December 2008, there were a dozen posting on the question of TESOL venues. Some members asked why so many TESOL conferences took place in the US. In response, it was pointed out that 80% of TESOL members are from the US. Moreover, there are insurance issues regarding having a conference abroad. Nevertheless, we were reminded that in the past thirty years, several conferences were held in Mexico and Canada. Moreover, there are regional conferences throughout Asia and the Middle East.

Many TESOL members expressed dismay that the conferences have been reduced from four days to three days.

Articles TESOL Member 00116

Sandy Briggs

Susannah MacKay asked me if I would be willing to write about my experience on the TESOL Board and as a member of the Executive Committee, which is made up of the President-Elect, the President, and the Past President. She thought that my perspective might shed light on the relationship between the Board and the interest sections, especially MWIS, and it might help in understanding TESOL as a whole.

That is a big order, but I hope that what I have to say is helpful to you. I am certainly willing to answer specific questions that you have about this subject or anything else that is on your mind about TESOL.

The title of this article is “TESOL Member 00116” because I use that number almost every day to log into the TESOL website; it represents me as one of 14,000 members of this association. This is an association with members at all levels and in all areas of the ELT profession. As individual members, we have our own special interests in different parts of the field and in different activities in TESOL. I started being really active in TESOL when I joined MWIS. They needed a newsletter editor, and I volunteered. That led to being MWIS chair and then to being on the TESOL Board for the first time from 1997 – 2000. At that time there were strands on the Board, and I was elected through the interest section strand. However, like all Board members, my responsibility was always to act for TESOL as a whole, doing what was best for TESOL.

As MWIS Chair I often had questions about how and why decisions were made. Now that I have been on the Board two times and have been on the Executive Committee, I definitely know how TESOL works and how decisions are made. In short, the Board is a policy making Board that is responsible for the association. The Board has to follow the Bylaws and Standing Rules. These can be changed by the Board, but there are procedures that must be followed to do so. Any TESOL member can go to the “About TESOL” menu on the Web site and under “Governance” find the up-to-date Bylaws and Standing Rules.

The Board has formal procedures for setting meeting agendas and preparing the material for its meetings. The Resolution Action Items that come before the Board may have been worked on by the leadership councils or individual interest sections or committees. There may have been surveys that have gone out to the membership. There may have been meetings at the convention on the issue, where the ideas are discussed. The Board tries to get as much good input as possible before making decisions. Members should be sure to reply to the surveys and to email their ideas and go to meetings about the issues.

One of the best parts of being an officer is going to visit affiliates or interest section meetings or talking or emailing with individual members. I enjoyed working with members and helping them make things happen.

One of my favorite leadership positions in TESOL was being on the Nominating Committee and then chairing that committee in my second year. It is so important to have good people who are willing to have their names on the ballot and willing to do the work if they are elected. Even though I haven’t been on the Nominating Committee since 2002, I’m always encouraging people to broaden their experience in TESOL and then consider being on the Nominating Committee or the Board. I’m also always encouraging TESOL members to vote in the TESOL elections. It’s surprising how few members actually do vote.

By the way, do you know about the TESOL Leadership Development Certificate Program? You can find out about it on pages 36-37 in the TESOL 2009 Program Book. It’s an excellent program that helps TESOL members develop their leadership skills and learn all about how TESOL works. You can contact John Donaldson, Director of Education Programs at if you are interested.

Now that I am off the Board, I don’t know all that is going on, but I know how to find the information I need. Members can keep up on what is happening in TESOL through the website and various publications. Members can also contact the TESOL Central Office or Board members at any time. Most of the work of the association is done through interest sections, affiliates, and various committees. They work with staff and Board liaisons and submit reports to the Board. The Interest Section Leadership Council is also an important source of information and help for the interest sections. Now that I am off the Board, I also have time now to take advantage of some of the good programs TESOL offers. Right now I am taking an online TESOL course in the Principles and Practices of Online Teaching Program, which I am enjoying very much.

So these are a few ideas for you about being involved in TESOL governance and getting your thoughts and ideas across to the leadership. I am very proud to be a member of MWIS, and I’m proud of the work that all of you are doing. There are a lot of good leaders in our interest section.

Finally, I will repeat an offer that I made at the beginning of this article: If you don’t know who to talk to or what is happening with something in TESOL, email me. If I don’t have the answer you need, I can help you find it.

Sandy Briggs was a teacher, department chair, and then program director in the ESL Program in the San Mateo Union High School District in San Mateo, California until June 2004. She is now an ELT consultant. She can be contacted at .

Yes, Textbooks Are Still Relevant, but Shift Happens

Jane Petring

My official discussion session during the 2009 TESOL Convention was held on Saturday morning, March 28, at 7 a.m, but my article in the February MWIS Newsletter ( generated numerous responses. Since then, the discussion of whether textbooks are still relevant has been taking place through email correspondences, online forums, and conversations with colleagues at home and during the conference. It’s impossible for me to summarize the 45-minute discussion without drawing on the feedback and observations educators shared before, since and during the discussion in Denver. This article is thus an amalgamation of various snatches of discussion.

Several people asked me to clarify the meaning of Web 2.0, so I think it would be appropriate to explain it here. Put simply, Web 2.0 is the participatory web. The previous generation of the web (Web 1.0) was chiefly an enormous bank of resources which was rich in content, but did not solicit active participation. In Web 2.0, participants have the capacity to comment, modify, collaborate, upload, remix, aggregate, post messages, form groups and so on. In other words, Web 2.0 fosters an active involvement in online activities which makes it ideally suited for language learning.

To begin the discussion in Denver, I outlined some of the inherent advantages and disadvantages of textbooks and Web 2.0 applications. For example, the participatory web breaks down classroom barriers and incorporates pictures, video and audio recordings that can be instantly updated. On the other hand, books offer consistency and accountability and they don’t crash, need sophisticated equipment, get viruses or compromise privacy. I showed examples of various online collaborative language-based activities and summarized some of the email messages I received from educators who have replaced paper-based textbooks with various electronic delivery systems.

Before the conferences, several colleagues from around the world sent messages describing how they use social networking sites to organize their paperless classes. The course syllabus can be posted on a wiki with links to articles, magazines, videos, podcasts and interactive exercises. Students develop writing skills by posting on blogs or contributing articles to a class e-zine (electronic magazine). Oral recordings and written work can be maintained in an e-portfolio. Depending on the degree of privacy chosen, students can get feedback from a global audience of readers and listeners in addition to the teacher and class members. A number of these teachers mentioned that textbooks can’t possibly provide the range of topics, flexibility for adaptation or degree of timeliness that web applications offer. Furthermore, other teachers can build, collaborate and remix the content of a course, giving the original design an extra spark of creativity.

Taking the wiki model a step further, there is an emerging phenomenon of open textbooks as an alternative to published paper-based textbooks where educators collaborate online to develop educational material in a variety of digital formats. During the Denver discussion several people questioned whether a production that hasn’t gone through the rigorous review and editing process of a book could possibly be as accurate and pedagogically-sound. The unstated question seemed to be: If it’s free, then how can it be any good? The internet-enthusiasts were quick to jump in with examples of superb free sites. Admittedly, there is plenty of drivel on the web, but the good stuff seems to just keep getting better when restrictions are reduced and our collective intelligence promotes new material and new approaches. Wikipedia was cited as an example.

Of course a textbook is not written in isolation. The pre-production stage, when the managing editor, the copy editor, the coordination editor, the graphics designer and I are working out the final details of each page, involves a great deal of collaboration. However, once the book goes to press, any error or dated element is locked in place until the next printing or revision. The wiki, on the other hand, can be updated at any point. Does this mean the flexibility of online applications has doomed the reliable textbook? It’s hard to predict the future, but teachers have always modified textbook lessons. In the 1980’s I updated textbooks with newspaper articles or recorded TV and radio news reports; today I update my own textbook by keeping a class blog with links to related articles, podcasts, videos and exercises. Updating and revising are simply good practice, whatever the format.

Among the 30-some authors, publishers and internet aficionados who showed up for the Denver discussion, the “book people” defended the reliability (both in terms of accuracy and technology) and practicality of books. As long as there is natural light available, books still operate when the electricity goes out and they don’t need technicians or cable connections to install. Moreover, despite the seemingly green virtues of a paperless classroom, books don’t leach lead and toxic acids into landfills or pollute the rivers and the air in developing countries where e-waste is big business due to lax environmental regulations. These participants were very firm in believing that students will continue to want and need reliable textbooks.

Clearly, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in delivering pedagogical materials. The problems related to evaluating peer-to-peer communications and adjusting constantly changing electronic materials to meet standardized curriculum objectives pose a real challenge for school boards. Teresa Almeida d’Eca is a Portuguese teacher who was awarded the European Union eLearning Award in 2007 in the category of the school of the future. In an email message, she wrote that she couldn’t imagine a world without books, and that in terms of implementing digital media in the schools, she thought we were still “a long way from the days when we can start thinking about eliminating textbooks.” She mentioned that there was online teaching is far from being universally accepted and adopted, partly due to the massive need for teacher training. She believes that education is best delivered through “a blend of different tools, from paper books to online tools [that] will continue to enrich the learning process for now and many years to come.”

All of this is to say that yes, textbooks are still relevant, but shift happens, and the role of textbooks is likely to change as its very form gets remixed and remorphed. For the moment though, textbooks, whether digital or paper, will continue to play a prominent role in education, but they will be enhanced, enlivened and enriched with Web 2.0 applications. It’s only a matter of time before they take on a second life in the virtual world of Web 3.

Jane Petring teaches at Collège Édouard-Montpetit in Longueuil, Québec and is the author of Insight: English Skills for Academic and Professional Purposes and Insight Grammar(2007), and co-author of Prospect and Prospect Grammar(2005), all published by Les Éditions CEC.

Convention Updates TESOL 2009 Session Reports


Linda Butler, Deborah Gordon, Jennifer Lebedev, Jane Petring, Robyn Brinks Lockwood, Harry Harris


Linda Butler

Deborah Gordon

The purpose of our discussion group was to address changes and issues that writers/authors and editors alike are beginning to deal with, and are likely to be dealing with more and more in the future. These changes and issues result from the publishing industry riding the wave of technological innovation while scrambling to stay afloat amidst declining textbook sales (due to re-sales of used texts, among other factors), new trends in the way education in general is seen and delivered, and teacher and student expectations of free ancillary materials online.

Our discussion group attracted about twelve participants. We were a lively combination of writers/authors (newbies and oldtimers, in experience only, of course) and editors. Everyone seemed to agree that the terrain was shifting, but that it was hard to say exactly how, or what one should do to accommodate those changes. One of the ideas that came out of the discussion was that writers should begin to think in terms of “nano-content,” meaning there would be more work writing a plethora of individual exercises or tiny modules to be placed in online interactive materials, rather than work writing actual textbooks. We also discussed the question of payment and what the changes in that area might be. In line with the already established need for “nano-content,” we all agreed that writers/authors are going to need to make their income from a combination of fees and royalties, as most of us have in the past, however, with fees possibly becoming more lucrative than royalties for most projects.

It seemed clear that an ESOL professional could still forge a viable career in freelance materials writing, but that we would need to remain open to changes in the way we work and in the types of work that we are prepared to do. As far as the way we work, one of the main changes discussed was the expectation that writers/authors would write straight onto templates. This would have the benefit of less over-writing because one thing the templates do is fit the writing to page lengths. However, we all agreed that templates still needed quite a bit of development, as many of us were having problems with them. Another question that we discussed was whether non-textbook products could produce royalties, but that one remained unanswered.

Deborah Gordon is a freelance materials writer, author, and co-author of several student textbooks, ancillary materials, and companion websites. She is also an ESL instructor at Santa Barbara City College and a TESOL Certificate Instructor at the University of California at Santa Barbara Extension.

Linda Butler is an independent materials writer and author of several textbooks, including Fundamentals of Academic Writing and Password 1 and 2 (Longman). She teaches part-time at Holyoke Community College (MA) and consults for Avant Assessment.


Jennifer Lebedev

Coming from Boston, I found it easy to wake up on time for the 7:00 sessions in Denver. Attendance was low on both Thursday and Friday at that early hour, but this worked to my advantage. I enjoyed the intimate discussion groups and walked out with exciting impressions, sound advice, and helpful new contacts. On Thursday I attended Caroline Linse's session on Political Correctness Versus Marketability in ELT or ESL Materials. She raised thoughtful points and forced me to reflect on choices I had made as an author. For example, was it a good decision to throw in foreign names in my textbook, or should I have stuck to common American names such as John and Mary? At that session, I made the acquaintance of Linda Butler, who encouraged all of us to attend the MWIS Planning Meeting. (I did.) On Friday I attended another MWIS session led by former president Sandy Briggs. Her session titledExperiencing TESOL in Materials Writers Interest Section Style seemed to be what I needed in terms of guidance. I have been a member of TESOL since 2003, but recent years have put my career in transition and I had yet to find my identity within the organization. Sandy was very warm and extremely supportive of everyone in attendance. There were only three of us, and Sandy made a point of finding out what our various backgrounds were and explained how we could fit within the MWIS. Sandy's welcoming attitude made me feel that I truly had a place in TESOL. I ended my TESOL experience by attending a couple of receptions on Friday night, one for the MWIS/ VDMIS and the other for a publisher, and at both I felt more confident of my work as a teacher/ materials writer.

Jennifer Lebedev has been an English teacher since 1996 and has published a variety of EFL/ ESL works. Her most recent publication is Vocabulary Power (co-authored with Kate Dingle) with Pearson Longman. You can find her on her YouTube channel, JenniferESL, or at her blog:


Jane Petring

Adapted from the convention program: Dr. Janet Zadina is a cognitive neuroscientist, reading specialist, and former high school and community college instructor and the founder of Brain Research and Instruction. She is currently engaged in neuroscience research as an Assistant Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane University and in Psychology at the University of South Florida. Dr. Zadina is author of Six Weeks to a Brain-Compatible Classroom—A Workbook for Educators

Dr. Janet Zadina delivered a riveting plenary speech while arousing our neural pathways to better understand how learning takes place. Developments in technology have allowed researchers to see that learning is not just some sort of intangible imaginary process, but rather a concrete, measurable phenomenon whose growth can be physically tracked if images of neural activity are blown up a million times. Dr. Zadina explained that learning shows formation of new synapses, the functional connections between neurons or between neurons and other cells, and the treelike roots called dendrite branches. As we learn we make more connections by growing dendrite branches. She showed us a series of slides that tracked the growth of an emerging bud on a dendrite branch that grew like a water-seeking root. And then she informed us that our arousal from watching this process had just created our own new dendrite branches. If we hadn’t been aroused, that new pathway would have been much more difficult to develop because arousal is the easiest way to learn. She also warned us that just like students starting a new pathway across campus, if the pathway is not used, it will grow over. Similarly, if our new learning is not revisited and repeated, the brain will reabsorb those new dendrite branches.

Dr.Zadina then proceeded to explain three assumptions of brain research that apply to language learning:

  1. Learning language involves creating maps in the brain. Research shows that by six months an infant’s perception is already altered by his or her language experience and by nine months the infant will exhibit a preference for patterns of the native languages. Furthermore, Motherese, the speech patterns adults use with infants and toddlers, helps babies interpret the language as the exaggerated forms and repetition create an important link in the brain.
  2. Bilingualism works the brain harder. Dr. Zadina told us that new technology shows that L2 is embedded in the L1 area, and may involve parts of the brain not typically associated with language. The differences in neural activity may be related to the age of acquisition. To demonstrate the difficulty of cognitive load, she had us identify the color of color words written in a non-corresponding color, e.g. the word red was written in the color blue, so we were to say blue. I could feel my neural pathways crossing wires although when I took off my glasses I had no trouble at all!
  3. Because bilinguals have control mechanisms, they get better at shifting more cognitive load. Semantic retrieval requires more effort from bilinguals because they must become skilled at managing the competition between the two languages. The process of selecting one language improves skills in selective attention. Dr. Zadina showed us a video that demonstrated our selective attention. I won’t spoil the effect by summarizing the video here, but I found a similar video on YouTube entitled Visual Illusion-Attention Experiment that provides instructions so that readers can experience the same phenomenon at home.

What are the implications for teaching? Dr. Zadina provided the following recommendations:

  1. Exaggerate foreign language with beginning learners
  2. Provide listeners with multiple instances by many talkers
  3. Provide extensive listening experience
  4. Provide extensive speaking experience

In conclusion, Dr. Zadina reiterated that the brain is plastic; that is, it changes as a result of experience and experience causes the physical structure of the brain to change. Learning changes the structure of the brain. And finally, cells that fire together wire together.

In writing this summary from the notes I took during the plenary speech, I realize that I have just caused the physical structure of my brain to change by reinforcing the dendrite branches spawned by the presentation, discouraging them from being reabsorbed into my brain. I would like to thank Dr. Zadina for creating these new pathways!

Jane Petring teaches at Collège Édouard-Montpetit in Longueuil, Québec. She is the author of Insight: English Skills for Academic and Professional Purposesand Insight Grammar, and coauthor of Prospect and Prospect Grammar, all published by Les Éditions CEC, 2007.


Robyn Brinks Lockwood or


Sandra Kouritzin, University of Manitoba, Canada; member of the TESOL Book Publications Committee

Robyn Brinks Lockwood, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA; member of the TESOL Book Publications Committee

Hedy McGarrell, Brock University, Canada; member of the TESOL Book Publications Committee

Linda Gerena, City University of New York, NY; member of the TESOL Book Publications Committee

Tim Collins, National-Louis University, Chicago, IL; Chairperson of the TESOL Book Publications Committee

Due to the popularity of a Getting Published session last year and in light of new acquisition and review processes for TESOL publications, several materials writers and/or TESOL Publications Committee members were asked to participate in an interactive workshop that focused on the book publishing process. Approximately 75 participants attended to learn about publishing strategies and have their publishing questions answered. The workshop began with PowerPoint presentation about the process a manuscript follows once it has been submitted to TESOL. Questions addressed included:

  1. For what purposes do people write in the TESOL field?
  2. What topics are commonly addressed in ESL publications?
  3. What are the newest trends and important topics in the field?
  4. What topics have not been addressed?
  5. What are the characteristics of the audience for which the book is published?

Each of the panelists discussed their answers to three questions:

  1. What was the best piece of advice you ever received about getting a book published in the TESOL field?
  2. If you could, what would you do differently in your publishing career?
  3. What piece of advice would you give to those trying to get published?

The session’s participants were prompted to write questions about what they wanted to know about getting published. While Sandra discussed the submission, review, development, and production process of TESOL books, questions were sorted into subsections such as identifying a topic, finding the right publisher, working with editors, preparing a proposal, examining competing titles, and analyzing the market. Participants were offered the opportunity to choose a discussion group. Panelists each facilitated a group based on their experience and participants circulated to one or more of the groups.

During the final minutes, a raffle was held and the winners won books donated by TESOL.

Robyn Brinks Lockwood teaches courses at Stanford University, serves on the TESOL Publications Committee, is Chair-Elect of the MWIS, and is a materials writer and editor.


Harry Harris

In this 45-minute PowerPoint demonstration (and idea-exchange workshop), the speaker introduced Writeboard (, an easy-access, user-friendly free online forum that he uses with success for journal-entry exchanges with his students in a new English program at a regional Japanese university. As explained, Writeboard is a Wiki with an add-a-comment option which students in Writing (and other courses) can use in information-sharing, skill-building activities. Once Writeboard has been explained to students, they can be placed in groups, assigned a group writeboard, and invited by e-mail to participate in writing activities on it, inputting their journal entries into the add-a-comment boxes after they receive the board URL in their e-mail inboxes. Students and instructors have 24-hour access to their boards, allowing for more constant responses from group participants than “traditional” take-home paper journals.

After a look at the requirements for the four elective writing courses in his university program (and his own methodology), the speaker briefly examined some of the critical research supporting the pedagogical use of journals in the classroom, in which scholars argue that this activity helps students “improve language skills, develop a sense of audience, learn from and about each other, and engage in authentic writing.” He then explained that the issue of lost, undelivered, and damaged “traditional” paper journals motivated him to look for an online alternative, resulting in his deepening search for theoretical support of this technology and his adoption of Writeboard, with its student-student and student-teacher collaborative possibilities. The speaker then explained that the literature shows support of synchronous/asynchronous online learning, with arguments that for language learners it can be a less intimidating, more collaborative and, therefore, sharing arena in which they can “use more authentic language, work on language skills, develop audience awareness, writing more and having more constant access to what they have written.” Participants were then invited to discuss, among themselves, their own use of the technology for journal-exchange (and other) purposes.

After this brief interchange, the speaker then went over step-by-step details for creating and saving writeboards and inviting student participants. He also explained the possible need for providing (writing) students with topics (in the Wiki section of the writeboard), to which they could refer when they needed ideas. (This suggestion has arisen from student requests for assistance.) The speaker next noted the writing progress that many of his students’ journals evidenced, including improved organization (more paragraphing), greater quantity (not necessarily due to course requirements), and more response to each other rather than just to the teacher. After suggesting other collaborative activities with the Wiki section of writeboards, such as shared essay writing, proofreading, and even debate argument preparation, the speaker then reminded participants that, when writeboard URLs become numerous, they could be kept in a folder in their e-mail accounts.

Finally, the speaker reviewed some of the issues he had encountered with student Writeboard use: non-participation (Instructors should ensure that students have access to computers and can use Writeboard and persistently encourage them to participate in their online assignments.), addressing the instructor rather than their peers (This is an issue when one of our goals for Writeboard use is for students to learn from each other.), and student lack of topics about which to write (As has been explained, the instructor can supply students with a list of topics.). The demonstration was concluded with the encouraging remark that writeboards are easy to use, adaptable, and open to a variety of uses, and handouts of the PowerPoint slides were distributed with references to the scholars cited.

Harry Harris has taught English and Spanish at academic institutions in Japan, the U.S., and Bolivia. He is presently involved in curriculum development in the new English Program at Hakuoh University, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. He also participates in teacher training workshops in Japan and writes materials for a Japanese publishing company.

MWIS 2009 Annual Business Meeting Minutes

Robyn Brinks Lockwood, MWIS Chair-Elect or

The Annual Business Meeting for the Materials Writers Interest Section took place during TESOL 2009 in Denver, Colorado, USA on March 26, 2009 in the Convention Center Room 602, 5-6:30 p.m. The following are notes of the proceedings.

1. Co-Chairs Linda Butler and Larry Zwier called the meeting to order.

a. They welcomed everyone and asked each attendee to introduce themselves and mention some of their projects.

b. Thanks were given to Christy Newman for her work on the newsletter, Bill Walker for his moderation of the e-list, and Gena Bennett, MWIS chair-elect

c. During the meeting, thanks were also extended to past chair Kelly Sippell, past president Sandy Briggs, and outgoing chairs Linda and Larry.

d. Introductions were made of Susannah MacKay, the incoming newsletter editor, and Robyn Brinks Lockwood, chair-elect.

e. Touching remarks were made in remembrance of Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz. Copies of a memorial were passed out and a memory book for Lynn’s children was shared for MWIS members to write in.

f. A call for volunteers to work at the MWIS booth in the exhibit hall was made.

2. Presentation of the Mary Finocchiaro Award

a. Marta Dmytrenko-Ahrabian awarded the Mary Finocchiaro Award for Excellence in Nonpublished Pedagogical Materials to Cathee Mang. Cathee works in the “ESL Academic Success Program” on the Anaheim campus of North Orange County Community College District. The program is a transition program for ESL students wanting to enter a college. Her project, “Please Pull Over” is a video (that she directed) and an instructor’s manual used in the EL Civics program in California. The content of this particular video is about an international student who is pulled over by the police for a routine traffic violation and illustrates what happens and what a driver is supposed to do when they get pulled over. Cathee holds a Bachelor’s degree in Southeast Asian studies with TESOL certification from Ohio University and a Master’s degree of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Hawaii. She has taught ESL for 12 years.

3. Report from Incoming Chair Gena Bennett

a. Gena gave an update on the time and location of the MWIS Networking Reception (to be held March 28, 2009, Convention Center 602, 6:00-7:45. Several people expressed appreciation that the reception was at the conference location and thanks given to Linda Butler for playing a key role in making that happen.

b. Reminders were given for the MWIS Academic Session and Intersections. Some concern was expressed about overlapping times and undesirable times.

c. Discussion groups were announced.

d. Gena gave a short report on items discussed at Wednesday’s IS leaders workshop:

i. TESOL Resource Center is still a priority for TESOL. At this time, there are only 200 submissions. There is a small honorarium and vetting process for submissions and there is also an opportunity to serve as a reviewer. Gena asked that MWIS members think about what should be available on the site.

ii. Special projects grants are due 5/1. Examples of last year’s project grants were used for a SPLIS video, a bilingual education survey, and CALL resource development. Amounts for grants are between $400-$500.

4. Proposed Amendment to MWIS Governing Rules

a. Voting rules for MWIS were discussed and a wording change proposed to allow for electronic voting rather than in-person voting at meetings. A three-fourths majority vote is needed at this meeting to allow electronic voting.

i. Current wording: Article X. Amendments These Governing Rules may be amended by a majority vote of the MWIS members who participate in the voting at an annual business (open) meeting, provided written notice of the proposed change/s has/have been given to the membership at least 30 days prior to the vote, or by a three-fourths (3/4) of the members voting if no such notice has been given. A quorum is required for the amendment to take effect.

ii. Proposed new wording: Article X. Amendments These Governing Rules may be amended by a majority vote of the MWIS members who participate in the voting at an annual business (open meeting), provided written notice of the proposed change/s has/have been given to the membership at least 30 days prior to the vote, or by a three-fourths (3/4) of the members voting if no such notice has been given. A quorum is required for the amendment to take effect. Alternatively, the rules may be amended by a majority vote in an electronic ballot, provided that the closing date for voting is no sooner than 14 days from the date ballots are sent out.

iii. A motion was made, seconded, and passed with more than a three-fourths majority.

5. Call for Volunteers

a. A sign-up sheet was circulated for volunteers to read proposals for next year’s conference.

b. Everyone was encouraged to submit proposals for TESOL 2010

c. Volunteers were again encouraged to sign up to talk with any prospective members at the MWIS booth in the exhibit hall. Volunteers for next year’s booth are encouraged to talk to Robyn Brinks Lockwood who will be in charge of the booth.

6. Newsletter Update

a. Christy Newman will be turning the newsletter editorship over to Susannah MacKay.

b. Susannah asked what MWIS members are most interested in seeing published in the newsletter. Suggestions from MWIS members at the meeting include summaries of sessions from TESOL, announcements for upcoming sessions, latest news and issues from the organization (such as governing rules, amendments, etc.), and other books and projects

7. Other Business

a. Diane Carter, TESOL 2010 Convention Chair and TESOL Board of Directors announced the TESOL 2010 convention theme—Reimagining TESOL.

b. She announced that a new proposal rubric will be used and she asked readers to be more specific with comments about proposals. She encouraged submissions to have titles that are “grabbers” and to be imaginative and creative. Some concern was voiced about comments on the proposals; Diane said they weren’t required, but definitely encouraged.

c. Concern was voiced to Diane about the amount of sessions the MWIS had and how so many of them overlap. The overlap also makes things difficult to get enough people to serve on panels for sessions. Certainly some of the conflicts can be avoided. No solutions could be offered at this time.

d. Disappointment in a 3-day convention was expressed—too many conflicting sessions, our networking party conflicts with several publisher parties, etc. An amendment requesting going back to a 4-day convention was planned for the Interest Section Leaders Meeting on Friday.

e. Ideas for Intersections should be sent to Robyn.

f. MWIS members are encouraged to re-submit rejected proposals. Many times they are rejected simply in an effort to balance topics and not because of content.