KoTESOL 2014: Challenges in the teaching and testing of speaking

John and I want to once again thank everyone that came out to listen to us speak. We don’t pretend to have all of the answers, and we would never presume that what we do in our context would be appropriate for anyone else, but we both feel that there is value in the conversation.

You can find the references for the presentation HERE.

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2014 Teacher Journeys Conference

EFL Teacher Journeys Conference

I had a great time at the 2014 EFL Teacher Journeys Conference in Kyoto last weekend. Thanks to everyone that came out and listened to me speak about using Japanese in the classroom. I have been contacted by several people who couldn’t come asking for slides, handouts, etc. I didn’t have a handout and my slides were just Internet Memes used to add some punctuation to my narrative. However, I will have a paper come out later this year on the topic. I’ll let people know when the paper is out.

Uses Memes



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PanSIG 2014

IMG_1084I really enjoyed PanSIG conference this year in Miyazaki. The poster presentations only format was refreshing and interesting. I got to meet a lot of people and hear a lot of new ideas.

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Paperless? How about less paper with QR Codes

Here are the slides from my presentation at the 2014 Paperless: Innovation & technology in education conference at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan.

I showcased some examples of materials that I have been making that use QR codes. Mostly I use the text feature to add additional information to handouts, for example answers for homework exercises, and the URL feature to link to information on the wider Internet.

I’ve blogged about this before, and you can read about it HERE.

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New typeface recommendation: Cambridge

lowercase l and uppercase I in Arial.

lowercase l and uppercase I in Arial.

Those of you who have seen me speak, or gone through one of my presentations on this site, know that I am very interested in typefaces (fonts), especially how L2 learners cope with different typefaces and I have recommended a number of typefaces in the past. These recommendations are based on a number of criteria, specifically a number of difficult letter combinations/contrasts that L2 learners struggle with, for example, the lower case l and the uppercase I. I strongly argue that only typefaces with good legibility, that is to say letter shapes that are sufficiently different, should be used. Because of this all of my recommendations have been for serif typefaces, like New Century Schoolbook or Bembo Infant. I have yet to come across a good sans-serif typeface that had the legibility required for L2 learners, until today.

Taking a step back for a moment, my recommendation, for supplemental materials that is based on a number of studies which report that the typeface easiest for readers is the typeface they are most familiar with (see Felici, 2003: 67-8 for example), is to use the typeface found in the textbook you are using in class. For me this year, that has been Myriad Pro, the typeface used in the English Firsthand series (Smiley, 2012). It’s a very nice typeface and as an L1 reader I enjoy it a lot, but I have been quite frustrated with it for my students. It has a number of the problems that I have identified for L2 users: indistinguishable I l, insufficient contrast between dbpq, double-story minuscule a, etc. I have been thinking for the better part of the year, that I would like to find something different and for whatever reason, this morning I decided to have a look.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to recommend Cambridge, by Nicholas Garner of Aviation Partners as a sans-serif typeface for teaching materials for second language learners.

If you take a look at the glyphs page on myfonts.com you can see that

  1. The uppercase I is actually serifed, and the lowercase l has a slight bend to the right
  2. The lowercase d, b, q and p are unique letter shapes, not just mirror images turned around or flipped over.
  3. The lowercase i and j have sufficient contrast.
  4. The lowercase f and t have sufficient contrast.
  5. The lowercase c and o have sufficient contrast.
  6. Both the lowercase a and g are single-story.

Cambridge Glyphs

In other words, it’s the perfect sans-serif typeface for L2 learners. And it should be because it was designed to be used in educational materials. Here’s the blurb from Aviation Partners website:


I am happy to recommend it. Now I just have to get some funding together from my university so I can buy it.


Felici, J. (2003). The Complete Manual of Typography. Berkley, CA: Peachpit Press.

Smiley, J. (2012). The Anatomy of a Page in a Single Typeface. Between the Keys, 20 (1) 31-35.

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Happy New Year!



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My new job

KSU Logo

I am happy to report that I have a new job. As of this morning, I have signed a contract with Kyoto Sangyo University as a Contract Lecturer with the General Education division. I will be teaching compulsory first year English to non-English majors. It’s a very good job at a very well-known university and I couldn’t be happier. I was sorry to leave Momoyama Gakuin University, but all good things must come to an end, and I am looking forward to the new challenges that a new position brings.


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