Report from the 2014 EuroCALL conference, the University of Groningen, Netherlands

Harold-HendricksBy Harold H Hendricks, IALLT President (2013-2015) and Supervisor of the Humanities Learning Resources Center 

The annual EuroCALL conference was held at one of the oldest and largest universities in The Netherlands, the University of Groningen (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen), which is celebrating its 400th year in 2014. The main Academy building, built in 1909 in the style of the Northern Dutch Renaissance, made an impressive venue with its stained glass windows and modern additions. The conference began on Wednesday, August 20th with workshops on using Machinima videos for teaching and learning, agile user-centered design for CALL, the SpeakApps system for enhancing oral skills online, and mobile devices used in the classroom. After the interesting workshops, attendees were greeted by Professor Elmer Sterken, Rector of University of Groningen.

Thursday began with the opening of the conference by Dr Françoise Blin, President of EUROCALL, followed by a welcome by Professor S. Poppema, President of the University of Groningen, who drilled the audience on the correct pronunciation of Groningen while describing the excellent programs the university has historically offered to an international student body. Carol A. Chapelle then eloquently described how evaluation is a form of “Arguments for Technology and Language Learning,” in the Graham Davies Keynote address. Attendees were then offered eight blocks of seven or eight parallel sessions, symposia, posters, and SIG group meetings in a well-organized program.

After a full day of sessions, an opening reception was held at the Groningen Art Museum, where the attendees were sadly notified that one of the Japanese presenters, familiar to many who attend international conferences, Dr. Kenji Kitao had suddenly passed away after attending workshops yesterday. This was a great shock to all and special tribute was paid in his memory several times through the conference. He will be greatly missed.

Friday’s plenary featured Dr. Bart Rienties, of the Open University UK, who entertained us with World Cup metaphors in his interesting discussion of learning analytics entitled “Understanding (In)formal Learning and Social Interactions...?
Another day of excellent sessions was followed by a buffet dinner and dancing in downtown Groningen.

Saturday featured a plenary by John H.A.L. de Jong of VU University Amsterdam / Pearson English, who spoke of the advances we have made in machine analysis and scoring of written and spoken input in his presentation entitled “Innovative Items – Measuring Something More or Different.” A half-day of sessions was capped by the closing wrap-up held in the beautiful aula.

This conference was very well organized with a very good list of excellent presentations covering a large list of topics. Be sure to review the excellent presentation abstracts and recorded presentations at the EuroCALL website.

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