When I did the ERIC literature search for my masters research in 1983,
the Kansas University library had a new-fangled service which involved
making an appointment and bringing in a list of key words, then
waiting a couple of minutes while an actual telephone receiver
was placed into the modem and a connection was made with
one of the earliest educational servers way out in California.
By the late eighties and early nineties, educators were enjoying
electronic bulletin boards, bitnet listservers and rudimentary
e-mail messaging, along with something new called the World
Wide Web. I was lucky enough to be at Chubu University in
Japan in 1992, when Chubu hosted the second ever Foreign Language and
Technology international conference, for which I published
the program book and sent some of my first Bitnet alerts.
Now we have Google
and Google Groups, a fantastic search engine for discussion
groups, bulletin boards and listservers. The other day I was
trying it out and found several Second Language Acquisition
Research & Teaching (SLART) discussion threads dating back
to the winter of 1992-93.
On November 11, 1992, a SLART discussion started in response
to a question from a graduate student at the American University
in Cairo, regarding "how L2 learners encode vocabulary items, i.e.,
whether acoustic and/or semantic clustering takes place in the learners'
mental lexicon, are they grouped according to content or phonological
form." Participants in these exchanges about
mental lexicons were: Nagwa Kassabgy, the graduate
student who asked the question; Andrew Cohen, of the
University of Minnesota; Lydie Meunier-Cinko, then
a doctoral student at Arizona; Swathi Vanniarajan, of
Nanyang Tech. University; Steve Tauroza, whose bitnet
domain was cphkvx; Jim Lantolf, of Cornell; Robb Scott,
then at Teachers College, Columbia Univ.; Bert Peeters,
at the University of Tasmania; Hideo Tomita, at Ohio State;
and Nadia Abdalla, at the EGAUCACS domain. This discussion
includes a great bibliography supplied by Lydie Meunier-Cinko.
On February 12, 1993, Martyn J. Miller, of the University
of Georgia's American Language Program, asked an innocent
"A faculty member of mine is contemplating pursuing a doctoral degree in
TESL or TEFL (not Applied Linguistics, though). She would appreciate
hearing from any of you about what would be considered the top programs in
either the U. S. or in Canada for such a pursuit."
Miller's query sparked a 23-message discussion. Those weighing in on what the ingredients for a good doctoral program in
TESL/TEFL would be included: Susan Gonzo, Frank B. Brooks, Gail Guntermann, Mike Sharwood
Smith, Herb Seliger and Susan Foster-Cohen.
When Eileen Prince asked, "Can someone please give me a full reference for THE NATURAL APPROACH?" on
February 20, 1993, an interesting discussion ensued, including notes honoring the research by Tracy
Terrell, who co-authored that popular book. Contributors to the discussion included Jeri Dies, of the University
of Texas; Marcella Rollmann, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Margaret van Naerssen, at the
University of Pennsylvania; and Barb Kennedy, University of Kentucky;
When we're looking for the very beginning of new ideas
and trends in our research, discussion threads on lists
like these certainly can be valuable; sometimes, we find
the first mention of something, while other times, we simply
run across references and bibliographies which point us in
directions we might not otherwise have gone.
By Robb Scott