Attending conferences back-to-back can be a rewarding and gratifying experience but it can also run you down like nothing else, as finding your feet afterwards especially with exams and school events coming up, can be quite a feat (well, ok…partying, karaoke nights, and the social life afterwards can be a killer too)! Still, we do it…and once we get out of the “turmoil” we start discussing the next conference (live or online one).
So, here are my questions:
- Is that an addiction or is it an addiction?
- But can you ever blame people for being passionate about their work?
- Has it always been that way, though, or have I only just discovered it? I mean, in the information/social media era is it easier to spread the word for upcoming events so more and more people attend more and more conferences?
- And do we have time to process all the information we gathered and put into practice all the ideas we got before the next one?
- And all that interaction and buzz on social media in between…I mean…don’t we need some “quiet time” before we delve into yet another mind blowing conference?
- Last but not least, how do you feel about your work-life balance?
As for me, it’s been nearly a month since TESOL Greece and IATEFL finished and thankfully my school’s parents’day and preparing report cards as well as mock tests finished. I’m now on my Easter holiday on Tinos island and before more admin and correction gets in my way I decided to put to paper (erm…screen) my experiences of attending these two conferences (my reflection on my presentations will follow suit).
There have been some great write-ups of talks and workshops for the IATEFL conference (I don’t think I’ve seen any for TESOL Greece), but in any case, my intention is to record what I personally got out of both events, in as few words as possible, the impact they had on me and how they might influence my teaching as what each person gets out of a conference is different since it relates to the unique context one’s working in.
Without further ado…
Saturday March 17th
Plenary: Jan Blake – What is a storyteller?
Jan (@akuajan) explained what a storyteller is and fitted three engaging, awe-inspiring stories in one hour. For obvious reasons, I will not (OK…cannot) repeat the stories she shared with us (though I can chant some of the lines…rika-tika-tik…rika-tika-tik…here I come on my walking stick…and ‘Here I come…here I come…in my pumpkin here I come). However, what a teacher can do to engage learners with stories, according to Jan is:
- Choose stories you enjoy telling (storytelling must have the “gossip element”)
- Be animated (to the best of your ability…besides, we do use miming in class anyway)
- For YLs, repeat words and phrases from the start of the story. As the story develops sts will have become familiar with these words/phrases so you can pause and invite them to submit that part of the story.
- Create a very detailed picture of the main characters in the story. Who they are, what they look like, where they come from, what they do/wear and build the story around them.
- Make sure your audience follows you from start to finish by keeping them engaged.
Jan Blake’s website
And that is the end of the story…(she did set the tone for the rest of the conference)
Rakesh Bhanot – Will you be a better teacher next year?
Rakesh (@RakeshBhanot1) challenged us to create a plan for CPD and mentioned that learning involves a change in Attitude, Skill and Knowledge (and coined a new acronym: ASK). He raised questions such as: “What’s your mission/vision as a teacher?” and “Have you ever thought of conducting a SWOT analysis for yourself as a teacher?”
The SWOT analysis is an extremely useful tool for understanding and decision-making for all sorts of situations in business and organizations. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. ~ Definition from www.businessballs.com a site Rakesh recommended for teacher trainers to get ideas from (I think I might also share it with my Business English students).
John W. Wilson – Virtual Abroad Courses: Bringing Global ELLs Classroom Together
This was about a fantastic project in Japan whereby learners develop their international communication skills by connecting to learners from other countries through Skype. The teachers developed a syllabus separately and found areas to overlap. They explored English Language communication strategies through topics such as music, literature, technology and fashion (they even organised an online fashion show).
PLN surprise of the day: Andrea Giordano (@ESLbasics) and I first met when we realised we had been tweeting from the same room for some time. Man, I love Twitter! It makes the experience of attending a conference so much more intense!
Petek Sirin – Enriching Process Writing with Technology and Effective Teaching Strategies
This was an amazing e-poster presentation during which some great Web2.0 tools were shared about how we can guide students to become better writers. Everything is on Petek’s blogpost. A must-read: http://peteksirin.edublogs.org/2012/03/17/50/
Andrea Giordano – Developing your Online Presence as an English Language Teacher
Yes, this is the Andrea (@ESLbasics) I met while we were both tweeting from the same session! She is the creator of ESL Basics (http://ESLbasics.com)
Andrea took us through the steps of developing an online presence and shared the benefits of social networking for English Language Teachers, such as finding out about resources from sources you trust as well as opportunities for professional development and new collaborations. Among others she mentioned ESL-library.com and #ELTchat.
Andrea’s website: http://www.eslbasics.com/
You can view Andrea’s talk here.
Sardar Duman – Facebook in the ESL World
Sardar decided to use facebook with his students after a survey he ran to determine – among other things – how much time they spent on social media and facebook in particular and in what ways they use it. He created groups and pages, uploaded material and invited students to comment, exchange ideas and collaborate and the response he got was very positive.
I thought it was rather a clever way to get some of his students attention out of facebooking for no apparent reason, but I would hesitate to use it with my students, due to parental issues.
I was convinced that this interaction can prove beneficial but I would probably choose Edmodo whose interface is similar to Facebook’s but is a site clearly devoted to education.
Ayhan Dogan – Internet Tools to Make Students Speak English at Home
The last talk of the day…and more technology for me. Ayhan’s was a step-by-step instruction of how to use Voxopop and Voicethread but what really caught my attention was the Why and How to use Voice tools. These are some of the notes I found time to scribble down out of the wealth of ideas Ayhan suggested:
- No time in class
- Appeal to digital natives (interesting, fun, audio-visual)
- Engage students with learning at home
- Give options (students can access the Web tools from anywhere)
- No pressure to produce instantly
- Have more chance to use resources
- Before the lesson discussion
- After class discussion
- During the lesson (in a computer lab)
A conference in Greece would not be complete, though, without the TESOL Greece party that took place that evening. Dining and dancing with an amazing view of the Acropolis!
Sunday March 18th
Plenary: Russell Stannard – Technologies that can have a real impact
Let’s keep it simple: 3 tools, Real Impact
- Vocaroo – (a simple online voice recorder that allows you to send recorded messages via email)
- Mailvu – (sends free email video)
- MyBrainShark – (Upload content, add commentary and share)
All of the above can be used for:
- Oral accounts of your typical day or how you spent your weekend
- Reading aloud
- Creating e-Portfolios for students
Top Tip: Setting up and following up on an online activity is equally (if not more) important to running it.
Russell’s website: Teacher training videos
Russell’s (@Russell1955) presentation here.
Lilica Couri – “I’m from…Where are you from?”
At her talk/workshop Ms Couri touched upon a sensitive topic for many EFL teachers and school owners inGreeceand that’s teaching multicultural classes. She suggested we create foreign national friendly schools and use the term ‘foreign nationals’ vs the word ‘immigrants’.
Some of the ideas from her workshop:
- Have flags to welcome students in their own language.
- Create an environment of self-esteem.
- Ask students to bring music from their country (you might want to preview it beforehand…) or organise a folk dance festival.
- Ask students to bring stamps, flags, postcards, posters or pictures and present 2-3 facts about their country in a poster presentation. A great activity to practice public speaking.
Despoina Galanaki – Evaluating task performance: Are grades enough? The case of rubrics
Despina’s talk focused on providing authentic assessment (for all and any tasks) based on a full range of criteria with the use of rubrics. Students are encouraged to participate in the process of brainstorming the elements to be assessed, the goals, organisation, criteria to be incorporated and they can also define levels of performance.
Some of the links Despoina presented:
Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators: Assessment and Rubric Information
Rubrics for Teachers
Top Tip: Rubrics will work best if you make them part of your assessment routine.
And that was the end of this veeeeery looooong stooooooory…J
Like I said, I will attempt to review the conference in as few words as possible, mainly expanding the notes I took during each talk. Notes of what really struck a chord in me. For more analytic reviews of IATEFL you can visit:
(Online registered bloggers)
Tuesday 20th March
Jim Scrivener – A proposal: for active interventionist teaching
The IATEFL conference for me started with Jim Scrivener’s (@jimscriv) talk where he questioned contemporary teaching and the fact that the communicative approach has settled down into a safe peaceful dead end.
What are the issues?
- We assume that by doing pair and group work language will emerge.
- We tend to go through the motions. Coursebooks can’t do all the teaching.
- Most teaching is demand low and challenge low.
- The quantity of stuff seems to be blinding us.
- When coursebooks were poor, teachers had to learn to teach.
- Teaching is not just sitting back and observing or organising groups and not be allowed to interrupt students when they talk.
- Teachers can learn to use more muscular classroom management.
- Experts cannot tell us how to teach. We must make our own suppositions.
- Be more physically active and interventionist.
- Add elements to good methodologies.
- Skilful interventions are a crucial teaching tool. If you do it with a purpose something will come out.
- Help learning to happen. Allow teachers to teach (and intervene where necessary).
- Being unhelpful can be an intervention (playing devil’s advocate)
- Learn to give feedback rather than unearned praise.
- Learn to say “no” or “not good enough yet”.
- Explore a sentence a bit more. (Listen to a sentence and replay the sentence on your head or replay the sentence again and try to hear the voice of a family member.
- Demand high teaching. Demand high of our students.
Jim Scrivener and AdrianUnderhill’s new blog: Demand High ELT
Bruno Andrade – Technology speaks volumes: enhancing integration, participation and speaking abilities
Bruno (@BrunoELT) is a Brazilian teacher who won the IATEFL LT SIG Diana Eastment Scholarship. He’s also one of my favourite PLN stars and it was great to meet him in person and attend his talk on how Skype can help students practice speaking. I was particularly interested in Bruno’s talk as I have been using Skype for the past two years to connect my YLs class with a class in theUS. I think it is a powerful tool as I have seen it open a door to real communication for my students.
Bruno’s class explored different things each time they connected on Skype:
1. Exchanged trivial conversations.
2. Geography and cultural aspects.
3. Drama games – liveliness in the class.
4. Joke contest: Integrating all students (always assign something for each student to do, i.e. some students can be judges)
5. Critical thinking at stake.
He finished wonderfully by showing us videos of his students talking about their experience and it was interesting to see shy students expressing themselves eloquently.
Bruno’s blog: Education and Technology in Brazil
Jamie Keddie – The story of Debbie and Nyan
One of the stories (that caught my attention) revolved around an apparently very famous cat, Nyan and how it has leapt to stardom soon after it was posted on YouTube and went viral (A viral video is one that becomes popular through the process of Internet sharing, typically through video sharing websites, social media and email. ~ Definition from Wikipedia). It was the first time I had heard of Nyan but upon my return to Greece after the conference I found one of my teens “Nyaning” during the break and when I said “Oh, how long have you Nyaned for?”, he went like: “Miss, you know Nyan?!” (and probably thought I was cool…lol) It’s interesting to see what teens find cool nowadays. They spend the break listening to things like:
Trololo (Beats me!)
Well, it appears that Nyan has its own webpage, and has grown to have its own store, wikipedia entry, AND twitter handle (@nyannyancat)! On top of all else the “generation YouTube” as coined by Jamie (@lessonstream) has developed videos by merging parts of films like “Star Wars” with Nyan as well as versions of an International Nyan with flags from various countries. There was one missing, though…and just because I’m Greek and happen to like Zorba… there you go:
Jamie’s website: Lessonstream
David, Hilary and Ben Crystal – Macbeth’s Murderous Mayhem, and other stories
“A Shakespeare extravaganza presented by IATEFL Patron and family” as mentioned in the program.
David Crystal narrated parts of Scottish literature and the “Scottish play”, realia lay around the stage and Hilary and Ben Crystal had to find them and act that part of the play. Entertaining and a great idea to use with my learners!
Wednesday 21st March
I spent the whole morning downloading and saving parts of my presentation as the internet connection at the SECC was very poor (if not non-existent) and spending quiet time in my room preparing for my presentation at the Interactive Language Fair.
When it was all done:
Willy Cardoso – Dialogue in teacher training: a sociocultural perspective
Could I follow Willy’s (@willycard) quick firing stream of thought after my presentation? It was quite a feat, but he really got my brains working when he mentioned that by merely learning and applying tried and tested strategies to teach a class, teachers are becoming “contexted isolated technicians”. He mentioned an example from his experience when, upon his return toBrazilfrom a teacher training course in theUK, a student asked the DoS: “What happened to Willy?” This brilliantly epitomizes the aforementioned term as it so often happens that all those techniques we learn in teacher training courses could or possibly should be adapted to the culture of the country we will be teaching in.
Reading suggested by Willy: Apprenticeship of observation (Lortie 1975)
Willy’s blog: Authentic Teaching
And some fun…at the Macmillan Scottish dance party
Wednesday 21st March
Jeremy Harmer – Six key questions for teachers and trainers at the crossroads
While Jeremy Harmer (@harmerj) was preparing for the conference disaster struck! Both his computers crashed and had to rely on himself alone to deliver his presentation, no slides, no technology. Yes, Jeremy Harmer was nervous about presenting naked and worried whether he would be able to “do aCrystal”. And he did! And got us all actively participating by conducting quick polls to show the diversity of opinion among an audience of 600.
Six issues were covered: the use of IT, CLIL, the benefits/disadvantages of language testing, repetition (and behaviourism), the grammar syllabus, and rapport. I came out of this talk with lots of questions spinning in my head:
- What is the purpose of testing?
- How do you measure a good teacher?
- What is rapport between teachers and learners? We know it when we see it but no one knows how to achieve it. Does it come by creating a wonderful ambience? What about cultures where the students need to believe in the teacher’s knowledge?
- Is it a battle between critical thinking vs repetition and drilling? Why don’t people talk about drilling much and why are teachers who drill their students often viewed as puppet masters?
Thankfully, my questioning was encouraged by the following suggestion:
- Increase your interrogation of everything you learn at conferences.
Ann Foreman – Making sense out of chaos: professional development with social media
Upon entering the world of social media with a view to develop as a professional you are inevitably faced with what seems like chaos. I found out the hard way when two years ago I was a novice myself so I am particularly interested in CPD through social networking as it has opened a whole new world for me and it was the topic of my presentation both at TESOL Greece and IATEFL.
What are the issues according to Ann Foreman (@ann_f)?
- The information on social media appear in rapid succession and there is no time to reflect.
- We need to think how we can improve our skills. Ask ourselves the right questions and set ourselves goals.
- We need to identify the people, tools and techniques to help us reach our goals.
- We need to learn from our teaching experience by sharing it and reflecting.
- We need to learn to navigate the knowledge landscape.
We were then invited to discuss in groups one of the following topics:
- Where to start
- Finding information and getting support
- Tools and techniques
- Skills and abilities
- Design an App. Features you would like it to have?
Huseyin Demirel – Johari Window as a self-awareness tool for teacher development
Revolving around the question: “Who is a good teacher?”, this was a talk on the Johari window, a cognitive psychology tool (as presented on Wikipedia) that is used as “a model for mapping personality awareness. By describing yourself from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of overlap and and difference can be built up” (as described in Kevan Davis’s website, the inventor of the “nohari window”, an inversion of the “johari window” using antomyms of the original words.
A combination of both the Johari and Nohari windows was mentioned as particularly helpful for assessment/self-assessment of teachers.
Geoff Hardy-Gould – Outside the comfort zone: getting comfortable with challenging your students
What’s your PB (personal best)?
That’s what a sports coach would ask you and Geoff challenged us to challenge our students by taking ideas from sports coaches and applying them to class.
- Comfort zone – Learning zone – Anxiety zone (Taking risks brings you to a new comfort zone)
- Foster an internal need: To respond to and seek out new challenges.
- Consider the appropriacy of the challenge.
- Communicate to students what we do and why.
- Challenge them with a pecha kucha. Timed speaking.
- Encourage students to set their own goals.
- Use energizers.
- Engage them (show you care).
- Stimulate them (enjoy).
- Have structure (builds trust).
- Consider the difficulty of task and the quantity of work in the time available.
- Adjust the environment.
- Provide feedback.
- Praise effort rather than achievement.
“Very good” is not good enough. We want Excellence!
Reading suggested: Psychology for language teachers, Williams and Burden (CUP) 1997
#ELTchat – Continuous professional development through social networking symposium:
Marisa Constantinides – #ELTchat – hashtagged conversations and CPD through social networking
Shaun Wilden – What has #hashtagging ever done for us?
Sharon Hartle – ELTCHAT and reflective teaching
Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto – Continuous professional development through social networking
Bernadette Wall – Creating your own interest-driven professional development path using social media
Shelly Terrell – Evolution of the conference: the internet’s impact on professional development
A two-hour journey in hashtagging and CPD.
Why not visit the www.ELTchat.com website for more?
Ken Wilson – Ten quotations (and some cartoons) that might make you think
Entertaining, inspiring and thought-provoking and left me thinking:
- Imagination is more important than knowledge. (Albert Einstein)
- I never let my schooling interfere with my education. (Mark Twain)
- If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. (from ‘The children of the new forest’)
- We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. (Marianne Williamson)
You can follow Ken Wilson’s blog and find out about his talks here.
The IATEFL conference for me ended with the Pecha Kucha event.
Speakers race through 6’40” presentations of 20 slides, running for 20 minutes each.