IATEFL Conference 2017 – My week in Glasgow

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Clyde Auditorium and SEC, Glasgow

This is the first of three posts about the IATEFL conference held in Glasgow, 3-7 April 2017. It is my personal, reflective experience of the week. It is not a review of the sessions I attended or watched online.  That will be in my other two posts, which is part of my requirement of being one of the registered bloggers for the event.

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Sunday 2 April 

I travelled to the conference by train on Sunday 2 April, listening to my own Spotify playlist of Glasgow related artists.  The only conference delegate I met on Sunday, purposefully, was Diana Eastment scholarship winner, David Dodgson, at the Weatherspoons on Argyll Street. I stayed at a fellow Deacon Blue fan’s flat in Anderston. The last time I was in Glasgow was in December to see the band play at the iconic Barrowlands. The band retweeted my reference to one of their songs as I travelled back to the city on Sunday. My friend, who is wheelchair bound, mostly wanted to talk about her work at Kilmarnock Railway station – a local community project for disadvantaged people, many of whom have diagnosed mental health difficulties or are on the autistic spectrum.  My father has both a connection with Kilmarnock and the Barras as he used to ‘preach’ there in the 1960s.  He studied theology at the Bible Training Institute, Glasgow.   My first IATEFL conference was also here, in 2012.

Monday 3 April

On Monday, I attended the joint Learning Technologies / Teacher Development Special Interest Groups PCE. Stylised as ‘unLimiTeD professional development with technology’. I have been a member of the LTSIG since I joined IATEFL in 2012 and recently rejoined the TDSIG, having been a member for one year.

There were several talks and workshops.  There was an opening plenary on  ‘Applying startup thinking to teacher development’ by Nick Robinson and Jo Sayers of ELTjam and tech-related talks on the following:
● Teaching Old Dog New Tricks: Collaborative Inquiry (Patricia Reynolds)
● Design Thinking and Online Professional Development (Gabriel Diaz Maggioli)
● Click Like for Language Development (Teresa Carvalho)
● Teaching Teachers – How to Support Teachers Navigating the World of
Technology in Teaching (Katherine Anderton)
● Crowdsourcing the #MFLTwitterati, hashtags, Twitter lists, Padlet and
Storify for teacher development and classroom impact (Joe Dale)
● Integrating digital games: engaging young language learners and teacher
trainees in innovative learning environments. (Maria Diakou & Stella Kourieos)

In the afternoon there was an opportunity to meet each of the speakers and an open space where groups, who had been allocated a Digital Teacher postcard, circulated the room and discussed the topics raised by each of the table hosts.  In addition, there was a ‘moustache’ table about The Digital Teacher, which was led by Andrew Nye and Anna Lloyd of Cambridge English Language Assessment.  This new website is currently in the BETA stage, so is still being developed.  It was ‘live’ for the duration of the day so that participants could access it. In their workshop, Andrew and Anna displayed the resources available on the site via posters and asked for feedback from participants.  In my group was current Hornby scholar from Nepal, Sagun Shrestha. I had lunch with him and Tilly Harrison, from the University of Warwick.

Things were wrapped up at the end by Nicola Meldrum, who guided the participants on reflecting on the day’s innovations and invited them to share their experiences.  Michael Harrison took some photos of the PCE on behalf of TDSIG and can be viewed here.   Also present was LTSIG scholarship winner, Leung Wai Tung, who acted as a roving reporter and put together a fine video report of the day.  There are also some collected moments from the event hashtag #LTTD here.

After the event I attended a debrief session with the LTSIG committee members, during which I was formally welcomed as a sub-committee volunteer. I have been co-opted with an undefined role at this stage, but it might initially involve collecting and proof reading articles for the LTSIG blog and working with Sylvia Guinan, the website editor. I can’t be more involved in the committee at this stage as I would have to be elected.

On Monday evening, I attended the civic reception, during which outgoing IATEFL president, Marjorie Rosenberg, welcomed delegates. I caught up with a few more familiar faces, Jo Gakonga (also University of Warwick), Sue Annan (BESIG PCE) and Sandy Millin (MaWSIG PCE), before going for a meal with them alongside IATEFL committee member, Pecha Kucha 2017 host and current ELTchat moderator, Angelos Bollas.   I later had the pleasure of meeting psychology and mind mapping fan, Ron Morrain, for the first time.

Tuesday 4 April

On Tuesday, after Gabriel Diaz Maggioli’s opening plenary on ‘Empowering teachers through continued professional development’, I attended Johanna Stirling CUP talk on activities for low-level literacy in EAP.  This session was recorded by Cambridge University Press and I was briefly involved in creating some words using the prefix ‘-un’ as Johanna briefly demonstrated some simple spelling points.

After this, I attended Theresa Clementson and Gary Hicks talk on ‘International students: can bridge the academic and cultural gap?’   As someone who has just been accepted to teach on a presessional course this summer, I was keen to attend a few EAP talks.  This one focused on designing effective courses and feedback from students at Brighton.

In the afternoon, I attended Tony Prince’s excellent workshop of ‘Activities that affect attitudes’.  I have previously met Tony at the Norwich Institute of Language Education (NILE) where he is Academic Director.  For many years he ran the INTO_UEA presessional course. He drew upon his own personal experience of learning French and the common assumptions that are made about language learners.  He referenced the fixed and growth mindset (Carol Dweck) and Anders Ericsson.  He invited the participants to structure feedback based on failure and success, finishing with some myths (and reality) about attitudes.

I attended John Hughes’ presentation on ‘The Selfie Classroom Observation’, during which he shared his survey of 121 teachers, which I took part in last month.   I took extensive notes and photographs from this session and shared these via Evernote – here.

Later on, I cancelled my planned attendance of the British Council signature of refugees ‘Language for Resilience’ – knowing it was going to be recorded – in order to attend Outside In.  This very interesting Cambridge English panel discussion brought together four technology experts Geoff Stead, Donald Clark, Paul Driver and Yvonne Rogers.  They brought their experiences from outside the ELT world, talked about the technology we already use often without realising, the gap between what we do and what we could use in teaching. They looked at artificial intelligence, chatbots and machine translation, amongst many other things.  There is a recording of it here.  I will write a review about this in my follow-up post.

Outisde In - Panel DiscussionOutside In Panel Discussion Questions

Later in the evening, I attended the Meet The SIGs event in the Crowne Plaza. I initially felt overwhelmed by the huge numbers of people crammed into the room.  I don’t really ‘do’ claustrophobia.  But I got into it once I realised that all the SIG committee members were wearing a committee badge and had to be asked simple questions – 16 in all, one for each SIG.  It took a while, but I eventually got round to meeting someone from every SIG, which included the brand new IP & SEN SIG – the committee were giving out flyers (see below).   Two Facebook friends, Sharon Noseley and Rachel Harris are involved in this.  As well as briefly reconnecting with Lienhard Legenhausen (LASIG) and Rachael Roberts (MaWSIG) I also met, for the first time, representatives of LITSIG, Daniel Xerri (ReSIG), Dave Allan (TEASIG / NILE) and the incoming IATEFL president, Margit Szesztay (former GISIG coordinator) – who had been interviewed by IATEFL online earlier in the day.

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Wednesday 5 April

I took it easy on Wednesday, taking lots of breaks and selecting the occasional session. The day was bookended by two talks which had well-being at the centre. These were Sarah Mercer’s excellent plenary ‘Connecting minds: language learners and teacher psychologies’ and Rachel ‘fabenglishteacher’ Harris’ talk on well-being of teens.

There were two EAP related talks placed together in Ness. Susan Esnawy’s talk was about how to avoid plagiarism using journalists questions, while Barbara Howarth looked at paraphrasing with note taking.    After this, I bumped into and chatted to Nik Peachey just before he conducted an online interview with IATEFL patron, David Crystal.

I particularly enjoyed Laura Patsko’s Cambridge session on giving feedback on learner’s pronunciation.  She is very clear, as you would expect for the deputy journal editor of the Pronunciation SIG and specialist in English as a Lingua Franca.  She spent a lot of the session simply analysing ways to teach the word ‘cello’ and the question ‘What are you studying?’ Along with Johanna, she provided us with one of the glossiest handouts I received all week.  There is a recording here.

I spent a lot of this day going round the exhibition hall and talking to people, publishers and choosing a coursebook for two of my current students.  In the end, I chose to purchase Speak Out – Intermediate (2nd ed).  I spoke to English Teaching Professional editor in chief, Helena Gomm about a possible article, and caught up with Chia Suan Chong – who tweets for the publication.  I also held the fort and a cupcake for 5 minutes. Whilst I was there, I managed to snap this photo opportunity with the ETPedia authors..

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ETPedia Tweet

In the afternoon, Jamie Keddie ‘rocked’ the Clyde auditorium with his comical take on developing teacher talk, flanked by a ‘zombified’ cartoon image.  The recording is here.  I had earlier met Jamie in the exhibition hall as he signed his new book ‘Videotelling’.

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Feeling more chilled, I had a couple of drinks at the SEC bar before heading to Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery, a specialist fish restaurant that happened to be located next door to my friend’s flat in Anderston.  Great company and great food, albeit quite pricey.  It was my one extravagance of the week. Otherwise I remained mostly sober all week 😀

Thursday 6 April

Thursday was the most active day of all, which I somehow negotiated with a hangover. I dragged myself to Chia Suan Chong’s early bird guidance on how to be a freelancer, before breakfast!  Following JJ Wilson’s disappointing plenary on ‘ELT and social justice: Opportunities in a Time of Chaos’, I took in several talks on a learning technologies theme. This was the LTSIG day, with presentations by David Read on ‘creating interactive EAP content’, Diana Conheeney & Maria Guiney on using student created videos for assessment and, before lunch, David Dodgson on ‘connected development and teacher reflection’. Immediately after this talk, I watched Sophia Mavridi being interviewed by Spanish vlogger, Amadeu Marin.   I make a brief appearance. That recording is here.

Joanna Budden presented on teenagers thriving in the digital world. There was Joe Dale’s quick fire green screening  app smash with included lots of funny moments, Nicky Hockley on myths and monsters and, finally, Gavin Dudeney’s teacher technology toolbox guide, which rounded off the day in a light-hearted way. Half way through was the LTSIG Open forum, where I was introduced by joint coordinator, Shaun Wilden, as a sub committee member.  I will write more about this whole day in a separate post for the LTSIG blog, once I have access to the recordings.  Meanwhile, there is a small slideshow of some of my photos below.  There is also a Storify of tweets and images from the day put together by Marisa Constantinides here.

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In addition to this, there was the annual Pecha Kucha (20 slides, 6min 40secs).  This was probably the funniest thing I saw or heard all week, aside from Marisa Constantinides coming up with the concept of the ‘flopped classroom’. Her very irreverent Pecha Kucha had the audience in hysterics. Although this event wasn’t streamed or recorded, Tyson Seburn manage to capture it – see here.  For the first time ever, so our presenters informed us, there was a PK debate where the ‘house’ proposed the motion that teachers should be paid more than bankers. Jo Gakonga and Sandy Millin were involved in winning the somewhat biased argument.  There is a recording somewhere..

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The evening was rounded off at a karaoke bar in Drury Street.  I wore my Deacon Blue ‘#Raintown’ T-Shirt but wasn’t brave enough to sing the song in front of a crowd of rowdy Glaswegians.  Those conference delegates that were present shall remain nameless, as they were relaxing after a hectic week.  But I enjoyed it and got to meet some more folk I had otherwise not spoken to up til that point.

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Friday 7 April

I didn’t stick around on Friday as I had to catch my train from Queens Street station in the morning and head back to Norfolk.  There wasn’t really time to pop back to the venue to say goodbyes. People would have been in sessions or busy anyway, so I decided to take my leave of this great city.  I failed to find all the places in the Day That Jackie Jumped The Jail but I’ve since heard that ‘the Budgie’ is a rough place, anyway!  The only people from the conference I saw were Adrian Underhill and Amadeu Marin at the hotel.   There are so many other things I would have liked to have seen or planned to see but never managed to get to.  Given that I am now involved in a refugee integration project in Norwich, I regret not seeing the presentations and discussions on refugees, especially Nick Bilborough talking about The Hands Up Project, which I have supported, and the British Council Signature Event – Language for Resilience.  The latter is, however, available online – here.  I regret missing Angelos Bollas original session on ‘De-idealising the hetereonormative self in the ELT classroom’ but there is an excellent Scott Thornbury hosted interview with Angelos here which I also tweeted about.  I also missed my former tutor at Warwick, Richard Smith, give a presentation on the history of IATEFL – but gladly received his and Shelagh Rixon’s book in the post once I arrived home.  Here it is pictured with the ELT METRO t-towel, which I bought off Tyson.

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It was definitely the best conference I have ever attended and that includes Glasgow 2012.   I compare that experience with how I approached the Glastonbury music festival for the first time. I was running around like a headless chicken trying to catch everything. When I returned in 2004 I was more measured and selective in what I saw, taking more breaks.  This applies to Glasgow 2012 and 2017.  This time around I felt able to pick and chose a little more, take lots of breaks and speak to people in the exhibition hall and other locations, rather than going to talk after talk.  Only on Monday and Thursday did I feel I needed to be part of the whole day, and even then I didn’t try to do too much.  I wanted to enjoy the conference as a delegate, not with any particular responsibility. In next year’s event in Brighton I hope to have more responsibilities and may do my first workshop.

All photos in this post are mine, except for ‘unnatural’ (Tyson Seburn), the still from the PCE Periscope stream (Shaun WIlden), the stills from the Outside In panel discussion, from the IATEFL online recording and Michael Harrison’s quiet image of the SEC below. Tyson also designed the logo for the joint PCE.

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