This is my report from last week’s IATEFL conference in Brighton, UK. It is a personal review of the week, not an in-depth critical review of the sessions. I am subtitling it ‘From Memory Card Full to Mindful’.
On the Saturday before I travelled down, I was having a minor anxiety attack in Norwich. It may have been because I was presenting for the first time, but it was probably more to do with the intensity, exposure to huge numbers of people and the additional responsibilities on my shoulders, such as for the Learning Technologies SIG (Special Interest Group). Fortunately, the coach journey to Horley (where I was staying on the Sunday evening) was broken up by popping into London Victoria coach station. In addition, a good friend, Phil, along with his girlfriend, accompanied me. The anxiety I was feeling disappeared and I began to feel excitement instead.
After staying with Russell Stannard and sharing a beer over our respective teams 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, I left for Brighton to attend the LT SIG pre-conference event on virtual reality and the relevance or application of it in the classroom. It was a great event, with almost 100 attendees and six great speakers. I especially enjoyed Paul Driver, Heike Philp and Raquel Ribeiro’s sessions. I filmed the whole thing using the SIG camcorder, although the 8 GB memory card became full fairly early on, causing a minor headache as I tried to capture the remaining sessions using my personal back-up 16 GB card, which wasn’t being read properly at first and was problematic to extract the recordings from. Thanks to Heike for helping me on the day, as well as bringing a high-end Occulus Rift, which she set up at the back of the room. For a proper review of the LTSIG PCE check out the roving reporter Elisa Effendy’s video review and write-up. There is also this write-up by one of the attendees, Fiona Price. The SIG had its one face-to-face meeting of the year afterwards in the Old Ship Hotel.
On Tuesday, my big day came. My first ever talk at any ELT conference. After attending two of the LT SIG showcase sessions by Jen Dobson and Sharon Hartle, I went off with my mentor, Kieran Donaghy. He treated me to lunch and kept me calm as I went through the process of getting myself into the right mindset to give my talk. I had already practised and recorded a version of it – which I later shared as part of an extensive write-up of my research findings. That blog post, which I had been working on for months, finally went live about an hour before the talk at 15:55 in room 9. Around 70 people came to a room designed to seat 60, including Rachael Roberts, who had just given a talk on ‘mindfulness’, Danny ND, Roseli Serra, Clare Maas, Michelle Hunter and several other people I know and plenty who I didn’t. Michael Harrison and Adam Simpson sat at the back and kept an eye on the camcorder while Graciela Alchini, as promised, filmed the whole thing from the front row using my iPad. The results can be seen on the video page. The response was brilliant – not only from people in the room, but during the rest of the week and online. People heard about it and people started coming up to me saying things like ‘Oh, you’re the mental health guy’!
On Tuesday evening there was a fascinating talk by Gary Motteram on the use of mobile technologies in refugee camps and the LT SIG forum, during which we were approached by keen people wanting to be part of the SIG. This was followed by a scholarship winners gathering, which I attended along with the LT SIG winners, Julia Koifman and Elisa. This was followed by the International Quiz, in which our team came second. I contributed mostly to the album cover round and getting the answer to the question on what connects The Buggles, Pat Benatar and Rod Stewart – note: it’s not the number of letters in their names!
Unlike previous conferences, I took a lot more time to go off by myself, have the occasional swim and generally do things that were unrelated to what was going on. It was not only putting mindfulness into practice but giving myself time and space to reflect on the previous intensive couple of days. I bumped into Nick Bilbrough having fish & chips along with Rida Thabet. I sat in on their interview with the IATEFLtalks Online team and later recorded my own interview, which I have also published on my video page. Other things I did were to locate Quadrophenia Alley and to have a ‘mindful’ walk and ice cream, accompanied by storyteller, David Heathfield, who works for INTO in Exeter. I managed to get to Sophia Mavridi’s talk on pedagogy, not just cool tools, but I took it a lot easier today. On Wednesday evening, I was invited to the Visual Arts Circle social event at the English Language Centre, Palmeria Mansions. I felt honoured to be included in their list of talks of current members of the VAC. Had lots of fab chats there, including ones with Janet Auckland and Shay Coyne.
On Thursday, I went to Steve Mann’s session on Video in English Language Teaching and met up again with Russell. I went to Roseli Serra and Tyson Seburn’s talks. Later on, I chilled outside the Hilton hotel, with Russell, Steve, Richard Smith and Ana Salvi – all from or connected to the University of Warwick. Russell went on to play ‘Redemption Song’ at Jeremy Harmer’s ‘Songs of Love & Protest’ session, organised by Sarah Mount. On the theme of ‘protest’ there was also this demo outside of the Brighton Centre, which I happened to take the photos for, as I was hanging around outside at the time. Solidarity with Buenos Aires – this was to do with the closure of profesorados. I later had a lovely evening meal and chat at Jamie’s Kitchen with Angelos Bollas and Sue Lyon-Jones. We bumped into Sophia Mavridi on the way back from the meal and caught up on the day’s activities.
On Friday, there was a mindfulness session with Natalia Belousova in the same space as the scholarship winners gathering. I then attended my one and only plenary of the week – Guyana poet, John Agard, who brought the house down with his brilliant anecdotes and recitals – most notably the incredibly topical ‘Reporting from the Frontline of the Great Dictionary Disaster’. There is a lot of catching up to do – including some of the other plenaries and a limited number of recorded talks on the Teaching English website.
That’s it! A brief run through the week. Quickly put together. There were other great sessions that I attended and lots of great conversations. Actually the main reason for me going is the social side, a chance to meet up with what used to be called the PLN. I also bought quite a few books. 🙂
This storify of my tweets covers the conference + the Hands Up Project event in London on Sat 14 April.
Here’s just a handful of the hundreds of photos which I took. The focus is on meet ups with friends and experienced presenters at the conference.