IATEFL Manchester 2015 – five years on
Pre-Conference Events with the Special Interest Groups
For me, the high point of the conference is always the Pre-Conference Day with my chosen Special Interest Group.
Since 2015, I have been a member of the Learning Technologies SIG and have enjoyed the activities, the talks and the subsequent communication through the members’ website and yahoo group. Special Interest Groups organize their own day of events, usually in a different location to the main conference. This year, the LTSIG took place at the University of Manchester, a fitting place as Gary Motteram, LTSIG coordinator and committee member for a long time, teaches there!!
It was on this very first day that I heard some of the most interesting talks all related to innovative uses of technology, for instance, a great talk about how to connect immigrant women and help them acquire English for their daily lives via mobile technology outside the classroom.
This year, the LTSIG day had a new feature, a number of short talks happening simultaneously in which colleagues shared a tool they had experience with.
I was fascinated by the new Google Classroom which was presented by Carla Arena and Swivl which a colleague teacher trainer introduced to us as the motion sensitive video camera base which follows the teacher (or whoever wears it) around the classroom. It was interesting to see an example of one student wearing it and how many times his attention strayed away from the teacher in just a couple of minutes!
I was also asked to contribute with a short presentation of a tool that I use in my day-to-day work and I chose Evernote, which I use almost daily for teacher observations.
You can link to my slides below – they may be of interest to you if you are or thinking of becoming a teacher educator. In that case, you might want to read Olya Sergeeva’s wonderful summary of my talk which she saw not in the LTSIG but on the last day as part of the main convention programme: .
Evernote for teacher observation and teacher development | Workshop summary
The Main Conference
Manchester Central is a magnificent conference centre and did justice to this major event which drew more than 2,500 delegates this year
With a programme that included more than 20 concurrent sessions every half hour or so, and the major distances between the various conference rooms, there was a lot of running and rushing about to be on time to find a seat as some of the rooms were smaller than others. On a few occasions, I was rather unlucky and would not even be allowed to stand or sit on the floor in order to listen to some of my favourite speakers, but with a programme so rich, you always get to hear something of value.
My IATEFL Manchester Highlights
Martin Parrot’s talk on the need to teach language – Martin’s great book Grammar for English Language Teachers has long featured in my library and our reading lists quite prominently; this is one of the best grammars for teachers and his presentation took us as far back as Robert O’Neill’s forgotten but still, to some of us, incredibly useful and well loved “English in Situations”, a book which accompanied my grammar teaching and writing about grammar for a long time, indeed!
Jill Hadfield is a driving force in many teachers’ lives; although an academic, she has written one of the greatest books – Classroom Dynamics – which is on my top 10 list! Her talk on motivation and including it in our instructional design was fantastic!
Shaun Wilden, who I talk to every day of the week but see only once a year at IATEFL as we moderate #ELTchat on Twitter every week and so work closely together, and Nikky Fortova’s presentation of some great new apps to introduce to teachers new to ed tech. We tried Aurasma, Make a Meme+, Nutshell and Plotagon
Alan Maley’s presentation was part of the newly formed C-Group – a group trying to promote creativity in foreign language education (and of which I am thrilled to be a member along with many other colleagues, some of them from/in Greece!). Mr Maley, always an inspiration to teachers, spoke about using literary texts – a favourite topic with me and one I have often spoken about and worked on in the past! The C-group also held its second IATEFL meeting to brainstorm ideas about its aims, modus vivendi and future plans and circulated a leaflet to encourage teachers to join and engage in its interest and focus on creative thinking skills development.
Another talk I really enjoyed was Nick Billborough’s “Taking Flight from the OK Plateau”, not the famous intermediate plateau, mind, but the complacent, the ‘I’m doing OK as I am’ plateau learners often reach and do not show any further progress towards the higher levels.
Among the many ideas which encourage experimentation and noticing features of language, Nick showed us a great tool, freely available online, to get Ss talking. It’s called Pecha Flickr – combining the concept of Pecha Kuchas and Flickr images, of course!
These are just a few of the many ‘big’ names that presented talks at the conference – they include well-known presenters such as Scott Thornbyry, Caroline Walters, Ken Wilson, Tessa Woodward and many many more.
But the conference is also a great place for new presenters and for learning from teachers ‘in the field’ , as it were, and not just from the illustrati of ELT !
Phil Weir’s presentation on Test – Teach – Test. This one was very special to me as Phil is my Delta online trainee and it was great to be sitting on the floor – his room was packed! – and to see what a great response he got from the audience on the activities he presented. We have invited him to present this to our trainees ourselves and as he is in Greece right now and loving it, we’ll try to get him to come to our next TESOL Greece conference!
My own talk, was of course, one of the personal highlights – on the morning of my talk, mostly EVERYTHING went wrong, the screen in my original room stopped working, my laptop misbehaved and, worst of all, Slidebean, where I had my slides up, was DOWN!!!!
Thanks to some great people from my PLN and mainly Dr Nellie Deutsch who dashed off, found people in charge to change my room and then literally kept capturing the technician until she sat him down in the front row (she would have tied him down if she could have, I believe!), I managed to deliver a talk without slides but hopefully not completely off topic !
Olya Sergeeva’s summary tells the story! Thank you Dr Deustch!! I owe you a big one!!!
Reuniting with my PLN (Personal Learning Network)
This year was my 5th IATEFL International in a row. I first went in 2010 in the rosy glow of connecting across the globe, and especially on Twitter. IATEFL Harrogate 2010 was the year of the first major tweet-up, when all the twitter ‘handles’ I talked to and learnt from gathered together, like a grand calling of the Scottish clans!!!
In the words of Jeremy Harmer, that very first tweet-up was a veritable ‘love fest’, with people falling into each other’s arms as if they had known each other all their lives!!!! It was fantastic.
2015 was not quite the love fest that 2010 had been, but it was great to see how many of these ‘friendships’ had blossomed and grown into real friendships, without the quotation marks any longer (in the sense that we ‘friend’ total strangers on facebook or other social networks).
We can now meet with the best people in our fields online and can talk to them every day.
We can attend webinars galore!!! A simple look at this link that my good friend and colleague from Ontario, Tyson Seburn, put together proves how unnecessary it seems to be to travel so far to go to a conference when so much is at our fingertips online.
But is it? (unnecessary?)
I am all for pursuing my own professional development online and I do a lot of that on a daily basis but nothing, nothing beats the joy of human connections face-to-face…
Social Highlights in Iatefl Manchester
Going to a major conference without social events and networking with one’s colleagues is sheer madness! One of the main reasons we all go is to meet up and talk to each other in person!!!!
The book exhibition area with its café and meals served throughout the day provided a focal point for socializing and networking during the day… and this went on late into the Manchester nights!!!!!
My highlights included a night out with my colleagues who are CELTA and DELTA trainers around the world – an evening’s outing we set up and organized weeks in advance through our Facebook Group
The British Council party which was held in the magnificent town hall of Manchester City – see for yourself the image of just one of the halls with their special lighting.
The Macmillan party which is always a real riot and which involved a lot of dancing and drinking but not much talking!!!!
And of course, the Pecha Kucha event which has by now become a tradition!
In between all these talks and events, we all flocked to different pubs and restaurants, small pools of people just happy to be getting back together after a whole year apart and with communication just on Facebook, blogs and twitter – my own PLN, the team of moderators of #ELTchat, our weekly ELTon Awards Nominated Twitter chat, were all there!
It’s not like meeting friends – It’s meeting friends !
I can’t help but share this brilliant selfie left in my phone the night I left it in a pub after a long day and late drinks and talk with friends. A public thanks to these two Mancunians (? or not?) who took their selfie and gave it back to the barman. 🙂
P.S. The conference has been blogged about extensively by the IATEFL registered bloggers – look for all of them on this page and follow some of the plenaries and recorded talks from the page linked below. It was a great conference, a great location and much enjoyed and appreciated by all of us – an additional bonus was to be there and witness Marjorie Rosenberg, a great grass roots teacher, blogger and follower of our weekly #ELTchat become the new IATEFL President !!!!
And on that note of great joy to have this new President, I must wrap up this post and see you all in Birmingham next year for another great one!!!!
Registered Bloggers https://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2015/manchester-online-registered-bloggerscording
Recordings of some of the talks https://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2015/sessions
The Creativity Group http://thecreativitygroup.weebly.com Pecha Flickr http://pechaflickr.net/
About the Author
Marisa Constantinides is a teacher, teacher educator, conference presenter and ELT author. She is the Director of CELT Athens , a CELTA & DELTA centre in Athens offering face-to-face and online courses. Marisa is one of the moderators of #ELTchat and maintains various blogs including the very popular TEFL Matters blog. She is @Marisa_C on Twitter and you can connect with her on various social networks, all listed on her About.me page linked below: http://about.me/marisa_constantinides