Tag: conferences

IATEFL Conference Tips – Updated

IATEFL Conference Tips – Updated

Preparing for IATEFL 2017? First-time at the conference? Here are some tips to help you enjoy it and benefit as much as you can!

What to pack

  • Maps
  • Plugs, adaptors, chargers, etc.
  • Smart(ish) clothes (but warm & comfortable!)
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Drinks bottle
  • Money (cards – inform your bank you’ll be abroad)
  • Paper, pens, clipboard
  • Tablet / laptop
  • Space in suitcase for freebies!

Preparation Tips

  • Read the programme in advance. You can download it here.
    • Get the app – here.
    • Choose talks to attend, inc. Plenaries
    • Use abbreviation codes to help
    • Look out for ‘big names’
    • Pick alternatives (esp. if limited audience)
    • Talk about choices (share notes!)
  • Don’t try to attend all sessions!!!
  • Try something new
  • Pick your interests / set goal
  • Attend or watch the recordings of how to” webinars & sessions – here.

Networking Tips

  • In advance:
    • Join IATEFL Facebook group – here.
    • Follow @iatefl on Twitter – here.
    • Look for SIGs on Facebook / Twitter
    • Join in discussions, etc.
  • At conference: meet online contacts
    • Chat / socialise after sessions
    • Ask questions, maintain discussions
    • Join evening events
  • After the conference:
    • Catch up online
    • Keep up contacts – form your PLN
    • Make a note of who people are / your connection

Make the most of it

  • Pace yourself – Leave time to reflect, digest, sleep!
  • Look after yourself – Eat healthly, drink enough water, get fresh air.
  • Take notes on what presenters say – You can get slides later.
  • Contribute!
  • Catch up on sessions you missed at IATEFL Online – here.
  • Remember: You are valuable members of IATEFL.

IATEFL Blogger 2017

IATEFL 2016 Birmingham – What I’m hoping for

I didn’t go to IATEFL’s annual conference last year.  I just somehow thought that I’d been to so many conferences and just wasn’t getting enough out of it; no value for money, so to speak. To be honest I think I felt a bit jaded: always trying to ‘make the most’ of attending conferences, writing copious notes, and scratching my brain for ways to include all of this new input into my teaching for the next term. I wanted to hear as many talks as possible, get as many inspection copies as possible, try to make as many “innovative” changes to my planned courses as possible, network, and of course at some point eat and sleep. Actually it was quite exhausting when I look back. Not only, but also. 

This year I have decided to attend, and present at IATEFL again. Because it is now clear to me that I was lacking a focus. And that is why I’m making this ‘list’ if you like, of my aims for IATEFL 2016 in Birmingham, so that I can use my time more effectively and start moving towards some of my longer-term goals. And maybe some you will join me along the way!

So what is it that I’m hoping for from IATEFL 2016?

  • A successful presentation

My talk is on Friday 15th April, 11am, in Hall 10a: “Marking writing: feedback strategies to challenge the red pen’s reign.”

I’m hoping for a good level of interest, no matter how many or few people are in the audience, and I hope that at least one thing in my talk will be new to them, inspire them, get them thinking, and open up space for conversations on the topic of correcting EFL students’ written work. I would love for this to lead to in-depth discussion, exchange and networking, and maybe even research collaboration beyond the conference week.

  • Meeting publishers

I have come to realise that I love writing materials, worksheets, lesson ideas, teachers guides, etc., and that one of my longer-term goals would be to do some paid work in this area. I’d love to engage with publishers’ representatives in Birmingham (or otherwise!), to hear about what kinds of directions their companies are moving in regarding future publications/materials, what kinds of  writers they’d be looking for, and just in general how I might start to make a move into writing for publication.

If any publishers are reading this: I’ll be at IATEFL with my CV and would love to meet you! My areas of expertise include EAP, academic/essay writing, presentation skills, grammar, and translation (German-English).

  • Meeting materials writers

As is clear from the bullet point above, I’m looking to start getting into writing  for publication, and would love to get to know fellow teachers who have made this move or somehow got their foot in the door, so to speak! I’d love to hear about your experiences, and (maybe… if I ply you with coffee/wine/beverage of your choice) your secrets and tips on how I could follow in your footsteps!!

  • Meetings new EAP contacts and friends

One of the biggest benefits of attending conferences like IATEFL is all the networking! I have made some good friends and contacts by striking up a conversation after a presentation, or over the free tea & coffee! And I hope to continue this tradition and expand my circle of friends and colleagues, and my online PLN. I’m particularly looking forward to sharing experiences and stories about EAP in different contexts, or from budding academics like myself, and just in general enjoying the evenings in Birmingham in a nice relaxed manner with colleagues and friends on a similar wave-length!  So please do say “hi” if/when we see each other next week!

So, all that’s left to say is…

Have a safe journey, and I hope to see you in Birmingham!

7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 7) Conferences

So, it’s the last day in my 7 days of posts on CPD for ELT teachers. If you’ve missed any so far, here are the links…

  1. Blogs 
  2. Reflection Groups & Learning Networks 
  3. Magazines & Journals 
  4. Peer Observation 
  5. Professional Organisations 
  6. Seminars & Workshops

All of the first six ‘ways’ could be done from the comfort of your own home, though I of course do recommend getting dressed and leaving the house at some point!! Today’s way will most likely mean spending some time away from your sofa/desk/own home, as today I’m going to convince you that a part of your CPD should definitely be attending

  • Conferences

I believe that all the other forms of CPD are extremely beneficial, but for a true boost to your insight, understanding, inspiration and motivation, there is no better way than attending a conference! There are so many reasons why that would, and do, fill multiple blog posts on their own. But here’s a few that occur to me immediately:

  • abundance of networking with like-minded people
  • opportunities to hear ‘big names’ speak
  • chance to keep up-to-date with latest trends and developments in ELT
  • gathering ideas and materials for the classroom
  • getting involved in current debates surrounding ELT
  • growing understanding of ELT in a wider context
  • the feeling of belonging to a professional community 
  • a chance to present and share your own ideas or research
  • free stuff (pens, bags, copies of textbooks, mugs, key chains, etc!). 🙂 

There are so many ELT conferences out there, and participating in all of them would take up an enormous amount of time and money – and probably not be a worthwhile use of your efforts! So how can you decide which conferences to attend? 

12805715_10156595096075464_1308734260307728059_nI attend different conferences with different purposes in mind. One of the first conferences I attended was a one-day event hosted by ELTAF in Frankfurt (Germany). There was a plenary, four sessions where I could choose form a number of workshops/talks to join in, and plenty of chances to network during the coffee and lunch breaks. I went along with the specific aim in mind of gettting to know other EFL teachers in Germany. At the time I was pretty new to teaching, so it was great to here from colleagues how the state-school and university systems worked regarding language teaching, and some issues that might arise in my classrooms and how I might want to tackle them. I was tired from travelling there for just one day, but I definitely achieved my aims. 


A couple of years ago I attended another one-day conference organised by a local ELT organisation, MELTA in Munich. It was an EAP Day. My aim this time was to meet others teaching EAP and discuss some of the biggest current challenges, exchange thoughts on textbooks and resources, and maybe share my own knowledge of how to ‘get in’ to teaching EAP. Again, I had a really lovely day, achieved exactly these aims. And even met up with an old colleague I knew from a previous job! 

The point is, I think, that you should choose a conference that matches your current CPD focus and in general your interests within ELT. Not every conference will cover every area of CPD or ELT, but if you select wisely and invest in the most relevant ones to you, then attending the conference will be extremely rewarding!

I suppose I can’t really write a post about ELT conferences without mentioning “the big two”: IATEFL annual conference and Assn TESOL yearly international convention. 

I’ve never been to the TESOL international convention. But I know a man who has. And here’s what he has to say about it: “TESOL 2015 was my first international conference for English language teaching. Although I thought TESOL would be a very exciting four-day experience, I was not expecting to be as inspired as I was. I spent that entire first day of the conference preparing to present two of my projects, which in hindsight was a waste of a day. I attended as many sessions as I could, most of them relating to my interests in global issues and social responsibility. I hardly slept! In my opinion, the best and most important aspect of TESOL is the networking. TESOL offers many opportunities to network with fellow teachers, teacher trainers, linguists, and scholars. I became friends with many inspiring, positive, motivating TESOLers by just attending the LGBTQ+ gathering the first night of the conference. Presentations are great; they are full of inspiring messages and new ideas. However, by becoming friends with these scholars, it alerted me to their very important research in TESOL. Because of networking, I even had the chance to meet Dr. Marianne Celce-Murcia and Dr. Bonny Norton, two of my biggest TESOL heroes. I became life-long friends with other researchers whose work I have used as my foundation for the way that I approach my teaching. Attending TESOL was a game changer for me. I highly recommend attending at least once.” Thanks @mitchell_jamesd !!

IMAG0245IATEFL’s annual conference, on the other hand, has been graced by my prescence for a number of years! 🙂 The first year I went, I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed. It is BIG! Four days, from 9am – 6pm, about 15 sessions per day, and a choice of 10+ talks/workshops/presentations during each of them, plus a big exhibition of publishers etc. I was determined to get the most out of it, but I hadn’t set myself any real goals, so I just tried to attend every single session, run round the exhibition in the lunch break, and speed-network in the coffee breaks! Well, by the afternoon of day two I had to go back to the hotel and lie down in a dark, quiet room, with a pounding headache. Too much!! And this is why I say, set goals and select wisely! Having learnt my lesson the first year, I’ve been back again and again and always return to the classroom brimming over with ideas, inspiration and motivation, even more passion than usual, and often a few more contacts and an expanded PLN! I definitely recommend attending at least once, if you can – and this year is the 50th annual conference, so it promises to be an especially good one!

IMG-20130411-WA0000

By the way, I will be at IATEFL in Birmingham next month, and will be presenting on the topic of “Marking writing: feedback strategies to challenge the red pen’s reign” on Friday 15th April, 11:00 – 11:30, in room Hall 10a, as part of the TEASIG Day. Please do come along and say hello!!
 

In selecting a conference to attend, and in setting yourself some aims or goals, I’d suggest returning to the framework I presented on Day #1:

Reflect   —   Plan   —   Act   —   Evaluate

Reflect on areas of your teaching and career you’d like to improve and develop in, plan which conference to attend and which talks/woskhops etc, attend, and then evaluate how helpful this was, how you can apply what you heard/learnt to your own work, and what other gaps in knowledge you’d like to fill. And once you’re in this cycle, you can continue developing professionally – CPD through conferences! 🙂

Further Reading:

Borg, Simon, “The benefits of attending ELT Conferences”, ELT Journal, August 2014. Available here.