IATEFL: yes, that massive collection of language teaching industry talks and professionals from across the globe, just concluded last Tuesday after five days of awesomeness. If you weren’t able to attend, there’s no realistic chance of replicating almost any part of it for you. Sorry. Believe me, this was my first time in person and while the streaming videos and live tweets were great in previous years, they do not compare to the live experience. The IATEFL bug has bitten.
I’ve wondered how I would meaningfully capture anything from the conference on my blog and it’s taken until this jetlagged zombie-in-daylight day to attempt to do so. I suppose I could summarise each valuable/enjoyed session, but honestly I’d be blogging for days (or like a madman–ask any of the roving IATEFL reporters). Instead, I elect to give bite-sized takeaways of sorts. Enjoy!
- The SIG PCE is worth it. For me, attending the special interest group PCE (a one-day event tagged on the day before main conference or preconference event) as my gentle toes-in-the-water to IATEFL was an amazing experience. First, the talks in the Teacher Development SIG were spot on to at least one of my main interests (speaking of content summary posts: see my “problematizing for teacher development“). Second, you bond with and deeply explore topics with a group of people who, by default of selecting this SIG, share your interests–an excellent method for PLN expansion, btw. Between the speakers and the event organisers, four of my favourite (and oldest) PLN were represented: Mike Harrison, Willy Cardoso, Divya Madhavan, and Fiona Mauchline. Plus, I’m thrilled to have connected with Sinéad Laffan and Higor Cavalcante here.
- 30-minute talks are a good length for me. Perhaps for the interactivity of a full-fledged workshop, additional time might be useful, but 30 minutes appealed to the attention deficit syndrome that living in the 21st century has caused. It made sitting through a talk that wasn’t going so well bearable. Finally, it’s not so daunting when you’re leading your own talk (NB: building further connections between these two subpoints is not encouraged). Overall, they pack a strong punch when used efficiently, plus you can go to so many more. On that note…
- Aim to see lots, but give yourself a break if you miss some. Attendee mistake 101: go to every talk you wanted to and burn out by the end of Day 2. Of course I wanted to see as many as I could. I diligently circled sessions in my program the night before. In many cases, I even agonised about choosing one of the three or four conflicting talks I’d end up seeing (NB for organisers: sometimes too much choice is a curse). Like so many before me, I quickly accepted this was an impossible task, and that breaks were needed to decompress… and mingle…
- It’s about the spontaneous as much as the planned. Scenario: you’ve just left one talk and have 15 minutes to go to the bathroom, get a coffee, and jaunt to the next talk circled on your list across the way. During this time, however, you run into an awesome PLN member, but who isn’t on quite the mission you are. Do you: a) say a quick hi and hug but that you’re heading for a talk you don’t want to miss? b) connect with them and have conversation, accepting you’ll just have to miss that talk? Ultimately for me, the talks are great, but it became obvious early on that this was my chance to spend time with people in person that I loved connecting with online. Plus, it’s these discussions that often matched the stimulation and learning that came from the talk I missed. Speaking of the people…
- Go with the flow in the evenings. Yes, the conference venue, talks, and exhibits were grand–above my expectation. No, they weren’t what I’ll remember most. It’s joining PLN for dinner, the talks unrelated to ELT, the surroundings where we spent time together. It can be exhausting after a full day of inspiration to go out for the evening as well, but it’s absolutely worth every minute. Even though I’ve known most of these people for years online and met many of them at least once offline, like any friendships, quality time develops them the most.
So this is what bite-sized looks like today. I might have another IATEFL post or two in me; we’ll see. :)
- Teresa Carvalho – A Beginner’s Guide to IATEFL and Other Conferences