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IATEFL bite-sized takeaways

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!

  1. IMG_0815The 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.
  2. IMG_086730-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…
  3. IMG_0838Aim 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…
  4. IMG_0935It’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…
  5. IMG_0842Go 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. 🙂

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This is so much of how I feel after #ecoo/bit each year. Thanks for reminding all of us that it really is about the people. Yes, I learn a ton,and take that learning back, and share, and reflect. But inevitably, what rocks it for me, what makes the experience amazing, is connecting f2f with the people I have come to know and love through our virtual interaction.


OK, Tyson, You’ve convinced me! I’m hoping to go next year. I got a lot out of the TESOL Convention in Toronto this year but am up for trying something new.

Dora Koutoukis

Hello Tyson, you’re very right about the back to back sessions and how easily you can lose track of what is going on outside the conference rooms. Unfortunately, I missed IATEFL this year due to the Orthodox Easter, but I’m hoping to attend IATEFL Birmingham next year. Last years’ conference, which took place in Harrogate, blew my mind. I couldn’t decide what to attend first and ended up connecting very little with friends. So, yes next time I’m planning to have a few breaks and chit-chat with people I only meet online. Thanks for this wonderful post!!!


Haven’t managed to get there since 2006 (yup, that long ago!) but would so love to plan in a visit again (timetable and finances permitting) because, as you rightly point out, online is nothing like the real thing, the real buzz you get and the bazillions of ideas that grow out of such an event. And yes, it’s the people, the coffee chats, the evening in the pub, that actually make the whole event even more special. Glad you enjoyed yourself!

Carla Arena

Tyson, it was lovely finally meeting you face to face. A pitty I couldn’t join you on the last day, but I’m sure we’ll meet somewhere in the world for an other ELT conference. Soon, I plan to write my bite-sized post of the conference, as well, when it is still fresh in my memory. I generally take notes in Google Docs or Evernote. This year I decided only to tweet. Let’s see if it worked as an extension of my memory! Beijos de Brasilia.

T. Veigga

That was so cool, Tyson. I bet you had the time of your life meeting your PLN. Next year, if money permits, I’ll go to either TESOL or IATEFL. I’m more inclined to go to IATEFL, though. Every year I get this feeling that everybody went there, but me.

[…] sessions she went to, including some which I’ve linked to above. Tyson Seburn wrote about his bite-sized takeaways from the conference. Jen McDonald summarised the talks she saw in short […]

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