Tweet and Ye Shall Find.
I haven’t written here for a while, for which I apologise. Since my last post, I’ve been busy with moving back to the UK from Germany, starting a new job and catching up with all the people who I left behind here in 2008. This doesn’t really excuse the almost 3 month hiatus in blog posts, but it’s the only excuse I have…It will have to do…
Thumbs at the ready.
I find myself here on this hazy spring day in London having just returned from an incredibly intense, inspiring and interesting week at IATEFL in Glasgow, my first ever ELT conference experience. Some of you may have been following the rampant tweeting which I was doing from all of the talks/workshops I went to (if not, follow me here – @jemjemgardner). There was so much to say that my thumbs literally needed to take breaks at points (I was using my phone – no iPad here…!). I think I managed to capture the essence of most things I saw, and I hope that the presenters agree.
To Tweet or Not to Tweet?
There was a bit of a debate last year sometime (I think between such Tweeters as @chiasuan & @harmerj??) about whether tweeting from a conference is rude, distracting, infringement of copyright or actually useful, inclusive (as this blogger certainly thinks) and a way to help you organise your thoughts. I am clearly, after 4 days of furious typing, in the latter camp.
I found that through tweeting, I had to concentrate even more on what was going on, what the speaker was really saying, then attempt to condense this into 140 characters whilst leaving space for the speaker’s Twitter handle and the IATEFL hashtag, too! Not an easy task when you are listening to such complex talks as the brilliant one by Willy Cardoso on “Dialogue in teacher training: a sociocultural perspective.”. (Wow, was this hard to Tweet!) But by doing so I not only have a record of what he said including some specific quotes (when my thumbs worked fast enough), but also I could share this with a wider audience, with those who were not fortunate enough to be in the room, or maybe not even in the country. The fact I was then sharing it on the internet means I was putting myself at risk if I got it wrong. I actually was quite fearful of this happening – that someone else in the audience would tweet that I had completely misunderstood, or the presenter would read my tweets later and be angry that I had missed their point. Luckily, this didn’t happen. In fact, quite the opposite! I received thanks from many presenters and fellow-tweeters. Duncan Foord, who is not (yet) using Twitter, was quite interested to read what I had written from his talk “From English Teacher to Learning Coach” and commented that it was a completely new form of feedback which you wouldn’t normally get to see – most conference attendees keep their notes private!
Following the Plot?
Another thing I feel I was able to do via my tweeting was better plot the themes that ran through the conference. For example, in Anthony Gaughan’s talk on Tuesday Morning, we were told about the Se7en Deadly Sins of ELT.
Here is one of my tweets from that talk –
This is incredibly important. I had the experience of having my beliefs explicitly extracted and challenged whilst doing my Delta a few years ago. When I am working as a trainer, it’s having an understanding of these thoughts which are implicit in everything the trainees do in class and in preparation for class that enables me to help them develop along the teaching-pathway which best suits them as people. During my Celta years before, I don’t remember even meeting the idea of “beliefs” in teaching. Without this knowledge, I am perhaps more likely to be forcing my own beliefs on to them, am I not? Or maybe even at risk of thinking they don’t have any beliefs related to teaching/learning? After all, they are only pre-service teachers, aren’t they?
But this is wrong. As Willy said –
The second tweet focuses on the trainers use of metaphor, but by asking trainees to create metaphors themselves, we can get an understanding of these beliefs which are crucial in our development as teachers. The use of metaphor is something I have found myself doing instinctively in discussions with trainees, but I can really see the advantage of explicitly including it in a training course during input/feedback in order to help the trainees go through the same “extract and challenge” process which I found so useful a little later in my career. Why not bring it to the forefront of the teacher development cycle? Begin with this understanding of your beliefs, and be able to challenge them at each step, rather than waiting for them to become more ingrained and therefore less easy to adapt.
I will leave you with these thoughts for now, but be sure to check back for more of my IATEFL musings over the next few days. (Or maybe subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss out on future posts?!)
Last but not least –
Alongside all the learning I did at IATEFL, I also did a fair amount of socialising and not very much sleeping. It was a complete honour to meet such wonderful people at the conference and put faces to names. I am looking forward to seeing you all again in the, hopefully, not too distant future. If you haven’t ever been to an ELT conference, I recommend that you do even if just to meet some of the wonderful people we have in this industry who are so inspiring, funny, intelligent and down right fabulous.
That is all, for now.