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Tweet and Ye Shall Find.

March 25, 2012

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  –

  • Sin 6 – telling sts they’re wrong. We DON’T remember errors. We need neg feedback. Sts want feedback. @AnthonyGaughan #iatefl #tdsig Mar 20, 2012 
Later on the same day, during Jim Scrivener’s talk, I tweeted this –
  • We’ve lost the tools to intervene. As @anthonygaughan said earlier, we need to say “wrong” if sth is wrong. @jimscriv #iatefl #tdsig Mar 20, 2012 
  • We need more feedback, analysis and discussion. More demand, more challenge. No more “bland, meaningless praise” @jimscriv #iatefl #tdsig Mar 20, 2012 
Then on Wednesday, Jeremy Harmer, in his talk on “6  Key Questions Facing Teachers and Trainers at the Crossroads” told us that –
  • Recasting doesn’t work as correction. Sts don’t notice, think it’s showing interest. We need 2 reassess r attitude 2 it. @Harmerj #iatefl Mar 22, 2012 
So here we have three important names in ELT discussing a common theme – how our attitude to correction needs to be reassessed – at the same conference, without conferring beforehand (as far as I know!). This is what IATEFL is all about: a meeting of minds on some of the key issues that face our industry today. (I realise that there is also a lot of disagreement about certain issues. In fact, Jim Scrivener’s throw away comment at the very end of his talk about “running naked through the Dogme forest” and how Dogme is “all or nothing” is a fine example of this, and also, in my opinion, a rather cowardly way of ignoring the real issues of Dogme and hindering many people’s understanding of it as an attitude/technique/approach. But then, he would do this – he writes course books for a living!)
Connecting the Dots. 
In his talk on Wednesday, Willy Cardoso mentioned that:
  • Our role as trainers is to allow space for examination of beliefs on our courses to deepen understanding & knowledge. @willycard #iatefl Mar 21, 2012 

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 –

  • Beliefs of trainees are dev’d over whole life. An apprenticeship of observation. (Lortie). Make Ts aware of this. @willycard #iatefl Mar 21, 2012 
Pretty much all trainee teachers will have been to school and everyone at some point in their lives has learnt something. This means we have beliefs about how learning and teaching should be. However, we can’t examine these beliefs unless we know explicitly what those beliefs are in the first place.
This is where some ideas from a talk by Richard Chinn and Marie Willoughby which I had seen earlier in the day really began to take root. Here are a couple of tweets which sum up their workshop on Making Sense with Metaphor in Language Teacher Training:
  • Metaphors = snapshots of teaching beliefs to help trainers to know what they are dealing with on a course. #iatefl Mar 21, 2012 
  • Use metaphors to clarify complex concepts for trainees. Makes ideas more accessible. Relates to trainees life experiences. #celta #iatefl Mar 21, 2012 

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. 

15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2012 2:40 pm

    It took you a while but it was worth the wait. Lovely to have met you!

    BTW, google ‘The Idiots’ (recognized as the first film of the Dogme ’95 film movement) to see what that running naked through the Dogme forest is all about.

    • March 25, 2012 2:59 pm

      Lovely to have met you too, Adam! And I’m glad you liked the post. I promise to be better at blogging again now. 🙂

      Watched the trailer for “This Idiots” – rather confusing as far as trailers go, eh?! Thanks for referring me to it though, I didn’t know he was referencing something specific.

      Feeling rather conferenced-out at the moment, but the sun is shining here in London and having done my good blogging-deed from my terrace, I am about to jump on my bike and get remind myself what the real non-IATEFL world looks like again!

      Take care,

  2. March 25, 2012 5:13 pm

    This is great. Really well written and you have summed up the sessions really well. Looking forward to the next blogs.

    • March 25, 2012 10:14 pm

      Thanks Adam! Been out and about all day, but have just read your post. Wow, will write a reply to you there soon.

      Alex says Hi!

  3. March 25, 2012 5:31 pm

    I, for one, am truly grateful for you being in the “twittering” dept.! I followed your tweets whenver I had the chance during the week and delighted in them!
    Excuse accepted, now please get back to blogging!


    • dzallocco permalink
      March 25, 2012 11:41 pm

      I started following you on Twitter and found your tweets really interesting. It’s the first time I follow IATEFL online and thanks to live sessions, interviews and tweets I was able to make the most out of it. I find it rather challenging to sum up thoughts and opinions in a 140 characters, but I must admit you made a fantastic job at it. Greetings from Argentina 🙂

      • March 26, 2012 8:18 am

        Thanks for reading and following. I’m glad you found my tweets interesting!

        I think it’s great that they have the online sessions, I’ve used them in the past too and it’s really helpful.

        As you can see from this reply, I can only write in short spurts now. No long sentences any more!


    • March 26, 2012 8:16 am

      Thanks Naomi! It really was my pleasure to tweet what I was hearing, because I heard so much that needed to be shared.

      I promise to be better at blogging once again now.

      Watch this space..!

  4. March 27, 2012 4:30 pm

    Hi Jemma,

    I am 100% with you that tweeting from conferences are inclusive. If I feel excluded I can try to ignore them in my timeline or just take a break from Twitter. Whether I am participating in the conference in person or following from afar, I read the tweets. For example, I wasn’t in Duncan’s session but followed your tweets with great interest. Not only it gives you and idea of what the presenter is saying (and the mindset of the twitterer) but it also can angage me in the discussion and give me ideas of who to watch on the next conference.

    Loved the post – fabulous account of the conference, the feeling of it (I had the same idea of the common issue on the spotlight there). And I reiterate I think IATEFL should offer some of the best / most effective twitterers from this year free registration, to be roving twitterers – like the roving reporters 🙂

    On a personal note, I loved meeting you in person. 🙂 Hope to do it again soon.



    • March 29, 2012 12:56 pm

      Hi Ceci,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Glad I was of help including you in the talks you didn’t come to! And I think I might approach IATEFL about the conference-tweeter thing, sounds like a good plan! Will put together some of the comments I received from people like you and see what they say! Keep your fingersx crossed!

      Was lovely to meet you, miss all of you lots!

      Right, am late for class, speak soon.

  5. Emi Slater permalink
    March 27, 2012 4:41 pm

    Hi Jemma

    Great post. Very interested in your comments about Jim Scrivener!
    Thanks again for all tweeting at IATEFL which was very inclusive for me anyway!


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