Snippets from a conference

My regular readers might have noticed that I write a lot about conferences here on my blog. So they won't be surprised that I've come up with another post related to the topic. Yesterday I went to Brno to attend the annual spring ILC IH conference. I took part in four workshops, had some interesting conversations with some interesting people, and learned some interesting things, some of which are not necessarily related to English teaching. 

First thing in the morning I attended Shaun Wilden's workshop. When I learned on Facebook that Shaun was going to present in Brno, I was really thrilled to meet him (primarily out of curiosity, to be honest) and I was a bit doubtful too. Do they really mean that Shaun, one of the Twitter #eltchat moderators? Are they talking about the Shaun who's currently based in Oxford? Oxford is not exactly nearby, you know. Anyway, it's always lovely to get the opportunity to meet the people you only know from the online environment. To me, shaking hands with them is the ultimate proof of their existence.

Here are some random things I learned about Shaun: 1) Although I would have probably recognized his face immediately, had I bumped into him incidentally anywhere in the world, in reality, he's much taller than I had expected. By the way, this stature thing is intriguing. I know, for example, that Mike Griffin is very tall too; in all the photos I've seen online there was nobody taller than Mike. I know this proves nothing (maybe Mike chooses short people to stand next to him when posing for the camera because he wants to look tall - Tom Cruise allegedly does that after all). Nevertheless, I infer that Mike is the tallest guy I know. But Shaun's body height is also impressing. 2) And he speaks very loudly. Well, I reckon this might be related to the height issue. Anyway, I suppose his commanding presence must prevent all naughty students from doing the things Shaun doesn't want them to do and make them do what he wants them to do. 3) Finally, he loves playing mobile games - and he plays them all the time. You rarely see him not constantly tapping an electronic gadget. Now that I think about it, he would probably get into serious trouble if he were my student (not sure whether I'd find the courage to tell him off though). By the way, mobile devices in ELT were the topic of his workshop, which I really enjoyed. 

As I said, I attended three more workshops and I was pleasantly surprised by several things. For example, they were all totally different from one another. This only proves how beautifully diverse teaching is and may be. In one of the four workshops, technology was not talked about and it wasn't even used (not even a projector). Nevertheless, I loved the calm and intimate atmosphere and I learned some really handy tips there. In another workshop, technology was only touched upon briefly during the warm-up activity (the participants were asked to take out their mobile phones and look at the latest text messages), but overall the topic didn’t revolve around technology, even though it was not explicitly excluded as an option for presenting and practising language. In one of the four workshops, technology was used by the presenter, but it was not the subject of the talk either. Finally, as already mentioned above, in Shaun’s workshop, technology was used by the presenter as well as the participants, and it was also discussed profoundly.

I was pleased to see that in one of the workshops (the technology-free one), the trainer demonstrated a classic ICQ. I liked the way she used it quite naturally to make sure we knew what to do. As I'm currently looking into the topic of ICQs, I immediately knew what she was up to and was the first one to react to her seemingly redundant question (feeling proud of myself). Once again I realized how important ICQs are for the students as well as the teacher. 

Apart from recognizing some familiar faces in the audiences, which is always a positive aspect to social events of any kind, I met lots of new people. For example, I had a chat with a young woman, a student studying the same teaching programme at university I completed a couple of years ago. She knows the same teacher trainers and so we had a lot to talk about. Plus I love listening to young people sharing their future plans and dreams related to teaching. I also met a girl who teaches Czech to foreigners. This impressed me because I think it must be really difficult. Thus I asked her lots of questions and learned about a coursebook which I can recommend in case somebody asks me about some useful resources for teaching Czech. I also talked to a lady from Great Britain - a former pre-school teacher, now retired - who came to the Czech Republic to visit her son - a teacher trainer based in Brno. I met her in one of the workshops and it was great to collaborate and chat with her. She was really enthusiastic and in awe of all the wonderful teaching ideas the presenters were talking about. She regretted that she hadn't known these tips back when she was teaching. I was impressed by her purely intrinsic motivation and interest in something she may never need. 

So, on my way back home, feeling totally exhausted but happy, carrying a heavy bag full of books and materials I had got for free at the conference, I already made plans for the next conference.