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Teaching is on the verge of a revolution – Part 1

With the unprecedented crisis the world is currently going through, it’s not surprising that many feel concerned and uncertain.

As the spread of the Covid-19/ coronavirus creates further disruptions to our daily way of life, the potential ways in which our lives will change are still far from predictable.

Whether isolation is a short or medium-term response to a disease we do not yet seem to understand, one thing is for certain, it will impact on the way society operates as well as policy.

Across the world, educational establishments are having to shutdown and hurriedly try and come up with strategies to deal with the provision of education.

Amongst the perceived wider chaos, educators could play a pivotal role in providing an element of hope to society at all levels.

Whereas in the past we have taught primarily face-to-face and used technology as an add-on, the tables are about to turn. The time to be passive towards technology is now a thing of the past.

The technology was always there. The circumstances we find ourselves in will force quick change and change education forever.

The question is, are you ready for the challenge? Most of us already have some experience of using technology for education. Now however, it may well become a pivotal skill everyone needs.

Will this affect teaching, learning and assessment? Probably. Teaching methodology? Probably. Interaction between instructor and learner? Probably. Does it mean the end of face-to-face interaction? I don’t see this happening. It is too early to make that kind of judgement. In the very short-term perhaps, which could provide a taster of what may happen in the future.

However, and this is the most important point. If you are not ready to adapt to the new circumstances, you may be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. As AI and machine learning develop apace, we need to position ourselves in the newly developing ecosystem.

Yes, we are going through difficult times, and our lives seem to have been turned upside down. Perhaps we are too stressed at this point in time to look ahead, as we try to cope with what is still an unclear situation around us.

Nonetheless, we have to make an effort to see through the phantom we are facing and look beyond. We need to stand up strong and face the challenges in front of us. In short, we have no choice but to prepare.

Every one of us has the potential to move forward. Learning is a constant of life we cannot avoid. In reality, adapting to new situations is part and parcel of this life. In fact, learning and planning is a part of our profession. So basically, this is not beyond anyone.

As someone who also has a foot in the accountancy profession, I’m actually quite glad I’m in education. The view is that technology could adversely impact on many professions. Us educationalists could ride-out the current storm.

This is not about becoming an expert at something overnight. In reality all that is needed is a small effort every day. Ask those around you for advice, start looking into the tools that are currently available. There is no need to panic.

Some of us need to take a leadership role in the matter and start facilitating programmes to help our brothers and sisters prepare for how we are likely to work in the very near future.

We are a resilient species. There is hope. Take steps to change and encourage others too.

How to ‘cut-up’ & creatively use the IATEFL 2017 conference programme

When we attend conferences, it’s quite normal to receive a lot of paraphernalia. Typically, the conference programme or schedule is part of that.

The chances are, that you’ll feverishly look through the list of presentations to see what might be of interest and worth watching. In fact you may not even look at it again. This does happen. However, there’s a lot of useful information in these publications that have taken hours to put together.

As a blogger who is in fact ‘attending’ the conference remotely, I’ve been thinking about how I can use the pdf version I’ve downloaded perhaps in a different way.

Just to let you know, that I do have nerdish tendencies, but by no means am I going to be reading all 250 pages of the programme! My reading strategy is going to be strictly ‘skimming and scanning’!

So here are a few tips on how to use the conference programme:

1) Networking: 

There are a lot of people in the EFL/ESL field who have a vast array of interests. Many of us may have similar and common interests, and there’s a lot we can learn from others. So what I do, is note down names of people who might be presenting something that I have a passion for and try to connect with them later. It’s a great way to exchange ideas and motivate ourselves by connecting with others.

2) Presentation ideas: 

There are literally tons of presentations during IATEFL 2017. What I tend to do is quickly scan through the topics being presented (hopefully the title will tell me what the presentation is about), and then collect ideas from these to help me perhaps present something in my own context, or at least have a list of ideas for potential future presentations. There is by no means anything wrong with this. I use these to give me ideas. These act as ‘take-off’ points for me to develop something later. You could discover an idea that could be presented next year at IATEFL 2018.

3) Research ideas: 

I often have people coming to me asking me about research ideas for their project proposals. I usually shrug my shoulders. I fervently believe that people need to decide for themselves what they want to research, after all, at least in my experience, passion is a necessary ingredient before plunging into the ‘research pool’. Just by scanning through the list of presentations, plenaries, or even  topics presented by various SIGs (Special Interest Groups), or organisations, there’s plenty to help you on your way to starting your research project. By the way, a research project can be something that will end up with something to discuss with your colleagues at work, a presentation in your own context, perhaps an article for an ELT magazine, or if you’re more ambitious, and academically minded, perhaps something relating to a course you are doing, for example an MA or a PhD, or even something for a journal article.

4) New knowledge:

There is a high probability that you are an experienced individual who has a lot to offer, In fact, it’s possible that you feel you should be presenting something, yet you aren’t. May be it’s worth thinking about IATEFL 2018.

However, I’m one of those people who’s hungry to learn more. There is too much happening to just bury my head in the sand and rest on my laurels. I find that quite often, reading through the presentation abstracts (this is after I’ve scanned, skimmed and located what really takes my fancy!) I come across new ideas or areas that I had never thought of. Perhaps I’m comfortable with the knowledge I have, but it’s still worth taking a step out of my comfort zone. Be adventurous, and consider visiting a presentation about something you’ve never looked at closely. Perhaps this could ignite a new interest, or lead to something even better. Even if you’re at a distance, it’s worth googling the net and finding out more about newer topics. Who knows, you could become the next guru of an area just by taking that brave step into the unknown.

5) Cutting up the IATEFL 2017 programme

This may seem rather odd, but I mean it. Depending on how advanced your class is, there is the possibility of using the programme as a basis for some classroom material (of course after the conference is over!).

My judgement is that we’re looking at mid level to advanced student who could benefit from the materials in some way. How could we use the content to make learning more interesting in the classroom?

I’m sure that people are thinking that we can create materials for lower level learners too. Yes, you could probably use the pictures and illustrations for a variety of activities, but then you’re the expert. You probably have zillions of ideas that are worth doing and even sharing. I’m just trying to facilitate a brain storming exercise here.

Other stuff?

Knowing that this blog has become somewhat lengthy, I’ll stop here.

That’s my brief list of ideas. Perhaps you can think of other creative ways to use the IATEFL 2017 programme in addition to just using it during the conference. May be you could suggest them below?

To download the programme you can go to the following link:

http://conference.iatefl.org/programme.html

All the best!