Today's panel is:
- Bill Pellowe, Kinki University Kyushu School of Engineering, and ELT Calendar.
- Robert Chartrand, Kurume University.
- Kevin Ryan, Showa Women's University, the University of Tokyo and kevinryan.com.
Today's topic is language conferences
Conferences for language teachers are an important opportunity for professional development. Today's episode is intended for teachers with little to no conference experience. We discuss why we like attending conferences, and we offer some advice for 'novice' conference-goers to get the most out of the experience.
We started with a list of some of the conferences we go to.
- The TESOL, Inc. conference is an annual conference held in the U.S.A. in March or April. It's probably the largest conference for ELT professionals in the world.
- JALT conference (Japan Association for Language Teaching), usually held in November.
- JALT CALL (JALT's Computer-Assisted Language Learning Special Interest Group), usually held in May or June.
- AACE (Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education).
- EuroCALL (European Computer-Assisted Language Learning) conference.
- Asia TEFL, held in different Asian countries each year.
Kevin pointed out that one reason to attend conference is to get your batteries recharged. A conference is a place to find other teachers that are excited about teaching, and this helps to revive your motivation as a teacher.
Robert mentioned that socialization is another factor. Conferences are great places to make new contacts and new friends. Nowadays, all three of us have friends we only meet a few times a year at conferences. (As a matter of fact, Kevin and Bill only see each other twice a year at conferences. Robert and Kevin will meet this June for the first time at the JALT CALL conference.)
Bill mentioned that in the early days of being a teacher, he learned a lot by attending workshops and presentations at conferences. Conferences are also a way to help keep up with research developments in ELT.
Conferences can be expensive, with transportation costs, hotel fees, food and the entrance fee of the conference itself. If you're lucky, your school will cover your expenses. (If that's not possible, consult with a tax expert in your country to find out if these costs are tax-deductable.)
The first time attending a conference can be intimidating, but it needn't be. Our advice for getting the most out of a conference:
- Pick a thread, and try to focus on that thread. For example, you could attend several presentations and workshops on motivation, or vocabulary, or computers, etc. If you remain consistant, you may learn more than if you'd attended presentations on a variety of different topics.
- Bring your resume (C.V.) and lots of business cards. You never know who you'll meet, and there's always a chance that you'll discover a dream job being advertised.
- Carry water and a snack. Sometimes the lines at the food court are too long.
- Make hotel reservations way ahead of time. Try to be close to either the conference center or the entertainment area. Your best bet will be to stay where everyone else is staying. Most conference websites recommend a few hotels that are convenient and affordable.
- Bring aspirin.
- Whether or not to bring a laptop is an open question. It may be heavy to carry around the conference, but it could also be useful. Kevin and Robert leave theirs at their hotels, while Bill usually lugs his around.
- Take advantage of the publisher display area. You can find out a lot about new textbooks and other materials.
- Plan ahead. Use the conference handbook and schedule to plan your day ahead of time. This will help ensure that you don't miss out on interesting presentations. It also frees up your time between presentations, which gives you more time to talk with other people.
- Dress comfortably. Each conference has its own basic norms, so if in doubt, dress professionally. Even though the conference is not a job interview, you may meet people who are in a position to offer you a job that you'd like to have. The organization's web site or even Flickr should have some pictures of past conferences, so you'll know whether to wear a tie or your favorite t-shirt.
We hope to see you at a conference someday soon!