Top 10 Tips and Insights from TESOL 2011

Day 2 and 3 of TESOL went by in a flurry of events. I’m glad I kept my eyes wide open and didn’t blink. Otherwise, I would have missed quite a lot. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to be in two places at once, so I couldn’t attend every session I wanted to, but I was a satisfied participant at the sessions I could make it to.  From the presentations, luncheons, and other events, I was able to load my head with many ideas before flying back to Boston.  I definitely did not leave New Orleans with an empty suitcase, so to speak. Here’s my top 10 list of tips and insights from TESOL 2011.

10. As excited by technology as we teachers may be, we should be selective and not fall prey to overuse or overconsumption – or what Randall Davis refers to as GAS, Gear (Gadget) Acquisition Syndrome. (Read more here.)

9. Although for many around the world instruction and study have become dependent on technology, we (teachers, materials writers, and others) should remember that not all learners and institutions have access to the latest gadgets or popular online resources. We must try to answer the question, “How can we still move ahead without leaving so many behind?”

8. Google Docs has many possibilities that go beyond file sharing. During the presentation “Vocabulary in the Cloud”, instructors from the Program of Intensive English at Ohio University demonstrated the gFlash+ mobile app. This resource allows teachers and students to create and share flashcards for language study.

7. iPads are the “in” tool for classroom instruction. I was impressed by the number of presenters discussing their use of this latest piece of technology. Indeed, the price of an iPad is not scaring off everybody, and atually a number of lucky institutions have obtained grants to purchase a set of iPads for teacher and student use. I was intrigued by Joseph Tomei’s observation that iPads can promote presentation skills. Back at his university in Japan, he’s able to encourage better eye contact with the audience when students hold up their iPads to display slides and images during class presentations. In the past, he noted how students sometimes hid behind their laptops. He’s also been able to create successful group projects with school-issued iPads (5 students to one iPad).

6. Zahra Foroughifar from the American English Institute at the University of Oregon showed some possibilities of using Voiceboards on A National Virtual Language Lab (ANVILL). Voiceboards is an audio-video recording tool, and it can be used on ANVILL. From discussion boards to teacher-crated quizzes, Voiceboards allows the use of rich media. Multimedia has become the norm in online materials and communication. [See poll below.]

5. Smartphones are winning the battle. It’s true that some institutions will continue to have a strict policy against cell phone use in the classroom, but when it’s not an issue of policy but a matter of pedagogy, teachers are choosing to integrate phones into their instruction. From built-in features like Voice Memo to free mobile apps and downloadable materials, it’s hard to argue that today’s phones should be turned off when language study begins.

4. The growth of the Internet has encouraged many people in our field to take on work as independent contractors. It’s important that such workers, from materials writers to freelance editors, learn to file taxes properly. Many thanks to Daphne Mackey and Barbara Foley for running the session Finance 101 for Materials Writers.

3. TESOL supports authors who can support their peers. As the newest member on the Book Publications Committee, I’m learning to appreciate the special niche TESOL fills in publications. Are you capable of writing materials that aid the professional development of practioners in the field? Please look at the  information for authors on the TESOL site.

2.  As Maggie Sokolik, one of my co-presenters, said, “The textbook is dead. Long live the textbook.” We all know that learning materials are undergoing a transformation. What do we want them to transform into?

1. My top tip is short and simple. If you can, please attend TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia or at least participate remotely through webcasts. With the landscape of teaching changing so rapidly, it’s important we connect with one another regularly to exchange ideas and discuss best practices.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Eric Roth says:

    Thank you for sharing this quick, clear collection of lessons learned at TESOL on days 2 and 3. While I attended many workshops, it was impossible to go to even a small fraction of the workshops that beckoned. Your summary fills in some of the many gaps.

    Finally, you’re right that smartphones can and often do play a positive role in English classrooms. Whenever we want to instinctively reject a technological tool, it behooves us to consider why our students seem attracted to that technology. I’m old enough to remember the extreme reluctance of community college colleagues to giving their emails to students. We need to, as the poet Emily Dickinson advised, “dwell in possibility” and remain open to new technologies – even when that means learning from our students!

  2. Things have changed with other forms of technology, too. Take the camcorder, for example. I remember a time when I was the only one on staff who asked for use of the school’s video camera. The big device was usually kept hidden in a cabinet – out of sight, out of mind. The students and I created some fun projects, from commercials to news reports. At TESOL this year, Robert Elliot, one of my co-presenters at a VDMIS workshop, talked about his creative and frequent use of flip cameras. For example, his students did onsite descriptions of campus art. It looked like a lot of fun. Getting students behind and in front of the camera can be a positive experience if the activity is set up well.

    Hope to run into you at TESOL 2012!

  3. Katie says:

    Thanks for the insights, it encourages me to see what I can do with technology in my classroom.

    1. I’m glad this was helpful. I’m thankful I was able to attend TESOL this year. At every convention I learn something new.

  4. Kaye says:

    Your list was really helpful — especially for those of us who couldn’t go to TESOL this year. A follow-up question on point #2 (“The textbook is dead. Long live the textbook”):
    Does anyone out there have information on good on-line publishing sites for downloadable ELL activity books or picture dictionaries for grades 5-12 newcomers? Not just free single pages, but complete books that can be purchased online and downloaded?

    1. I wonder if some of the materials on Reading A-Z would be suitable?
      Also, you might see if some of David Deubelbeiss’s e-books on EFL Classroom 2.0 meet some of your other teaching needs. You can check out his bookstore.

  5. One way to further professional development is to teach overseas. If you are a new teacher and want a job, you may want to consider teaching English overseas. There is a great demand for native English speakers and you do not have to know the language of the country in which you are hired. You must have a TESOL certificate which is easy to get and which teaches you how to teach to non-English speakers. The jobs have pretty good pay, some pay benefits, housing and airfare.

    1. I agree that EFL holds amazing opportunities. I hope to return to it one day. 🙂

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