TESOL is off to a great start! Here are some Day 1 highlights.
Make Your Own Board Game. At 7:30 bright and early in the morning, Jordan Gusich of University of Arkansas showed an eager group of teachers how to make original board games using Microsoft Publisher. His tutorial demonstrated how easy it was for those familiar with Microsoft Word to create templates using various shapes (mostly arrows) and text boxes. Microsoft Publisher is a part of the Microsoft suite, but for those looking for alternative software, there are LibreOffice (free, open-source) and Google Drawing. Jordan has used his game boards to break the ice at a first lesson, to serve as a prewriting/ brainstorming activity, to review grammar, and more. He explained that teachers have the option of setting the rules and writing in the text (questions or tasks); however, he found it highly productive to allow students the opportunity to create their own games. Much communication, negotiating, and creativity flow from that group activity. Students come up with time limits, questions, tasks, and even their own game pieces. In this short session, I also picked up some new tricks like using control/ left click / drag/ release to duplicate an inserted shape. Thanks, Jordan! His helpful, idea-packed handout is available on his website.
The Project of Critical Intercultural Communication. Thomas Nakayama, an invited speaker and professor of Communication Studies from Northeastern University, delivered an engaging presentation to a very full arena mid-morning. He gave information and prompted reflection on issues pertaining to culture. Professor Nakayama began with a brief history of Intercultural Communication, highlighting key events, such as the Foreign Service Act of 1946, which contributed to the training of Foreign Service workers prior to departure. Attendees learned the difference between a culture-specific approach and a culture-general approach. The latter seeks a general framework to be applied to any culture. We were also encouraged to go beyond viewing culture as something static. Professor Nakayama asserted that culture is also very dynamic; it is something we live and shape, and it keeps changing. As his talk moved away from the traditional approach (focusing on a culture-specific information) toward a critical approach, he raised questions like “How and why do cultures come into contact?” Key issues of communication, power, and contexts were explored. I like to ponder the implications of his observation that people can have different amounts of power when they come into contact. Professor Nakayama explained that political, social, and historical contexts shape our cultural experiences. His dialectical approach to culture asks, “What in the past shapes the present and future?” It also recognizes the contrast between public and private conversation about cultural values and the influence the former (in the form of public debate) can have on the latter. Thank you, Professor Nakayama, for the insights…too many to recall in this short space.
More to come!