Thursday, February 20, 2020

27th Tesol Macedonia Thrace Annual International Conference - At-a-glance programme

You can find the programme of our Conference by clicking on the image below!

27th Tesol Macedonia Thrace Annual International Conference - An interview with Leo Selivan

Our fourth speaker is Leo Selivan, a talented speaker and ELT professional who has honoured us with his presence at our Conference once more. Leo Selivan has been involved in ELT for 15 years in various roles: teacher, examiner, teacher trainer, senior teacher, materials writer, e-moderator. He considers himself fortunate in three respects: (1) starting his ELT career with the British Council; (2) having Penny Ur as his Master's thesis supervisor; (3) getting to work with Scott Thornbury on his book Lexical Grammar, which saw the light in 2018 (Cambridge University Press). His other professional writing credits include articles in Modern English Teacher, EFL Magazine, The Guardian Education, Humanising Language Teaching as well as his own aptly-named blog Leoxicon ( Leo's plenary session entitled "On Eclecticism and Other Exotic Fruits " will be focusing on the following questions: As the trends in ELT constantly change, eclecticism has become a popular position among EFL teachers. What is eclecticism? What does it involve? Is it cherry-picking or a mixed salad of different methods? As we go on a journey through the history of ELT methodology, this light-hearted presentation will address these questions, and allow you to reflect on the methods and techniques you use in your teaching.
His pre-plenary session entitled "Mind the ______: Gap fills reimagined" will touch on the issue of gap-fill exercises which have been criticised for being boring, unauthentic and mechanical: they promote only receptive knowledge (of vocabulary) and focus on the correct form paying little attention to meaning (for grammar). Let's discover how, with a bit of imagination, we can put a 'spark' into gap-fills, thereby making them more effective and meaningful tools for language practice and review.

1. What do you hope participants will gain from your plenary talks and follow-up sessions?

The participants will have a chance to look back on various language teaching methods that have come and gone (and come back!) and reflect on their teaching. There will be lots of food metaphors throughout. One thing I can guarantee is that participants will never look at fruit the same way again!

2. The title of our Conference is "ELT-Reimagined". What are the changes that you feel will shape the future of ELT?

It may come as a surprise but I don't envisage any radical changes in terms of teaching methodologies. There might be occasional designer methods popping up now and then, like we've had Dogme ELT or Demand High in the last couple of decades, but on the whole the post-methods era looks set to continue. There will also be greater recognition of the status of non-native speaker teachers and learners' L1s, which is something that's already happening. This means native speakers will no longer be regarded as role models for learners; the shift will be towards bilinguals or monolinguals who can function in several languages effectively, regardless of whether they speak English as their mother tongue. Another change that is already underway is learning becoming more 'bite-sized': language courses are likely to become shorter and also more customized to suit very specific needs (English for VERY Specific Purposes?). Learning will increasingly occur online, on the go and on demand (e.g. via video chat or mobile apps). This is mainly due to increasing pressures of modern life, as a result of which learners can devote less time to focused study, as well as shorter attention spans. I'm not saying it's a good thing; it's just where things seems to  be heading.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

27th Tesol Macedonia Thrace Annual International Conference - An interview with Dr. Grzegorz Spiewak

Our third speaker is Dr. Grzegorz Spiewak. Dr Spiewak is a teacher, teacher trainer, EFL project manager, adviser and author. He was a former lecturer at the Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw, and subsequently on-line tutor at MATESOL programme, The New School for Social Research, New York. He serves as the Head ELT Consultant for Macmillan Central & Eastern Europe. He's also the co-founder and President of DOS-ELTea, an independent teacher development centre. He also served as IATEFL Poland president and he's currently on its Board of Advisers. 
His plenary session entitled “The science of effectiveness – behind your classroom doors?!” will be looking at where we could – and should – be looking as modern ELT professionals. In particular, the speaker will explore how to prepare an impactful class, how to begin it, how to carry it out, and how to evaluate its impact on our learners. His plenary session will be followed by a workshop entitled “Or NOT to Test ?!”. which will offer participants useful insights into meaningful testing along with some alternative testing techniques, tricks, and life-hacks.

1. What do you hope participants will gain from your plenary talks and follow-up sessions?

We would all like our work to make sense, right? In the case of foreign language teachers, 'making sense' must surely mean 'helping our learners, big and small, learn better, more effectively and, above all, in a more satisfying manner'. But - as always - the question is how ... This is where I intend to help out, looking at and interpreting some rather stunning results of modern, solid research into what works, what doesn't, and what makes more harm than good. Come along to the plenary if you'd like to find out. And to my follow-up session to sample a number of tried-and-tested ideas for one of the areas that this modern research shows to be quite critical: testing and feedback. My take on testing will be quite unorthodox - lots of alternative-testing activity types guaranteed! 

2. The title of our Conference is "ELT-Reimagined". What are the changes that you feel will shape the future of ELT?

The recent years have witnessed a generational change of guard in our profession, wit lots of young, enthusiastic, tech-minded colleagues entering and making their voice heard. As the result, we will continue to see various applications of new technologies in years to come, some of which will ultimately have real impact while others (the majority, IMHO) will die out. And deservedly so, in my view. A welcome recent trend is critical re-examination of the likely overall impact EdTech as such, and its specific pronouncements and claims. I am also observing a rising tide of opposition - not only from the 'old ELT' front - to obsessing with the new and craving relevance by trying constantly to impress one's learners with more and more "wow" moments. I am quite sympathetic to these "anti-wow" tentencies and will definitely look fondly at all attempts to reinstate serious, language-centred learning in our profession. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

27th Annual International Conference

26th Tesol Macedonia Thrace Annual International Conference - An interview with Randi Harlev

Our second plenary speaker is Randi Harlev. Ms Harlev teaches EAP/ESP at Ruppin Academic College (Israel) and Professional Communication at Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (China). She has taught EFL, trained EFL teachers, and developed blended learning courses for commercial publishers and universities worldwide. She also holds a PhD in Organizational Behavior/Sociolinguistics and an MA TESOL. Her research is in assumptions in language teaching and in teamwork.
Ms Harlev's plenary session " Project-based Language Learning: a Journey into the Unknown" will discuss the challenges and benefits of PBLL. The speaker will also explore its principles, understand its potential, and consider the three dichotomies inherent in PBLL: language vs. content; individual vs. group; process vs. product. Ms Harlev's session will be followed by a workshop where participants will create a project plan tailored specifically for their class. Participants are encouraged to come prepared with a topic that they teach in their class. They will determine their essential question, decide on the stages of their project, deliberate regarding grouping and consider various ways of assessing both product and process. Ms Harlev invites us all to begin our PBL journey together!

1. What do you hope participants will gain from your plenary talks and follow-up sessions?

Imagine yourself on a journey into the unknown; you have a burning question you need to answer, and you must forge your own new path to that answer. Along the way, you collect and are given the tools you need to create your answer. This is what our students experience through Project-based Language Learning. Together, we will explore how relinquishing control over our students’ learning enables us to discover their true potential, and how our role as teachers ebbs and flows as we support our students along their journeys. We will examine three dichotomies that we encounter in PBLL: language vs. content; individual vs. group; and process vs. product.

2. The title of our Conference is "ELT-Reimagined". What are the changes that you feel will shape the future of ELT?

I love the theme of the Conference—ELT-Reimagined. I have been in the field of ELT my entire career, and over the years, I have felt that disruptive innovation has caused changes in my own perspective and focus, changes that have energized and reawakened me as a teacher. Perhaps we are in one of those periods now. As we deconstruct the classroom, opening it up to the real world, our students become not only active participants in their own learning, but also in our teaching.

Our access to technology and technologies has increased exponentially over the last decade; it’s time for pedagogy to catch up. As we incorporate technologies which are becoming ubiquitous for our students, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality into our teaching, we must meet the challenge of making them pedagogically sound.

We are moving towards a greater focus on language use rather than on language skills; as such, both culture and identity may have greater influence in the way we teach language. There will be a greater emphasis on methodologies such as task-based learning and project-based learning, as these focus on the authentic language needs that our students will have as they go out into the world.

No matter what happens, though, a brave new world of language teaching and learning awaits us; let’s welcome it!