Friday, 18 March 2011

IATEFL Hungary - 2010 Conference, Looking Back

As the invitation to the 2011 IATEFL Hungary conference has just come out, it seems an appropriate time to look back, especially since I have not done so yet.
I was once again honoured to be asked to fill the role of "Conference Crier", that is MC, for the third time, working again with a terrific team of dedicated organizers and having the pleasure of meeting great presenters.  I cannot do justice to them all here, suffice to say that I found all the presentations I attended informative, and enriching.  I will though mention a personal highlight...

The Friday afternoon SIG events are a strong start to the weekend, and it was no different last autumn.  I'm a member of the Culture and Literature Special Interest Group, where we had the opportunity to see a demo lesson.  Mark Andrews, ELTE English Methodology, presented a lesson with students from the nearby secondary on the tragic events in Kolontar and Devecser, involving the red sludge and alumna mine catastrophe. He took a multidisciplinary approach to the material, using images, colours, fruit, props to educate and teach.  I share Mark's views on using current events in the classroom and in searching for ways to teach English through creative and sometimes unconventional means.  I believe strongly that any class, for that matter any subject is an opportunity to help students to think critically and reflect on the world around them.  Language teaching is an area that seeks to use authentic material in its context, and moving, at least for a moment beyond the paradigm defined by the text book and syllabus is a way to add meaning to a lesson.  By meaning I refer to a further dimension, beyond the mechanics of the language being learnt, but in symbiosis to it, that is thoughts, questions, truth, and information about "life".  I feel that we teachers often fear to move outside of the safe artificiality of a given course's "material", or if not fear then simply do not take the time and energy.  It is something I feel is increasingly relevant, because we live in a world that is information driven and students of all ages consume vast amounts of information, at present without any guidance on how to read, digest, select, find, question etc the hoards of data.  It is, however not only a question of guidance, but possibly at first an encouragement to use the information technology available not only for entertainment but enrichment.  It was good to be part of an event that inspired teachers to engage their students in a provocative yet fun way.
On a personal professional note, the lessons my students have found the most engaging, the most memorable, and I believe were the most educational were those ones were I took the time to expand the given material at hand by opening a window on the world, something I try to do more and more in my teaching practice.
I must stress that there were many other notable moments for me at the conference, and I may blog about them later... until then have a look at the pictures and the IATEFL Hungary website.

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