IATEFL Manchester Moments Part 1: The ordinary sides of ELT heroes

April 2015

Manchester, England

It’s hard to put your feelings into words when you realized the door keeper of Manchester Central on the first day of 49th IATEFL Conference was Gavin Dudeney. He welcomed guests to enter the venue. He smiled at participants. He gave directions. He was an ordinary person among us. Not the Edtech hero who has inspired teachers worldwide in appropriate pedagogy of technology integration in the classroom.

Then when you attended sessions, you’d be amazed when you happened to see the thinking face of Jeremy Harmer. What was he questioning? I remembered that session was about inclusion strategies of dyslexic children in the classroom. Did he agree with me that the presenter was not very convincing and the session was a bit full of de-motivation?

You’d be amazed too when you caught the silent gaze of Adrian Underhill in Alan Maley’s lead of the C for Creativity Open Forum. We did have a heated discussion but if it served me right he didn’t say a lot. The day after I interviewed him about his sources of inspiration for teaching. He mentioned jazz, which scared me a bit because I couldn’t play a musical instrument. Anyway the talk was fun. Just imagine you had chance to personally interview a legendary ELT improvisation expert.

Before that you’d had David Nunan, Cynthia James and Sue Garton on how research was gaining more momentum in the working agenda of IATEFL. I very much loved their sincere sharing.

And you’d had Sarah Mercer, the new coordinator of ReSIG. She admitted that all research work is a mess. And that we as teachers had to straighten them up, and had the courage to end the research show. That was really inspiring for a young researcher like me! Giving up is always a lasting temptation, even for expert researcher.

Then I finally had a chance to talk to Nickly Hockly, just to thank her and the Consultants-E for the E-moderation scholarship in 2014. Without that course, I didn’t think my writing skills would have been that sharp to win an IATEFL scholarship.

On writing this I am frozen. IATEFL is a dream that I didn’t dare to dream. And it just happens anyway.

Thank you IATEFL.

Thank you Lord.

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Adrian Underhill (right)
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Gavin Dudeney (right) presenting Quality Assurance of Online Courses
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Roy helping me to rehearse for my presentation
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with Cambridge scholarship winners and granters
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Manchester Central
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Sue Garton, David Nunan and Cynthia James

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With the Nepalese delegate

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A warm talk with Dr. Rosa Aronson, TESOL’s Executive Director

Dr. Rosa Aronson (middle) Loc Do (left, TESOL HCMC's vice-president) and Tien Mai
Dr. Rosa Aronson (middle) Loc Do (left, TESOL HCMC’s vice-president) and Tien Mai

A warm and enlightening conversation with Dr. Rosa Aronson, Executive Director, TESOL International Association (TESOL).

The honor belongs to us, TESOL HCMC (HCMC)’s committee members to welcome Dr. Rosa Aronson, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She’s in Vietnam for the TESOL Symposium in Danang – (TESOL partners with the National Foreign Language 2020 Project and the University of Foreign Language Studies, the University of Danang – See more at: http://bit.ly/1MxOm9q

Although the aim of the meeting for us was to learn about each other’s past, present and future, HCMC expressed a strong wish to become one of TESOL’s affiliates. In light of that, we were clearly briefed on the benefits of joining a network of 100-odd affiliates of the thriving TESOL. In fact there will be tangible benefits once HCMC joins that network.

  • We don’t have to pay fees for annual membership (other US-based affiliates do!) as Vietnam is in the global reach zone.
  • We will have one free member registration at TESOL’s annual conference.
  • We might receive one speaker from TESOL to present at our local conference thanks to their funding.

On the other hand, the membership of HCMC will certainly add diversity to the highly multilingual landscape on TESOL affiliates’ map. HCMC’s contributing voice will be small, but unique enough to be shared with other teaching contexts.

Then Dr. Aronson shed light on the five goals of TESOL regarding advocacy, professional learning, governance, research and standards.

For a young association like TESOL HCCM, the alignment with such goals will take time and efforts, and might even go through unexpected trial and error phases. But this eye-opening conversation with Dr. Aronson has really encouraged us to keep moving forward. We’re fully aware of the obvious obstacles: lack of funding, overwhelming work and sometimes even personal conflicts that voluntary committee members are experiencing; however, we believe that the TESOL’s global reach scheme will play a significant role in HCMC’s achieving international standards.

The most interesting part of this informal exchange is learning about the diverse, non-native backgrounds of devoted TESOL’s presidents. One was born in China. One was born in Egypt. One was born in Guyana… and Dr. Aronson, our beloved guest, she herself a non-native speaker of English who is now also strongly advocating for TEFL equity!

HCMC’s ready to file an affiliate application to TESOL. Let’s all hope it goes successfully before TESOL’s 50 anniversary in Baltimore, the U.S in 2016.

Thank you Dr. Rosa Aronson for your short but valuable visit!

(Also published at tesolhcmc.wordpress.com)

Flipping Classroom, Bringing Classroom to Life and TESOL HCMC Assembly

Highlights from Carolina Nabors’ Flipping classroom, David Persey’s Bring classroom to life and TESOL HCMC Assembly Meeting on 15 May 2015

Place: Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Part 1: Flipping classroom

There’s no doubt that flipping classroom is not a new tech trend but it’s always useful to learn implementations from real practitioners. This time the topic was interestingly addressed by Ms. Carolina Nabors, an English Language Fellow who shared her experience working at HCMC University of Education. A very approachable talk indeed!

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The key thing is teachers should flip the order of Bloom’s taxonomy. While the traditional classroom sequence would be Remember activities on the bottom line, Flipping classroom contested that order:

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She suggest that Flipping should be considered on one of these four conditions:

  1. When the topics are confusing.
  2. When key knowledge points need covering.
  3. When topics are boring.
  4. When teachers want to adopt an authentic approach.

Useful websites like Youtube, Purdue Owl, TedEd and Saylor.org were also highly recommended.

In my opinion, the most interesting part of her talks was when she described her previous teaching experience in Nicaragua. Since there was limited internet connection, teachers there had good reasons to laugh at the idea of flipping. She then challenged their thinking by using available tech tools – USB. She copied files to students’ USB, asking the public Internet owners to let students use the computer for some free hours. It simply worked.

Back to Vietnam’s context, she was very glad it looked like an Internet heaven here so Flipping could be carried out with no organization hurdles. And she affirmed that social media (Facebook) works better than other forms (email) when it comes to classroom communications. It makes sense: Facebook users now reach the billion-user milestone.

Again and again the ‘start small’ reminder resonates other speakers on technology integration: teachers can introduce flipping lessons at some points in the course and on selected topics rather than putting all eggs into one basket.

My conclusion is that Vietnamese learners of English are ready to be flipped. It’s how and what we flip that matters. And Carolina’ talk successfully presented a strong case.

Part 2: Bringing classroom to life

David Persey on Bringing Classroom to Life (promoting the coursebook series Life by National Geographic and Cengage Learning)

Following Caroline’s talk, David, more than once, surprised me and Carolina herself (from her facial expressions J) by referring to the concept of ‘Teachers as Facilitators’ mentioned earlier in Carolina’s talk. He had been listening to Caroline very attentively, taking notes and adding new slides to his presentation. Such an encouraging listener!

The other two practical things I’ve learned are how teachers can make learners SCAN the image and use their own personal films to activate classroom engagement. Image should be shown first with guiding questions. Students then had a quick discussion and predictions before teachers revealing answers.

Guess who this person is.
Guess who this person is.

In order to use effective videos in the classroom, teachers can play the sound first, with the visuals being covered, students then guess the 5W content of the film: Who/What/Where/When/Why. And he went further by showing how personal family films can be motivating.

Overall David has proven to be a truly professional presenter: he listened, he shared and he activated participation.

Part 3: TESOL HCMC Assembly

On commenting the new term of TESOL HCMC(2015-2017), a new board of TESOL HCMC was elected. Here is the full list:

  1. Dr. Doan Hue Dung
  2. Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Vu
  3. Dr. Le Hoang Dung
  4. Dr. Do Huu Nguyen Loc
  5. Pham Tan, M.A
  6. Tran Quang Minh, M.A
  7. Mai Minh Tien, M.A
  8. Nguyen Thi Thuy Duong, M.A
  9. Le Thanh Ngan, M.A
  10. Nguyen Thi Thu Ngan, M.A
  11. Nguyen Nhu Tung, M.A
  12. Bui Thuc Quyen, M.A
  13. Tran Dinh Nguyen Lu, M.A
  14. Bui Duc Tien, M.A
  15. Tran Quoc Viet, M.A

Honorary Member: Dr. Tran Thi Minh Phuong

Thank you Carolina, David and University of Social Sciences and Humanities for hosting this useful event. TESOL HCMC Association will surely return with more valuable professional development activities for teachers in Ho Chi Minh City!