The conference ended only a few hours ago as I’m starting to write this so it might be too early to draw any serious conclusions but I’ll be back with a more detailed report in the next couple of days – till then, let me share my overall impressions.
I think this was my eighth IATEFL Hungary conference, so I have grounds for comparison. I was there at this conference from opening till close, attended every plenary and went to a talk or workshop in each session. Overall, I think this was the best IATEFL Hungary conference I’ve ever attended – and this is saying a lot, considering the fact that I was involved with the organization of four previous conferences. What made it the best?
Venue: the Balassi Institute in Budapest proved to be a wise choice. Nice location, excellent rooms, all well-equipped.
Programme: this is easily the most important component of every conference. Either I was very lucky (or wise? :)) with my choices or the programme was really this good (clearly, it’s the latter). From time to time, you run into plenaries that you only go to because there’s no choice – not this time. All were interesting and informative, to say the least – more in detail about them in a later post.
The concurrent sessions were arranged into six slots, eight in each, five in the last; there were also five split sessions with two half-hour sessions in them, bringing the total to 49, unless my calculations are wrong. I find this a decent choice; although I know that we have had conferences with 10 or even 11 concurrent sessions, but that might be too many to choose from. I also know that there have been conferences with more than six concurrent session slots but it’s better to put convenient breaks between sessions than having to run from one workshop to another. I don’t know if this relative scarcity of presentations was due to the volume of submitted abstracts or it happened because the readers were strict but in the end it worked out very well – it’s better to have fewer but higher quality presentations. I think the right balance was found; I only heard very positive feedback from fellow participants. All the workshops and talks I attended were excellent and useful – even the one I very strongly disagreed with (again, more about this and the other talks in a later post).
The SIG afternoon: Definitely one of the highlights of the conference (I’ll be saying this for too many things, I’m afraid). The concept of SIG afternoons was first introduced at the Esztergom conference three years ago and it has worked very well since then. Not surprisingly, I’ve always attended the ICT SIG event, and this year was no exception. What made this year different was that for the first time we were not only in our old circle of converts but had a decent amount of new people. 32 colleagues took part, which was nice – other SIGs didn’t have a lot bigger audience either, which I think is one of the signs that ICT has finally come of age in Hungary too, but I’ll elaborate on the ICT issues of the conference in a later post.
The same goes for IATEFL Hungary membership, which now stands at around 420 (has been increasing recently). A decent size, considering the fact that it’s probably the highest ever, and even if it isn’t, I’m sure it’s never been above 500. But in a country of well over 50,000 English teachers, 22,000 of them working in public education, this is again disheartening. Especially if we consider the fact that this is the only professional association for teachers of English. The current committee has been working very hard for the past couple of years to increase membership, and they have managed to recruit quite a few new members – again, hats off to them, unconditionally. When I was on the committee, our priority was also to increase membership – and the same has been true for all committees for the past 20 years. And this is the result: between .5 and 1 per cent, depending on how you define your target audience. And don’t tell me it’s because of the price. Publishers’ free conferences rarely attract more than 300 people, usually fewer – and you mostly see the same faces there too. The interest is just not there, it seems. You can’t say that all the committees in the past 20 years have failed to come up with anything convincing – clearly it’s not their fault. I’ll go out on a limb and say that maybe it’s time to accept the fact that the vast majority of English teachers in Hungary is simply not interested in cooperation and building a community, so maybe we should rearrange our priorities and stop using the scarce resources to try and increase membership – there will be more left for catering to the needs of the existing members.
I just had to say these things because I was really sad to see the most important professional event of the year attract a relatively low number of Hungarian colleagues, especially when it was so great. Those of us who were there definitely enjoyed an excellent conference – the last component that made the whole experience so good is…
The social programme: I must confess that this is where I missed an event but from what I heard, Friday night’s musical entertainment was a huge success. But luckily I did go to Saturday’s Pecha Kucha night, organised by Lindsay Clandfield. This was the first such event in Hungary, and I’m sure there will be many more to follow. It is a stress test for the presenters, and enormous fun for the audience – I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much at a professional event; most probably at a talk given by Peter Medgyes – and this comparison should say a lot about the quality.
One more thing has to be mentioned in connection with the conference: in keeping with the tradition of publishing a “mELTing pot Extra” for each conference, this year’s thematic issue was on ICT. Now, if reading this magazine doesn’t convince an English teacher that it’s worth joining IATEFL Hungary, nothing will. I’ll write a separate post about it later – till then I can only say one thing: grab a copy if you haven’t done so yet. Mark Andrews and Anna Csíky did a great job – you’ll learn a lot from reading it.
It would be nice to read other participants’ comments; also, if you have also written a report on this conference, I’d like to link to it. And don’t forget that I’ll be back with a post on the talks I attended, another one on the ICT issues raised at the conference, plus a third one on mELTing pot Extra.
In closing, let me congratulate and thank the committee and the organisers again for all their hard work.
Azerbaijan English Teachersâ€™ Â Association (AzETA) is delighted to announce 6th International ELT Conference Â Reaching Out … for Success Â to be held
on 14-15 November 2009
at Baku Slavic University, Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Conference will mainly focus on the following issues:
The Language Learning in Computer Mediated Communities (LLCMC) Conference will take place October 11-13, 2009, in Honolulu. A pre-conference, CULTURA: Web-based Intercultural Exchanges, will take place October 10-11.
Abstracts for papers on the topic of language learning or language teaching in computer mediated communities are welcomed. Abstracts are due by March 1, 2009, with notification of selection results by April 15, 2009.
The Center for International Business Research (CIBER) at Florida International University (USA) and the European Association of Languages for Specific Purposes (AELFE) hosted in Spain are jointly organizing the 1st International Seminar on Languages for Business: A Global Approach.
Date: 5-6 June 2009
Location: Avila, Spain
The seminar intends to be a meeting point for academics carrying out research on languages for business from multidisciplinary fields. Papers on textual and discoursal analyses of languages for business, pragmatic, intercultural and cross-cultural aspects on business communication, socio-rhetorical and genre views of professional practices, as well as pedagogical implications and applications of languages for business are welcomed.
16th Annual International Convention TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece
Venue: Capsis Hotel Thessaloniki, Greece
Date: 11th-12th October 2008
Title: Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Teacher
TESOL Macedonia â€“ Thrace, Northern Greece is proud to announce that plenary speakers for this yearâ€™s annual convention are (in alphabetical order):
â€¢Â Â Â Mrs. Butwilowska (sponsored by Access)
â€¢Â Â Â Sarah Corcoran (sponsored by Cambridge ESOL)
â€¢Â Â Â Marialena Kalyva (sponsored by Hillside Press)
â€¢Â Â Â Colin Rose (sponsored by Accelerated Learning Systems Hellas)
â€¢Â Â Â Adrian Tennant (sponsored by onestopenglish)
Call for papers: Deadline 12th September 2008
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
EUROCALL is a professional organisation for the promotion of innovative research, development and practice in the area of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL) in education and training. EUROCALL conferences bring together educators, researchers, administrators, materials developers, government representatives, vendors of hardware and software, and others interested in the field of CALL and TELL.
EUROCALL 2008 particularly welcomes papers focusing on integrating new technologies into language learning. Presentations focusing on any other aspect of CALL research, development and practice are also welcomed, especially innovative uses both of established and of leading-edge technologies. All submissions are subject to a blind refereeing process.
Abstract submission deadline: January 31, 2008.