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Here we go…

May 11, 2011

With the dust well and truly settled after Brighton, Easter, Royal Weddings and bank holidays galore, I thought I’d inaugurate my new blog with my impressions of my first IATEFL conference, which was interesting because I’m not sure what I thought I was after.

The first conference I ever went to was the British Council’s Teaching Excellence in Glasgow in 2004.  I had just finished my DELTA and the conference opened up a whole world of new pursuits and new contacts.  At IATEFL, I had a much more specific agenda.  Being close to finishing my MA in Online and Distance Education, I was there to see what was going in the Techno-TEFL world and who was making it happen.

Socially, it was amazing.  I ran into 3 of my past lives and met lots of interesting intelligent people.  Intellectually, it was great to be able have conversations with enthusiasts, unlike the unconvincables I had recently been working with.  Being able to contribute intelligently was a great boost to my confidence too as I had previously felt that I might be out of my depth.  Strangely though, in many of the learning technology sessions, I was surprised to find that I felt uninspired.  The session were by and large topical, relevant and well delivered.  So why, if that’s what I had gone to Brighton to see, was I not excited by them?

There were 3 main strains of interest for me – LTs, Teacher Development and Education in Developing Contexts, all of which had been part of my recent past either through work or study.  Both teacher development and developing contexts sessions had quite a holistic sense in that they focussed on whole processes.  The LT sessions (or at least the ones I attended) focussed on very specific things, tools and ideas that teachers can put into practice without delay, all of which were excellent, simple solutions that require little or no support, exactly the kind of technology that will bring elearning into the hands of many.  I expect that my lack of enthusiasm was due to the fact that at least on this score, I no longer think in terms of what I can take away and put into practice immediately, but how things fit into a grander scheme  – how do they contribute to learners’ success in attaining their own study goals? or the learning and assessment aims of the institution(s) they belong to?  What training do learners and staff need to be able to participate meaningfully in an evolutionary process of learning and discovery?  How can this all come together in contexts with minimal resources?  Are people with disabilities taken into account at design stage?  What psycho- and sociological factors are affecting take-up and how do we address this?

I must say at this point that I didn’t make it to all the LT sessions – there’s so much going on at IATEFL and tens of sessions to choose from in every time slot so getting to see everything is impossible, so maybe what I was looking for was on in a room I didn’t make it to.  If it sounds like I’m disappointed, I’m not.  I had a great time and I learned lots.  The main thing for me from all of this was that I realised where my interests (and hopefully usefulness!) really lie, i.e. connecting the dots.  Maybe that’s my place in the information ecology (Nardi & O’Day, 1999) that is the vast and diverse field of learning technologies.

This blog is a space for me to explore these and other themes for the remainder of my MA and beyond…but don’t worry – I’ll try and do it in fewer words next time!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Helen Hand permalink
    May 19, 2011 2:33 pm

    Every word a gem, even the ‘bit’ that ought to have been a ‘but’. Proofreaders R Us

  2. Carolyn Shoe permalink
    May 29, 2011 10:53 am

    Hi Deirdre,

    Great blog! I love the teach mind map – I was trying to see if you’d left anything out, and then having read your post on IATEFL, I wondered whether COME TO AN ACCOMMODATION WITH YOUR ORGANISATION isn’t one of the biggest challenges teachers face day-to-day, especially when they are questioning traditional practice.

    Like you, I’ve found myself widening my areas of professional interest outwards to questions like the ones you quite rightly pose, and in my case that’s led me into fields like organisational strategy and change management, and looking at exactly why winning people over to principles which make pedagogical sense is so difficult. I think I have an understanding of that, after a lot of hard and rewarding study with the OU, and some bruising experiences in various educational contexts! The next thing is how to do it!

    I’m looking forward to reading your posts here very much.

    Cheers and all power to you!

    • May 29, 2011 5:38 pm

      Hi Carolyn,
      Thanks for that! You’re right – I think it would surprise people to see how much of being a teacher happens outside the classroom within the grander scale of the organisations we work in. Tessa Woodward gave a great plenary at IATEFL last year (I wasn’t there for that one:( but saw the video afterwards) about the life cycle of a teacher. She uses the analogy of gardening to show how our roles and happiness are affected by the sphere we operate in, be it classroom, organisation or field. The bigger the environment, the greater the bruising apparently so you’re not alone! Despite that I still think it’s worth doing…just like the Week 16 activity I sat down to do…

      Here’s the link to Tessa Woodward’s IATEFL plenary on life cycles. I’d love to hear what you think of it

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