by Asst. Prof. Dr. Ayşegül Sallı, the IATEFL LTSIG Roving Reporter
Another successful professional development event has inspired a lot of participants for their future professional development goals. The 25th P.A.R.K Conference took place at Mendel University, Brno, Czech Republic on 9th November 2019, Saturday. This great event proved to be one of the most popular teacher training events not only for English Language teachers in the country but also for the ones from abroad such as Poland, Austria, Slovenia, The UK and so on. More than 400 English Language teachers attended this great event. The opening and closing plenary sessions attracted as much attention as the concurrent sessions which were on various topics ranging from technology to special education, from primary to tertiary level. In addition to the sessions, books and other educational products stands also attracted the attention of the conference participants. Throughout the coffee breaks, the attendees enjoyed delicious confectionaries and coffees. The conference ended with an after-party. Traditional Czech food and live chamber music played by the members of Czech Philharmonic orchestra were the bonus of this successful conference and participants left the event with full of sweet memories. IATEFL Learning Technologies strand had five sessions that were delivered by various presenters from 10:30 to 15:20. Obviously, the presenters fascinated the participants with interesting topics throughout the day.
GREGG SOTIROPOULOS – HOW TO RE-BUILD 21ST CENTURY COMPETENCES
Gregg Sotiropoulos from MM Publications held his session on ways of re-building the 21st century competences. He started with revising and eliciting the 21st century competencies from the audience, who were given time to discuss their ideas with one another. After a few minutes, he successfully silenced the participants who were sharing the 21st century competences. He said: “if you can hear me clap once, if you can hear me clap twice, if you can hear me clap three times….” This demonstration of silencing was immediately noted down by some of the participants. Then, Sotiropoulos asked the participants to list the fears that they had regarding the use of technology in class. Then with a partner, the participants shared these fears and suggested ideas / ways of overcoming those fears. This short care and share activity helped the participants realize that the fears they had would be overcome. Then, the presenter focused on the fears that students might have. Again, he gave a few minutes to the participants to make a list of fears their students would have. Building on the existing knowledge, Sotiropoulos pinpointed the fears of students related to the use of technology and suggested solutions by presenting fun activities that the participants could adapt to their teaching contexts. He suggested that team work activities have the power to encourage students to participate as it begins and ends with communication, which is one of the essential 21st century competencies. One of the highlights of this session was that Sotiropoulos emphasized the importance of communication and collaboration by giving a chance to lower performance students to speak using encouraging words and technological tools that they feel comfortable with. Sotiropoulos stated that there are three players in class:
1. Michael Jordans, 2. Average Learners, and 3. Poor Learners.
He indicated that the Michael Jordans raise hands first all the time and teachers give them the chance to speak. However, teachers should give chance to lower performance students opportunity to speak using encouraging words. Considering the poor learners, Sotiropoulos, wisely said “the most important thing in a communication is to hear teachers have to hear what is not being said.” At the end of his session, Sotiropoulos demonstrated the importance of communication through a number of fun activities to highlight the effective teamwork. One of them required a number of volunteering participants to come to the front and line up. They were asked to follow his commands. When he said sit down, the participants were supposed to sit on their partner’s lap and then stand up upon hearing the command. Obviously, with this activity Sotiropoulos intended to highlight the importance of communication.
STEVE CHALK – MOBILES IN THE CLASS AND THE (FREE) MOBILE CLASSROOM
Steve Chalk provided the participants with the opportunity to do hands-on practice using a very popular technological application, Quizlet. Chalk’s session was on “Mobiles in class and the (free) mobile classroom”. He started his presentation by comparing teaching in the past and present. Chalk stated that the students are now in their social bubbles and it’s getting bigger and bigger. They are obsessed with their mobile phones and they never travel without them. It is obvious that today’s learners do not engage as the learners of the past did. If teachers attempt to use textbooks, worksheets and magazines, they are likely to lose their students. This is because students are more interested in using technological tools in their daily lives and they are able to easily transfer this habit to language learning. Therefore, teachers need to find out various ways to plan paperless lessons and one way of doing this is using educational technologies via smart phones in order to ensure more effective connection with students of all learning styles. Steve Chalk demonstrated some activities that make paperless lessons possible through free and easy to use apps, on smart phones. One of the examples was about an online voice recorder, Vocaroo. By using this application, students can record and listen to their voices, example to practice and improve their grammar or vocabulary. What is more, they can rehearse their presentation by recording them first and listening to it repeatedly to practice it. Chalk also pointed out that due to the fact that students are digital natives, they use mobile phones comfortably and if teachers take the advantage of this, classrooms can become more lively through the use of various mobile applications. Since classrooms are full of mobile-loving students nowadays, some free and easy to use apps. can be integrated in classes to create more lively atmosphere and interesting learning atmosphere. Chalk successfully demonstrated how a mobile application Quizlet can be utilized in large classes. He put the participants in groups using the feature of the Quizlet application and the participants competed to be the first by answering the questions in the shortest time, Afterwards, Chalk gathered the participants’ opinions regarding the advantages and potential pitfalls of using this particular application. At the end of his session, Chalk invited the audience to ask questions or further clarifications about how the demonstrated tools could be integrated in their lessons.
MIROSLAV DVORAK – MICROSOFT TOOLS AND RESOURCES FOR ENGLISH TEACHERS
The lunch break was also filled with two fruitful workshop sessions delivered by Miroslav Dvorak and Martina Limburg. The first session delivered by Miroslav Dvorak who has rich experience of using IT tools in the classroom. Dvorak focused on Microsoft tools and resources for English teachers. As stated in the conference booklet, “Microsoft Education provides the tools to create an inclusive classroom and personalize the learning for every student, enabling them to become more self-directed, confident learners.” Especially for the local teachers who exhibited interest in the tools and educational technologies the Microsoft company offers, Dvorak presented a number of resources. The first one was pertained to Skype and its virtual tours and trips feature, which enable the users to connect with the person who provides the tour and arranges everything, such as a lesson with an expert in the field or the author of a book. Mystery Skype, on the other hand, makes it possible to connect with a random class. Mystery Skype is an education game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to use the location of the other classroom by asking questions to one another. Dvorak gave information about how Mystery Skype works. Accordingly, first teachers should go to education.skype.com/mysteryskype to reach the homepage. Then, they need to sign in with their Skype name, Facebook or Twitter. Afterwards, teachers need to decide on the contacts considering the topic, age group, and the level of learners. Of course the time zone should work for both classes. Alternatively, the “search the map” button can be used to search for contacts through the map. After finding contacts and negotiating the time, students can communicate with one another and ask questions. The primary rule of Skype Mystery is that only Yes/No Questions can be asked and the answers should only be yes or no. it seems that Skype Mystery is an engaging way to encourage student learn. Dvorak also gave practical and inspiring ideas to the audience that they could use in their classes using other Microsoft products such as Microsoft Sway (users can combine text and media to create a completely online presentation in the form of a webpage), Forms, using QR codes for answering questions, doing activities or completing surveys. and Minecraft in the classroom, Office 365 that allows the users a limited number of launches for free, then it costs 5$/year/account.
MARTINA LIMBURG – SIMPLE FILM-SCENE IDEAS FOR YOUR LESSONS
Martina Limburg, from Mooveez company, delivered a session on ‘simple film-scene ideas for your lessons’. In her session Limburg gave a lot of valuable ideas that teachers can implement in their lessons using Mooveez application, which received ELTons Awards in 2016 and appeared in Forbes. Limburg stated that movies have great potential to create interactive language among learners. They can be used to create dialog for role play, grammar or illustration of vocabulary points, or for pronunciation practice. Then, Limburg gave some tips and made suggestions about how the participants could use film-scenes in their lessons in pre-, while- and post-lesson stages. For example, she pointed out that teachers should introduce the movie or the film-scene prior to the lesson. Some ideas she gave were as follow: students guess the movie, plot, characters by looking at some visuals. Also, they may be asked to look at the screenshots and figure out the plot by putting the screenshots in order. Furthermore, students may be asked to watch the trailer and fill in a grid to have a general idea about the movie. Limburg stated that while choosing useful dialogues in a movie, teachers may consider the language focus, or lesson aims. Alternatively, teachers may choose their favourite scenes and take chunks of interactive language as a scene can illustrate a particular kind of language. She added that it is possible to use the whole movie scene separately to study/ practice/present a single language function. Martina Limburg presented the audience with interesting examples and activities. She also demonstrated ready-made materials for teachers that work with Mooveez application in the classroom. Some movies have subtitles (Eng./Cz.) and this makes it easier for lower level learners to use the application. The participants had the chance to work on the tasks and gain experience. The presenter also gave some tips to the session participants for more successful lessons. Some of these were about choosing examples of different kinds of language in movie dialogue, avoiding confusing dialogues, asking students’ preferences and being informed about the types of movies they like. Considering the points like these will definitely boost student motivation and participation. She ended her session by restating that movies are rich in context, language and feelings that learners can relate to themselves. It is always important to have fun and memorable lessons and may be achieved through movie-based lessons.
ANGUS SAVORY – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
The last session of the day at the IATEFL-LTSIG strand was held by Angus Savory, who is the owner of Educational Software products, and the producer of the Let’s Learn English Online Learning Platform for schools and universities. Savory’s session was entitled “the good, the bad and the ugly”. As it could be understood from the title of his presentation, Angus Savory started his session by asking the advantages of using the technology as part of language instruction. The participants came up with the following: using technology, motivates students, improves students’ participation and engagement with the lesson, students remember more, it encourages individual learners to learn, collaborate with their peers. What is more, they improve their life skills by using technology. Then, Savory elicited the pitfalls of using technology in classroom from the audience such as inertia, technological issues such as the time of the day, internet speed and so on. Savory added that technology can be expensive, students may not be confident using the technology. Sometimes it may be a problem to find the right resources on the internet for the students. Moreover, some teachers may not be willing to use technology in their classes. Then, he presented a long list of resources and applications with the session participants. Some of these ideas and tools were as follows: YouTube Edu as resource. Savory demonstrated some videos for students at different ages and explained how they could be used in class. Also, he mentioned that trailers can be good learning resources. By showing a movie trailer, he suggested that half of the class can hear it but they cannot view it. The other half of the class can view it but cannot hear it. Then, students come together in pairs and share information to put together the movie. Then he introduced Kahoot, which is a good way of involving class in a motivating. The tool can be used for revision, short quizzes and revision. Another resource he suggested was BBC Radio 4 and Radio 5. British Council LearnEnglish Kids and Teens are also great learning platforms for learners at various ages and levels. Savory stated that the resources are more suitable for B1 and above level students. BBC Bitesize also has lots of materials for primary and secondary level students. Likewise, TEDTalks site includes a lot of interesting talks, which could be challenging for lower level students but a lot of stimulating activities could be prepared for intermediate and above level students. Quizziz, which is a free self-paced app. to review, assess and engage students both in class and at home. Savory ended his session by stating that online tools or offline resources have great value for language learning and variety always motivates learners.
Watch my short interview with Angus after his presentation below:
The 25th P.A.R.K Conference was definitely a successful organization. The conference organizers have already started working on the next conference that will be held in April, 2020.