Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

IATEFL Harrogate 2010 Albums

Final Plenary – What is a storyteller?

Speaker: Jan Blake
Jan has gained an international reputation for her vibrancy in storytelling. I could not fully comprehend why she has become well-known for storytelling before watching her in action. She has a memorable way of storytelling that stays with you for a while. She got the audience sing and make joyful sounds. She got them to follow the African rhythm in her stories. All her stories had a common thread: accepting diversity and being more tolerant of what is different. The audience walked away with tears in their eyes by the end of the session. They were deeply touched by the authenticity and personalized mark  that Jan’s stories left on their minds and hearts.

Responding to Writing Symposium

Convener: Nagwa Kassabgy
Presenters: Yasmine Salah El-Din, Veena Bhamhani, Nagwa Kassabgy, Phyllis Wachob
The presenters reported various action research projects done in their classes. All projects focused on how instructors respond to their students’ writing by giving corrective feedback in various ways. Generally, there was emphasis on trying out new techniques as well as addressing students’ needs and learning styles. The presenters touched on learner preferred vs. teacher preferred techniques.
One project measured the percentage of grammatical errors made by university-level students’ writing over a semester, reporting positive results. Another project described MA graduate students’ reactions to a new technique. The instructor gave her students audio mp3 files in which she addressed their papers in a personalized manner. The presenters concluded that it is important to cater to students’ needs. They also highlighted the importance to address various learning styles for improved outcomes.

Teachers e-improving their English – Session 3.4: 14.30-15.15

Presenters Elvina Castillo & Teadira Perez
The presenters report on a project with in-service teachers in which they were trained to improve their various skills, especially their English skills through technology. The presenters mentioned the challenges those teachers faced. Apart from those teachers’ low-proficiency levels, they had limited access to the internet. Oftentimes, the trainers had to give up on parts of the course, e.g. blogs in Moodle as the teachers could not understand the task. However, improved proficiency levels in comprehension and written production are reported. The teachers’ participation in the forums increased. The quality of their writing also increased.

Day 2 Plenary – The Future of Education

Speaker: Kieran Egan
Kieran looked at child development from new perspectives. He highlighted different ways of understanding. First, somatic understanding includes bodily senses emotional responses and attachments, built-in sense of humour, musicality and rhythm, in addition to gestures and communication. He stated that patterns are ‘arbitrary’. He also maintained that a human being is a ‘musical animal’ looking for patterns and rhythms.

Second, mythic understanding is a learning toolkit or cognitive tools that humans develop. These include storytelling, abstraction, emotion opposites and mediation, association with the heroic, romance, wonder and awe, the literate ‘eye’, matters of detail, and humanizing knowledge.

To illustrate, opposites and mediation are essential for our mythic understanding. Hot and cold are mediated by warm. Life and death are mediated by ghosts. Nature and culture are mediated by talking rabbits and bears in children’s stories.
Furthermore, there is a built-in sense of associating with the heroic in our children.  This can be explained by a pre-existing threat of the ego and their need to have transcendent ‘super human’ qualities. This toolkit of cognitive development is a main driving force in how human learn in life in general and in schools in particular.

Managing Customer feedback and complaints – Session 1.4: 15.00-15.30

Presenter: Justin Kernot
Justin advocates the use of ‘anecdote circles’ – informal focus groups in which customers, i.e. students, can voice their concerns to program supervisors. This technique seems to work very well in the Middle East and elsewhere, according to Justin. The suggested technique works as follows: Program supervisors tend to listen, learn and deliver. They listen to those in the know and endeavor to meet their cultural norms and expectations. They aim at making their customers’ life easy by making systems transparent. They also provide support through continued support and development of their staff in addition to recognizing their customers’ feedback. Justin illustrates the power of stories flying around about how satisfied/unsatisfied customers can be. Formalizing these stories and providing pre and post measurement of change can give a clear direction to the institution and the right message to customers.