TESOL Connections

My Favorite Convention Session Was. . .

Attendees from TESOL 2014 share the ideas and practical lessons from their most memorable convention sessions. Read about creating digital course packs, using Prezi in class to take virtual roadtrips, teaching multiword expressions, and more. See if you can implement any of these ideas today! 

TESOLers at the 2014 convention in Portland, Oregon, share the sessions they found most memorable.

Create a Digital Course Pack
Presenter: Thomas Healy
When I was asked, “What was your favorite session in Portland?”, I had a very easy time answering. Thomas Healy of the Pratt Institute gave a presentation that really hit that sweet spot combining usefulness and engagement. Thomas’ dry wit and interactions with the audience really livened up the session, yet always seemed to be in service of the information he wanted to impart. He described why and how he has shifted from making printed and bound course packs to doing it digitally, and went through steps for using iBooks Author to create and Acrobat XI Pro Student and Teacher Edition to publish and share attractive course packs. These programs are able to include images, links to videos and other digital resources, as well as spaces for his learners to create and share content and for him to add time-sensitive items such as quizzes. He assured all of us that even if we aren’t very techie, if we can work with word processing software, we can do this. I suggest you look into using these resources for creating and delivering paperless, interactive course packs.
—Thomas Bieri, Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan

Virtual Prezi Road Trips: Engage Student Interest in Local Regions
Presenter: Melanie Jipping
I attended so many excellent sessions in Portland, but this one stands out above the others. The presenter explained how to make a Prezi for IEP students.  I had never heard of Prezi before that session, but during the workshop, we were able to make a simple Prezi, which inspired me to return to my school and give it a try. Ms. Jipping’s students do not drive, but through the Prezis that her students made, they were able to do a virtual road trip and find out about famous places in the region.
—Christopher Bozek, Kitami Institute of Technology, Kitami, Japan

Complexity Theory: Renewing our Understanding of Language, Learning, and Teaching (Saturday morning keynote)
Presenter: Diane Larsen-Freeman
In her plenary, Larsen-Freeman showed a slide with slightly blurred images of famous landmarks from around the world. The images were produced by Corrine Vionnet and were blurred because they were actually compilations of 1000s of images of the landmarks that tourists had taken and shared with her (see http://www.corinnevionnet.com/ ). Larsen-Freeman used these pictures as a visual metaphor for how the language capacity of an individual emerges from exemplars. I have given many lectures on second language acquisition and development. With one set of pictures she summed up the process better than all my words combined.
As her talk proceeded I found myself madly writing down one thought provoking comment after another:

  • What’s the difference between an error and an innovation?
  • The average learner is an irrelevant concept.
  • What’s the difference between teaching language and teaching learners?

I’ve been attending TESOL Conferences since 1989 and this was one of the most memorable keynotes for me.
— Dudley Reynolds, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Doha, Qatar

Obama as a Pronunciation Teacher: Using Political Speeches for Suprasegmentals
Presenters: Mary Rommey and Anne Halbert
I attended this session, and the information provided made me aware of the shortcomings that  we, speakers of a second language, have. It is clear to me that the pronunciation of the mother tongue plays a subtle role. When talking to a nonnative speaker, a native speaker of English may notice some aspects of the mother tongue that may interfere with communication. The use of suprasegmentals such as pauses, stress, and intonation in sentences may provide us with tools to improve not only our students’ pronunciation, but also ours if we are nonnative teachers of English.
—Alvaro Gonzalo Salgado Benitez, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla,
Puebla, México

Literate Lives: Lessons From a Refugee Women’s Club
Presenter: Amy E. Pelissero
Amy Pelissero is a true natural, with a gift for sharing her passion, dedication, and interest in refugee women.  She talked about the book club she started as a way of making deeper connections with these refugee women.  Through her presentation, she was able to connect theory and practice as well as advocate and provoke us to think deeply about this particular group of learners.   Amy used many lenses through which to look at the data which her encounters provided, and she helped the club members navigate the social, cultural, and political world around them. The intimacy of this book club provided a wonderfully neutral, safe environment in which refugee women could come together and share their concerns, dreams, fears, and hopes. 

In the end, it wasn’t really about the books; they used this opportunity to get together and go on hikes, share a picnic, and grow close through the bonds of friendship.  Amy talked about listening to these women and the “missed small stories” which came out in their discussions that served as catalysts for much deeper exploration. These transnational women often drew upon their knowledge and understanding from multiple places, cultures, and times to seek solutions, understanding, and peace within themselves as they navigated the complex and often bewildering world of the United States.  Beliefs and values played a huge role in these women’s lives, and their resiliency proved to be an inspiration to the presenter.
—Pindie Stephen, International Organization for Migration, Geneva, Switzerland

Teaching a New Word or Multiword Expression to Improve Retention
Presenter: Penny Ur
The particular session that really caught my attention and still stays with me is about vocabulary retention. The presenter shared some of the ways teachers can help students retain the meaning of new vocabulary in class. She showed a list of things teachers likely do: use pictures, translate into students’ L1 (if the teacher knows it), have students guess from context, have students use dictionaries, and use English explanation and examples in context.

As a teacher, I use all of those strategies in my ESL beginner vocabulary class. Based on clarity and accuracy, impact, and cost-effectiveness, the presenter pointed out that it was probably less effective to ask students to use their dictionaries or to guess from context while teaching new vocabulary items in class. To my surprise, guessing the meaning of the word from context in class is not as effective as I always thought. This new information drives me to critically look at things from a different perspective, to frequently question any teaching methods that may contain some hidden pitfalls, and to do some research in this area. From now on, I need to remind myself that using meaning guessing from context in my vocabulary class may not always be an effective strategy.
—Hoi Yuen (Jason) Chan, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Missouri

TESOL 2014 Award Winners

Every year, TESOL gives away more than US$50,000 in cash and prizes through its awards. TESOL's 2014 award winners were selected for their service to the association and scholarship to the field of English language teaching. Awards were presented at the 2014 TESOL Annual Convention & English Language Expo in Portland, Oregon, USA. Read about this year's award winners, and find out how to nominate someone or apply yourself. 

Continuing the tradition of highlighting excellence, the 2014 TESOL International Convention saw the recognition of several leaders in the field, as well as those outside the field who have helped advance opportunities for English learners and their educators. Awards were presented at the 2014 TESOL Annual Convention & English Language Expo in Portland, Oregon, USA. Here are some of this year's award winners:

TESOL Virginia French Allen Award for Scholarship and Service
Dr. Margo Jang joined Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in 1978 with a tenure track position in the Literature and Language Department; she retired from NKU in 2013. Dr. Jang taught linguistics and advanced grammar for TESL, and she also established NKU’s IEP (American English Language Programs). She collaborated with colleagues from four other state universities and the Kentucky Department of Education to establish Kentucky TESOL as a state affiliate. Margo served on Kentucky TESOL’s Board of Directors continuously for 34 years.

Ruth Crymes Fellowship for Graduate Study
Shelley Staples is a doctorate candidate in applied linguistics at Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA. Her research interests include corpus-based analyses of spoken and written discourse to inform EAP and ESP instruction. Her dissertation focuses on the analysis of linguistic and paralinguistic features that characterize L1 and L2 nurse-patient interactions.

Mary Finocchiaro Award for Excellence in Nonpublished Pedagogical Material
Martha Iancu retired in 2013 as Associate Professor Emerita from George Fox University, Newberg, Oregon, USA, where she taught EAP and TESOL courses for 24 years and directed its English Language Institute. To support whole-language techniques in reading classes, Martha has created teaching materials for 30 fiction and nonfiction books.

TESOL Award for an Outstanding Paper on NNEST Issues, presented by Eastern Carolina University
Dr. Fauzia Shamim is a professor and coordinator, female section, in the ELC, Taibah University, Saudi Arabia. Previously, she was head of the Department of English at the University of Karachi, Pakistan. Dr. Shamim has taught ESL/EFL and trained English language teachers in a variety of settings in Pakistan and internationally.

TESOL Teacher of the Year, presented by National Geographic Learning
Ann Fontanella, a tenured instructor at City College of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA, has taught students of different ethnicities, cultures, and ages in various contexts around the world for 25 years. Ms. Fontanella holds a bachelor of arts in Italian, with a minor in Spanish, a master of arts in comparative literature, and a master of arts in TEF/SL from San Francisco State University, USA. She has served as coordinator for the collaborative SFSU-CCSF PROJECT SHINE, a national multigenerational service-learning project with a focus on leadership and mentoring, and as a content provider for contemporary language teaching media for KQED-SF (the local San Francisco PBS affiliate).

James Alatis Award for Service to TESOL
Dr. Neil Anderson is a professor of linguistics and English language at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA. Dr. Anderson's research interests include second language reading, language learner strategies, motivation in L2 teaching and learning, and English language teaching leadership development. He has devoted more than three decades of his professional career to an impressive range of educational pursuits on behalf of TESOL International Association and TESOL affiliates.

D. Scott Enright TESOL Interest Section Service Award
Dr. Julia S. Austin has been a university administrator and a teacher educator for 25 years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA. She has published and presented on effective second language teaching practices, academic writing, authorship ethics, and collaborative mentoring. TESOL has been her professional home since 1986.

The TESOL Presidents’ Award
The TESOL Presidents’ Award is presented to the British Council in recognition of their important contributions in support of TESOL’s mission to develop and maintain professional expertise in English language teaching and learning for speakers of other languages worldwide. The Presidents’ Award is presented to an individual or organization outside of the field that has demonstrated a commitment to education.

2014 TESOL Award for Distinguished Research, presented by ETS/TOEFL
Stephen Bax is professor of applied linguistics at the Center for English Language Research and Assessment, University of Bedfordshire, UK, where he is involved in researching language learning. His research interests include the use of computers in language learning and language testing, and areas of discourse including computer-mediated discourse analysis. He also has published on discourse, reading, and computer technology in language education.

2014 Outstanding U.S. Advocate Honor
This honor was awarded to David Bautista. Mr. Bautista is assistant superintendent in the Oregon Department of Education. He has an established record of being a highly successful professional and administrator for K–12 bilingual and ESL education; he has held positions as superintendent of the Woodburn School District, director of Instructional Service Department in the Salem-Keizer School District, director of Bilingual Services for Students and Families in the Woodburn School District, and coordinator of Bilingual, English as a Second Language, and Migrant Programs in the Salem-Keizer School District.

Find out about all the awards TESOL has to offer, and learn how to apply:

TESOL 2014: ELT for the Next Generation

Read the highlights of the 2014 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo in Portland, Oregon, USA, which brought together nearly 7,000 educators. 

Returning to West Coast of the United States for the first time since 2007, the TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo brought together approximately 6,900 professionals from more than 100 countries in Portland, Oregon this past March. Under the banner "Explore, Sustain, Renew: ELT for the Next Generation," the 2014 convention featured more than 1,000 educational sessions and opportunities for participants to learn the latest developments in English language teaching, discover new research, improve their practice, and network with peers from across the globe. In addition, the English Language Expo featured one of the largest exhibitions of its kind in the world, with more than 130 exhibitors offering the leading products and services for English language educators and their classrooms.

Educational and Professional Development

To highlight the theme of the convention, an international array of keynote speakers was brought together to help TESOL educators explore, sustain, and renew their practice for the next generation. The speakers, presenting on topics that will lead TESOL into its 50th anniversary year in 2016, included Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, noted scholar and political leader from Thailand, speaking on “English as a Powerful Instrument of Community Building in East Asia”; David Graddol, Director of The English Company (UK) Ltd, whose topic is “Five Megatrends Shaping the Future of TESOL”; Dr. Deena Boraie, President of TESOL and dean of the School of Continuing Education at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, addressing the convention on “Next Generation ELT: Voices of TESOLers”; and Dr. Diane Larsen-Freeman, Professor Emerita of Education, Professor Emerita of Linguistics, and Research Scientist Emerita at the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan, USA, speaking on “Complexity Theory: Renewing Our Understanding of Language, Learning, and Teaching.” All of these presentations are available for viewing on the TESOL website.

In addition to these keynote speakers, the 2014 TESOL International Convention featured nearly two dozen invited speakers addressing a variety of topics including communication, intercultural awareness, technology, learner motivation, and ELT contexts in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and other settings. In addition, a featured highlight of this year’s convention was a spotlight on the Common Core State Standards initiative in the United States. Several sessions throughout both K–12 Dream Day and the convention focused on developments with the Common Core State Standards and their impact upon ELs and ESL.

New Features

The 2014 TESOL International Convention saw the launch of several new features and programming. One of the most popular was the debut of the TESOL Classroom of the Future, a dedicated space in the English Language Expo that focused on technology, design, and pedagogy of the ELT classroom in the next 5 to 20 years. The Classroom included technology demonstrations, sample classroom furniture, and presentations highlighting the future for English learners.

Technology continued to play an important role in other aspects of the convention experience. For the first time, members and others who were not able to attend the convention in person were able to not only watch but also ask questions during the opening keynote session live over the Internet. (A recording is available for those who may have missed it.) This new interactive feature was also available to those who were in the audience. Making further use of technology, attendees this year were also able to evaluate convention sessions via the TESOL 2014 mobile app or using a special web link, providing real-time, valuable feedback to help TESOL improve future conventions.

Another new feature was the “Deep Dive” session, featuring Thursday morning keynote speaker, David Graddol, which provided attendees an opportunity to explore the “five megatrends” in further detail. Designed to be more interactive and allow for deeper discussion, the Deep Dive session was longer than a typical convention session. Attendees who took advantage of this session found it to be a rich experience, and appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the topic addressed by David. More Deep Dive sessions are planned for TESOL 2015.

Awards for Excellence

Continuing the tradition of highlighting excellence, the 2014 TESOL International Convention saw the recognition of several leaders in the field, as well as those outside the field who have helped advance opportunities for English learners and their educators. Read about the honorees at this year’s convention.

Looking to the Years Ahead

In addition to professional development and the chance to reconnect with peers, the annual TESOL International Convention provides an opportunity for leaders in the association to discuss important issues and plan for the future. With that in mind, leaders were engaged through various meetings on two important items on the association’s agenda: the governance review and the next strategic plan. At various governance meetings, the Governance Review Task Force shared the results of their work, and provided leaders an opportunity to respond to key questions about next steps. In addition, leaders were given the opportunity to provide recommendations on the next strategic plan for the association.

Details on the governance review and the work of the task force are available online. The recommendations from the task force have been released, and the TESOL Board of Directors is seeking feedback from members and leaders. In addition, there will be opportunities to provide suggestions on the next strategic plan. For further details, please visit the TESOL blog.

The first draft TESOL Research Agenda 2014 was also revealed at convention this year. The draft is available online, and the 2014 Research Agenda Task Force is seeking comments about both the content of the draft agenda and ways in which TESOL International Association can make use of the agenda to advance professional expertise in English language teaching and learning for speakers of other languages worldwide. Read the draft agenda and provide feedback here.

Convention Highlights Online

If you weren’t able to attend the 2014 TESOL International Convention in person, you can catch up on the event with recordings of more than 60 sessions. In addition, the four keynote sessions are available to members in the TESOL Resource Center (TRC). TESOL convention presenters are encouraged to submit their papers or presentations to the TRC. If you would like to submit a resource, please visit http://www.tesol.org/trc.

“Crossing Borders, Building Bridges” in Toronto, Canada in 2015!

It’s not too early to start planning for the 2015 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo! Returning to Canada for the first time since 2000, the convention will be held 25–28 March 2015 in Toronto, Ontario. The theme for the convention is “Crossing Borders, Building Bridges.” The deadline for all proposal submissions is 2 June 2014. The call for proposals is available now.

The Convention in Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words! Check out the photos from TESOL 2014, including sessions, the exhibit hall, and special events. 

Keynote speakers

James Alatis

TESOL Board of Directors

Academic sessions

The TESOL Bookstore

Interest Section booths

The Exhibit Hall

Job MarketPlace

Round Table Discussions

Poster Sessions

TESOLers from all over the world connected


Tech Overview: Highlights From TESOL 2014

by Tara Arntsen
Wnat to know what's happening in educational technology and English language teaching? Read about the latest trends and how TESOLers are using them. 

CALL took center stage at this year's TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo in Portland, Oregon. Sessions were packed with the tech-savvy, the technophobic, and everyone in between as educators from around the world learned more about using technology in the classroom. Having attended many of these sessions, I want to share some trends, exceptional sessions, and predictions for the future.

Trending Now
Between the regular sessions, Electronic Village, and Classroom of the Future, there was no shortage of sessions on technology, and the variety of formats ensured that everyone would find what they were looking for. Technology for collaboration, isolated skills practice, and mobile devices were popular topics. TED Talks, apps, learning management systems (LMSs), Google Drive, Quizlet, VoiceThread, and Prezi were all given their time to shine, but there were four trends that I could not help but notice and they may not come as a much of a surprise.

Flipping the Classroom
Directly or indirectly, flipping the classroom was part of many discussions. There were several sessions specifically about this topic and it was referenced by a number of presenters talking about technology. The premise of this arrangement is that students can prepare for activities before class and then do those activities during class time. Instead of lecturing in class, teachers are looking for ways to deliver the content of their lectures to students while they are at home and use the time spent in class on more engaging, interactive activities. Technology has really made this an enticing option to many educators and it is changing the way classes are taught. Presenter Thomas Healy suggested that using Facebook as an LMS and YouTube to deliver content might be the simplest flip setup, so that might be a good place to start.

Mobile Tech and Apps
Mobile technology was also heavily featured alongside the BYOD (bring your own device) model. Presenters discussed the benefits of apps that revolutionized not only how they could use their smartphones in the classroom, but also how students could use their devices for learning both in class and outside it.

Some of the most memorable apps mentioned include Polls Everywhere and Reflector. Geocaching, scavenger hunts, and other activities using the GPS features of mobile devices encourage students to interact more with the world around them and take students away from traditional, stationary learning spaces.

Self-Directed Learning and Production
While there has always been a production element to language learning, the focus has been primarily on language production in the past, and, in Portland, many presenters talked about far more elaborate production by students including videos, multimedia presentations, games, and more. In these types of projects, students are producing not just language, but so much more—and, from the sound of things, instructors are leaving the learning of technology primarily to the students, and they are flourishing. Some students may be more adept at learning new technology than others, but in a supportive classroom environment, students can mentor each other in this area.

Finally, iPads. There were a lot of sessions about iPads: not tablets in general, but iPads. Teachers are really enjoying using their iPads in the classroom. With the right apps, an iPad can turn a computer, whiteboard, and projector into something like a SMARTboard for more interactive classroom activities. iPads can also be used as one or more stations for independent work in the classroom, providing time for teachers to focus on individuals or smaller groups. Additionally, teachers can use iPads to record student work, such as presentations, and reference the recordings when providing specific feedback.  With the prevalence of iPad sessions and ubiquity of smart-technology users, I was definitely in the minority by not using a smartphone or tablet to photograph or record the sessions I attended.

If the teachers and presenters I spoke with are to be believed, iPads are a miracle tool that every teacher should have, and if you already have one, there are unlimited ways to use it in the classroom. Having seen all week what mobile devices can do, I am ready to jump on the bandwagon and get a tablet, but I’ll do my research before committing to a specific brand, and suggest you do the same!

Session Highlights
There were many wonderful sessions that I would like to share; however, I will limit myself to three of the best, one from each part of the convention.

Accessing Learning: BYOD in Language Class
The best regular session on technology that I attended was titled Accessing Learning: BYOD in Language Class. It was presented by Jane Curtis and Susanne McLaughlin from Roosevelt University in Chicago and did they ever pack a lot of information into 45 minutes. First off, their session was tech-heavy; they had QR codes, polls for attendees, and, luckily for us, all of their materials online.

During the session, they covered their transition from a ban on devices to BYOD. Some of the challenges of BYOD include the fact that students have a variety of devices, so you have to be mindful of that when preparing your materials. Teachers should also be mindful of access relating to both bandwidth and whether or not students remember their devices, and time (tech-related issues and planning using this new approach both take extra time). Overall though, they were very positive about the experience and this was not the only tech session these two presented this year, so look for their materials on the convention website and keep an eye out for them in Toronto.

Interactive Mobile Tools for the Next Generation
In the Electronic Village and Technology Showcase, the session I enjoyed the most was Interactive Mobile Tools for the Next Generation. It was a long one at the end of the day on Saturday, but well worth the time. Several presenters, one a self-proclaimed technophobe, delivered various takes on the theme and shared their experiences with mobile educational tools. MIT App Inventor, ARIS, Camtasia, Ingress, SCVNGR, and Socrative are just a few of the many apps, websites, and programs that were mentioned. While there is no way to share everything in this article, I suggest you access the materials online and explore the features of those resources to start your own adventure into the use of interactive mobile tools. (Read more about the session and access the recorded webcast on the CALL-IS Wiki.)

The Future is Here and It Is Digital Games
I stopped in at the Classroom of the Future section of the expo hall for a session titled The Future is Here and It Is Digital Games by Josh Wilson. While the session did not directly give me anything to take into the classroom, it was thought provoking. The focus of this presentation was why digital games make great learning tools.

Firstly, players are empowered. Players are autonomous, engaged, and confident due to a high-stakes, low-risk environment. Secondly, games are an excellent example of situated learning where players learn information just in time or right when they most need it. The third point, my personal favorite, is that games are simply well-crafted problems that do not actually need to be solved and rather than being “fun” as players will have you believe, they are mostly frustrating. Perhaps this is what makes games so engaging. Anyone who has ever played Angry Birds understands. Finally, games provide really good instantaneous feedback not just to the player, but also to the developer, teacher, and anyone else with a stake in it. Now we just need some exceptional teachers to start developing games…

Predictions and Wish List
Despite its popularity at this year's TESOL convention, I do not think that technology will become an over-discussed topic anytime soon, as people are constantly finding newer and better ways to use technology for teaching and learning. Additionally, some educators are still just getting into the swing of things where technology is concerned. By next year, there will be new websites, software, apps, and devices, too. While some resources may lose their popularity, there will be others to take their places. I predict even more tech sessions and a larger Electronic Village in Toronto in 2015.

My Wish List

Increased User-Level Clarity
It would be nice if all sessions could show what level of technology user would benefit most from the content. Is it a no-tech, low-tech, mid-tech, or high-tech session? There need to be some sessions that call out to absolute beginners, and others directed toward an instructor that already integrates a lot of tech into his or her teaching.
Heavier Android Focus
I’d like to see a few sessions with an Android focus to balance out the Apple-focused sessions. Because I do not own an iPad, I did not even bother reading the descriptions of the sessions with iPad in the title, although I imagine that much of what can be done with an iPad would work with another tablet, too.

Even More Practical tTech Workshops
There could more technology workshops, where attendees bring their own devices. This would allow instructors to try out new resources on the spot and have something to take into class the following week.

In conclusion, the annual convention had a lot of information on technology and that is likely to be true for many years to come, but if you are not using technology for teaching now, do not worry. It can be overwhelming to think of all the things you could be doing in your classroom, but if you decide to make a change, large or small, make a plan with manageable steps. Flipping all your classes is not going to happen overnight, and if you previously banned cell phones, starting to integrate them into your classroom environment may take some time. Be patient and stick with it; the rewards will come.


Tara Arntsen currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California and has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.