My Favorite Convention Session Was. . .

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 ). 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

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TC Homepage
TESOL 2014: ELT for the Next Generation
2014 Convention in Photos
Convention Tech Highlights
"My Favorite Convention Session..."
TESOL 2014 Award Winners
2014 Convention Resources
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