Digital ELT Ireland – my first TEFL conference

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John ByrneDigital ELT Ireland 2014 was the first time I had been to a TEFL convention and I wasn’t disappointed.

Getting the chance to meet so many fellow teachers at the one time was the best part of the conference as what we do can be a solitary thing; it is mainly you and the students, so it’s nice to be reminded once in a while that you are not alone and whatever you experience someone else has been there and can put into words what you are thinking.

The main points of the day which I found most beneficial from the talks I was able to attend were:
From Gavin Dudeney – number 1 doesn’t mean best. This for me had wide ranging connotations as I find from time to time students tend to try to get the best marks in quizzes and tests which is in essence a good thing but there is a big difference in testing well and using the language effectively.

Then when it comes to learner technology just because an app or website is the number one used it doesn’t mean it is right for you. I have found from using different websites to extend my classroom that the most popular ones may not suit what I need at the time. I tend to use google plus a lot with extra class work and although it isn’t a popular social networking site with students it has a lot of extra applications from google attached to it so it suits my needs for teaching. So when it comes to your own lessons you have to find what’s best for you not a top ten list.

From Dr. Nellie Deutsch – I really liked it when she said if your students are unhappy think of them as babies and you smile to cheer them up – sometimes it feels you are not just a teacher but a parent and you get a paternal feeling for some groups and you want them to be happy. I find this happens quite often and creating a fun environment for them to be in helps them not only come to class but also learn.

From Sophia Mavridi – the standout thing for me was online behaviour of students. You want your students to behave the same way in online classes as they would in a real classroom. You wouldn’t allow bad behaviour from a student in the classroom so why would you online? Due to the level of anonymity online learners must be made aware of the risks online and also how their behaviour may be perceived online especially when learning a new language where misinterpretations can escalate further easily. You may have one or two trolls in class but they are easily managed in a class this can be a little more difficult to manage online but as the teacher/moderator of the group you must make sure the rules are clear and followed.

Finally with regards to my own talk the best advice I can offer it to rehearse and relax. I had a case of the jitters all day and partially psyched myself out before going in to talk if you are used to talking in front of crowds you should have no problem. I have no problem with a group of students but peers are a different story. I am very happy to have done it and look forward to doing it again sometime.

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