Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Kotesol Annual International Conference

Its been several days since I attended the conference but I've been a little busy. I've wanted to write about the conference but I guess I'm not as energetic as Nathan who posted his impressions each night (Saturday, Sunday).

In general, I can't say that I learned a lot of new information. However, many half-baked ideas that I had considered but not thought through had been thought through by others. As loyal readers have not doubt noticed, I am interested in using video and other web-based sources and materials in my classes. Colin Skeates, working in Japan, gave a great seminar on the subject as did Russel Huber, also working in Japan, and I'll go into more detail below.

Many of the seminars were more edutainment than educational. My own teaching techniques lean heavily toward entertaining my students but that is because my class is not an elective and many students are not internally motivated; I have to make the material interesting. Attendees to this conference had personally paid to be there and, in my case, had travelled for several hours. I feel we were eager for information and what we got was sometimes diluted.
Perhaps I am being crotchety. I certainly enjoyed the seminars and laughed heartily many times. Even the legendary Dr. Jack Richards gave a lecture full of humor.

First, I attended a seminar by Lee Jolie, who discussed Communicative Language Teaching. I am still not completely sure what CLT means but I'm interested in researching more myself.

Next, a terrible lecture by Lee Hyun-joo on the subject of Cultural Imperialism in ESL Textbooks. She made a good point that local cultural images and information, in English, should be used to some extent in class. As a counter image, she described a book from a well-known publishing company in which every chapter started with American-based example. The book had information on international subjects but any time there was a datum from outside of the US, it came after an American datum. She thought there was something wrong with this but I feel most ESL students specifically want cultural information from English-speaking countries.

Then, I attended the Seoul Hero's lecture on common errors made by Korean learners of English. It was interesting to see the catalog but I've been here a while, there wasn't anything new for me. The catalog would be of value to new teachers here and can be found here.

Jack Richards talked about listening to English in class requires two skill sets: listening for information and listening to learn English - these are two overlapping but different sets of goals.

I've spent several years here but still don't have TEFL qualifications. My teaching qualifications are real but for a different subject. This year, its time to decide how to improve myself as a teacher so I went to the University of Birmingham Distance MA programmes seminar. Since that time, I have also learned of a program called DELTA which also appears to be of value. We'll see.

Tim Thompson have a useful and amusing talk entitled, "Examining Korean University Students Expectations of Native Speaker English Teachers". The three most important things his subjects want in their NS teachers are: "Speaks to students in a friendly manner", "Plans every minute of class" and "Explains things clearly". The three things they cared least about were: "Wears a suit/dress", "Is handsome/pretty", and "doesn't hesitate or say 'ummm'". The last bothered Mr Thompson so he wanted to compare his own experiences with his student's. Students also wanted "an expert in his/her field" but ranked "Has a masters degree" and "Has a Ph.D" very low in the list. Thompson and his standing-room-only audience discusses this and suggested that perhaps 'Native Speaker' equals "expert" to the students.
Smile and look organised, don't worry about the suit or the Masters - I need to talk to my employer about the last two points.

I had dinner with the Gangwon Kotesol group at 'Oktoberfest', near Jonggak. I've always been a fan of dark beer and the microbrewed Duenkel was fantastic.

On Sunday, Skeates talked about video journaling. He has spent three years requiring the journals as homework and has worked out how to organise the projects to get valuable learning without going crazy. In his first year, he had seventy students each make 15 one-minute videos and exhausted himself commenting on them. By the third year, he required only eight videos per student but expected them to be of increasing length.

I attended a few other seminars and enjoyed the whole thing but I am tired so I'll finish by saying I missed my family and knew Kwandongwife would be exhausted after working all week and taking care of Kwandongson so I went home early.

No comments: