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TESL Ontario Conference 2014
October 18, 2014

Conference – Wrap Up.

Hey, aren’t you forgetting Day 2?  Good question.  Day 2 was just as busy, just as invigorating,  as Days 1 and 3 – but on Day 2, went to the hotel and caught some much needed zzzs’s.  So, if you’ll allow me to wrap Days 2 and 3 into one post…

Friday’s sessions :  I attended more PBLA groups.  Why so many, you may ask.  There’s a lot to it.  And I wanted to get the chance to talk with as many instructors as possible about their experience with the PBLA.  On occasion, PBLAs were gripe sessions.  It’s new – we’re only into the second cohort.  Prior to the conference, I’d heard that PBLA users were all drinking the same Kool Aid, if you catch my drift.  I’m willing to give new things a try, but as many of the PBLA instructors pointed out, much of what PBLA offers are old ideas writ new.

However, when I hear anything that is new and improved, and the only way to go, etc. etc, I raise an eyebrow (if I could, I‘ve always wanted to be able to raise just one.  That looks cool.  And takes some fine muscle control.  But I digress.)  This is how I felt when I first encountered The Thompson Vowel Chart; perfectly willing to give it a try, but noticed some holes  and chose different means of doing pronunciation.  Not saying that there isn’t any value in it, just that I wasn’t sold on the idea and went a different route. 

With PBLA, the message is that there is no other route.  Also, it’s not a route.  It’s a process.  Process, by the way, means: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end (Google:define).  Sounds a little like “route” to me.   PBLA is flexible, yet prescriptive.  Also, it’s mandatory for LINC/MCI programs.

All that aside, there are benefits to using a PBLA process.  My program is task-based anyway; this process has forced me to look carefully at the tasks and activities I have been doing with my learners and reconsider the reliability and validity of assessments.  Am I testing what I want to be testing?  Am I framing my tasks by considering a real world application?  I think I am.  But I know that I now need to work on giving more action oriented feedback and drop the egoised feedback (I tend to combine the two).

Other Workshops:

I was also in a fabulous, engaging, thought-provoking explainer workshop that motivated and encouraged attendees to become webinar presenters, or to at least, check them out.  Okay, that was mine.  But I presented with two other webinar enthusiasts, both of whom I was meeting for the very first time.  Another digital relationship turned into a real life encounter.  But not in an e-harmony kind of way.  We heard some good feedback and some interest both in topics attendees want to see in a  webinar, and presenter nominations from the conference. 

communityMy very last workshop was about how to energize learners, and how to turn the traditional classroom inside out.  Or upside down.  The presenters talked about the instructor in the traditional classroom having a “sage on the stage” kind of role.  They discussed how that should transform into more of a “guide on the side” role.    Better  than the teacher just being “there, on the chair.” 

We did some activities in the group that I enjoyed.  The presenters really drove their point home about building community.  I appreciated that.  However, the one mode that they chose to get everyone’s attention, the silently-stand-with-hand-up-wait-for-others-to-follow approach always feels patronizing in an all-adult audience.  I like the Bridget Jones  method – shouting “OY!” at the top of her lungs, only to later notice that her mike just needed to be turned on.

TESL2014 is over.  Like I said in the last blog entry, you weren’t there.  I wish you were.  There was a certain energy missing from the event.  I felt like I was waiting for someone to arrive, but that they never did.   What this DOES mean, for me, being a part of TESL London, is that our Spring Conference needs to speak to what you, our membership, crave in your PD activities.  From this conference, I’ve got an idea. 

Do you have an idea for TESLLondon’s Spring Conference?  Email us at




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