I don’t generally go to a lot of conferences. I’d like to go to more, but my brain insists I have actual work to do, which is a bit of a false economy, but nevermind.
I am currently at the annual conference for IATEFL, the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, which is a marked departure from my more normal technical conferences, although the talks fall into one of the same few categories:
Type 1) This is what we did with existing known things. Some bits worked, some bits didn’t. This is interesting.
Type A) This is a new thing you should know about, it does this, this and this. This is interesting.
Type I) This is our new thing you should use to do your next thing. We are interesting.
A lot of the talks at this conference appear to be of Type A, subject “The Internet”. This is somewhat biased. What my company do is host EFL courses in our own Virtual World, “English City”, so my selection of things is biased towards “what else are people doing with current-level tech in the EFL world. The answer is interesting, and follows the general Trickle Down theory of technological advancement. There’s lots of buzz around being able to communicate and practice writing using blogs, speaking though production of podcasts and this magical free tool called “Audacity” which allows you to record things. A few instances of “Web 2.0” (Which, to my surprise, was the unbuzzworded use of the phrase to mean websites where people collaborate and produce content, and single-serving sites such as as http://vocaroo.com/ and the use of screen-cast sites such as Jing to turn a marked exercise into a better crafted experience (highlighting ways in which margin-notes are hard to convey some problems, such as misreading of the question or poor phrasing, and improving this by an audio commentary on the reason for the final mark). Making the the marking much more of an interactive experience, and engaging the student with *reasons*, rather than 7/10 See Me.
Obviously, I’ve got a vested interest in pushing people towards the advantages of learning in an online environment, but it’s interesting to see the core technological advances for the tech community of three or four years ago become breakthoughs in another industry.
…and it will be another 10 years before those technologies reach places like here that have g’ments that claim to want to promote foreign language learning but are not willing to invest in it enough to make it work. Though to be fair, they take that stance with general education rather than specifically learning a foreign language.