ELT Conference Logos: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly

Mike says: It all started when I shared a link to the KOTESOL RPSIG August 22nd Day of Reflection on a social network that allows more than 140 characters. My friend and fellow ELT professional commented Steve King on the logo for the 2015 KOTESOL International Conference (which can be seen below) shared along with the link, remarking, “Man that diagram… I’ve seen a dozen like it, a thousand. What is it with ELT conferences and wacky geometrical diagram concept logos?” He then went on to share some other images from various ELT conferences and I suggested a collection of these would be an interesting blog post. To my delight he graciously accepted the offer and wrote the entertaining piece that follows. Please feel free to share your thoughts or other memorable images in the comments. I will turn it over to Steve.


I’ve been working in ELT for quite some time, as a teacher, teacher trainer, and in publishing both as a researcher and as a business representative. That means I’ve been to quite a few conferences. TEFL this, TESOL that. Association of this or that. Here and there.

And it’s alright. I get to travel to a bunch of places, meet new people, meet up with old friends and colleagues, see some interesting talks, and have some meaningful interaction with people connected to a given project I might be working on. I quite like conferences. I’ve been to some tiny ones, such as Panama TESOL in 2013, which must have had all of 70 people, and to some huge ones such as the big TESOL International Events in Toronto, Dallas, and Philadelphia.

There’s one thing though that amuses, bewilders and bothers me. I’ve started even to look forward to seeing what spurious nonsense they’re going to come up with next. The next meaningless banality to wrap around what is plainly no more than a gathering of people who happen to work in the same industry.

I’m talking of course about the logo. You’ll find these on the conference program, on the lanyard you wear around your neck, on a banner above the stage in the plenary room, on posters throughout the conference site. On its website, its social media presence, on its call for proposals and on its conference proceedings book.

I’ll be blunt. More often than not, these are utterly meaningless, comically designed and, on occasion, almost unforgivably pretentious. There are two principally criminal elements to them:

The graphic: You might have a silhouette of the host city’s skyline at best, or, at worst, some contorted geometrical ‘concept’ design that’s somehow supposed to make you think, nay, to reflect on why we’re all here, in this city for the weekend. You get some amusingly trippy colors on these at times too. Bold reds. Pinks. Greens. YELLOW!

The slogan: These buzzword heavy word salads are rinsed, re-used, and repeated ad nauseum. The same freaking words over and over again. Community. Identity. Empowerment. Innovation. Challenges. Solutions. Transforming. I think maybe that there is an Online Conference Theme Buzzword Generator out there somewhere that organizers have been using. Or I would believe that, only there’s the fact that these words have been used continuously since before the internet was invented.

They’re not all bad. Researching this piece after a brief conversation with Mike Griffin, I actually found some I like. So let’s delve in. Here’s The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly of ELT Conference Logos.

The Good

TESOL International, Philadelphia 2012



Now this is actually excellent. Right as it says there on the tin. You have a conference theme that actually connects somehow to the host city in a positive way, and a nice graphic of some people, well, they’re just walking to a conference. In order to, I presume, do something or talk about something positive and excellent about their work. Well done, Philly. Well done.


Cambodia TESOL 2014camtesol logoI like this a lot. It doesn’t try and be anything other than what it is. Which is a conference about English Language Teaching. In Cambodia. Thanks, Cambodia. Others, take note.


The Bad


JALT 2006, Kitakyushu


Now I went to this conference and I quite enjoyed it. But I can’t put my hand on my heart and say it had an effect whatsoever on my ‘identity’ or especially motivated me. I mean, presumably most people who were there kind of like their jobs and don’t need to schlep it all the way to Kitakyushu to feel motivated. I guess it kind of helped with community in that I bonded with a bunch of people over six pints of Guinness in an Irish bar on the conference Saturday, but really. Come on.


KOTESOL International Conference, 2015, Seoul


Man, it’s all in there on this one. Wacky geometrical logo: Check. Colors straight from a child’s candy stash: Check. Disconnected, disjointed sloganeering veering off in all sorts of actual and conceptual directions: Check. Confused and somewhat dazed look on my face as I try and figure all that out: Check.


TESOL 2015, TorontoTESOL torontoOK. So what do we have here…. “Crossing borders”, huh? So…. Where are we going with this? Some place off to the right on a blue arrow that looks a bit like a Picasso Dolphin? ….so what next. “Building Bridges”. Let’s see, back across the border on the purple arrow thingy and sort of point back at the “Crossing Borders” thing? Why? This would be really confusing, but thank God you have those green and pink square joblets in the background to help you make some sense out of it.



Eurocall 2012, Gothenburg


“Using, Learning, Knowing. Using, Learning, Knowing. Using, Learning, Knowing. Using, Learning, Knowing. You are feeling very sleepy. Using, Learning, Knowing. Come into my cold, deathly embrace”


The Ugly


JALT PanSIG Conference 2015, Kobe


Oh boy. Where do I start with this one? It certainly raises something within me, but I can tell you for free it’s not ‘happiness’. It’s somewhere between ‘bewilderment’, and ‘outright confusion’ as to what possible narrative could come from this to lead to any semblance of tangible clarity around what this weekend was all about? This is straight from the happy-clappy-for-the-sake-of-it farm, isn’t it?


IATEFL BESIG Conference 2013, Budapest


Please folks, can someone who went to this tell me what exactly was going on here? Or are the attendees of this 2013 junket still trying to find their way home from Budapest?


MEXTESOL 2008, Guanajuato


So you’ve got a bronze statue dude, who is sort of inside a church or a cathedral, with another church inside. But it’s also outside And he has a hammer and he’s fixing a bronze shoe. And it’s all going on in a way in which just positively screams “New Ways for New Needs in ELT”


JALT Pan-SIG 2013, Nagoya


Is there something in the water in Japan? Yet again you have the assorted fruit flavors running all around your eyes, and this time they have a JIGSAW! Yeah! A freaking jigsaw people. But no buzzwords this time. Maybe they just kind of gave up.

Social media for trainer professional development

I just did a webinar. Zero prizes will be awarded if you guess the topic, however. The webinar was part of the SIT Trainer Webinar Series and I thoroughly enjoyed the session. It was great to talk to people around the world about this topic. I mostly just tried to share my enthusiasm for social media, especially for teacher trainers in their professional development. I talked about my experiences with and my reasons for using social media. I also recommended some people, places and groups that might be useful for teacher trainers. The list of recommendations can be found here. As always with such lists it is a bit awkweird because I surely forgot someone and might have placed things in strange categories and such.  Anyway, I thought it might of use or interest to a few people that did not attend the webinar so I am sharing it here. The webinar recording itself will not be shared widely but if you’d like to see my PowerPoint, here it is: Social media for trainer professional development. As you can see I am a firm believer in simplicity and PPTs not giving away too much of what is said in the talk. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for the list.


If you really want to know why this picture is here you will need to go ahead and click on the PowerPoint. He’s Canadian, by the way.

Reverse! (A reblog and a welcome)

I believe it is no secret to those who read my blog or follow me on Twitter that I am a very big fan of Hana Tichá (or Hana Teacher, as she is known in my brain). I think I first became aware of her blog in late 2013. I mentioned her blog here in 2014 as one of the blogs I was looking forward to that year. My expectations were more than met as Hana was prolific, thoughtful, thought-provoking, interesting and entertaining. If I had to file any complaints they’d be that she wrote too much to keep up with all the great stuff she was writing and that she was writing on Blogger. Both “problems” were surely surmountable but it seems that only the former will (luckily!) remain as she has recently migrated from Blogger to WordPress. In keeping with the tradition of welcoming new bloggers to the WordPress cartel family I’d like to share a post from Hana here. The post I am sharing is one I missed when it first came out. I urge you to read all her posts. It’s a great blog.

And here is the post about much more than the order to follow when using coursebooks. Reverse!.
(I guess this wasn’t strictly a reblog but anyway please visit Hana’s blog in its new home)

Talking about talking about teaching (Volume II.)

As part of my (sporadic) ongoing series on “How we talk about teaching” I’d like to offer up my (made up but sadly influenced by reality) version of how I see lots of Facebook conversations develop on teaching related groups here in Korea. Here is a preview:

another flame war

If you’d like to see the rest of the conversation please click here. I believe you really *should click on the conversation because otherwise this post will not make much sense. Here is the link again. Go ahead and click it. I used the pretty fun and relatively user friendly http://fakeconvos.com/ along with my memory and imagination to create the conversation.

I wonder if any of characters, discussion styles, or topics here seem familiar to readers.
I also wonder if anything here seems specific to Korea and certain (non-#KELTchat) group in Korea. Does this happen on teaching related groups outside of Korea? I assume it does but something here seems very “foreign teachers in Korea” to me.
Finally, I wonder what I missed (aside from criticizing Korean teachers and mentioning Hitler). Comments and questions very welcome.

Talking about talking about teaching (Volume I.)

Blogger’s Notes:

  • Wow,  it has been a month since I posted last. I don’t know exactly where the time went but here we are.
  • I am somehow aiming to write 4 posts in the next week (at around 1,000 words or so each).
    This is not a 100% guarantee but it is a goal.
  • I had a bad (few month!) streak of not responding to comments but I finally managed to catch up recently. I hereby swear to respond to comments on this post in a timely manner (within 10-14 days). This is as close a guarantee as we should make on such matters.
  • There are discussion questions at the end of the post.
  • Some of the stuff below I have written or talked about before but I hope it will be slightly new and slightly interesting in any case.
  • Please expect even more meandering than usual and even less coherence (in the layperson and linguistic meanings of the word I suppose) in this series of posts. 
  • There are occasional footnotes where I added more detail or some witty commentary . These are marked by letters.
  • I said above I will try to blog 4 times in the next week. They will all be on a similar theme, talking about teaching. Hopefully this series of blog posts will help me organize my thoughts a bit for an upcoming presentation.
  • Now that these exciting notes are out of the way and suspense has been created here comes the post…

I first came to Korea in June of 2000. (a) (b)  I was armed with white skin, a BA in history, an at-times affable personality, curiosity, and a desire to do a good job (c).I suppose I can say that I have (had?) a good work ethic. I don’t really taking money without doing a good job and my first job was no exception. This first job was working in a cram school, or hogwon, where I taught students of all ages and levels. I didn’t really get much training aside from shadowing a colleague (the man I’d soon be replacing, in fact) for a day or two. This was actually quite helpful and more training that other people in similar situations receive so I cannot and will not complain. (d) 

I enjoyed this job from the start and I feel l learned a lot in those early days of teaching. There was so much to learn and so much to think about. So many critical incidents were crashing into my head at that time. I can remember learning a lot about teaching, the world and myself during those times.

In that first job I developed nice relationships with my co-workers, (e) some of whom taught Japanese and others who taught English or TOEIC. After the first little while (when the person I shadowed left) I was one of two “native speakers” at the school. I became very good friends with the other native teacher but it was much more of a social thing and was not really focused on our work or professional lives.

I don’t really remember too much about the teaching aspect from back then. Regarding discussions with my coworker I am not really sure because I don’t think we spent much time talking about teaching or beliefs or what was happening in our classes on anything less than a superficial level. We probably talked about funny utterances from students or management problems or just the themes of the day but I don’t think there was much time spent talking about teaching in what I’d now consider a productive manner. (f) We might have shared an activity from time to time or how we handled the occasional classroom management. We compared notes on students were challenging or hot.

The story I’d like to relay here actually has nothing to do with this coworker or my particular job at that time. (g)  In those early days in the small city of Jinju (h) there were not a lot of foreigners foreign teachers around, or at least I didn’t see them. If I ever happened to see such a person I’d always say hello and often strike up a conversation.

I remember one such conversation very well. I literally almost bumped into Tina on the street of the trendy side of town and we ran through the standard chat on like place of work and hometown and reason for being in this far-away place. She struck me as a sincere, kind and intelligent person. I’ll never forget what she said just before we said our goodbyes. By way of an invitation she said, “You should come to the Mediterranean Sea bar (i) on Friday nights around 10. We all get together and bitch about our work.”

This struck younger me as bizarre and terrible and maybe even sad. I had an immediate and strong reaction to this invitation. It sounded like a soul killing and time wasting endeavor. I couldn’t see any need to get together with people who happen to have the first language as me just to bitch about our teaching situation in a country that we chose to come to. Why would we choose to engage in such negativity? What would bitching actually solve? Why not just get on the soju and have a nice time laughing and hanging out and talking about fun stuff? I figured there was No need to ruin my chill by engaging with complaints about students, other teachers, admin, curricula, or whatever.  I decided I’d never allow myself to turn into a person who spent Friday nights bitching about my job.

I’d like to say that I never succumbed to the allure bitch fests in my time as a teacher, but that would be a lie. I will have to leave this for another post.

My questions:

  1. Have you found bitching about teaching to be helpful or at least cathartic? Under what circumstances? What made it so?
  2. Do you think this sort of bitching in any way particular to Korea? Is it all particular teaching? Are accountants and plumbers doing the same thing?
  3. What do you consider “talking productively about teaching?”
  4. Have you had opportunities for productive talks about teaching? When and where? What needed to happen for these opportunities to exist?


a) Yes, I am that old.
b) No, I have not been in Korea the whole time.
c) That line is not completely fair to myself. I had taken a grad school class in TESOL and written my honor’s thesis on topics in the field. I’d also studied Spanish to some sort of level. I don’t know if these things mattered to my employer but they are things that I think helped me in my journey.
d) Actually I don’t know much about the typical training procedures in such situations or how clear the rules and roles are made to new teachers. I suppose it could be quite different from place to place.
(e) Oh, speaking of co-workers, here is something I wrote over on the iTDi blog about this topic.
(f)  I suppose at some point I will have to define what I mean by this.
(g) It’s already been almost five years since I shared some “Reflections on Teaching, Learning and Lesson Planning” and this time period is mentioned a bit.
(h) Gyeongnam represent!
(i) That bar sucked! What a weird place. I am not sure I ever had a good time there. Well except that one time that lady propositioned me in front of here date. Actually that was more weird than fun. Anyway, it seems like I am digressing from my digression so I will stop here. 

Questioning ads only for “native speakers” shared by ELT organizations

This post is on something I have been thinking about for a while and was finally inspired to write about today by the #ELTchat earlier this morning. The chat’s title was, “Should ELT organisations support NNests and stop discrimination against them?” Here is the summary of the chat.

On Twitter, I saw one friend suggest the title of the chat should be “How should ELT organizations support NNests and stop discrimination against them?” because it clearly it is not a reasonable yes or no question and organizations most definitely should be doing this. I am honestly not convinced ELT orgs are doing a whole heck of a lot so maybe we could think of the ELTchat title as something like “Why aren’t ELT orgs doing more and how can they get started?” I suppose this is not exactly my topic for today, though. I have just one specific case I’d like to consider.  I am not completely sure what I think about this so I’d very much welcome any thoughts or opinions.

A relatively recent addition to the KOTESOL website is a job board. While I might wonder if this is an example mission creep or a case of an organization getting away from core strengths, the most noticeable aspect of this board for me was how some of ads (around half at a quick look) are for native speakers only. I might also wonder if I am being ridiculous to write about a fledgling job board which hasn’t seen a new ad posted in nearly a month. I do think there are important things at play here and things worth thinking about and considering regardless of the size or age of the board.

TEFL Equity Advocates  has a nice page where anti-discriminatory statements  from various groups are shared, notably including a 2006 “Position Statement Against Discrimination of Nonnative Speakers of English in the Field of TESOL” from TESOL. Also found on the TEFL Equity Advocates blog is the fact TESOL Global and TESOL France have officially condemned and prohibited all job ads which discriminate against NNESTs.

Should KOTESOL do the same? Does not doing so or not having done so yet mean K0TESOL is behind the times and deserves our criticism on this issue?  I am not so sure.

One key here in Korea when considering such ads is how certain titles/jobs/roles will only allow applicants with certain passports (7 countries deemed native English speaking) to receive visas. This is an immigration issue and not based on the hiring bodies or the preferences of customers/students.

Previously I have taken exception to KOTESOL leaders seeming proud about having 30% Korean membership. This never sounded like a high number to me it’s the number I’ve heard. Is it reasonable or ethical or appropriate to share job ads automatically excluding 30% of membership? I don’t think so. Please note, the number of members excluded in these ads would actually be higher because there are members who are neither “native speakers” nor Korean. Should KOTESOL take steps to be on the right side of history on this issue even if it means sometimes wasting the time of people who couldn’t get the visa anyway?

Should KOTESOL take steps to follow the lead of organizations like TESOL even if it means cutting a few ads? Should KOTESOL be a model for change in this industry? Is eliminating discriminatory job ads a good start to supporting NNests and stopping discrimination against them?

Here is a great post/interview with Bethany Cagnol, past President of TESOL France on this very topic.

An interview with Neil Millington of Dreamreader

One of the things I enjoy about attending conferences is meeting new people. At CAMTESOL this year I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Millington at the Presenters’ Reception. Although Neil and I presented at the same time on Saturday morning I was able to get a sense of his topic and session. We had an interesting chat and decided to extend it here to the blog. I thank him for taking the time and we both hope it will be interesting for readers. After the picture of the interviewer and interviewee comes the interview itself. Enjoy! 


We survived the 10:15 presentation slot!

Hello Neil. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. Can I get you a drink?
Hi Mike! Thanks, I’ll have a beer. Cheers!

Here you are. One Anchor coming right up. We met in Cambodia. Was this your first time there?
No, I’ve been to the CamTESOL conference several times. I like that conference because the participants are enthusiastic, and there is always a wide range of presentations to see. The timing is nice too. I don’t need to cancel any classes because it’s not in term time.

I like the conference for similar reasons, and where do you work?
I teach at a university in Japan. I’ve been in Japan for over 10 years now, and I’ve been in my current position for the last three years.

Right. I see. I noticed there were lots of teachers over from Japan. What were you talking about at the conference?
I was talking about a website a friend (Brad Smith) and I started about six months ago. It’s called dreamreader.net and it is a free website where learners can practice and improve their English reading skill. At the moment there are over 250 free reading lessons on the site, and Brad and I are trying our best to make sure there is a new lesson released every day. We’d like to get about 500 lessons on the site by the end of the year! It’s hard work though because we both have busy full-time jobs and I’m working on my PhD thesis!

Wow, you are busy. I will not complain to you about being busy then. I didn’t realize the site has only been around for 6 months. Best of luck with everything! Back to your session at CAMTESOL for a moment. Is there any truth to the rumor you were giving a bunch of stuff away in your session?
There were a couple of rumours going around that I was giving away free iPads! Unfortunately, they weren’t true! However, I did give away free color workbooks. I prepared a reading workbook using the materials from dreamreader.net.

Nice! Can you say more about the site?
Yeah, when we started the site, we had just academic readings. Each of these lessons has quiz questions along with a free downloadable PDF of the lesson and free audio. Learners can use this to help them with independent study while teachers can use it to supplement classroom learning. It was quite popular, and we had a lot of cool feedback, but several people told us that they wanted more variety and easier lessons. Over the last few months we have added four more categories of lessons to the site, so now the site has five different sections with a lot more variety and a lot more content.

Cool. What are the sections?
The site now has five different kinds sections.

1. The “Easy English” section is aimed towards beginner learners and tests basic sentence-level reading comprehension. Basically, in these lessons, learners look at a photograph and answer questions about it. They actually work equally well as listening activities.

2. In the “Interesting English” section, learners who are interested in the “nuts and bolts” of English can find articles about English language, vocabulary and grammar. There are lessons on idioms and proverbs at the moment, but we’ll be adding lessons on synonyms and slang in the not too distant future!

3. The “Practical English” section gives learners a taste of English being used in authentic materials (such as reading road signs, coupons, or business memos).

4. The “Fun English” section is meant to offer learners a chance to read short articles on a mix of interesting topics such as video games and pop music.

5. Finally, the “Academic English” section is full of lessons and quiz questions in the style of a standardized English test. These work well as preparation materials for the reading section on the TOEFL or IELTS tests.

Have you used the site with your students?  What did they say?
Yeah, I’ve used it in speaking and writing classes. I also encourage students to use it to do some independent learning. The lessons in the Fun English section went down really well. They proved to be good jumping off points for discussions and journal writings.

What are you looking to do on the site in the future?
Of course, we’re still creating more materials for the site. We’d like to have around 500+ lessons on the site by the end of the year. I’m also making workbooks and textbooks to put up on the site. Hopefully, they’ll be ready by the summer.

That sounds great. Can you share your motivations for starting the site? I read the blog post on “The story behind the site.” I wonder if there is more to say on this?
The idea of making our own materials was really forced upon us. We were given the role of developing a reading and vocabulary course, and then we were assigned a textbook to use. The textbook was okay, but there wasn’t enough reading material in it! We started to look online, but couldn’t find enough suitable and free content, so we started making our own. Around this time I went to the CamTESOL conference, and talked to a lot of local teachers, and some of the students who were volunteering there. They all told me that getting hold of good and free materials was difficult. we therefore thought why don’t we put up the materials that we made online!

In the process of working on the site have you had any, “I wish I knew that when we started!” type moments? And related, do you have any advice for people trying to get their own sites off the ground?
Oh yeah! Many of them! My first piece of advice would be if you have an idea, just do it! We spent about two or three years writing academic materials for the site, and then started to put it up. Only after getting feedback did we realize that people wanted more variety! We should have started to put up materials earlier and listened to feedback. We could have saved a lot of time. My second nugget of advice is that if you’re thinking of starting a site, you need to be committed. A friend who has an established site told me that you’ll need to spend two hours a day for two years if you want it to be successful. I am now starting to realize that might even be a little conservative.

Thank you! I think that is very helpful and even inspiring. And now we move on to the random and rapid fire portion of the interview…
What is the funniest thing you have ever heard in class?
It didn’t happen in class, but I did have a student shout across the university cafeteria to me “Neil, why I fail?”

Haha. What is the weirdest Kit-cat flavor you have tried? How was it?
Green tea. It was erm, interesting!

Do you like soccer football? Which team do you support?

Bolton Wanderers.

I don’t have a snide comment to make so I will just move along. What kind of things do you read for pleasure?I’m writing my dissertation for my PhD so I have temporarily given up reading for pleasure!

Fair enough. What do you love about teaching?
Everything apart from the administrative work!

What do you think you’d be if you weren’t a teacher?
Probably a student!

Nice answer. Thanks so much for this, Neil. I really enjoyed it and I hope to see you around in the future. Again, best of luck with everything.