I said my last post was a bit of a departure from the usual rants and reflections found here in this blog. I suppose this post will be a departure as well because it will be a review. Considering the title of the blog is ELT Rants Reviews Reflections I have been extremely short on the reviews portion. So, in this post I’d like to review the 2012 JALT Conference. These are entirely my personal opinions and I welcome clarifications, additions, disagreements and whatever else you feel like sharing.
(in no particular order)
- Suresh Canagarajah’s plenary, “From the periphery to the center: Making a difference”
It was fantastic! It was personal, insightful, academic, practical, thoughtful and thought provoking. As I said in the middle of it as well as many times after, “You are not gonna see a better plenary.” To my mind, plenaries are often (by nature?) a bit bland and boring but this was exceptional.
- Both of the two presentations I saw by Ozge Karaoglu Ergen
She was sensational and her passion and knowledge shone through clearly. What high energy! Her presentations were both inspiring!
(She did the JALT Junior Plenary on Sunday and a workshop on Saturday afternoon)
- The people
In my previous post, I mentioned some of the people that I met. I think the fantastic people warrant another mention here. I was thoroughly impressed with the friendliness and professionalism of everyone I met.
They had a special series of presentations arranged for teachers of learners from primary school to high school. The presentations were high energy and would be helpful for teachers of any level, to my mind.
- The festive atmosphere
It just felt like this was a world class and professional event. It was a great atmosphere of serious and fun people dedicated to our field. This was great to see.
- The level of organization
Everything was laid out smoothly and was pretty easy to follow even for a continually lost person as myself. The helpers in the pink shirts were extremely helpful and kind.
- The range of presentations
Sometimes my tastes in EFL run to the esoteric but I was quite impressed with the range of topics.
(Keeping in mind that this was my first conference outside of Korea)
- The introductions
Everything was so quick! Kudos to everyone I saw introducing people or in the opening ceremonies. It was very impressive. They seemed to realize that conference goers are not there to hear long introductions. I also thought those introducing did a great job being both informative and concise. They seemed as though they were prepared to introduce the person they were introducing. Special mention should be made to Barb Sakamoto for her heartfelt and informative introduction to the aforementioned Ozge Karaoglu Ergen. She spoke from the heart about a person that she clearly knew and cared about and I thought it was a great start to the plenary.
- Audience questions
I saw a fair amount of questions from the audience and I was thoroughly impressed. Questions from the audience seemed to be coming from a place of curiosity or trying to understand rather than disprove or shame the speaker. I was very impressed in the supportive and professional way in which questions were posed. Not once did I feel that audience members had “presenter envy” and were trying to “steal the show.” This was great to see. The questions I witnessed were helpful, useful and related to the current presentation.
- The venue
Though I did hear some (fair in my view) complaints about the distance between areas I thought it was a really nice venue. It was great to have a venue that was set up specifically for such things. Perhaps this added to the festive feel that I mentioned.
- The amount of things to do
There was a happy room! I believe this was a place for people to chill out and relax and learn/do things like knit and salsa dance. I didn’t take the opportunity but I thought it was really cool that there were such options.
This might be a complaint only for internet junkies from abroad like me. Perhaps if I lived in Japan it would not be an issue to not have wifi in most of the rooms. It was a bit of a hassle for a junkie like myself to trudge to the designated room when I wanted to get my tweet on.
- Tech in the rooms
Maybe it was a misunderstanding on the part of some of us over from Korea but we all assumed that there would be computers in the rooms, especially when we paid the tech fee. My
crappytrusted laptop played a roll in three different presentations simply because people didn’t have the connections or computers they needed. Another friend (a Mac user) didn’t bring his computer from Korea because he assumed there would be one in the room and knew that there are often connection issues with Macs but was unpleasantly surprised when he noted that there was no computer in the room.
- Smoke in my hotel room
Ok, fine, this has nothing to do with JALT, but it was really annoying to book a (non-smoking to my mind) room months in advance only to find out that I was in a smoking room and that it was not possible to change. Maybe if I spoke Japanese or could clearly express my immense dissatisfaction with this situation it would have been different. Poor form, Toyoko Inn-Hammamatsu.
Awesome conference, highly recommended! I think I will surely make an attempt to go next year as well.