Reviewing The 2012 KOTESOL International Conference (aka #ICXX #IC20 #KOTESOL2012)

Hey look, mom, another review!
(Don’t worry, rant fans, there is a bit of that as well)

Wow. It has already been more three weeks since I last blogged. I figured nobody wants to read a month-old review of a conference (but three weeks is completely fine) so I decided today was the day to finally blog this review.

I believe this was my 8th 7th KOTESOL International Conference. It was also my most enjoyable. By far.

Thinking back, I feel there a few possible reasons for this:

  1. I hung out with a larger and more fun group of people. (No offense to people I hung out with at previous conferences!)
  2. I met some great people face to face for the first time (Mostly people that I had already met on Twitter.)
  3. Tweets from the conference were informative and extremely funny at times.
  4. I had some background or previous knowledge on presentations/presenters that I saw. I also sometimes made choices based on friendships with or curiosity about the presenters rather than the topics themselves and I think this ended up being a good decision.
  5. I mostly followed my own advice.
  6. I didn’t force myself to wake up super early.
  7. Plenty of coffee!
  8. I (mostly…finally) knew the layout of the venue and didn’t waste (much) time getting around.
  9. The #alexwalshs40 hashtag was hilarious. (This is related to points 1 and 3 I think)
  10. I had a fun and wonderful time presenting with some #KELTchat people.
    (Even managed to tweet during the middle of the presentation!)

Lest this read like yet another post on the magic of Twitter,  PLNs or community I will mention some of the presentations that I saw.
(As above, I tried to choose people that I knew/knew about so there might be some bias here.)

I was lucky enough to see Scott Thornbury (who was sponsored by the New School)  present twice. I didn’t quite manage to see his A-Z Pecha Kucha  but I heard it was fantastic!
His Sunday morning plenary was on “The Secret History of Methods” and it was fantastic. He was funny as well as enlightening. I take back everything bad I ever said about plenaries being plastic and dry.
I felt that he really connected with the crowd and was able to share his few and offer something for everyone. On Saturday he talked about discourse and made this topic seem much more interesting than it might at first glance. He also reminded me of some of the great things we can do with corpus tools.

Andrew Pollard talked about KakaoTalk (and other such apps) and I loved his informative, self-deprecating, funny, fun, audience-friendly style. Though I am not a KaTalk user (and have never used it in class either)  it was a nice chance to think about how I might use such tools. Lots of great ideas were shared by the presenter as well as the audience.

Ken Wilson’s presentations were extremely lively, informative and fun! I managed to see him twice (though unfortunately I think I was late both times!). He talked about improv type activities and how to make students curious. The latter presentation was sponsored by Oxford and he mentioned Smart Choice but it wasn’t the kind of over the top selling that I had originally feared. It was great to have a chance to see him after enjoying his blog for so long. Well worth seeing and highly recommended.

Ken Wilson is obviously a very experienced presenter. Another presentation that I thoroughly enjoyed was from Barry Jameson, and it was actually his first time presenting at such a conference. He talked about Twitter and PLNs and while this wasn’t necessarily new to me I thought he did a spectacular job sharing how he got started on Twitter. I think he created quite a buzz and helped people see that Twitter is not so daunting and also see the benefits of it. I felt like it was  great first step for many.
(Excellent hashtags like #friendlystalking and #clever2012 as well as participation from people around the world on Twitter were icing on the cake)

Another presentation that I really enjoyed was from Elka Todeva (who was sponsored by SIT). She talked about “Fun Theory” and a variety of things. It was amazing to see how she captured and kept the crowd’s attention throughout as she talked about (IMO) complicated things in an accessible way. Lots to learn about SLA/Linguistics as well as presenting styles here. Very impressive.

So, I was very pleased with the presentations that I went to. As I told anyone who would care to listen, “I didn’t go to a bad presentation!” Good job by me, KOTESOL and the presenters, I’d say.

The whole conversation wasn’t all perfect though, of course. My mother taught me told me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” I think this is often pretty good advice. With that in mind, things I won’t mention include:

  1. Politics.
  2. The reasons behind the #Alexwalshs40 hashtag.
  3. Long introductions of people that need no introduction.
  4. Introductions when the introducer doesn’t seem to know about the person they are introducing.
  5. (Perhaps not fair because I wasn’t there but…)  I heard lots of complaints (ranging from presenting style to content) about the plenary on Saturday about mobile learning.
  6. How “non-panel” presentations are not allowed to have more than 3 presenters.
  7. That time when one of the bigwigs on the conference planning team interrupted my conversation because he wanted to leer at my name-tag. This was especially rude because this person had done the same exact leering move at a conference back in March. ***It was even ruder because I was in the middle of a conversation about a topic that is really important to me.
  8. The fact that we had to to wait nearly an hour to get a screen for our KELTchat presentation.
  9. This locked door just before a lunch time “meet and greet” for the Reflective Practice SIG.

After “not” mentioning these issues I feel that I *should mention again how much I enjoyed the conference overall.
It was really great and I sincerely thank all those who helped make it so.

Rebuttals, additions, questions, suggestions, and whathaveyous welcome. Thanks for reading!

***New rule: You are only permitting to rudely interrupt me by leering at my name-tag once per lifetime.


  1. Robert Dickey

    It’s important that we hear these things (‘we’ means KOTESOL event organizers, of which I am sometimes one, although I don’t claim to speak for anyone else). There are several points here I’d like to discuss.
    . 1. Internet (in general) at conferences == 2012 was the first year where Seoul-area wireless was accessible throughout the conference venue. I don’t know the technological specifics but in the past KT/SK/etc 3G data and 4G and wifi were “blocked.” Without a Sookmyung access code, folks mostly couldn’t get connected. I mean, not impossible, but difficult. I don’t know the whys behind that. But let’s hope wifi, social-networking, and 3G/4G access is open in the future.
    . 2. Social Networking while f2fing == Generational change (not all age-based). My momma taught me to pay attention to the folks around me. This is NOT a criticism. I think society is evolving on this one. And while KOTESOL is working towards more “social” in the “conferencing” we also need to work towards the non-f2f part of it.
    . 3. Namebadge “leering” == I for one will claim failing vision if I am found leering. I always argue for bigger namebadges. If I think I know you, or want to talk to you, or simply wish to record your name for possible future contacts because you have said something insightful (almost wrote inciteful!) or witty or… what should I do? (That’s a genuine question.) Without actually verbally interrupting…
    . 4. In terms of technology, locked doors, etc == it’s not a professional conferencing facility and we rent the technology while working with a crew of volunteers. Which means things do occasionally not work as planned, but also, sometime plans/needs are not communicated effectively to those doing the coordinating. (What can be obvious to some may not be obvious to others.) We get from about 5pm Friday to start setting up, and things that were “known” even 6 days earlier can change – it is a functioning university setting. Display screens can be removed, computers stop working, etc.

    Very nice posting, thanks for your thoughtful comments! KOTESOL can handle, and needs, good critique. (It’s also OK to toss soft cookies!)

    We always need more help, especially so for those who can help with technology. Not only for a few hours during the weekend (if not the whole weekend!), but in the planning stages.


  2. mikecorea

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting, much appreciated.
    I guess maybe my response will be more inciteful than insightful.
    I have a few thoughts/responses on what you wrote.

    1. I think it was great to have readily available internet for the conference. I seem to recall that lack of internet access was problematic for some presenters in previous years. I am with you in hoping that in the future such access will be standard.
    2. I think we are in a time of change/evolution on this one. I should mention that some of the tweeting that I referred to above was me tweeting while presenting (at least while someone I was presenting with was talking). It was quite an experience. I also had the chance to tweet during some other presentations, especially one where the presenter asked for people to participate via twitter during his presentation. I personally wouldn’t tweet during a workshop type thing but I don’t think tweeting during a presentation as an audience member is necessarily all that different than taking personal notes.
    3. Thanks for the thoughts on “namebadge leering.” I guess I don’t think it is any less intrusive than simply saying hello. In fact, in the specific case that I am talking about it was much ruder than simply interrupting by saying hello. I would think that saying, “I’d love to talk to you later” would be far less intrusive and rude. Since your question involved “without verbally interrupting” I guess I can say that waiting patiently is the best way or perhaps trying to find another time but (again for me personally) actually putting your head in the middle of a conversation to read one person’s name badge is a very uncomfortable situation that I’d rather not face. And, again, specifically for this particular situation, I think that if it’s important enough to meet and talk to someone that one does the namebadge leer that the leerer could go ahead and remember the person and not do it again. (Sorry for talking so much about 2 incidents that lasted a total of about 20 seconds!)
    4. Fair enough and thanks for the background but at the same time I think it is pretty outrageous that as a presenter I (and the others I was presenting with) needed to go a full hour before presenting to check out the room and to wait for 45 minutes for the room to be set up properly (all we needed was the screen for projecting to be brought down.) I have heard many, many people complain about presenters needing to pay more to present but I always thought it was reasonable because of the extras care/attention/help that presenters are supposed to get.

    (I do think is especially outrageous that the room in question had been set up properly for a presentation just a few hours before.)

    I suppose I will save my perception on the lack of support for the SIG meet and greets the last 2 years for another venue/time

    Thanks again for the comments. I really appreciate you taking the time. I especially wanted to avoid sounding like someone that is simply complaining.

    Take care,

  3. Pingback: CAMTESOL Review and Reflections | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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