As I proudly announced in one of my earlier posts, on April 7, I’ll be headed to the 22nd P.A.R.K Conference. It’s one of those events for English teachers I’ve never missed since I first discovered it a few years back. It’s always been inspiring to me as a teacher and a quick search through my blog only proves it (here, here, here, here, here and here).
What I love about this event is that it is really huge (at least from the perspective of a teacher who’s never been to an IATEFL conference, for example), but at the same time, the atmosphere feels comfortable and friendly. Not only does it offer a wide range of methodological seminars and workshops presented by experienced teacher trainers but it also gives you an opportunity to meet some old uni buddies and lots of like-minded professionals. In other words, there’s something for everybody; whether you prefer to learn from the ‘big names’ or the grassroots (or both).
The event starts with an opening plenary. Then there are two practical workshops, a seminar and a closing plenary followed by a raffle. One of the highlights is the lunch break because that’s when I have an opportunity to chill out, talk to people and spend a fortune on coffee and their indescribably delicious pastries sold in the conference cafeteria (I’m not exaggerating here!). At the end of the day, you can also meet the speakers, which, unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to do because I usually need to catch the 16:00 trolleybus.
Apart from the fact that the venue is a bit off the beaten track, the most difficult moment for me is when I have to pick the workshops. It’s a challenging task given the fact that there are three blocks and in each block, there are twelve workshops to choose from. The fact that there’s usually a mixture of native and non-native speaking presenters and that the topics are quite varied doesn’t make the whole thing easier for me. What I usually do is that I look at the names first to see who I’ve already seen before. Then I might either decide to see them again or not – depending on the topic and the quality/relevance of their previous presentation. My choice is to a great extent determined by the fact that I’m a secondary teacher of English so I tend to go for workshops aimed at teenagers rather than young learners, for example.
The registration is all online, which is a massive advantage, but if you are too late, you may end up with practically no choice on your hands. At this very moment, many of the workshops are already booked up. This makes me wonder whether the quality of the workshop/seminar can be judged by the current demand. Well, I’d say the number of ‘vacancies’ is definitely not the only determining factor – it could actually be distracting, even misleading. One way or another, I don’t need to despair this time. As a conference reporter, I can attend any workshop I want. What a relief!
Having said that, at this point, I’m still not sure which workshops I’ll finally choose. Normally, I wouldn’t attend a workshop titled The Joys and Troubles of Teaching 121 or the one called Principles of Business Communication, simply because I don’t teach business English or 121. But now I’m thinking that maybe, stepping out of my teaching context could actually be quite useful. One thing is certain; I’ll definitely see and report on the opening plenary given by Shaun Wilden as well as the closing plenary by Ken Beatty. What? Two male plenary speakers? That’s unacceptable! Wait! To be fair, last time the plenary speakers were both female (Fiona Mauchline and Nikki Fořtová) so no worries. 🙂
Shaun’s plenary is called Your exits are here, here and here. Such a mysterious title definitely makes me want to read the summary: This session looks at the concept of student engagement and questions the effectiveness of traditional approaches such as asking for hands-up. If such techniques do not help students engage in lessons, can we then utilise mobile devices to gain a better understanding of them? Sounds interesting. I’ve already seen Shaun present here in the Czech Republic and I know he’s a strong advocate of incorporating the use of mobile devices into an L2 classroom so we’ll see what Shaun has in store for us this time.
Ken’s plenary* is called Motivating the Teenage Brain: Making Language Matter. Although I haven’t had an opportunity to meet Ken in person, the title of his presentation looks quite straightforward to me. According to the summary, the presentation reviews the latest findings of how the teenage brain learns and the application of such findings to engage learners through meaningful language-learning tasks, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and reflective assessment. I’ve attended a couple of workshops on the same topic so I’m eager to see what’s new in the field. Plus, repetition is the mother of all learning, particularly if you ‘specialize’ in teaching teenagers. And it’s about science and research! That’s definitely some bonus points, right? 🙂
See you later.
*Update: Ken’s closing plenary is actually called Interactivity, Teaching and Learning. The presentation I mentioned above is a seminar. This means that people will have an opportunity to see Ken twice. Well, it seems there’s a lot to look forward to.