Technology in the Classroom – TESOL Spain Bilbao

I was lucky enough to go to TESOL Spain‘s annual conference in Bilbao last weekend in Deusto University just by the Guggenheim. Thanks to the organising volunteers for the huge effort in putting together such an event!

For your infotainment, I’m going to write about some of the techy things presented. If you’re already heavily into social media and classroom technology, then this post isn’t probably for you, but there are lots of teachers just starting out on this e-road…anyway, for the real juicy gossip, you’ll have to DM me, as it’s unpublishable! 🙂

If you’re going to IATEFL 2012 Glasgow next week or any other conference, here’s some top tips (especially if it’s your first conference)

  1. To avoid boredom, always read the abstract from the conference programme before attending a talk, rather than just the title, to see if it’s actually going to float your boat.
  2. Grab as many free bottles of water and (more importantly) pens as possible.
  3. Talk to as many strangers as possible as they could be completely like-minded and bestest-best friend material, or nutcases that provide you with remarkable anecdotes.
  4. Go to at least one talk that is completely unorthodox for you. If it’s amazing, you can thank me later. If it’s a pile of crap, read no#1 again.

TALK: Russell Stannard – Speaking Activities through technology

If you’re on Twitter, you’ll surely know about the ever resourceful Russell and his site His speech basically covered his technology tools discoveries that can be utilised to great effect in and outside the classroom to promote learner speaking activities. I had seen pretty much all of these excellent tools on his website beforehand, but it was good to have the chance to experience Russell’s ‘cut-from-a-diamond/geezer’ accent in real life. All his recommendations are available in this pdf here.

One important point that Russell made is that if you visit one of these FREE sites, just click on the google ads now and again. It doesn’t cost you anything, but it gives funding to the site that could enable it to remain a free learning tool. Good point.

LYRICSTRAINING.COM is a powerful learning tool promoted by Russell. It really is superb and a couple of my students have become addicted to it. Basically it’s a gapfill for youtube song vids site, but in a totally interactive, intuitive 2012 way. I highly recommend showing it to your students to aid motivation and put fun into learning.

I have used MAILVU and EYEJOT to promote ‘speaking as homework’ activity with my own students to great effect – it really works and students love it. Even my family have started using it instead of emailing – Super easy to use obviously. The problem that you might find though (as pointed out by Russell) is that you get so much data back from your students that you won’t know what to do with it. However, marking may become easier as you can just quickly note things down in a word doc as you watch your Ss homework, instead of the old-school, ubiquitous red pen.

One thing I’d like suggestions on is what to do if/when you experience resistance from Ss to video homework because ‘I don’t like the sound of my own voice/seeing myself on video’. I did ask Russell this, but before he got a chance to answer, an audience member (who made her voice heard in EVERY single f*#£ing talk she attended) butted in, saying that we (teachers) are old and they (students) are young & are totally comfortable with technology. True in some cases, but firstly, nobody likes a know-it-all and more importantly, that fails to consider the large number of teenagers (and others) that are extremely self-conscious. Additionally, in Berlin, I taught learners almost exclusively over the age of 45, who fear unfamiliar technology. Unfortunately, the Q&A ran out of time at that point, but maybe someone reading this might have a suggestion for how to sidestep Ss resistance in this scenario.

TALK: Ian James – Speaking Online

All-round laidback cool-dude & tech-head, Ian, creator of TEFLTECHER, also had myriad ideas on how to tech up your class activities, once again showing how easy it is to incorporate them. You can see a powerpoint of all the tools on his blog here.

VOICETHREAD, AUDIOBOO, VOXOPOP, VYOU and many more suggested by Ian can all be used effectively to spice up your activities, motivate your students and invigorate your own teaching style! Good, innit?

Play your students the regularly updated ONE-MINUTE WORLD NEWS from the BBC, noticing register, intonation and other language characteristics and get Ss to make a news broadcast themselves. Make them wear a tie, too, like a proper BBC broadcaster – Yes, that goes for the females, as well! 🙂

Get loads of oral output from your class by using StreetView on GOOGLEMAPS to talk about where they live. Better still, MAP MAKER twinned with VOCAROO neatly packages maps with recordable embedding capabilities to really techify homework.

PRESENT.ME could be very useful for Business English. Get Ss to add audio to their powerpoints to have shedloads of authentic material, custom-made by students for themselves to work on in class – Surely that’s immeasurably better than reaching for a well-thumbed Market Leader from the staffroom bookshelves, isn’t it? *(Other Business English Textbooks from other publishers are available) **(Don’t call me, Shirley)

TALK: Richard Whiteside – Professional Development: Online Networks & Personal Learning Environments

Dry-Stand-Up comedian in waiting, Richard, creator of popular blog, I’d like to think that I help people learn English gave an insight into the advantages of how social media use can improve your teaching skills. His talk was based on his MA dissertation and the main thrust was that Twitter is a virtual staffroom that is a source of professional development for many teachers (those isolated and also for those who are amongst colleagues uninterested in progression), where participants choose to help you. Interestingly, he talked about the taboo of downsides of Twitter use (everyone being over-positive, addiction, procrastination etc) which was characteristic of his measured approach: the advice being that if you do experience any negatives, just take it easy, get through it and carry on because the advantages of discovering the plentiful ideas of ELT available on Twitter far outweigh any drawbacks. Richard’s groovy presentation can be found here.

To add to Richard’s voice, I was resistant for ages to Twitter and finally succumbed after being urged on by my DoS, Josh Round – he was right, it’s invaluable for CPD and you don’t have to become an addict to benefit. Here’s Josh’s easy how-to guide to start you off. See what I mean about tweeple being helpful?!?!?

Some Closing Thoughts…

I went to loads of thought-provoking talks: David Crystal; Lindsay Clandfield; Gerard McLoughlin & Ceri Jones amongst the many. One of the very best though was from pre-legendary, bespectacled, TEFL-leftfield brainiac, Willy Cardoso. I know he’s my colleague, but seriously, his talk was intriguing, practical, intellectual and confusing in equal parts. 🙂 Make sure you check him out if you’re off to Glasgow 2012.

In light of my point no#3 above, I must mention some great people that I had the privilege of meeting: the very switched-on, Susanne Bradtmueller from MondragonLingua and especially the Logroño chicas, Gloria Ferreira & Ana Enriquez who made it a fun place to be.

In his closing plenary, Lindsay Clandfield asked if anyone knew why RP was called “Received”, other than you received the accent at public school or it was well-received in high society. Well, I came up with sth in that moment of his speech, but it was way too early to interrupt his ‘flow’ and I didn’t know if a TEFL underling like me would be well ‘received’ with my efforts at humour.  I thought that it might have been called received pronunciation because if you had that accent and accidentally walked into a working class pub, then you would have definitely ‘received’ a good kicking! 🙂

BTW, at the official TESOL “disco”, Gerard McLoughlin stopped me in the middle of the dancefloor to shake my hand and declare, “Bailas muy bien”. Does that make me officially the best dancer in the TEFL world? I think it does! (However, the bar had been set extraordinarily low)

Bren Brennan

About Bren Brennan

Bren initially trained here at SGI and then joined the staff in 2005. Since 2006, he has taught abroad in Budapest, Berlin and now at Mondragon University in Spain. He returns to teach at SGI London every summer and completed the SGI Trinity DipTESOL in 2011. He also regularly writes posts for students here.
This entry was posted in Creative Classroom, Teaching with Technology, Workshops & Conferences and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Technology in the Classroom – TESOL Spain Bilbao

  1. Richard says:

    Cheers Bren (meant both sincerely AND ironically), now I’ve got to live up to apparently being funny. This article is amusing itself, I must say, and I love your description of Willy and his talk!

    It was great to meet you at the conference though and (sincerely) thanks for the summary of my talk and the links. I wish I’d been there to see your movin’ and groovin’ at the 80s disco.

  2. Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

    Thanks, Ricardo. Igualmente re meet-up.
    Great talk and I’m going to have to prezi-up anything I do in future!
    BTW, I meant to ask you about the origins of the nut in nutrich and then forgot. Is it National Union of Teachers Richard, or are you a huge fan of frutos secos?

    Don’t worry about missing the moves, the yellow trousers will rise once more – Seville 2013, maybe!

  3. Grrrrrr, insanely jealous!! Though I did get to listen to Mike McCarthy on corpus linguistics on that Saturday for DELTA…

    I wonder, does/did the Gerard you mention work in Pamplona?

  4. Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

    Bloody Hell, Mick McCarthy gets about quick – one minute he’s sacked as Wolves manager and 2 weeks later he’s lecturing on linguistics! Crikey! 🙂
    Surely you can send the jealousy back my way by going to Glasgow whilst I sit in front of a computer screen?

    Gerard is from IH Barcelona…v tall – He must stand out in Spain

  5. white coat says:

    This is probably obvious and won’t actually add much to the discussion on how to avoid ss’ resistance to video homework, but I think that, first of all, there should be rapport with the teacher. Reassuring those ss, telling them that they are missing a great opportunity to improve their speaking skill, that you also hate the sound of your voice or seeing yourself on video, but you do it anyway and it has proved a great improvement to your (Spanish, French, English (in my case)…). It is as if you were refusing to speak on the phone because you don’t want the other person to listen to your voice; silly, isn’t it?. Unfortunately, I think it will depend very much on the teacher. This type of student with a different teacher will probably show a different attitude.

    • Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

      Whitecoat – I know who you are, despite your online pseudonym! 🙂 Welcome to the online community…is ‘Whitecoat in the EFL classroom’ going to be the name of your blog?

      Thanks for your comment…of course it adds to the discussion: the phone metaphor is a good one and could be used to great effect, I think, if teachers experience resistance. Good one!

      Of course, rapport is one of the absolute musts for any/every teacher. I just wonder how you manage to build/maintain rapport when you are wearing your barrier/white coat in the classroom! 🙂

      • White coat says:

        Outside appearance? Anything can put ss off, you know, bellies bulging over the top of trousers, grubby jeans, a massive head with curls on nape…even bow ties! Inner beauty is what matters, isn’t it?

        Good weekend!!!

        • Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

          Naughty, naughty! You can’t be referring to anybody we know, surely?
          Inner beauty is indeed all that counts – and when your soul is happy, even the most morose Ss can’t fail to notice and become infected with motivation enough to plow through the Complete Works of Bill Shakespeare for a light weekend reading skills homework – despite your white coat and chalk-throwing-error-correction! 🙂

  6. Thanks for this wrapup here Bren. I really like your take on the “received” in received pronunciation lol! Great conference suggestions too – especially number 4. I saw a talk about the history of ELT in Cuba like that at an IATEFL and it has stayed with me ever since as a great talk.

  7. Leo says:

    I wasn’t lucky enough to be at TESOL Spain but thanks to your account I almost felt like I was – thanks!
    Having been to two IATEFLs (and heading for my third one now) I can certainly relate to your tip #3: strangers becoming your best friends or nutcase as anecdote fodder

    • Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

      Thanks for your comment, Lexi-Leo. Hope you’re having a great time in Glasgow – watch out for the nutters

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