Daniel Barber is a teacher, teacher trainer and writer with twenty years’ experience in the classroom. He writes for Macmillan and Richmond, appears at international conferences and contributes regularly to OneStopEnglish.com. Here, he looks forward to the next InnovateELT conference coming up on May 17th and 18th 2019 in Barcelona, co-organised and hosted by Oxford TEFL.
It’s 2015, and the first InnovateELT conference. A tension hangs in the garden at Oxford TEFL. Representatives from the world of ed tech are here in Barcelona to spread their message of transformation and disruption. The audience is open-minded but sceptical. Nicky Hockly urges all to listen to our inbuilt bullshit-o-meters when faced with utopian corporate marketing speak. Scott Thornbury describes a cycle of hype, hope and disillusionment with the adoption of new technologies. We discuss in our groups, among other things, what it is that apps, tech companies and artificial intelligence have to offer language learners and teachers.
Since that moment five years ago, I’ve attended two of the three subsequent InnovateELT conferences. What they all have in common is the raising of fresh questions about what we do, and a questioning of our beliefs and assumptions. The following year’s conference urged me not to be complacent in the face of inequality within our profession, be that gender inequality (thanks to Nicola Prentis) or racism in the form of native speakerism (Marek Kiczkowiak). The 2017 event introduced me to a new experience at a conference: listening to learners of English, who took centre stage to tell teachers what matters to them. And last year Sarah Priestly had the temerity to question ELT’s First Commandment: Thou Shalt Have Fun in the classroom.
One safe prediction for this year is that InnovateELT 2019 will continue to surprise and leave questions resonating in our heads. This fifth outing of the joint ELTjam / Oxford TEFL venture is called Back to the Future. It offers a chance to look back and ask what we’ve learnt as a profession over this time, and to speculate about the next five years. Where will the changes come from? What fresh ideas will shape the way we teach and learn languages? Can we expect a greater impact on ELT from the industrial tech disruptors? Will changes be pushed from larger political and environmental forces threatening to overturn the current status quo? How can we equip ourselves to thrive as teachers in these shaky times? What future do we want to see and what role do we have in trying to shape it?
Perhaps you’re reading this and you believe you have answers to one or more of these questions; if so, don’t forget you have until January 14th to submit a proposal for a talk.
Another safe prediction is that InnovateELT 2019 will bless us with its unique cosy atmosphere of friendship, curiosity and exploration. I’m looking forward to saying hello to familiar faces and meeting more wonderful people there. I don’t doubt that there will be plenty of things to think about, discuss, eat, drink and celebrate. I’m sure the quality of talks and workshops will be as high as ever.
InnovateELT conferences make no distinction between speakers and delegates; whether you have something important to say, or just want to be part of this great event, you’ll be warmly welcomed. See you there!