ACAMIS EAL Spring Conference

24 Apr

I have just attended the ACAMIS EAL Spring Conference held at Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen is a modern vibrant city located in the southern part of China, about an hour away by ferry from Hong Kong.  Shekou, where the school is located, is a green expatriate residential area in Shenzhen known for Sea World – a large French cruise liner cemented into the ground and around which one can find many ethnic restaurants and a lovely open area to hang out. As this was my second year attending a conference there, I was looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones.

ACAMIS EAL conference attracts teachers from all over China who are either classroom or English as an Additional Language specialists as well as administrators at different levels.  This year, there were also a good number of technology experts to share in their knowledge and expertise on successfully integrating technology into teaching and learning.

From the onset, this conference proved itself to be one that utilizes social media and technological tools for communication, collaboration and co-creation.  From the moment I stepped into the school, evidence of the latter was to be found everywhere. It began at the social hour with a glass of wine and the bar coding of each other’s nametags with the use of a QR (Quick Response) reader and scanner application, to the very last instant, while sipping champagne and waving goodbye, as pictures of that day were brought to life with the help of Aurasma, and through it all with tweeters keeping us all informed and connected.  Each participant was led to take one step further on their journey of truly integrating technology in their teaching and in their daily living.

The conference theme was around literacy and more specifically on elements of literacy to support English language learners.

Participants were introduced to numerous IPad applications to support teaching, learning, creating and collaborating. In addition, components of the Reading and Writing Workshop were examined and the use of World-class Instructional Design and Assessment  (WIDA) for the assessment of English Language Learners was discussed in grade level focus groups.

In its endeavor to ‘go green’ the conference was a BYOD (bring your own device) event where if you did not have a tablet to use, one was signed out to you, fully charged and with tech support for the whole duration of the conference. In addition, a designated hash tag (#SISeal) was created for speakers and attendees to communicate, collaborate and create.  All handouts and material used at the conference were shared on Dropbox and a designated padlet wall to post questions was available.

The keynote speaker was Jill Bromenschenkel. Jill introduced us to many applications that can change the way we teach and learn as well as the way we, as professionals, communicate and collaborate. She reminded us to think about whether we are digitizing our teaching with a purpose and asked us to rethink the way we learn and teach and communicate.  She went on to say that simply introducing the tool does not create the interaction. She urged us as educators to reflect on what tools we choose to use and to ponder the so what of it all. Jill introduced us to some applications that can transform the learning and aid students to move from being consumers to becoming creators in the world of technology.  Using some very memorable images and short clips, Jill made an impact on the way we view technology in education and left us with worthy thoughts to ponder.

Two of the workshops I attended were on the Writing Workshop model and English Language Learners. Suggestions on using the Workshop model for vocabulary teaching were shared and ideas for implementation were presented.

Another workshop which also dealt with writing and which was filled with ideas that can easily be implemented and used with students at every level of proficiency presented the Gretchen Bernabei philosophy on teaching writing and suggestions from Barry Lane, an author who has some very interesting videos on YouTube that discuss different aspects of writing. The ideas were practical and can easily be incorporated into the Reading Writing Workshop model. I personally cannot wait to put some of these suggestions into practice.

The workshop Making Thinking Visible with Digital Resources showcased some of the ways that we can give English Language Learners opportunities to demonstrate their learning and where teachers can assess the students’ abilities. Skitch, Educreations, Socrative, Popplet were some of the suggested applications. Using TitanPad to share comments, teachers were given opportunities to share ideas and classroom usage for these applications. The presenter used SurveyMonkey to receive feedback on the workshops.

Of the many things I heard and saw, one video in particular summed up the lessons that this workshop left me with!

All in all, after all that was said and done, what I was left with is a reminder that I do not have to be stuck on an escalator. I can use the necessary tools to move forward in my own learning and in so doing, I impart on my students strategies and opportunities for them to get unstuck and move forward in their learning.  So the next time you are about to use that application or that tool, ask yourself these questions:

Is this the best tool for this task?

Is this beneficial for my students?

Am I teaching my students to be creators instead of merely consumers?

Have I simply digitized the same teaching I’ve been doing all along or am I utilizing technology to improve collaboration, delivery and instruction?

Ask yourself the so what question. You will be amazed at where your thinking will take you!

To read some of the social media comments made by conference attendees, check out my Storify post.

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