7 Things We Loved At IATEFL

We were at IATEFL! A global ESL teaching conference housed in the sunny seaside town of Brighton, England (seriously great coffee shops btw). Jam-packed with amazing seminars and workshops, and all approaching the triumphs and trickiness of teaching from different angles.


We saw A LOT! But here are eight IATEFL sessions that really resonated with Wibbu (in no particular order).


Smartphones Are Not The Answer?!

Presented by Thomas Strasser

‘Don’t call it a revolution!’ That was the key message of Thomas Strasser’s energetic rethink of technology in the classroom. Through buzzword bingo  the session explored every facet of the edtech argument; smombies (smartphone zombies) vs overhypers, the militant early adopter vs the fearful traditionalist. And like any sensible argument, the answers were found in the middle ground. A blended approach of physical and digital learning. An understanding of how children use their devices. Oh, and App Smashing! A real highlight of the conference.


Bridging The Digital Divide

Presented by Michael Carrier

An inspirational seminar reminding attendees that knowledge and easy communication isn’t the privilege of the wealthy. For edtech developers there is little point creating innovative resources if they are too expensive for an individual, school or village that could really need them. Whether in rural Africa or a struggling refugee community, language learning tools need to be available and they need to be affordable. Or even better, free! Wibbu is now actively looking at donating resources to open source platforms like The Rachel Project and Techfugees. And for possibilities in preloading pedagogical content onto offline devices, check out The Rumie Project. Edtech needs to think less of the world as a series of markets to invade and more as a vast community that desperately needs an equal voice.


Our Story: How We Write Stories For Primary

Presented by Cheryl Palin, Katherine Bilsborough

This one really hit home for Wibbu because, well, we tell stories too! To hear so many of our troubles and techniques all reflected back from such experienced writers was really refreshing. Everything from closed door writing to knowing when to put a draft in the drawer. This session was crammed full of useful tips and workarounds for any budding ESL author. The takeaway was that there are different ways to craft a story (but with ESL it helps to start with the language first). Writing is a puzzle, and never more so than when we are sneaking in lessons through the back door. Enjoy the process, and enjoy talking to other writers about theirs!


 IATEFL offered a constant stream of free coffee. It was amazing!!!

Here’s a stock image of some coffee cups.


Why Do All Coursebooks Teach The Same Grammar?

Presented by Graham Burton

A session detailing institutional inertia. Okay, so the way and order in which grammar is currently taught is pretty much set. Despite the lack of empirical evidence to support the organisation of grammar in textbooks and pedagogical materials, publishers are reluctant to innovate! Why? Well we’re in the results-driven teacher/system loop (you might know about that one). Pressures from the market and desire of the publishers to give the market what they want, alongside staying in step with what competitors are doing means the blind leading the blind (or at best, the same leading the same).Will anyone be brave enough to break the mould?!



Using Instagram As A Tool In Paragraph Writing

Presented by Sarah Hopkyns


A fascinating study into the creation of a safe space to encourage expression. Building on our interest in App Smashing, this session on reading, writing and opening up through Instagram came at just the right time. What was so interesting about the research was its prior failures. In trying to get college students to take personal photos, annotate them, and upload them onto their Instagram accounts, a brick wall of indifference or insecurity was met on two occasions. Young people just weren’t willing to pull the learning activity into their private and social space. On a third attempt, a series of private class accounts were created. Students were encouraged to take photos of the things they cared about, things that represented them personally. The results were astounding. Detailed written descriptions, engaging responses, passionate conversation. All from the safety of a zone hidden from the judgement of social media. An exercise in making a class a community.


Spotlight On Creative Drama

Presented by Rachel Jeffries


One of our favourites, with an approach to storytelling that gets children active and engaged. Place your students in a tale for a pure hit of context and understanding. Choose tricky words and phrases from the story you are about to read and assign movements to them.  Kids are now delivering words and dialogue as opposed to simply repeating them. Perform hotseating –  children become a character and are interviewed by other kids. Stop before the third act finale and ask, ‘what do you think will happen?’ Overall a fantastic exercise in making a normally passive activity, reading a story, energetic and exciting. Run by our pals over at Cambridge University Press, we’re stealing all their good ideas!


Short Mystery Games To Teach Critical Thinking

Presented by Walton Burns


Who doesn’t love a mystery? They’re addictive! Create a problem and watch as students work tirelessly to solve it, all while absorbing their target language.  Short mysteries generate feverish class discussion, build rapport, place an emphasis on detail, and marry the logical and the creative. Elements of storytelling and drama are necessary ingredients to making a classroom conundrum fly. Check out mysterynet.com for inspiration of simple mysteries that can get your students scratching their heads in the best possible way (nothing too grisly please).

That was a snippet of our time at IATEFL. Of course we couldn’t see everything. Did you manage to check out some seminars you thought were particularly inspiring? Or perhaps you’re going to or running a conference in the future you’d like us to attend! Get in touch and let us know. We love to mingle. Especially if the coffee is free…