JALT2010: Sharing the best of “Creativity: Think outside the box”

Anna Motohashi, Kawamura Gakuen Women’s University


From the welcoming, cheerful smiles and greetings of the student volunteers to the plethora of events and presentations, the JALT annual conference, held in Nagoya last November, certainly delivered on its promise to inspire and promote creativity. The organizers had obviously worked hard to meet the various needs of participants, right down to the sake bar offering a selection of produce from local sake breweries. For some the annual conference is a social event, for others a professional necessity, but for most it’s a mixture of both networking and catching up with new ideas and trends in language teaching. I attended the national conference for the first time in 2010. As a part-timer it has always been financially daunting to commit to the expense of attending the national event and so I had limited myself to regional one-day conferences and events. Retrospectively I now see the JALT conference as a great investment, largely because of the scale and scope of the presentations, which open up whole new areas of potential teaching resources and tools─and add to that the invaluable face-to-face contact with other educators. For anyone who feels isolated, geographically or personally, the national conference is an excellent source of peer interaction, advice, and support, especially considering that this year saw a total of 1,856 participants attend the four-day conference.

Technology in Language Teaching (TnT) Workshops

This half-day, pre-conference event was excellent value at just 3000 yen. Aimed at tech novices and wizards alike, there was a selection of hands-on workshops covering areas such as iPhone/iPad, video, Moodle, and Excel; and with the free Wi-Fi hotspot in place, participants were able to use laptops and mobile devices to skill-up there and then. The workshops offered a surprisingly jargon-free atmosphere of collaboration; they were a great way to find out more about what the latest tech offerings for educators are, what works, and, more importantly, what doesn’t. The presenters were very honest about the limitations of technology and about the fact that while it may offer enormous potential as a teaching and learning tool, TnT only works when it is accessible to all students. Presenters also suggested a lot of great ideas for low-tech classrooms that even the most novice of teachers could implement, and many also provided contact information for those who needed follow-up advice and support.

Plenary speakers

Tim Murphey’s address to the conference both entertained and engaged, with his juggling and singing complementing and demonstrating his thought-provoking message. He provided lots of interesting research findings to support his “out of the box” ideas that we should be nurturing a more questioning mind-set in our students, keeping them challenged and helping them learn by experience. That is exactly what he gave us in presenting his students’ work, “The Real Voice of Japanese Students,” also proving that academic research and the debate of major educational issues in Japan need not be mutually exclusive.

Nicky Hockly has been a popular speaker at many international language teaching conferences and it was easy to see why, as the self-proclaimed ex-technophobe turned technophile suggested five ways to integrate technology into language teaching. She demonstrated the teaching potential of using YouTube videos <teflclips.com>, word clouds <wordle.net>, podcasts <podomatic.com>, and animated cartoon movies and slideshows <voicethread.com>. All the while she reassured us that technology neither rivals nor replaces our core methodologies, rather it supplements our regular classroom activities. She gave a very practical presentation with lots of ideas on stimulating and maintaining student interest in lesson content.

Alan Maley literally jumped out of the box at the beginning of his plenary address, which certainly got everyone’s attention. He encouraged us to get in touch with our creative side and to move away from the Culture of Measurement that has come to define education. As an alternative he suggested a more aesthetic view encompassing music, storytelling, and poetry.

And so much more

The large size of the conference handbook revealed the vast array of presentations to choose from, and it was too hard to pick a favorite from the many excellent presenters. The JALT Junior conference catered to teachers of young learners with many bilingual presentations. The Educational Materials Exhibition was a great chance to see lots of new teaching materials and to compare what’s on offer from the big names in publishing and the up-and-coming companies. Best of all I came back buzzing with new ideas, a renewed enthusiasm for teaching, and a long list of new “contacts,” many of whom I hope to see again in Tokyo this November.

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