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Showcase: Bill Pellowe

 

In this edition of Showcase, Bill Pellowe takes us through the history of the creation of ELT Calendar.

ELT Calendar <eltcalendar.com> lists events of professional interest to language teaching professionals in Japan. Since 2002, well over 5000 events have been posted to its pages. For teachers who wish to give presentations at the many conferences held throughout the year, ELT Calendar has an extensive listing of the deadlines for calls for papers.

The first incarnation of ELT Calendar was as a Kyushu-area events calendar that started in 1997. I was on the board of Fukuoka JALT, and the JALT chapters of Kyushu were all interested in fostering a sense of regional cohesion. The Kyushu ELT Calendar was a way to collect event information in one place and publish it to a larger audience. The events listings were on a single page that I'd update manually when new events were submitted.

Around this time, the <jalt.org> site needed a better way to list events, so I volunteered to help out. I had started learning how to make websites with content stored in databases, and creating a database-driven calendar for JALT seemed like an ideal project to cut my teeth on. The calendar was launched in early 2001, and I later made aversion of it forkeitais. Eventually, though, the rest of the <jalt.org> site was upgraded from static pages to a content management system (CMS), and in late 2008, the CMS took over the role of the calendar. My calendar is now the online archive of 2001-2008, at <jalt.org/calendar/archive.php>.

The experience of creating the JALT calendar taught me that an automated site was easier to maintain than a manual site. When an event on the Kyushu ELT Calendarfinished, I had to manually delete it. On the JALT calendar, though, the Upcoming Events pages were programmed to not show any past events.Also, I realized that a website running off a database is much more versatile, because the pages can be programmed to show the same data in different ways. Unlike the Kyushu ELT Calendar, the JALT calendar could show events grouped by chapter or SIG, by month, and by location.

I decided to apply what I had learned to the Kyushu ELT Calendar. In the process, I realized that it made sense to expand the calendar's coverage to all of Japan, and ELT Calendar was born.

Part of my motivation for creating ELT Calendarwas simply the challenge of doing it. It's as if it was an educational puzzle that I enjoyed working on. Money isn't a motivation. The advertisements on the site cover the costs, but the site doesn't actually make a lot of money. As corny as it may sound, I maintain ELT Calendarbecause I believe there's a real need for such a site.

ELT Calendar launched in 2002, and the site design remained the same until the end of this summer. I gave the site a complete overhaul in September 2011, completely rewriting the programming behind the site (Fig. 1). There are some new features and new sections, and overall, it's much easier to find the events that interest you.

The most useful new feature is the auto-complete search function (Fig. 2). As long as you don't type your search terms too quickly, the site will offer you several options based on the search term you're typing. For example, if you type "Fuku," you'll see links to events pages for Fukuoka, Fukushima, Fukui, and Fukuyama, as well as pages for Fukui JALT, Fukuoka ETJ, etc. Italso searches event titles and speakers (going back five years).

The biggest improvement over the old version is on the pages for locations. Before, each Find Events by Location page only showed a few weeks’ worth of upcoming events in that area, requiring users to click the Next Page link to see further future events. Now, when you access the page for your city or prefecture, you'll see all of the upcoming events in that area, even if the next event is months away.

One feature that people may not know about can be found under the Subscribe section of the site's menu. There you'll find all the ways that ELT Calendar content is distributed to individuals, blogs, websites, and calendar programs. If you use Apple's iCal or Google Calendar, you can automatically get event listingsupdated daily. (You can customize it to show only specific prefectures, or only conferences and calls for papers.) If you use RSS readers, or have a blog, you can use the various RSS feeds. Websites can show upcoming events by pasting a few lines of JavaScript onto their pages.Sites using this feature include ELT News and the ETJ site.

There's also a mobile version of the site that works on most smartphones and tablets, at <m.eltcalendar.com> (Fig. 3).

Bill Pellowe works at Kinki University, Iizuka Campus, Fukuoka Prefecture.

 

 

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