If you follow ELT people on twitter, or if you visit other ELT-oriented blogs, you will probably know by now that something called the ISTEK conference took place in Istanbul last weekend.
A lot of good people have tweeted and blogged about the magical experience of attending this first-time conference, either in real life or online, and I’m not going to compete with them. I thought I’d add a bit of context, speaking as an outsider who has now done about 15 ELT conferences in Turkey.
ISTEK is the name of a large language school operation in Istanbul which has eight branches and nearly 200 teachers of English, about a third of whom are native speakers. The conference actually took place on the premises of Yeditepe University, which is part of the same organisation.
There seem to be a lot of similar large English teaching businesses in Turkey and they all occupy well-appointed premises. They are often, it seems, part of larger organisations which have fingers in many pies (is that the right way of saying it? I often wonder if the idioms I grew up with are still, or indeed ever were, in common use)
Anyway, ISTEK is this kind of organisation. It’s part of a conglomerate that include, for example, a dental training hospital.
There are lots and lots of ELT conferences in Turkey. Many of the main private school/university organisations have a one-day Saturday conference at some point in the spring. I had already been to two others in the last month – the Çevre event in Istanbul four weeks ago, and the ITK event in Izmir two weeks ago.
The ISTEK organisers took a big gamble organising a two-day conference in a place where teachers seem to prefer just to attend Saturday events. It seems to have paid off, with 1,000 people signing up to attend. A lot of participants came from other countries, and many of them were sponsored by ELT publishers. Macmillan for example, sponsored more than 100 participants.
Other people came because they had read the build-up to the conference on twitter, and decided to see for themselves. They didn’t just come from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East were also well represented.
The other interesting factor in all of this is that Turkey doesn’t have TESOL or IATEFL conferences. Moves are afoot to try to start a local IATEFL faction, so we will have to see how this affects the other privately-organised events.
Sean Banville and Jeremy Harmer both attended ISTEK and have written perceptive blog-posts about it. I also recommend Mark Andrews’ blog. He watched a lot of the event, which was streamed live and direct to his computer in Budapest. As you will read in his blog, he shared his experiences of the event with other tweeters in many different countries. You can read it here – http://tinyurl.com/yeat5s7
Late addition – great ISTEK blog from Olaf Elch in Germany – http://bit.ly/9zEOe9
I’ll leave the last word to Olaf:
The plenary speakers were all well-known international practitioners and I also knew quite a lot of the people offering workshops through Twitter so I was confident that the the standard would be high. I was wrong.
The standard was not high, it was stratospheric. At the opening, we were asked to think during the weekend about the one thing we would take away from the event, but as time went on, it became increasingly clear that one thing would not be enough….