My last blog post before I leave for the IATEFL conference in Brighton tomorrow is a guest blog by Luke Meddings, co-author with Scott Thornbury of Teaching Unplugged, the dogme teacher’s indispensible handbook.
Since I met him properly for the first time at the British Council Innovations Awards (the ELTons) last year, Luke has become one of my best UK mates in the world of ELT. It was an unusual first meeting. I was presenting the prizes, and when the two authors came on the stage, Scott was in the lead, so I gave him a hug. I think I know him well enough to do that. When Luke got onto the stage, I gave him a hug too, which surprised us both a bit. Now I’m friends enough with him to give him a hug every time I see him…
…and the last time I saw him was at the ISTEK conference in Istanbul two weeks ago. It was his first visit to ISTEK and these are his thoughts about that special event.
If you don’t know what dogme is, or if you don’t know why an obscure Danish film style became an important buzz word in ELT, you can find out here. http://bit.ly/Ttxfw
Why I misstek
Some conferences end in tears; this one started with them.
It’s the end of Jan Blake’s second story – demba demba demba – and a strange sensation is affecting your normally composed and famously macho guest blogger. When I look round, I see that my immediate neighbour, Mr Ken Wilson of London, has also been afflicted by the kind of allergic reaction that strong men invariably suffer near floral displays. It certainly brought a new meaning to live streaming.
Jan’s message was one of full engagement with the material, of commitment to the story one is telling. Here is my own story – an extended thank-you note, really – accompanied by some pictures from a long and happy day in Istanbul.
My first picture shows a mysterious space in Topkapı Palace.
It makes me think of books that haven’t yet been written – or bookshelves that are yet to be filled. (If you have the guidebook, and it was used for storing beans, I don’t need to know!) To me it represents the ideal way to approach a conference: with an open heart and mind. One never knows which idea is going to get our minds working, or what we will find in ourselves and one another.
My second picture shows a tantalising flight of stairs in the same palace.
Now there are two reasons to go up a flight of stairs. One is because you know where it leads, and one is because you’re curious to find out. Actually there’s a third reason – when there’s a Belgian bun on the middle stair. But that’s not what I want to focus on now.
Thus I took one flight of stairs to Scott Thornbury’s plenary talk on Six Big Ideas and One Little One (pretty sure the ‘little idea’ would appeal) – and, as always, came away with more to ponder, more to explore.
I was intrigued to see where Willy Cardoso’s workshop on Networks and Self-Organization would lead, and after disorientating us with an exercise in perspective he talked us through some fascinating ways to map the connections between people in a social network (a class, for example, or a school). You can read more about this workshop here
These mapping techniques really got me thinking about the different qualities people bring to a community. Sometimes we need new networks to move forward, and I do think Twitter and the blogosphere are changing our profession for the better. It isn’t about who you are, it’s about what you contribute, how you engage. This changes the way we regard one another, and it makes conferences an exciting, cross-generational experience.
There was a lovely illustration of this on the Friday evening when, after catching up with Andrew Wright, I met Ania Kozicka. Twitter was the ice-breaker and as we chatted, we noticed more new arrivals – ‘There’s Ken Wilson!’ – and in the same breath, and with the same pleasure of recognition: ‘That’s Dave Dodgson!’
Mike Harrison’s calm, creative workshop on using images and sound in class showed again that there are a hundred ways to ‘present’: the commitment is all. Thank goodness there’s no standardisation procedure for presenting, these things often do more harm than good. ‘Too quiet’, they’d be saying about one speaker; ‘too noisy’, another.
Soon there would be a four-week course, and in a couple of decades, we’d need dogme for presenters. No such problem for Ken, who had us in the palm of his hand in seconds, or Lindsay Clandfield, who had me in stitches listing the international variations on his name.
My final picture is of leafless trees: interconnectedness by the Bosphorus with its red ships moaning.
Much has been said about the generosity shown by Burcu Akyol and her team at Istek, and really it knew no bounds. Warmth of this kind generates more warmth.
As I wandered down from Topkapı Palace through the dark pansy-lined and yellow primrose park, I spotted a stork overhead. I found myself next to Jan Blake, and asked her if she knew any stories about them. She thought for a second, and without pausing for breath told me a beautiful story about Brother Crane as we walked!
Storks, I note, are serial monogamists. How they pursue this lifestyle choice in lofty and exposed nests is a mystery to me, but then they aren’t as spontaneous as the protagonists in Roger McGough’s At Lunchtime A Story of Love.
Mark Andrews stood up on the mist-steamed coach into Istanbul that morning and declaimed the poem in broad Scouse, without introduction or explanation. The expressions on people’s faces as they listened to this paean to improvisation were priceless, and Mark’s reading reflected his wider commitment to telling the story of the conference. He embraced the role of roving reporter and in turn transformed it. You can catch his still developing record of people and events here.
My fourth and final picture is of the Bosphorus Bridge, from the boat: what currents below, what traffic above, what journeys from one continent to another!
Mr Meddings’s red scarf by Marisa Constantinides (or I would have frozen worse than a computer screen)
Emergency charger by Russell Stannard (or I really would have been unplugged)
Final call for London Heathrow by Maureen McGarvey (I agree, they probably did mean it)
Permission to blog by Ken Wilson
Unforgettable experience by Burcu Akyol and ISTEK team