On 5-6 October 2019, I attended the Image Conference, held at Erasmus Hogeschool, in Brussels, Belgium. There were some fantastic talks based around the theme of image, film or video. There was a Global Issues strand, with GISIG coordinator, Varinder Lekh, in attendance, while many talks were centered around refugees and migrants. I presented my ‘Personal History of Filmmaking (with students in ELT)’ and you can watch the recording below, full screen or on YouTube.
The slides can be found under the Presentations and Essays tab at the top.
The Image Conference was initiated by Kieran Donaghy, with the first event held at Universitat Autonoma in Barcelona. I was there, along with Ian James, Nicky Hockly, Jamie Keddie, Paul Driver and many more. The Learning Technologies Special Interest Group had a strand, but this was long before I was part of the committee. More information about why the conference was set up is explained on page 8 of ‘The Image in English Language Teaching’ book by Kieran and Daniel Xerri, which can be downloaded for free here.
I attended several sessions on the use of image, video and film in language teaching. There was a opening plenary on ‘the Fifth Skill of Viewing’ from Kieran – a session he has given for Macmillan Education in this webinar from April 2019. In addition there plenaries on ‘Children’s plurilingual voices in English language classrooms: a visual turn’ (Nayr Ibrahim) and ‘Reconciling global communication and national cultures: Putting art at the heart of international empathy’ (Hania Bociek).
I attended the film-based sessions on ‘Using dystopian film trailers’ (David Geneste), which featured a ‘dissection’ of the remarkable ‘mockumentary’ District 9 and the one on ‘Movies: The Language that’s Missing in Language Learning’ (Frank McGirr, The English Film Club). Both produce extensive material for their learners to work with, exploiting trailers and full movies to maximum effect respectively. VHS Teacher Frank shared an animated slideshow and a complete lesson guide, including dialogue for 2017 drama, ‘The Sense of an Ending’. Like me he owns an extensive collection of movie DVDs as can be seen above.
In addition, there were some great sessions on ‘Using images effectively in pre-primary ELT’ (Helen Chapman), the grammar found in images (Bruno Leys), a task-based linguistic landscape project in Taiwan (Aiden Yeh) and Judy Boyle talking passionately about her ‘No Project’. At the same time as Judy, Linda Raus presented her session ‘I am a refugee’ and her slides are available via the GISIG website. For the sake of brevity, I won’t review every single session, otherwise this post would run to thousands of words.
Julia Alivertis and Jeffrey Doonan (who I only really know from #Nightshift) presented a wonderful workshop session entitled, ‘Listen to your eyes’ with a very well-produced handout (see images below). From Don McLean’s song ‘Vincent’ used as an introduction, through Auden, Picasso’s Guernica and Iron Maiden’s ‘The Fall of Icarus’. Very thought-provoking, drawing on several sources of poetry, music and classical paintings.
Artist, Emma Louise Pratt, who designed the conference poster above and who I first met briefly in Brighton last year, brought us some activities as part of her session from the fourth floor of the building. Her session, ‘Ways of Seeing: Drawing as a Physical Response’, explored how she works in and around children in a ‘transdisciplinary’ arts project. During her session the participants were asked to do some sketching. I produced a childlike ‘skyscape’ picture, which is included in the montage of some of the photos I took over the duration of the conference. I’m no drawer, as you can tell, but I did use this as a mindful activity.
The main discussion points, as Netherlands-based arts teacher Peter Sansom mentioned in his blog post, were that we fit “the medium of film more centrally into our schools teaching. Also extensive resources for the language classroom relating to refugees and other pressing world issues.” Peter came to my session and asked the question, which you can see at towards the end of the recording, about the difference between what is produced when the teacher is behind the camera and when the learners have control.
I like the relative smallness of the Image Conference. It’s not too overwhelming. Manageable. You have an opportunity to choose from a small list rather than face a daunting task of choosing a session over several that also interest you. There is a warmth and humanity to the conference. Presenters are demonstrating their experiences, passions, interests and emotions. It is not dry and academic, remote, but vibrant, artistic, colourful and dynamic!