Is this the Way to the Armadillo?

This is the final entry in a series of five ‘flashback’ posts, which look back to a time when my blogging was more about my adventures and travels with TEFL than the actual teaching practice.  This post is a reflection on the first day of my very first IATEFL conference – at Glasgow, 2012.  I was a Masters student at the University of Warwick at the time and during the conference I met many of the people who would become friends, both professionally and personally. It comes in the wake of the deferment (postponement) of the IATEFL conference that was due to take place in Manchester in April, due to Covid-19. I was due to attend the whole event, and be present at the Learning Technologies SIG PCE and Showcase.  Hopefully, we will be able to put on something similar in Harrogate, March 2021, which is when the 54th event has been rescheduled for.  In the meantime, I am currently involved in producing a special LT newsletter coming out soon, along with Graham Stanley, the current newsletter editor.

This post was originally published here on Monday 19 March 2012. It is unedited, apart from a couple of typo corrections and clarifications.


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The morning of the first day of IATEFL conference, Glasgow, 2012. PCE day.

Greetings from Glasgow!  I am sending this blog from the IATEFL conference 2012.  I have signed up to be an official Glasgow Online Registered Blogger, permission granted by Graham Stanley, who is the Learning Technologies SIG coordinator.   I wasn’t sure if I was worthy enough to be given permission.  I’m not a speaker or giving any kind of presentation here at the conference.  I am merely attending my first one, so I guess I can write about it from the perspective of a virgin conference delegate, wide-eyed and amazed by the array of knowledge and experience in English Language Teaching here.

So here are my first day thoughts.

I woke up in what is possibly the most basic hotel in the area, Etap, down in Springfield Quay.  I’m not rich enough for the Crowne Plaza, of course, but then even renowned ELT author and speaker, Scott Thornbury, who I met today for the first time, is only there for one night, then he has to find other digs.   I took breakfast and then followed 3 delegates from Kazakhstan and one from Nigeria from the Hotel to the Scottish Exhibition Conference Centre, walking across the Millennium Bridge (as advertised prominently, along with the Clyde Centre, on the cover of the conference programme).  Got there nice and early and avoided the massive queue which soon developed, in order to register for the event.  I got my badge and started to digest the very thick up-to-date conference programme seen below.

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Glasgow 2012 Conference Programme.

I signed up for the Pre-Conference event run by the Learner Autonomy SIG.  Finding the correct room was a bit of a struggle, but I eventually wound my way through several corridors to the aforementioned Crowne Plaza to the Staffa room, which later became full to bursting with delegates.  As opening speaker and LASIG coordinator, Leni Dam, got up to introduce everyone, many were still struggling through the registration process.  Opening speaker, David Little, an absolute authority on the subject of Learner Autonomy gave a predictable but eloquent ‘riff’ on  the article he wrote for the LASIG Independence newsletter.   This guy “speaks in paragraphs” as his former employee and student, Ema Ushioda stated in the first coffee break.  He is most certainly an authority, having written the first of many in the Authentik series on the subject.   The theme was chosen by co-coordinator, Lienhard Legenhausen, as ‘learner autonomy across borders’.   Although both he and Scott Thornbury drew me to this particular PCE, I actually found the on-hand experiences of the guest speakers the most enlightening.  While the main speakers spoke mostly of theoretical concerns and, in Scott’s case, the Dogme approach that he has become saddled with, the others spoke of their own experiences in implementing LA in their specific contexts.   So we had Carol Everhard talking about learner centred assessment, Bob (or Brian) Morrison presenting his poster showing the double-language majors striving towards their goals in Kanda, Japan, a whole cast of thousands from Bangladesh wondering whether we should teach English when people don’t own any shoes, Dorte from Denmark displaying insights from Demark and many, many others.   My personal highlight was Irina Minkova‘s talk on the Learner Autonomy Toolbox.

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Sat behind Scott Thornbury at the LASIG PCE

I attended the ‘civic’ reception at the Science Centre across the Clyde after, but my stomach rumbled after a day in which I hardly ate anything… just loads of coffee… think I’ve been highly wired all day.  I bumped into Nik Peachey for the first time since meeting him at KSU in Riyadh last year and it would not be the last either.  And following my meeting with Scott Thornbury at the Learner Autonomy SIG, I managed to get a photo with him at the reception.  I didn’t realise until later in the week how much Nik and Scott are at-odds with their views on digital technologies and the language classroom, which essentially seem to differ on their use within the class.  More later, with the interviews with both Scott and Nik on the superbly maintained British Council iatefl Glasgow Online site.

The Armadillo
Cylde Auditorium – photo taken on 19 March 2012.


On the first day proper, the opening plenary session came from pronunciation expert, former President and instigator of the Special Interest Groups, Adrian Underhill. I captured his ‘Reflective Practice Blues’ which I shoehorned into an essay on Professional Practice at Warwick one month later. He later gave me permission to upload it to YouTube:


Note: There were four more posts published that week and they can all be found here on my previous Blogger site, along with a webinar I did for the LTSIG in 2013, which Heike Philp arranged. I am now, of course, on the same committee as her.


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