Sunday, 3 March 2013

My first presentation at an international TESOL conference!

Several months ago, a member of my wonderful PLN (personal learning network) on Twitter, Lesley Cioccarelli (@cioccas), sent me a DM (direct message) suggesting that we could perhaps present together at CamTESOL 2013 which would be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in February.  I thought it was a great idea, especially as her proposed topic was 'How teachers can connect via the internet'.  We had an initial 'discussion' on Twitter and agreed that we would submit an abstract before the deadline, which was months away.

Then, as often happens with these things, we were both busy with work and life in general and CamTESOL was put on the back burner - until, that is, I happened to mention our idea in a Tweet to another of our PLN, prompting Lesley to check the date for abstracts and discover that it was the very next day!!  Talk about leaving things to the eleventh hour!!

We hastily put our abstract together and completed the necessary paperwork by sending the forms back and forth via e-mail.  Breathing a joint sigh of relief, we then sat back and waited for confirmation that we had been accepted.  When this arrived a few weeks later, it suddenly became real - it was no longer simply an idea in our heads - we were really going to do this!!  It was so exciting!

In the months leading up to the conference, Lesley and I exchanged a few e-mails expressing our thoughts on our workshop, but, in the end, we decided to leave the main planning to a couple of days before, when Lesley would be staying with me in Binh Duong

So it was that on the Tuesday before the conference, we said goodbye to my Mum at the airport (she had been staying with us for a month) and met up with Lesley.  Although we'd never met before, we recognised each other straight away and it felt like we'd been friends for years!  We talked non-stop during the hour-long taxi journey home and continued all the next day when Lesley came to work with me so we could plan our workshop. 

Lesley had had much more experience than I had of presenting at TESOL conferences, so I was happy to take her advice and 'pinch' slides she'd used in previous presentations when putting ours together.  In truth, though, we worked very well together and agreed that the basis of our workshop should be the story of how we 'met' online and how we came to be collaborating on this project at CamTESOL.  After all, we were living proof of the power of the internet, and social media in particular, to bring colleagues from different parts of the world together.  We decided not to script our presentation, relying instead on anecdotes and our enthusiasm for our subject to carry us through.

These were the details we submiited to the CamTESOL organisers before the event:

Session Title:  Connect with teachers around the world
Subtitle:   How to use the internet to develop a personal learning network (PLN)
Take charge of your own professional development.  By using the internet, you can decide when, where and how to keep up-to-date with all the latest developments in Teaching English as a Foreign Language.  This workshop will show you how to use Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other online forums to learn from, and share ideas with, a huge network of colleagues from all over the world.
We will demonstrate the advantages of building your own PLN and the ease with which it can be done, at no cost to yourselves.  We will share the story of how we came to collaborate on this project through ‘meeting’ online.  You will leave the workshop with the beginnings of your own PLN and the means to develop it further.
This is the PowerPoint we put together:

On the day, we were very ably-assisted by another member of our PLN who we met for the first time at the conference, Mike Griffin (@michaelegriffin).  He moved the slides on for us because neither Lesley nor I had thought about bringing one of those natty remote gadgets that you can use to make the job easier!

In the end, the workshop went extremely well.  Initially, we had planned to have a live link-up to show the power of Twitter.  However, on arrival at the conference, we were told that we would not have an internet connection in our room.  So, in the hour before our presentation, we put out a plea to our PLN to Tweet about their reasons for using Twitter, in the hope that we could at least read out their replies.  As it turned out, a technician did manage to hook us up to the internet just before the workshop started so we were able to show the #CamTESOL feed on TweetChat live.  As is always the case with the amazing people in our PLN, they came up trumps and we were able to demonstrate so effectively why we love Twitter and what it can do in terms of PD and networking.  Thanks to @sandymillin, @SophiaKhan4, @vickyloras, @pterolaur, @gotanda, @leoselivan, @TheSecretDoS. @trylingual, @AnneHendler, @damon_tokyo, @oyajimbo, @forstersensai, and @iTDIpro for their great replies and for the RTs.  Many apologies if I have missed anyone out!!

At the end of the session, we gave out this flyer:


The feedback we had from attendees was all positive - they admired our passion for our subject and had seen for themselves the benefits of developing a PLN.  We met lots of people and hope that we will continue to connect with at least some of them online!!

The whole experience was a really positive one for me and I hope to repeat it fairly soon!  I thank everyone involved, but especially my co-presenter, Lesley Cioccarelli, without whom none of this would have happened!!

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