Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Observations and Takeaways from the 2014 LA Regional CATESOL Conference

As I get more and more excited about the upcoming TESOL14 International Conference, I realized I had yet to share and reflect on my most recent conference experience. The experience of presenting was pretty spectacular, and one I will save for another post. Here I would like to share a few things I learned as an attendee, and hopefully gain some insight which may allow me to have an even deeper and more useful experience at the next conference.
I thought that the conference was planned, organized, and executed impeccably. From check-in to plenary speaker and throughout the day, everything went smoothly and was easy to find. The committee did an excellent job.
I also really appreciated the variety of presentations. Though I was not able to attend as many sessions as I would have liked to,  due to a later arrival and a presentation of my own, I was really impressed by the range of topics that were covered. Presenters ranged from students to local teachers to textbook writers, though all demonstrated the same passion that characterizes the conference-attending crowd.
Last but certainly not least, I was pretty surprised to see the relatively low level of technological engagement at the conference. Though several presenters broached the topic of technology in the classroom in one way or another, there were very few people who appeared to actually be making use of technology in the conference setting. A couple of other people tweeted throughout the day, but for the most part the #CATESOLLA hashtag was eerily silent. And though the participants in the lunchtime technology rap session seemed to have an honest interest in integrating technology in the classroom, the discussion died around a discussion of “cool websites” to use and did not go much further. It definitely made me feel grateful for my PLN and all of the opportunities in online professional development I have found. I hope that more people will take advantage of these resources in the future!
All in all, it was a wonderful experience. The day was sunny and beautiful, the sessions were interesting, and the air was full of the kind of fired-up energy that I love about ELT conferences.

Takeaways for the next conference:
1. Take a page out of the conference committee’s book and get organized. Stay on top of the schedule, know what is happening where, and squeeze in as much as possible.
2. Cover all the bases. Though it might be tempting to only go to sessions which directly relate to your specific field, try to spread it out and participate in a variety of sessions and workshops.
3. Use all of the resources available to you, especially tech! Conference apps, blogs, and social media will all allow you have a more connected and effective conference experience, so don’t hold back.

A week from today I will be in Portland. Can’t wait for #TESOL14!

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