Keepin’ It Real – IEP Conference at Georgia Tech

        On February 27, 2016, I and many of my fellow MA students attended a conference aimed at IEP teachers all over the southeast region of the United States. Mostly Georgia was represented, but there were a few presenters from Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama. The theme was straightforward, and we kept to that. These were clearly teachers that were currently teachers and we talked about issues that we were facing in our classrooms and gave suggestions we could take back to our classrooms. I attended four of the most useful sessions I’ve attended at professional development activities to date.

        First, I listened to Sanghee Kang, MA student at GSU, talk about her experience using animation tools in her high school classroom in South Korea. While her presentation wasn’t immediately relatable due to the age difference of her students and my students, I was able to leave with a list of resources available to me when I wanted to show animations in my class. I had no idea there were so many free animation tools on the web because this is not something I use when I teach. I realize now that with a little extra effort it may be worth it to hook students struggling with motivation, or students that need a concept presented in a slightly different way. I left this session feeling energized and ready to explore the world of online animators and present them to my students. I also learned that I too, could present what I was doing in my classroom. This sounds weak, but seeing MA students like Sanghee present gave me confidence in myself at future presentations. No, we aren’t all perfect, but all she did was present a technique that worked for her in her classroom, and maybe this whole presenting thing isn’t as hard as I originally thought it would be.

        After Sanghee’s presentation, I attended a presentation by a teacher from University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Language Institute (one I didn’t know existed and will include in future job searches for sure) and learned about audio diaries and teaching speaking proficiency. He presented a project he has his speaking class do multiple times a semester using the application Sound Cloud. I’ve never heard of this and so I was intrigued. Being a member of the millennial generation, I downloaded this and was immediately confused. This app has quite the learning curve. He says he has his students download it to their phones takes a period of class to do this in the computer lab. He teaches them how to create a playlist in sound cloud and record themselves talking, about any topic. He has audio diaries due four or five times a semester, and he corrects them and returns them to students, and they re-record. He says he is more concerned with accuracy than fluency, and this has helped him identify student problems in accuracy. He teaches higher levels. I always thought the opposite, but I usually teach beginners and am excited when they say anything in English accurate or not! But his presentation covered the accuracy vs. fluency debate, giving corrective feedback on students’ recordings, and how he manages the classroom during this time. I thought it was a really useful idea, and one that can be carried to other applications or simply the voice recorder on your smartphone. Why would I spend hours teaching students a new app when they have a recorder on their smartphone or computer? It works for him, great, he likes Sound Cloud, but I’ve used Quick Voice or Google Voice and they do the same thing. I also appreciated looking at his website ( http://www.anthonyteacher.com/  ), as I always get ideas from other teachers and used this time as a networking opportunity.

        I also attended sessions that stood out about a productive use of smartphones in class, teaching peace and cultural understanding, and giving writing feedback. While I appreciated everything that came out of these sessions, I most of all appreciated the time to think and reflect on my teaching practice. I will return to the classroom next Tuesday (even though it’s non-IEP) with a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm). It’s nice to have the opportunity to meet new people and talk to people I already knew outside of class about topics that matter. It was nice to see GA Tech’s Language Institute (even I was a little jealous of their amazing space and materials!) It’s nice to network with other teachers that care! I will be coming back to this conference next year!