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Exams Catalunya 5th Annual ELT Conference – Reflections

Last weekend I attended the Exams Catalunya 5th Annual ELT Conference at ESADE in Barcelona. The theme of the conference was how to maximise interaction between learners and teachers to optimise learning outcomes. I was pleased to see that the role of Ed Tech as a tool to scaffold learning was given some attention. The audience was asked at the opening plenary to complete the following sentence, one which for me brings up many ideas:

Learning is ……………… with technology

Answers included, ‘fun’, ‘real’, ‘meaningful’, and ‘learner-centred’. Personally I think learning becomes attractive with technology, if, and that’s a large if, the learners use tech in their daily lives outside the classroom. I think this is an important factor to take into consideration when using educational technology for teaching and learning. Not all 50-year olds, and 6-year olds own their own, and/or feel confident with using technology, so its use needs to be specifically employed with clear pedagogical goals in mind.

One of the most interesting talks I attended, shared research about a project carried out with learners in a secondary school in Barcelona. The teacher was faced with a teaching puzzle where she had many proficient teenage learners, some with English-speaking parents, studying English in her Baccalaureate class, and was stuck for ideas about what to teach, that would include all levels. She took the brave decision to hand the teaching over to her students as a peer-teaching project, and the project was a huge success. Differentiation is an issue in many classrooms, and the obvious solution is to mix students with more and less proficient peers for different activities, so everybody learns from each other. This project took that idea further and demonstrated outstanding creativity from the learners.

The two main messages I took away from the conference were useful reminders to…

1: Never underestimate the creativity of the learners you have sat before you in the classroom.

2: Think carefully who your learners are and their background use with digital technology, before presuming they are happy and agile with its use.

Thank you to Exams Catalunya and all the presenters that gave the talks I attended.