ELTjam & Cambridge English Language Assessment’s event at IATEFL 2017

With the bright lights and whisky nights of IATEFL still ringing in our ears, we thought it might be a good idea to take stock of what actually happened to us last week in Glasgow. There was such a lot to take in, and so many awesome people to catch up with, that it all flew by in a little bit of a blur.

One thing we’re sure happened was that we put on a joint event with Cambridge English Language Assessment on the evening of the 4th April. It took place in a poetry club nestled amongst disused archway units beneath rambunctious railway lines. It was actually strangely flattering to get a number of comments related to our un-conference-y choice of venue. A couple of times throughout the night guests pointed out that, as they were approaching the venue along a dark, dingey industrial road, they took a moment to appreciate how  ‘very ELTjam’ it was. Proud face emoji.

The theme of the night was learner-centred innovation and what that means (or could mean) for ELT. We really wanted to include a range of perspectives on the topic and to share ideas on how it was being interpreted and applied across the industry. As such, we lined up a panel of speakers that would cover a range of voices, vocations and experiences.

They were given only 5 minutes and one slide to communicate their ideas, and they did an exceptional job (see the videos below for each of their talks).

We also took the opportunity to launch the ELTjam Academy, our online platform to deliver training to help ELT professionals thrive in a changing industry. Our own Nick Robinson introduced the Academy, and shared a promotional code for everyone to access our flagship course – ELT in the Digital Age – for free. We’ve gone one step further; now you only need to click on this link to enrol in the course for free. No code required. This will be active until the end of April.

Andrew Nye

In this opening talk of the evening, Andrew Nye (Assistant Director, Digital & New Product Development at Cambridge English Language Assessment) begins by sharing why the concept of learner-centred innovation is so important to them as an organisation. He talks about Clayton M. Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma and how, although they are a large, well-established organisation, Cambridge English is finding ways to be disruptive. He explains how they are working at being a bolder organisation that hears directly from the learners themselves. He also mentions the launch of the new The Digital Teacher website, which will be the home of teacher training and resources around digital competencies. He wraps his introduction with a salient reading from W. H. Auden’s poem, Leap Before You Look.

Gillian Davidson

Up next is Gillian, Group Academic Director at EC Language Schools, bringing the school manager perspective to the evening. Gillian shares how EC has been working hard to put the learner at the centre of the learning process across their centres. She talks about a new way of processing learners that they have introduced to help them do that, as well as their digital content platform, EC Online. She mentions their drive towards more learning-centred research and how they launched a competition for teachers to submit their ideas for a chance to take part in the upcoming InnovateELT conference. Finally, she introduces their hybrid learning initiative, Fusion.

Raquel Ribeiro

Following Gillian is Raquel Ribeiro, bringing a teacher-innovator perspective to the talks. She teaches at Cultura Inglesa in Sao Paulo, blogs on teaching with tech, and trains teachers on how to integrate mobile devices into their teaching practice. Raquel shares an incredible example of how she’d used technology in her own classroom to help a visually impaired student feel properly integrated in the class. She then describes how she started using Google docs with her learners to make the most of those valuable, often overlooked, moments at the very beginning of a lesson.

Anna Lloyd

To share the large educational organisation perspective we have Anna Lloyd, Head of Education Technology at Cambridge English Language Assessment. In her segment, Anna talks about the importance of getting the problem right and how you need to work with the learner as directly as possible. She then shares examples of where Cambridge English has been doing this. For example, noticing the types of comments and complaints that learners are making on their Facebook page and responding to those needs rather than just language learning ones, as well as how they have managed to amass over 3000 videos of learners sharing their real problems.

Dean Jacobs

Bringing the EdTech perspective to the evening was Dean Jacobs, CEO of Wibbu. In his five minutes, Dean talks about how Wibbu apply learner-centred innovation in their game development work. In particular, he discusses how Wibbu went about developing motivation and enhancing intrinsic motivation in their recent release, Ruby Rei.

Nick Robinson

To round up the evening, ELTjam’s Nick Robinson introduced our latest project – the ELTjam Academy. He talks about the conversations that really started shaping our thinking around the Academy. He describes how the Academy is intended for anyone in ELT that has the sneaking suspicion that the industry is changing around them. Lastly, he introduces our course partners and gives the crowd access to our first course – ELT in the Digital Age – for free. You can enrol in the course for free now by clicking on this very link.

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