Day 2 of TESOL 2010

Hello again, everyone. It’s about 1:30 here in beautiful Boston, and the conference is shaping up nicely. Since I was here for 11 hours yesterday, I strolled in at 9:45 this morning and am taking the day to explore rather than packing in sessions. This is, after all, my first TESOL and I’d rather soak up a general feel before I delve into specifics.

I stuck around for the opening plenary last night, which started with an address from the exiting TESOL President and the giving of several awards. This year’s recipient of the annual Presidential Award was the Peace Corps. After forty-five minutes of clapping and photo opps, Howard Gardner delivered his plenary speech.

His talk was about his new concept of Five Minds and how they relate to the future of learning. He was quick to say that he hasn’t trimmed his list of Multiple Intelligences, but that these minds are something different. In a nutshell, Gardner argues that the rapid growth of globalization, the digital age, and the biological revolution are creating a necessity for lifelong learning. After detailing the five minds (disciplined, synthesizing, creative, respectful, and ethical) Gardner provided his definition of good work, which must be excellent, ethical, and engaging. In sum, he stressed the need for creating the parameters of “cyber citizenry” with regards to participation and community. As educators, he said, we must be aware of the five minds, provide examples for positive modeling as well as provide examples for negative action and the consequences involved, and that education should emphasize synthesizing skills to help arm students with the tools needed to grapple with an ever expanding world.

My summary of Gardner’s hour-long talk is cursory and superficial, but for a reason. I want to talk about the main thing I took away from it and how it is shaping my experience at TESOL and the way in which I am communicating my experience to you (trying to be a good cyber citizen, you see). When talking about the Disciplined Mind, Gardner mentioned in passing the old adage that education is not about the memorization of rote fact, but learning and practicing skills. He boldly said that it is a waste of time to learn something that you can just look up, especially in the age of hand held streaming information. The important thing, he said, is to learn how to think within a certain framework (scientific, historical, etc.) Causation is different in science than in history, for instance, and it is a fallacy to apply one line of thinking within a context of the other. That really got me thinking. As a Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages, my expert modus operandi is the related pedagogy and methodology. As a young teacher, I should not be overly focused on some narrow aspect within the field. I should be gathering as much disparate data as I can and synthesizing it to create my own approach to teaching.

I feel fortunate that Gardner’s talk brought this into mind as I delve into the world of TESOL this week.

This morning I attended a workshop titled “Literature and Technology for Academic Literacy with Beginning ESL Learners”, which was good, but meant for students younger than I work with. When it was over I took a stroll through the booths and ran into A.C.E. board member Sam Shepherd, who is here as a consultant for STEP EIKIN, and A.C.E. Language Institute Director, Rick O’Connor. At lunch, I bumped into Tim Healy from the Seattle LI and met a teacher from Okinawa (originally) and West Virginia (where she teaches) and it so happened that we were going to the same poster presentation, “A Japanese Style of Communicative Language Teaching through Extensive Reading”. Sadly we arrived just as all the handouts disappeared. (Sidebar: oh, the handouts! TESOL attendees collect them like trophies.) Then, as I was hunched in the corner typing this post, LI Director Sally Thomas came over to say hello. I must say, it is a wonderful sort of feeling traveling across the country for a specialized conference and seeing people you know, and also meeting new people with the same interests as yourself.

Well, that brings us to the present. Left on the agenda for today are joining an interest section and attending a function for new TESOL members. Fun! I’ll be sure to let you know how it all pans out.

–Davey

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