Last year, during the “coursework year” of my programme, I attended a lot of conferences on ICTs and education in order to get a good understanding of current trends, research and practice whilst putting together my own research proposal. 2007 was a steep learning curve for me in terms of educational technologies, but as I was also teaching high school Indonesian part-time at the same time, I was able to experiment with some of the things I learned about with my own students. Conference attendance also gave me a good introduction to “conferences” and the “conference circuit,” at least within Australia. Generally, I wasn’t too impressed: so many conference paper presentations over-use PowerPoint, under-use narrative, and leave the audience with little to take away with them. There was a lot of talk about the potential of ICTs, but not a lot of practice.
When I heard that the joint Asia Pacific Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning (APACALL) / Pacific Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning (PacCALL) conference would be held in Indonesia, in both Jakarta and Yogyakarta, I leapt at the opportunity to attend. I’ve just arrived back, and feel refreshed and inspired from an amazing couple of weeks. Globalisation and Localisation in CALL (GLoCALL) was a “good conference” (and for me, a great one!), that lasted for four days. Being so specific to my research area, I gained a lot from it both in terms of current research and practice and in terms of presentation style and expectations. There was a big emphasis on digital storytelling throughout the conference and I discovered that digital storytelling practitioners practice what they preach! When we talk about engaging learners in the classroom, shouldn’t that transfer to engaging conference attendees? It certainly did in this case. The plenary speakers, Debra Hoven and Phil Hubbard, were also excellent presenters and their work was pas for the audience. The audience, after all, was quite a mix: a lot of expat academics (mostly teaching ESL and EFL), a number of local teachers (mainly employed by the conference co-organiser and sponsor Higher Learning); and comprised those new to CALL as well as old-hands. There were only two major disappointments for me: that none of the presentations I attended had full papers available, and that it was difficult to choose sessions without having them being broken into “streams” of practitioner/theory.
Although it was incredibly stressful battling to finish my paper and then changing my presentation at the last minute to be more hands-on (considering my audience), I discovered that yes, I am working in a field that I enjoy and one full of amazing people. GLoCALL had just the right mix of rigour and friendliness, and of support and critique. So what makes a “good conference”? “Cutting-edge” information (yet still with practical application), networking opportunities, formal-yet-informal atmosphere, high-quality presentations, and something pas for you. The problem is knowing that it will be pas before you attend. With the number of photos, blog sites, conference proceedings etc. posted to the internet after an annual conference, this is becoming easier and easier to determine. Bring on GLoCALL 2009 Chiang Mai, I say!
Read Mark Pegrum’s blog post on the Jakarta conference:
See the photobook from my trip:
See my conference slides: