LIFE&STYLE

KOTESOL International Conference covers changes in teaching

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  • Published : Oct 18, 2011 - 19:56
  • Updated : Oct 18, 2011 - 19:56
Korea Teachers of English as a Second or Other Language held its annual international conference at Sookmyung Women’s University on Saturday and Sunday.

More than 170 lectures, workshops and discussions held by English teaching professionals, including three plenary speeches, filled a packed schedule.

Stephen Krashen of the University of Southern California used a breakneck speech to suggest that direct instruction of grammar, phonics and other aspects was much less beneficial than commonly thought.

He argued passionately that voluntary reading was the most effective thing learners could do.

Professor Kumaravadivelu of San Jose State University in Southern California spoke on cultural awareness, arguing that learning facts and information about cultures was not enough. Instead, he said a more involved discussion of global awareness was needed.

“Learning about others will only lead to cultural literacy,” he said. “What kind of cultural literacy do we promote in our classrooms? Food, fashion, festivals. These are all superficial cultural artifacts. We need to go much deeper.”
Professor B. Kumaravadivelu delivers his plenary speech at the KOTESOL International Conference at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul on Saturday. (Paul Kerry/The Korea Herald)

Keith Folse, professor of TESOL at the University of Florida, spoke practically about grammar, stressing that prepositions, the present perfect and phrasal verbs were the three areas English learners struggled most with.

He said an overemphasis on speaking made prepositions hard to learn because they are not normally emphasized in conversation.

Featured speakers visited from universities in Canada, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, speaking about themes including cross cultural communication, the use of language banks and self evaluation.

Ken Beatty of Anaheim University in the U.S. spoke enthusiastically about the benefits of using computers and especially social networks and other internet applications.

He said language labs had become redundant, asking: “What can you do with a language lab that you could not do with a few laptops and headphones?”

Beatty also highlighted problems that arise with using cloud computing in education, something which may become an issue here as Korean schools increasingly adopt new technology. He pointed out that Canadian schools were not allowed to use it out of concern for children’s rights.

“It violates privacy laws because you don’t know where it’s being stored and you certainly don’t know what it’s being used for,” he said.

More Korea-specific sessions included a panel session on social media and surviving Korea featuring well-known bloggers, a discussion of the prospects for change in teaching policy by Leonie Overbeek and an introduction by Michael Free to activities from the “Elementary School English” book used in Korean schools.

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)