Come On Baby, Light My Fire…

I tend to write my conference reflections as soon as possible after the conference for obvious reasons. (Obvious = getting old and forgetting stuff quickly)  I promised myself that this conference I would self-indulge, go only to the workshops that light my fire. Since the time I had to actually attend workshops was minimal (I was doing other things for the conference), I wanted to make that time count.

I attended no PBLA workshops.  I’m a little PBLA’ed out. Thursday began early with a long list of workshops/presentations I wanted to attend.  My first poster presentation was 8:30 am and I had the good fortune to be right beside Gonul Turkdogan, whom I had met virtually in TESL Ontario webinars.  We worked together right away to problem-solve her poster dilemma (ultra thick cardboard would not stay up with the puny thumbtacks we had with us. We ended up fashioning a kind of a noose with packing tape around the poster – we Macgyvered it nicely and it didn’t budge for the entire conference.). Gonul’s poster presentation was popular (I had poster-envy!); she was bright and engaging members with her timely and relevant topic on extensive reading and its benefits for our adult learners.  Bonus for me – I got to practice my (rather limited) Turkish with her.

People Power

Other encounters I had… I’m realizing now that it’s the PEOPLE that made the biggest impact on me rather than the presentations, and exhibitors hall.  I got to touch base with some of my favourite people in the ESL world – Nancy Van Dorp (and her lively LIT2T crew), Allison Keown, Sarah, Lynn, Sharon, Svetlana, Eva, Faith,  Diane, Rabia, Kevin (squared), Claudie… and so many others. Walking down the corridors of the Sheraton took me ages, because I’d constantly be connecting with y’all. I missed one or two workshops I had planned on attending because I was having a far more interesting conversation en route.

Let me also say that I’m humbled by the comments I’ve been receiving.  Seems like many of you know who I am (and I usually know you, but often don’t put name AND face together until later!) because of the work I’ve been doing with the incredibly talented TESL Ontario webinar team. It’s a little hard not to get an over inflated ego.  I joke that I’ll only sign autographs on my official O-Pee-Chee trading card… (hm, marketing idea – ESL trading cards. I can see it now – I’ll trade you my Scott Thornbury for your first edition Stephen Krashen…).

But seriously, the vibe at the conference was positive and hopeful.  The conversations were about the learners, and practical pedagogy. Even the AGM was calm.  The reception profiled not one but three amazing Sparks of Excellence awards winners with truly incredible accomplishments.  Also, Patrick, I meant to tell you that I love your shoes. I want them. We didn’t actually talk, but we will one day… And your colleagues cheering you on with mini-Patrick face-sign paddles was one of the highlights of the event.  Glad I was able to capture that on the live tweet feed (#TESL2018 on Twitter – just do a search and you’ll find a wealth of comments, resources, pics from the conference).

Tech Know – Tech Ya!

This year TESL Ontario put on a kind of a speed-dating educational technology gig, and I thought it worked nicely.  There were a number of tables set up with a kind of a menu so members could choose a tech-table they were most interested in – and rotate after about 15 minutes of the demo.  The participants seemed to be enjoying themselves. Some wanted more time at the tables – but hey, speed dating is just a taste, and I think the approach worked well. As much as I liked presenting at this kind of event, I realized I would have loved to have been a participant at some of the other tables.

Remote Success

I once saw a squirrel fall out of a tree.  Seriously. I heard a rustling, looked up, and whack!  Landed on the ground about three feet in front of me. He shook it off, and scampered back up the tree before his buddies could laugh at him, or balance-shame him.  It got me thinking – there this squirrel was, in his element when out of nowhere he takes a face plant into the ground below. As someone who is generally regarded as a “techie”, I know the feeling of thinking you’ve got it all worked out, but whack!  You end up on your tail, hoping the other squirrels aren’t judging you too harshly. And to be honest, they’re not. They’re just enjoying their nuts, and glad it’s not *them* pretending they meant to fall off the branch.

Friday witnessed a landmark in TESL Ontario’s conference history – our first remote sessions featuring the webinar platform we use in Tutela and a live audience as well as a remote one, for those that couldn’t make the trip to TO.  We had three such sessions, and I have a confession to make: I was terrified that the tech wouldn’t work. Ironic, given my assigned status as “techie” (see squirrel reference above).. I had nightmares about it – weird ones, I guess, not scary ones.  Like me showing up to moderate in my pajamas, forgetting that we’d actually have a live audience. But never fear, Diane Ramanathan was near. She assured me that I could handle the moderating of the live/remote session. Diane was right – the remote sessions were a success.  Our keynote Dr. Deborah Healey was a seasoned pro able to engage both audiences simultaneously. And the affable John Allan was his brilliant self – always a crowd pleaser on the webinar front. Glad to have had him present “live” so that he could connect once again to his TESL Ontario colleagues and friends.  The PBLA session that was our first remote/live experiment had a capacity crowd – but I got the feeling that most PBLA sessions were standing room only. I can’t say that for sure, because like I said before, my embers were burning elsewhere.

To round out my conference experience, I attended the LearnIT2Teach project update (super cool stuff happening in the near future with Onyx), then I let my colleague take me to whatever workshop she wanted to to end our day.  It was Jennifer St. John from University of Ottawa discussing her pronunciation class. Glad I attended, because I picked up a few ideas that I plan to use next week.

So, TESL Ontario #TESL2018 conference is now a thing of the past, but it was two packed and loaded days of stimulating conversation, chance encounters with some amazing people, and a head spinning with ideas to bring back to my learners.  I’ve got something of a conference hangover right now, but in a good way. To all of the tireless volunteers that helped out, a heartfelt thanks and virtual fist-bump because you smoothed the path for so many of us. Keep coming to the TESL Ontario webinars in Tutela so we can fan the fires of the conference spirit throughout the year.


Till next year.  I’ll be back. With my trading card…

This post was originally published on TESL London’s Blog on November 5, 2018 by Jen Artan:


Join the conversation November 6th on #CdnELTchat

image source: #CdnELTchatt

If you’re a Twitter user, read on to learn all about how you can join the next #CdnELTchat which takes place tomorrow, November 6th.  Below is a recap of last month’s chat from the #CdnELTchat moderators.

In our personal lives, we use YouTube playlists, Facebook feeds, pins on Pinterest, Instagram feeds, saved tweets on Twitter etc. to save and share videos, news, images and information. With the increase of accessible information and resources online, what can educators and students do to curate content effectively?  Bonnie Jean Nicholas (@EALStories) and Jennifer Chow (@jennifermchow) moderated a #CdnELTchat on “Content Curation” to explore this topic.

Continue reading


TechKnow at the TESL ON 2018 Conference

image source:

For the last 20 years, TESL Ontario has held technology workshops at the annual conference to introduce and provide conference attendees with the opportunity to learn from the many individuals who utilize technology in the classroom. Over the years, the interest has grown along with the opportunities to use technology from computers to tablets to smart phones. Most of our students have one or several of these devices. The use of these devices Continue reading


Learning and Resilience

image source:

This year at the TESL ON conference, Asmaa Cober, Sanctuary Refugee Health Centre, will be one of our Keynote Speakers. The following blog post was written by Asmaa. Here she gives you a synopsis of her keynote address:

Learning never happens in a vacuum — people bring all of their experiences with them to the classroom. Newcomers (and refugees in particular) have a life history — experiences that greatly affect their ability to learn. We will explore some of the types of experiences that refugees bring with them to the classroom. Continue reading


How to Reduce Stress and Promote Positive Mental Health in Adult Learners

image source: Toronto Public Health

October 1st marked the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week. But, what exactly is mental health and why does it need a special week?

Mental health is an important part of our overall health and well-being. In the same way we all experience physical health; we also all experience mental health. Continue reading


Use Technology for an ESL Scavenger Hunt

Tourists using navigation tools to explore the city. Man with two women friends exploring the city with travel accessories.
image source:

At some point in your classroom, you’ve probably created a scavenger hunt for your students. You know, the type where you hide things and provide questions, clues, or riddles to find the hidden items. These scavenger hunts have traditionally been used as a way to get students familiar with their surroundings or as vocabulary association exercises. But add the wonders of technology and the increase of ownership of mobile devices by students, and you can take scavenger hunting to a whole new level. Continue reading


Gamification in Education: Hype or Useful Teacher Tool?

image source:

This year at the TESL ON conference, Deborah Healey, TESOL International Association, will be one of our Keynote Speakers. The following blog post was written by Deborah. Here she gives you a taste of what she will be sharing at the conference.

Gamification in Education: Hype or Useful Teacher Tool? This is a question that I’ve been asking for the past few years, as I’ve tried gamifying some of my classes. Most teachers (myself included) have long used games in the English language classroom and in teacher training to encourage motivation and add a fun factor to learning. Some teachers have been able to use game-based learning, where a game sets the context for learning. Continue reading


The “Good Old Days” Are History

For many of us, our parents or grandparents graduated from high school, walked into a permanent full-time job, and stayed there until retirement. That’s not the case for the majority of people these days.

Many ESL professionals are on short-term contracts, working at multiple locations, or looking for their next way to earn a living. TESL Ontario makes every effort to stay relevant for its members, and a recent member survey showed the need for this topic to be addressed. Continue reading


#CdnELTchat: A Great forum to share your ideas

image source: BC TEAL

Calling all Twitter enthusiasts. Have you followed the BC TEAL’s twitter chats?  If not read on to learn all about how you can join the next chat: happening October 9th. Below is a note from the #CdnELTchat moderators.

Thank-you to everyone who joined moderators, Svetlana Lupasco (@StanzaSL) and Bonnie Jean Nicholas (@EALStories) for the first #CdnELTchat of the fall term. Continue reading


Peace by Chocolate – A Newcomer Success Story

I was able to attend the presentation given by Tareq Hadhad, owner of “Peace by Chocolate” at the Toronto Reference Library this past summer.  My Specialized Language Training course was just wrapping up; within the course, learners explored local entrepreneurs and local small business stories.  Peace by Chocolate showed up as a news story sometime in May, and immediately I could see the relevance for my group of adult newcomers.  I created a skill-building activity related to the news article, Daily bite: Peace by Chocolate names new bar after Mi’kmaq word For peace and the class responded with a great deal of enthusiasm, hope, and energy.  The reason they did so was because they connected emotionally to the story.  Peace by Chocolate is more than a success story for newcomers to Canada.  It’s a chronicle that exemplifies what it means to never give up, to pursue your passion, to develop strong community relationships, and to do what’s right. Continue reading