All posts by Jen Artan

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:


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


Connecting and learning at the ISTE2017 Conference

In June, I attended the ISTE2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas. ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is a non-profit organization serving over 100,000 educational stakeholders.  ISTE is at the forefront of educational technology, driving change and offering professional development throughout the year.

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Taking the Tech-less Challenge

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I’ve been using, and embracing, technology in the ESL classroom for a few years now.  Working with Level  2 learners in a course partnered with a workplace experience, it was a natural fit.  I had a SMART Board from day 1, access to a computer lab, and training and support provided by LearnIT2Teach to set up a Learning Management System using a Moodle platform.  I also had free and dependable Wi-Fi in the classroom.  I have to admit, I had been getting spoiled.

Some of my colleagues had joked with me about what I would do if I were to be stripped of the technology that I used every day, or if my location were to change,  say, to a church basement or similar.  Then one day last November, it happened.  New location.  No SMART Board.  No Wi-Fi.  Continue reading