I am back home in São Paulo after an exhausting but delightful 10-day stay in the Big Apple, where I not only had the opportunity to attend some great presentations, meet up with the webheads in action, extend contacts and conversations but also talk to ex-students of mine, see my cousin, walk around, photograph and enjoy the city that never sleeps.
The first week was devoted to the convention, lively diner outings with the webheads and my own presentation on Open and Participatory Media in Language Learning, at 7:30 am on Saturday, an ungodly hour to draw even the staunchest enthusiasts. Thank you Nina and Rita for being there.
From the presentations I attended, I would like to highlight two:
- Suresh Canagarajah’splenary opening keynote “Worlds of Practice: in search of a community , which Carla Arena has documented in pictures
- Randi Harlev’s paper presentation: Challenging Assumptions: Tools for Tesol Teacher Education.
Through an engaging personal narrative, spiced with humorous and irreverent comments, Suresh introduced and illustrated Etienne Wenger’s concepts of participation vs reification, designed vs emergent, identification vs negotiability and local vs global. He also mentioned the duality and tensions inherent in boundary practice (“introducing elements from one practice to another”), the multi-faceted identity of multi-lingual teachers and the role of the broker, i.e., multi-membership and action in different communities. Tongue-in-cheek, he challenged a number of current centralized practices and non-questioned Tesol mores.
Randi linked back to some of the same concepts in her presentation and urged teachers to bear in mind the role of assumptions in guiding teaching and learning so as to better understand specific choices in the classroom and how they can conflict with new learning or provide possibilities for innovation. She encouraged teachers to explore and examine their own assumptions and connect them to acts of meaning. Some of the authors mentioned were Edgar Schein, Michael Halliday and Devon Woods
The first, called up by Michael Coghlan (staying in New York with Jonathan Finkelstein, president of Learning Times) and booked by Rita Zeinstejer happened at an Irish pub on Tuesday. It was a small intimate meeting as many wias were still not in town or had just arrived. Bronwyn Stuckey, from CPsquare, stayed in NY after the AERA convention especially for this meet up. I had met and been generously hosted by Bron during my stay in Sydney earlier this year so it was a pleasure to see her again, chat and share the room.
On Thursday night, Carla booked at the Becco, whose waiters tried hard to accommodate the increasing number of arrivals and orders. Dennis Oliver’s roses were the high point of the diner, from which Moira, in her shiny black vampire coat, “led me astray” with the invitation to join Roger Drury and his partner David for the jazz show at the Blue Note and a late drink at the Slaughtered Lamb. I felt definitely bleary-eyed and washed-out the following morning…lol
I used Twitter to arrange a meeting with Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim f2f at the Satellite Academy, where they invited me to take part of their weekly Writing Project encounter. Vance Stevens decided to join us at the last minute and we also had the pleasure to meet Gina Moss and Ken Stein.
Paul had interviewed me online for Teachers Teaching Teachers, a weekly webcast on the EdTechTalk channel of the WorldBridges network. My 8th grade students also interacted with some of their classes during the Edubridges Elgg project in 2006. He and Susan are presently experimenting with Hypertextopia and how students’ writing changes in this online environment.
On Saturday, I visited João and Daniela, two ex-students of mine from the Lycée who got married, had a baby and are now installed in NY, working and doing their PhD. I had not seen them for at least 10 years, so it was nice to listen to their impressions and stories. I also spent a good many hours in Central Par that day, walking and photographing , enjoying the balmy spring weather, flowers and activities and, finally exhausted, sat down for lunch at the MET. Sunday was family meeting with my cousin who drove me around and took me for lunch to a typical immigrant Polish restaurant in Lower East Side.
Through Twitter, I also learnt George Siemens happened to be in NY (with his wife Karen) for a conference. We arranged to meet on Tuesday night for diner. Michael Coghlan, with whom I did most of the sightseeing tours on Monday and Tuesday, joined us as well at the French Toast uptown. After acknowledging men often employ war metaphors in their discourse, we embarked on a dense conversation on what it takes to make a revolution and how the wider access to information brought about by the Internet requires new approaches to how people interact with it and connect with each other. According to George, what is known is a function of how it’s connected/related to other known elements and the value of this is not inherent but contextual. Information becomes knowledge through our connection with others. This is nothing new, however, the revolutionary idea is that it is now open and extended to a larger number of citizens and not just an elite. This will lead to systemic changes which will affect how we view teaching, determine content and curriculum and how we accredit learning.
This was definitely an event jam-packed with activities, meetings and connections, which may spark new action patterns.