Category Archives: Conferences

Ramblings of an ELT…rambler

by Sandra Pitronaci

Hi AusELT friends,

Over the last few months I’ve been exposed to fascinating input and ideas from a few different education events, and have decided to jot down what I call the ‘nuggets’ here, in our ever-broadening Community of Practice. These are the ideas and phrases that encapsulate my educational beliefs or pry open my world view, and remain with me long after the events have been packed away; these are the notions I mull over and draw from, where I find professional and ethical validation and consolation. I hope you find they can add value to your own professional ruminations.

September saw the ever-enjoyable English Australia Conference unfold in Sydney. I had an insider’s perspective this time around via the conference organising committee, and was mightily impressed by the staggering number and quality of abstracts put forward. Respect to all you ELT teachers out there – I am so glad to be part of such a highly-engaged and dedicated group of professionals.

The theme was Thriving in Changing Times, and as a committee member, chairing individual sessions was both a privilege and an exceptional learning curve – responsibility for one room/stream led to me attending sessions I may not have otherwise chosen, and as a result, I learnt many random pieces of information, such as the fact that Australia has the highest visa processing fees in the world, courtesy of Tim Eckenfels (IH). Denise Metzger (UNSW Global) encouraged us to embrace a growth mindset, with specific advice on how to effectively praise students. Turns out that “You’re a natural, I know you can do this!” is in fact de-motivating, as it is not rewarding genuine effort. I cringe in guilt at the vacuous platitudes I may have sincerely offered to my students over the years…

Fiona Wiebusch (UQ ICTE) and Clare Magee (UTS Insearch) reminded us that PD can happen in many different and unique spaces and places. I indulge in an inner grin as the image of our staff kitchen where deconstruction of lesson plans and lunch plates, so artfully blurred, flashes by. Donna Cook (ACU), Vickie Bos (UQ ICTE) and Nicole Patterson (Study Qld) encouraged us to consider that it’s not all about us providing for international students – they bring a richness and energy of their own into our community and we should go about recognising, fostering and promoting it so that others may see and learn from them. Again, chagrin.

Plenary speaker Antonia Clare, much admired for her bright energy and the passion she has brought to the Speakout series, lifted our hearts by helping us remember that emotion and cognition are closely linked, and that for our students to learn well, we need to engage their emotions. And a great big shout out to those of you who honoured Barbara Craig (Flinders), and me, Sandra Pitronaci (MQ ELC), with your presence at our Servant Leadership workshop. We valued your honest discussion, and we thank you once again for participating so enthusiastically.

The highlight of the conference for me, besides watching a bunch of ELT folk nutbushing the night away, and another bunch of ELT folk bravely ad-libbing through a Theatresports rite of passage, was absorbing the wisely spoken words of Sue Blundell, presenter on the Women in Leadership Panel. Organised by Aparna Jacob (UNSW Global), and including Heather Thomas (UOW), and Jenni Coster (Monash), the discussion centred around surviving and thriving in political environments. Sue’s words were a salve to my heart. “Be the peacemaker. Find solutions. Peacemakers transcend politics and focus on making progress”. A bright gold nugget clenched tightly in my fist as I spent the evenings after the conference watching our Federal Parliament transcend into the hellish depths of ego-driven leadership spills and shameless in-house bullying.

English Australia, and most especially Sophie O’Keefe, you have once again done us proud. What a profession, and what dedicated professionals. International students are being so carefully and so generously served by you all, as are we.

Soon after the English Australia Conference was over, I rambled across the ditch and over the hill, to attend and co-present at the CLESOL Conference in Christchurch. My LOTE background and a past life working with a Community Language School drew me over, along with a fascination for the strength of te reo Maori in the New Zealand linguistic space, and how our Kiwi cousins have been progressing in leaps and bounds. Language revitalisation projects are considered modest by the Kiwis, yet as an Aussie, knowing how we have neglected the languages of our First Nations People, their initiatives blew my mind. And obligations do not end at adhering to the New Zealand Standards, but also include honouring the Waitangi Treaty by embedding Maori perspective into the curriculum. I know we’re working on it back here, but I feel we still have much to catch up on. Plenaries by Paulette Tamati-Elliffee, Jeanette King and Rae Si’ilata on te reo Maori and Pasifika languages helped broaden my world view by a number of notches, and while I spent the weekend feeling slightly ashamed, I left somewhat hopeful. I might lack the knowledge and expertise to be of service in the language revitalisation of Indigenous Australian Languages, yet it was heartening to see language-teaching colleagues throwing their heart and soul into the study and revitalisation of te reo Maori, and I know there are colleagues both Indigenous and non-Indigenous doing the same in Australia. If any of you out there know any colleagues who are doing so, or who have ideas on embedding culture into the curriculum, perhaps we could do an AusELT post showcasing their work?

The CLESOL Conference also hosted a plenary by Angel Lin, Simon Fraser University, acknowledging and encouraging translanguaging and trans-semiotizing. Gone are the days of the ‘interlanguage’, and oh how I most dearly embrace my clumsily emergent meaning-making… Perhaps my countless half-finished phrased and gestures cast into the wind in either/both/neither languages aren’t so meaningless after all… Then Macquarie’s very own Phil Benson led us through learning English in the multilingual city of Sydney, where thoughtful management of ‘spatial circumstances’ can greatly enhance language learning opportunities. My nugget from Phil – that a ‘post-social’ view of applied linguistics is person-centred, and sees individuals as agents of their own socialisation. My rambler’s suitcase is now emptied, but I’m still unpacking that notion. And once again, thank you to those of you who attended my session with Barbara Craig – such a delight to immerse ourselves back in our old primary and high school teaching worlds plus hear your perspectives from current times.

CLESOL Conference, you were an intense moment of immense growth, and I recommend you to anyone. Kerstin Dofs, an honour to meet you, and Daryl Streat, sorry not to have crossed paths in the real world.

Just as my language and education immersion fortnight was almost over, along came a lucky pass to the ABC’s Q&A Teaching Special, courtesy of Angie Nazim (UNSW Global). (We would have taken AusELT’s Clare McGrath with us, but it turns out she isn’t demographically fascinating enough). I was lured in by the appearances of Pasi Sahlberg, now at the UNSW Gonski Institute, and Eddie Woo, maths teacher extraordinaire at Cherrybrook Technology High, and creator of WooTube. Joining them were Cindy Berwick (NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group), Gabbie Stroud (author of Teacher), Jennifer Buckingham (Centre for Independent Studies), and of course the ever-sharp Tony Jones. A feast of topics, and a huge diversity of ideas and opinions on the NAPLAN test, selective schools, disadvantaged schools, remote schools, demoralised teachers, teacher autonomy as professionals, teacher qualifications and school funding.

One of the final questions of the night had many wondering if there was still hope. In Eddie Woo’s words, yes, there is, as we teachers are ‘professional non-giver-upperers’. I like you, Eddie. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to put my burning question to Pasi Sahlberg: What would be the single most important thing we should be doing in this country to improve our education system? AusELT folk, perhaps you have some ideas?


AusELT group members at the CLESOL Conference (left to right: Sandra Pitronaci, Rike Tegge, Julie van Dyke, Tricia Lewis)

#AusELT Twitter chat – Conference/PD Swap Shop – Sunday 1st October 2017

Photos from QATESOL Regional Conference in Mackay: Arizio Sweeting presenting and the book display

Arizio Sweeting presenting and the book display at the QATESOL Regional Conference in Mackay, August 2017 (photo by @cioccas)

Note: This chat has now taken place. You can read the transcript here

The 2017 English Australia Conference was just a week ago, and we know many of you were there based on the volume of posts on Facebook and Twitter. Possibly you’re still processing and reflecting on what you learned and want to discuss it with others?  Well, join us on Twitter this Sunday to share your highlights and ask questions.

If you weren’t in Adelaide last week, that’s no problem – you can share your experience and learning from any conference or other PD from throughout the year. Share with colleagues from around Australia what you saw, what you loved, what you found interesting or controversial. Let’s identify the hot topics for 2017 by comparing experiences from different events.

If you presented at a conference or other event, especially if it was your first time, share your experience with others to inspire them to step up next time!

At this time of year #AusELT hosts a chat on Twitter where we swap experiences, reflections, resources, links, etc. from PD we’ve done the year. If you haven’t been lucky enough to get to any events this year, come along and get a taste of what was on offer from those who did. It’s a good opportunity to ask questions and/or share new/interesting ideas that have come your way lately from sources other than conferences.

This#AusELT Twitter chat took place on Sunday 1st October 2017 at 8:30 pm AEDT (Canberra time). You can read the transcript here.

QATESOL Regional Conference, Mackay,August 2017 - Carmel Davies workshop

Carmel Davies leading a song in her workshop at the QATESOL Regional Conference in Mackay, August 2017 (photo by @cioccas)

This post by @cioccas

Conference and Networking Tips – A summary of the #AusELT Twitter chats in July & August 2017

Audience at a conference

This post is a summary of the #AusELT Twitter chats of July and August 2017.

I’d like to extend a very big thank you to everyone who took part during the chats as well as those who commented and made suggestions afterwards. Unlike our other chats where we have used Storify to summarise the chats, this post is a step by step summary that will hopefully be easy to follow and help all of us make the most of the conferences we attend both in terms of learning and networking. We are publishing it now with all eyes on the upcoming English Australia conference, but the information will be useful for any other conferences as well.

Before the conference

Planning is a key element in making the most of a conference. These before tips focus mostly on activating your contact list and planning what you intend to learn at the conference.

  1. Research the presenters

This gives you a hook to chat about later and might make it easier to approach the presenter and thank them for the session or ask questions. It also helps with structuring which sessions you can or should attend and which you might not learn much from.

  1. Read about the topic of presentations

In classrooms we try to activate students’ background knowledge before dealing with a topic. Going into a session with that ‘schemata’ already activated and with some additional knowledge about the topic allows you to make more of the session.

  1. Get your questions ready before the session

Go into a session with questions you want answered and if the speaker doesn’t answer them ask. Presenters generally appreciate questions and if you do ask a question they cannot answer, most presenters will get back to you via email.

  1. How will you record ideas and link contacts?

Plan ahead on how you will make notes. I personally scribble all kinds of strange symbols that make sense to only me, but it helps me to scan over my notes to find things I wanted to read more about later, or an idea I wanted to try in a classroom. It also helps me to find ideas in all my notes that I intended to share with colleagues or friends.

  1. Prep essentials charger, phone, business cards, money, etc.

This seems like a very obvious one, but it is better to make a list of all the things you need and be sure to check them of the list as you pack.

  1. Look at the program and plan your day

Find out who else is going and try to cover more sessions by splitting up and sharing later of possible. Sometimes it is also nice to be in a session with someone you know. If it’s a long or complex program, select a theme to follow.

During the conference

  1. Split up

As a group, don’t go to all the same sessions. Share questions, split up, make notes, meet up and share. This allows you to make the most of the conference in more than one way. If you hear others talking about a session that you didn’t attend and you are comfortable with doing so, ask them some questions.

  1. Plan what you will leave with

The freebies are great, but remember you have to carry them in your luggage later.

  1. Rest in between

Take time to reflect mid conference. Pace yourself. You need time to reflect and ensure that the plan you came with is being followed.

  1. Notes

Make notes in the sessions and walk in with your questions so your notes match them as far as possible. Take part in the session especially if it is a workshop. Use a structure that works for you.

  1. Make contacts

Make contact with people you can network with after. Tweet during the conference and/or post on social media. It allows other people to notice you.

Take pictures with people you connect with, or sessions you are in, so you can remember them later on.

After the conference

  1. Email the presenter

Most presenters make their email addresses available. I appreciate a thank you mail and I am sure most other presenters do to. Thanking them for the session and the information is a nice gesture that could lead to future contacts.

  1. Plan time to think about new info and share

It is important to reflect and put into practice what you have learned. Sharing with colleagues also allows you to reflect more deeply.

  1. Experiment

Try new ideas and write reflections. Evaluate how effective they were or not and adjust. Then when you are planning your next conference, use these reflections to structure the questions that you plan beforehand.

  1. Share with colleagues and create discussion groups online or F2F

Compare notes to previous conferences and look for overlap, holes that could generate new questions and other things you need to find out. Uses the ‘Question – Learn – Reflect – Question’ cycle.

5. Create a mini PD share ideas with others.

Write a blog post about the conference or a session you attended there. Or maybe the theme you followed. AusELT will also be interested in these blog posts, so if you are planning one, please let us know and we can guide you through the writing if you are uncertain where to start or how to proceed.

6. Focus on your own learning and development post conference.

Make a record of new contacts and try to stay in touch whether through social media or in person if at all possible. 

Networking tips


Networking can be very scary. A comment that quite a few participants made was about how we can be so confident to speak in front of a class, but so petrified to speak to individuals at conferences.

  1. Be interested and be less worried about being interesting

Ask questions and listen to what the other person is saying. It is far less intimidating than having to try and be interesting all the time.

  1. Food and drink allows you to avoid awkward silences

Meeting for a coffee or a drink makes it easier to hide awkward silences behind eating or drinking and people seem to be slightly more relaxed when there is food involved.

  1. Present

Presenting is a great way to get to know people. If the opportunity arises, submit a proposal and present. It is a great way to meet lots of people and you can dictate what the conversation is about as it will often be about the presentation.


  1. Plan

Arrange with people you already know or people that you know online to meet up. This makes networking with others a lot easier as they might know people you don’t and you can be introduced.

  1. Have a goal in mind

Why are you networking? Usually it is to meet people, find a new job, connect with like-minded people, etc. Plan who you want to meet and what you will say as this will remove some of the ‘stage fright.’

  1. Research the presenters and other attendees

If you have researched presenters and other attendees, you will have something to talk about.


  1. Speak to the presenter afterwards if you have questions

This will be a lot easier if you have questions prepared. Also say how you felt about the presentation. It is repeated here as it was already mentioned above, but walking in with questions makes it so much easier to make contact.

  1. Social

Join the social program if the conference has one. There is also the opportunity to network during coffee breaks and lunch.

  1. Look around you

Find someone who was in a session with you and talk to them. This is even more important if it’s your first conference or if you don’t know anyone. Start with a standard opener like ‘I saw you in XYZ session. What did you think?’ Also, look for others who appear alone and talk to them. You are not alone in being alone.

  1. Manners make the person

Don’t snub or be mean. Mind your manners online and F2F. People remember if they were snubbed and it hurts, especially if it is your first conference and a more experienced person was mean to you. Everyone was new at some point in time.

  1. Make yourself approachable

Learn names, use names and wear name badges if they are available. If someone can see your name, they might be more willing to initiate conversation. Make your contact details available. Have business cards or make your email or social media contact information available so it is easy to connect with you.

  1. Be helpful to newbies

Think what you can give not what you can get.


  1. Have an accessible online presence

As important as it is to make the information available, you need to have a professional online presence. Avoid silly names or extreme political opinions. You can have two presences online. Make your professional one professional and accessible.

  1. Interact with new contacts

If people contact you, connect and interact. Keep in mind that it is not always what you can get, but more often what you can give that makes these connections worthwhile.

  1. Arrange collaborations or meet ups afterwards

It is so much easier to meet someone for a second or a third time. This also allows you to access contacts in their network and vice versa. Make use of these opportunities if they are available.


Another thank you to everyone who participated in making the two twitter chats a success and we hope that the notes above makes networking less intimidating and that you get to really maximise the benefit in each conference you attend.

Summary written by @heimuoshutaiwan

Photo taken from by Fiona Mauchline, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

Networking for Success – #AusELT Twitter chat, 6th Aug 2017


This Twitter chat took place on Sunday 6 August.  Click here to read the summary: Conference and Networking Tips – A summary of the #AusELT Twitter chats in July & August 2017

Our last twitter chat was about making the most of a conference. One key element of this is the ability to network effectively. Networking, however, isn’t just limited to conferences, but plays an important role in career success and satisfaction.

Join us on Sunday to share and discuss online or face-to-face networking tips that will make us all more effective.

The chat aims to cover:

  • General networking tips – online and face-to-face
  • Networking before, during and after an event

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

This post by @ heimuoshutaiwan (Gerhard Erasmus))

Getting the most out of a conference – #AusELT Twitter chat, 2nd July 2017

This Twitter chat took place on Sunday 2 July.  Click here to read the summary: Conference and Networking Tips – A summary of the #AusELT Twitter chats in July & August 2017

Photo of conference presenter, Anne Burns, taken at UECA PD Fest 2015

Photo by @cioccas taken at UECA PD Fest 2015, Sydney

Conferences form a significant part of a teacher’s professional development and ability to network with other professionals. Our next two twitter chats will be dedicated to these two topics. This Sunday, we will be sharing ideas on how to get the most out of a conference for your own and your staff’s professional development.

There are quite a few good websites with great ideas, but we’d like you to share your own stories and ideas that have worked for you.

The chat will be divided into:

  • Before the conference
  • During the conference
  • After the conference

Not sure about Twitter?

Why not have a go? We can help you out. Get in touch with any of the #AusELT admin team on Facebook or Twitter (eg, @heimuoshutaiwan or by leaving a comment below. Here are some posts that should also help you get started:

This post by @heimuoshutaiwan

Conference/PD Swap Shop – #AusELT Twitter chat, 2nd October 2016

Many #AusELTers old and new attended the recent English Australia Conference. And we know some of you have been to other conferences this year. At this time of year #AusELT hosts a chat on Twitter where we swap experiences, reflections, resources, links, etc. from PD we’ve done the year.

This was the topic of our #AusELT Twitter chat, on Sunday 2nd October 2016. This chat has now taken place.

photo of  Anne Burns at UECA PD Fest Sydney 2016

Anne Burns at UECA PD Fest Sydney 2016 (@cioccas)

Did you attend a conference this year, or other major PD event? Please join us and share your experience and learning with colleagues from around Australia. Share what you saw, what you loved, what you found interesting or controversial.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to get to any events this year, come along and get a taste of what was on offer from those who did. A good opportunity to ask questions and/or share new/interesting ideas that have come your way lately from sources other than conferences.

To get an idea of how much can be achieved in an hour on Twitter, check out this summary post from our 2014 Conference Swapshop. (Sorry, we don’t seem to have done a summary for the 2015 version.)

Looking forward to e-seeing you all then!

NB: New members/New to Twitter? Please see the Twitter page on the blog for help and ‘how-to’. Come along and try it out!

This post by @cioccas

Conferences & Presenting – #AusELT Twitter chat, 3-4 Sept 2016

CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use No attribution required

Note: This chat has now taken place. You can read the summary here. Great tips for conference attendees and presenters, some persuasion for would-be presenters, and definitely some big love for networking!

September’s #AusELT chat is coming up! This time we’ll be talking about conferences and presenting including:

  • why attend a conference anyway
  • how to get the most out of the experience
  • why presenting could be good for you and how to get started
  • dos and don’ts for presenters

We’ll also be using the ‘slowburn’ format for the first time this year. For us, this means the chat will be spread over the whole weekend instead of just 1 hour on Sunday night 🙂

We’ll start early on Sat 3rd September, and run right through till late on Sunday 4th September. You can contribute, read and discuss tweets on this theme at any time in that period, so feel free to drop in and out a few times over the weekend! Just remember to add the #AusELT hashtag to your tweets so we can all see them.

If it is your first time using Twitter, slowburns are a nice and gentle way in to connecting with others. You might also be interested in these posts:

Need help with Twitter?

#AusELT 1-page guide to Twitter

So you have a Twitter account – now what? 

Looking forward to e-seeing you this weekend!

This post by @sophiakhan4