Sunday, March 30, 2014

TESOL Portland Lists: Reflecting on the Week

Some of the high points of this week were

  • reconnecting with my dear friend Patricia Dyer
  •  my first f2f meeting with Jose Antonio da Silva, my fellow EVO coordinator and webhead friend since 2007 (we had a great time on the Best of Portland Walking Tour!)
  • the Walking Tour itself (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)
  • Spending quality time with JA and Laine on Wednesday
  • Dinner "with the girls" at Bridgeport BrewPub on Friday night
  • Karen and Shirley's Color Vowel Chart presentation on Friday afternoon
  • and of course seeing so many webheads: Vance, Jane, Carla, Evelyn, Miguel, Rick, Barb, Christine, Elizabeth, Claire and others 

There were some low points as well:
  • falling (twice!)
  • the weather (wet!)
  • my Classics Fair presentation (with Elizabeth) on the EVO--I wish that it had been better attended and that the webcast had worked. :-(
And some regrets:

But overall, it was a great convention! Thanks again for visiting the blog. See you next year (wia-in-toronto)!

Saturday Night Becomes Sunday Morning: Heading Home

After the webcasts, I left the Convention Center for the last time. It seemed so empty with the convention-goers mostly cleared out and the staff cleaning up. I met my colleagues Diego Hernandez, Marilena Draganescu, and Daniela Wagner-Loera at the Red Lion, and we decided to walk to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I was hoping Jane Petring could join us, but unfortunately we kept missing each other, so she ended up having a very tasty meal from Subway, very near the hotels, while the four of us walked to Pastini Pastaria about a 20-minute walk, for a very nice dinner. Afterwards we picked up our stuff, which we had left at the Red Lion desk, and went across the street to the MAX station to wait for the train:

It is SO convenient! And once again we appreciated the fact that we had received passes for the MAX/streetcar/bus that were valid until today, so we rode free all the way to the airport, about thirty minutes. We checked our bags and settled in at the gate to wait. Others on the same red-eye to Chicago included Ray Smith (MEI), Christine Bauer-Ramazani (webhead) and her husband Reza, Jonah Moos (CALL-IS, my webcasting partner), and Jane. Unfortunately, when the plane landed in Chicago I did not get a chance to say goodbye to Christine and Jane before they headed off to their gates :-(.

We had a two-hour wait for our next flight to Washington, but that plane was only half full, so I was able to stretch out over three seats and sleep about an hour. (The PDX-ORD flight had been sold out--Jane almost couldn't get on it--and sleeping was nearly impossible, for me at least.) We got into DCA five minutes early, collected our luggage, said goodbye to Daniela (who had her car at the airport) and took the metro to our various destinations.

After our wet week, we were disappointed to land at DCA in a cold rain, and as soon as I got home, the rain changed to sleet, then what looked like hail, and finally to a wet, sloppy snow which went on for several hours. Come on, what's that about? It's supposed to be spring already! (The forecast for tomorrow is 68 degrees but I will believe it when I see, or rather feel, it.) 
Can you believe this???

I got home about 11 am EDT. It had been a long trip. I unpacked, showered, had lunch, and did three loads of laundry--and took a lovely nap.


Usually on the last day of the conference, I am forced to leave to catch a midday flight, but this time, I booked my return flight on the so-called "red-eye" (hmmm, wonder what they call it that...) which left PDX at 11:15, so I put in a full day at the conference and then had time for dinner with MEI colleagues before hopping on the MAX for the airport.

Basically, Saturday was Webcast Day for me. I had volunteered to be a part of the EV's webcasting team under the direction of Jack Watson. Jack and I had a "training session" via Skype a month or so ago (made more interesting by my computer crashing in the middle of it and then losing my internet connection for a while), but I was anxious about it, especially after the terrible experience Elizabeth and I had with our own webcast session on Friday! I was scheduled as "webcast assist" for the 1:00 Hot Topics session on the flipped classroom in the Technology Showcase (next to the EV), and as "webcast lead" for the 4:00 CALL-IS/VDMIS InterSection session on interactive mobile tools, but I spent much of the morning in the tech showcase room observing and learning (again) how to upload the presenters' slides in the correct order, how to enable the audio (what didn't work for us on Friday), and other little details. Jack was there (in the pink shirt) and he kindly offered to help me get ready after the Academic Session which ended at 12:15.
I went back to the Red Lion to finish packing, to grab the presenters' PowerPoints and transfer them to a flash drive and my drop box and also get my laptop as backup (I told you I was anxious!), and to check out of the room (Annelies had left at 7:30 to catch an early flight home). I also grabbed a yogurt, rice cakes, a banana and a chocolate bar because I wasn't going to have time for a proper lunch. Then back to the tech showcase. We loaded the slides for the first session, with Jonah Moos as lead and me assisting (Jonah was kind enough to talk me through the process), and transferred the slides for the second session onto the dedicated laptop so they would be ready for me to upload later.

I am happy to report that everything went splendidly for both sessions! No glitches, a tiny but appreciative virtual audience, and general success. By the time the Intersection finished up at 6 pm, almost everyone was gone from the Convention Center. Some photos from my first experience as a webcaster:
 Jonah and I webcasting the Hot Topics panel

Here's what it looked like from the webcaster's POV

After the session: Evelyn, Laine, me, Christine, and Nicky

The panel: Carol Kubota, Cynthia Murray, Cathy Warner-Benani, Christine Bauer-Ramazani and Nicky Hockly
I took of "selfie" of Evelyn and me:
Sweet Evelyn!
But I didn't get any photos of the second panel, where I was the webcast lead and Larry Udry assisted me. It went fine, though. I am happy because I have a new skill. :-)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Friday Night

I was pretty tired after all that but this being the TESOL Convention, I marshaled my energy and went out to dinner with Jane Petring. We took the streetcar to a neighborhood called the Pearl and met Carla Arena and a bunch of her colleagues from Casa Thomas Jefferson at the Bridgeport BrewPub. (Again, I managed to eat healthy except for the pot de creme I had for dessert.)(Yum) The food was great (I'm told the wine and beer were, too) and the company fantastic.

Maria and Ana

Nina and Jane

Maria, Ana, and Carla

Courtney, Isabela, and Katia
Afterwards we waited a long time for the streetcar in the cold damp night until we discovered that the last one had already passed. Four people managed to find a taxi, leaving Jane, Carla, and me. We finally started walking, and eventually found a cab ourselves. I got back to the room about midnight (again)--awake this morning before 6 and up by 7. 

I packed and had some breakfast, used the hotel computer to check in and print out my boarding passes (I change planes in Chicago) then went over to the tech showcase to observe the webcasting setup. Back here now (10:30) to check out. I will leave my bags at the desk and pick them up later. The plan is to meet Daniela and Diego (and Jane?) for dinner before we head to the airport. Our flight to Chicago leaves at 11:15.

Another TESOL Convention almost over. Thanks for reading my blog!

Friday (continued)

Also on Friday, I re-connected with Patricia Dyer, a dear friend whom I had lost touch with--we served together on the NAFSA Region 8 team back in the 1980s! I saw her name on a Mini-Workshop about using the State Dept.'s game "Trace Effects" to foster writing skills, so I signed up to see if it was the same Pat Dyer--and it was! It was wonderful seeing Pat again after almost 30 years, thanks to the TESOL convention and the EV.

Webhead Rick Rosenberg, one of the developers of "Trace Effects," attended with me, which was a big surprise for the presenters, two lovely women from Tegucigalpa, Honduras! You can see one of them, Grazzia, in the second photo.

During the hands-on portion, Rick helped me navigate the game (my first time, and I am no gamer!). He kindly told me that five-year-olds figure it out in minutes. Not so for me! But it was fun, and maybe I will introduce it to my students.

Elizabeth's and my Classics Fair session was up next, and we were webcasting it, but due to some miscommunication, we made a hash out of the webcast (no audio!). Fortunately only two webheads, Elizabeth Anne and Marijana Smolcec, were in our online audience, and they did not get too mad at us. Our f2f audience was also disappointingly small.

Afterwards I sat in on Evelyn and Miguel's presentation on flipping the classroom, which was excellent. Towards the beginning of the presentation, somehow the plug for the 4 computers at that area was pulled (I think), and all screens went dark. It's a credit to Eve and Mike that they carried on without their powerpoints as if nothing had happened, and soon power and connectivity were restored.

Following that, we found a critical mass of webheads in the room--a fantastic photo op! How many can you recognize?

Also on Friday, Ray and I attended my only non-EV/non-Technology Showcase presentation of the week: Shirley Thompson and Karen Taylor's session on using the Color Vowel Chart to integrate the curriculum. It was a great presentation! They are such seasoned presenters, they captivated the entire audience for the entire time. If any ESL/EFL teacher reading this doesn't know about the chart, you should take the time to visit their website and find out about it. It's an incredible tool for teaching pronunciation with advantages for spelling and listening too.

Friday, March 28, 2014


After a long very rainy day, the sun has finally come out (sort of--I still can't see the mountains). I had a topsy-turvy day, sort of. Woke up early as usual but left without breakfast for the technology Showcase, where Dawn Bikowski, Chris Hitchcock and Christine Sabieh presented on "Technology Use to Help Avoid Plagiarism: Resources for Teachers and Students." Annelies also went, and we added Jane on the way. Dawn and Chris's approach was to empower student writers by putting plagiarism checkers into their hands and encouraging them to use them to improve their writing. They also emphasized teaching students very explicitly about such things as citation boundaries (when proofreading, check to see that each paragraph has at least one citation); the goal is to make checking for plagiarism part of the writing process for students. Christine favored a more traditional approach of laying down strict rules with clear consequences (failure) which providing many opportunities for writing and rewriting, using the student's dedicated website including the paper, the sources, and the list of references with links among them.

That finished at 9:15, and I stopped in at the EV to catch the end of Kim Benedicto's presentation. Kim taught for a year at MEI (2007-2008); she is now at MSU. It was nice to see her.

Then I went up the street to the WATESOL breakfast get-together at JCafe. I met Caralyn leaving on the way there; but there were only a few WATESOLers left when I arrived: Jacquie (president) and Polina (vice-pres.) and two others whose names escape me. I got a decaf latte but ended up taking most of it back to the hotel with me. There I had some granola, but first I had to melt my frozen almond milk! The little fridge in our room had frozen the milk, and Annelies' orange juice, into more or less solid slush. I microwaved it until I could get some out into the cereal bowl, and a maintenance man came and adjusted the temperature of the fridge (the temp control knob being missing). Then I returned to the CC, about 11, but I didn't watch any of the mobile technology presentations; since I don't use mobile technology (for a webhead, I'm a real Luddite).

Here's a snap of the lovely corridor leading to the Electronic Village: not very inviting, wouldn't you agree?

I'm headed out to dinner with Jane and Carla at some brewery (!); more later.

Thursday Not Over Yet: CALL-IS Open Meeting and Dinner at Kells Irish Pub

When I returned to the Convention Center for the CALL-IS Open Meeting at 6:45, the sky was beautiful:

The Max train to the Airport was there, reminding me how easy it will be Saturday evening to get there. This is definitely my favorite convention city from the point of view of ease of getting to and from the airport!

The CALL-IS meeting was being webcast, so I sat in and watched and then actually assisted Abe Reshad in interpreting the goings-on to one lone listener in the Philippines, who could hear what people said into the microphone but not audience comments. After that I felt somewhat less anxious about my role as webcast assist, and then webcast lead, at two Saturday afternoon sessions.

I gave a very brief report about this year's EVO: over 4,000 registered participants in the 18 sessions, 98 moderators/co-moderators, 43 guest speakers, 113 countries on 5 continents, 12 TESOL IS sponsors and 3 IATEFL SIG sponsors. This was well-received. :-)

Afterwards a bunch of us, webheads and non-webheads, had dinner at Kells Irish Pub just across the river. A pub would not have been my first choice, but I was happy with my glass of water and veggie wrap while others indulged in wine and beer (Portland being famous for its beers).
Vance Stevens

Nicky Hockly (IATEFL rep) and Chris Sauer
After dinner, some walked back, and Elizabeth, John Madden, a friend of Jane's, and I took the MAX; but since we had to wait in the cold for about half an hour, we might as well have walked. :-(

Off to a Tech Showcase session on "Plagiarism and CALL" with Dawn Bikowski, Chris Hitchcock and Christine Sabieh.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday was a long day!

Finding the Electronic Village was a challenge. I felt like I walked about 10 city blocks in the Convention Center, following signs for "Portland Ballroom 158," but it seemed to vanish. I finally discovered it down a carpetless corridor that looks like it should be off-limits to convention-goers. As always, I found webheads and other old friends there. I attended a couple of Technology Fair presentations, visited the Exhibit Hall to see my friends Karen Taylor and Shirley Thompson at The Color Vowel Chart booth, and returned to the EV for my stint as a greeter, which involved standing at the entrance to the dank corridor leading to the EV and assuring people that yes, that was really where it was located; and then standing outside the EV being friendly to all who came by and answering their questions about the EV: "What is going on in there?" (Two Mini-Workshops) "Why is the door locked?" (It's a ticketed event with limited seating, unlike most of our offerings.) "I'm presenting at a Technology Fair tomorrow. Can I just see the set-up?" (Sure.) "Where is the Technology Showcase?" )Just down the hall in PB157.) etc.

A view of the Oregon Convention Center from the Red Lion.
You can see the MAX light rail on its way to the airport. So convenient!

Webheads Claudio Fleury, Rick Rosenberg, and Carla Arena at the EV

Webheads Evelyn Izquierdo and Carla Arena with me at the EV

Webhead Women: Carla, Evelyn, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, Jane Petring, and me

Elizabeth Hanson-Smith and Deborah Healy present during the Technology Fair.
"Shaping the Way We Teach: The MOOC Version"

Me with Anne Hernandez, moderator of the EVO session "Wonderful Words: Vocabulary Matters"

The EV: a Technology Fair in full swing

The Color Vowel Chart's booth in the Exhibit Hall
Shirley Thompson and former MEI teacher Bill Little

Me with Jennifer Lebedev, aka JenniferESL

Official EV Greeter

Me with EVO mod Miguel Mendoza
("Podcasting for the ESL-EFL Classroom")

After 4 hours standing outside the EVO,
anyone could kiss a cow!

Thursday: Breakfast

I've been trying to connect with my co-presenter for "Getting to Know the EVO" (EV Classics Fair, Friday 2 pm), Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, for weeks. She hasn't responded to any of my emails. She's in the same hotel here, and she called me at 6:50 this morning (I was already awake--6:50 = 9:50 my time) to suggest breakfast in the cafe downstairs so we could chat about the presentation. Then it turns out that our rooms are just a few steps down the hall from each other!

Not surprisingly, it turns out that she never received any of those ever-more-plaintive emails! Yahoo's bad! We are now on the same page for the presentation, and I am off to the EV to check out this morning's offerings.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Opening Keynote with Surin Pitsuwan / Dinner at Nicholas

The convention opened with a keynote address by Surin Pitsuwan, a Thai politician and Middle East expert and former Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It was about the importance of English as a community-building language in Southeast Asia. He said one thing, though, that seemed to me to be very condescending: that the job of English teachers includes teaching critical thinking. I agree that we may need to teach critical thinking skills to those students who have not been exposed to them before (like recent high school graduates), but he seemed to be saying that one cannot think critically in other languages. Perhaps I did not understand his intent.

After the plenary, JA and I found Laine and Vance. We took some photos, but mine were awful, so I won't post them. Then Vance hurried off to a dinner with the TESL-EJ people and JA, Laine, and I walked down Grand Ave. to Nicholas Restaurant, recommended by my student Abdullah. I made the mistake of leaving my boots at the hotel and wearing loafers, and of course it rained again, so I got wet feet. But the restaurant was great: tiny, crowded, noisy, and congenial, with friendly service (is there anyone in Portland who is not friendly?) and fabulous food. I had foohl mudamas (fresh baked fava beans with olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes, garlic and garnished with cumin and parsley). It was delicious, but the portion was so large that I couldn't finish it. 

We talked about teaching and learning, our jobs and our backgrounds, and the time passed quickly.

Tomorrow is the first full convention day.

"Best of Portland" Walking Tour 4: Benson Bubblers and the Smallest Park in the World

Another view of the Portland Building. It was designed by Michael Graves.

Our little tour group, walking in the rain.

Amber explains how businessman Simon Benson donated ten of these fountains to the city in an effort to decrease the amount of beer consumed by workers on their lunch breaks. 

The Promised Land, in Chapman Square (formerly a park restricted to women only) depicts a pioneer family 

Mill Ends Park, aka the smallest park in the world

A closeup of Mill Ends Park

After all that walking, we went to lunch at the Bangkok Palace on SW Taylor Street.
The food was good except that the rice was cold.

Then back to the Red Lion to rest and recoup before this afternoon's opening plenary.

"Best of Portland" Walking Tour 3: The Oregon Historical Society

(3/30/14) Actually, I think I made a mistake and this was Portland'5 Centers for the Arts. If you know, please correct me!
The Oregon Historical Society dome 

OHS lobby is a modern Globe Theater

Thrilled to be sitting for a few minutes

This weird statue was a gift from Mexico. You can see only the top part here.

"Mucus Man" -- a Kwakiutl fool (if you look carefully, you can see how he got his name) 

"Monkey King" -- a Chinese fool

Star on the sidewalk in front of the OHS

Richard Haas' 8-story mural commemorating the Lewis & Clark expedition. Besides Lewis and Clark, it depicts Sacagawea, York, and the dog Seaman (next to the OHS) (maybe this is where the OHS actually is?? I don't remember.)

Church across the street from the OHS