A fistful of presentations: From spaghetti West Tokyo to organizing annual conferences

Writer(s): 
Andy Boon, Toyo Gakuen University, JALT West Tokyo Program Chair, 4th Joint JALT Tokyo Conference Chair

 

The JALT Third Annual Joint Tokyo Conference was held on Sunday, October 5th, 2008, at Toyo Gakuen University, Hongo campus. This year’s line-up saw Kevin Ryan present on blending technology into the ELT classroom. This was followed by Tomio Uchida talking about corpus-driven learning and teaching materials. Straight after the lunch-break, Neil Cowie presented on group dynamics, investment, and resistance amongst students in the classroom. Rob Waring then explained various ways to build an extensive reading library for students. Then Alastair Graham-Marr explored how student output may enhance language learning. Finally, Alan Bossaer discussed comprehension checking and shared devices that teachers can use in their classes. For further information and abstracts, please check the following website:

<www.jalt.org/tokyo/joint_conference/>.

Okay, let’s rewind to a night of spaghetti, beer, wine, and planning in July, 2005. Members of the JALT West Tokyo executive committee and a well-known Italian from Cambridge University Press were sitting around a table in my apartment while I frantically cooked and then served my special pasta dish. After the initial shock of realizing that I, a Brit, was trying to cook pasta for an Italian, we got down to the business of eating, drinking, and talking shop. That night, the idea was born for a new type of annual conference which would bring together the two JALT chapters in Tokyo (West Tokyo and Tokyo) and be supported by the publishers. The conference would involve inviting six guest speakers to give academic presentations based around a specific theme, rather than presentations that promote publishers’ course books. Participating publishers and JALT Tokyo and West Tokyo chapters would each sponsor one speaker for the day. The publishers would be given display tables but, instead of being charged for the pleasure, they would pay for their sponsored speaker and the costs of advertising the event. The plan moved forward and Tokyo chapter and a number of publishers came on board. There were several meetings and discussions on who the first speakers and what the conference theme might be, and who would pay for the coffee and snacks. We then fixed a date and, finally, found a venue. After that, we were ready to start publicizing the JALT First Annual Joint Tokyo Conference—Action Research: Influencing Classroom Practice. We advertised in The Language Teacher, through direct mailing via the publishers, on various ELT-related websites and discussion lists, and via word-of-mouth. The news certainly got out, as the first conference was a huge success, with over 100 people attending presentations by David Nunan, Stan Pederson, Andy Boon, Don Maybin, Masami Yasuda, and Curtis Kelly. As this goes to press, audio files of most of the presentations are still available for download from: <tjalt-conf06.iplusone.org/>.

The following year was easier, as we had already gone through the experience of planning the first conference and could use it as a model for the second. The 2007 conference had a new theme (Innovation in Language Teaching), a new venue (Toyo Gakuen University, Hongo campus), a new line-up of presenters (Joe Falout, Yukio Tono, Bill Pellowe, Yuri Komuro, Chuck Sandy, and Tim Murphey), and continued with the success of the first.

So, where do we go from here? Well, as the spring vacation arrives, I will start the emails rolling again to the Joint JALT committee. We already have a venue, as Toyo Gakuen University has agreed to host the JALT Fourth Annual Joint Tokyo Conference in 2009, but emails will whiz back and forth regarding dates, themes, presenters, and publicity, until everything has been decided. Please look out for a flyer insert in a future TLT! Then, the day of the conference will come (some time in October, we expect), the doors will open, attendees will be greeted by our friendly and experienced student staff manning the registration desk, and make their way up the escalators to the plenary hall. The conference will begin and the audience can sit back and enjoy a day of presentations. Finally, as the conference comes to a close, attendees will go home full of new ideas for their teaching and research and we will pack up our things, satisfied (and a little relieved that things have gone well) but ever thinking on towards the next year.

We very much look forward to seeing lots of old and new faces at the fourth conference in October 2009. For further updated information, please check the West Tokyo Chapter website <jwt.homestead.com/home.html> or join the West Tokyo chapter Facebook group.

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