Andy Curtis will be blogging live from Portland
during the 2014 convention. Look for his posts!
Wow! I usually tell my English language learners not to use that word, as it tends to be overused. But after having attended David Graddol’s plenary this morning, “Wow” seems entirely appropriate! He spoke about five megatrends shaping our world, and how those trends are affecting languages and education globally, and within that English language teaching and learning.
One of the things that was so impressive about his presentation was the sheer volume of data he shared with us on the shifting demographics of the world’s population in relation to economics, technology, and politics, over the last several decades. He also implied some tentative predictions about the future, if those trends continue. Not only was the quantity of the data impressive, but also the quality, even though there was too much to process in an hour. He has a workshop this afternoon, where he’ll go into more detail, and I’m pretty sure that that follow-up session is going to be standing room only!
Like all good presenters, Prof. Graddol made some controversial statements, including his concern that Big Business is, in his opinion, having too much influence on education, and that Big Business’s focus is on profit with little concern for quality teaching and learning. What’s the biggest cost in education? Teachers, of course. So, it follows then, that the more you can squeeze teachers out of the picture, the greater the fiscal profit margins. Not surprisingly, those comments elicited spontaneous applause from large sections of the audience. Another crowd-pleaser was Dr Graddol’s conclusion, which was that the fifth megatrend might be us—language teaching professionals.
So, that was one plenary that I was very happy to have attended, though I’ll need some time to process it, and to think about all the implications of what he presented—but that’s another mark of a good plenary.
Before the talk, as it was the James Alatis plenary, the 2014 Alatis Award for service to TESOL was presented to Prof. Neil Anderson. Dr. Anderson has been one of the most positive and supportive, encouraging and inspiring influences in my TESOL life. So, I let out an audible gasp when he included, in his acceptance speech, my name on his list of TESOLers who’ve had a positive impact on his work.
That was a very unexpected and very humbling moment, typical of Neil’s kindness and generosity. It also reminded me that it’s those unexpected moments that, in spite of their brevity, stay with us for so long after the moment has passed, that have been the high points of the TESOL Convention for me over my many years of attending. I hope to have more of those this convention—but one amazing Wow-moment per Convention makes it all worthwhile.