LESLLA 2015 St. Augustine, FL

Wednesday 11/11

Day 1 was a great start. I was able to talk to a lot of people about my research. Several academics gave me ideas, tips, or positive feedback. Furthermore, I learned about X Prize, a competition funded by the Barbara Bush Foundation that tries to tackle adult illiteracy in the USA. The prize money is 7$Million. The competition invites teams to code online teaching materials (apps) for ESL and L1 learners. This sounds very interesting and something I should (1) further investigate, (2) should acknowledge. In a way, this could be seen as prove of how valuable and important my research area is.

I spent the whole day auditing lectures and talks. I very much enjoyed Patsy Vinogradov’s introduction and was able to learn a lot about ESOL practices and classroom instruction in the US and its variations throughout the different states. It was eye-opening to hear K.Perry and J.Versaw talk about their financial and teaching resources. They shared the online resources they use (e.g. HAP English School or ,  Learning Chocolate)

Later that day, J. Simpson gave his plenary talk. His talk focused on giving adult migrant language learners voice and audibility. He presented findings from the TLang project. I really enjoyed the data, collected through Linguistics Landscaping. I’ve heard of this research approach before at YSJ. James mentioned important principles / ideas, such as “language ideology” and SLIFE (students with limited / interrupted formal schooling). He also addressed the funding cuts for ESOL classes in the UK (something I notice, every time I volunteer at St.Vincents).

After this plenary, I audited Aberdeen’s talk on her PhD thesis / findings. She focused on the parent – child relationship, in regards with maintaining the heritage language. Interesting here was that she mentioned that only 5% of all languages in the world use a writing system.

Lastly, I heard Young-Scholten’s talk on EU Speak 2. Martha shared insights on their research. EU Speak aims to make teaching materials for LESLLA teachers available online in several languages. This was a great finish for an eventful day.

Questions throughout Day 1:

(1) Literacy first: Should students learn L2 literacy, before they engage with L2 language acquisition?

(2) There is a STRONG focus on vocational / job-related content in ESOL teaching materials. Also US policy seems to have little interest in funding ESOL classes for students that are “unfit” for the job-market (e.g. due to age…).

(3) How is it so hot here in November?

Thursday 12/11

The conference opened with Patsy Vinogradov’s plenary on LESLLA learners in the larger adult language education context. Patsy talked about ABE (Adult basic education) and emphasized the strong career focus of current ESOL programmes. Also, she mentioned noticeable changes in adult ESOL education and policy throughout the last 15 years. In her presentation, Patsy gave examples of blended ESOL programmes, which incorporate ESOL education with work experience. Here, she presented a Minnesota Thrift Shop (NGO), which encourages students to work in their Thrift Shop. The work experience is embedded with Numeracy, ICT and Literacy lessons. The students keep record of items (ICT / digital literacy), engage with clients (literacy), write e-mails, talk and write about their work-experience etc.  This could be an interesting approach for St. Vincents, too. After their work experience, the students would receive certificates for their volunteering.

Later, I attended the Diglin  presentation
The team presented their research findings from the first round of interviews with participants. They focused on (1) ICT use, (2) learning success and (3) motivation. Here, the researchers pointed out that the participants’ aptitude and motivation decreased gradually. However, the DigLin programme still empowered students; their grapheme-phoneme correspondence and  ICT skills improved. The data furthermore shows that ASR (automatic speech recognition) and the pictures were particularly helpful. Some students took notes while using DigLin. Some countries had technical issues, also the limited content (300 words) was an issue. Besides, the lack of a curriculum seemed to be problematic. Yet, DigLin increased autonomy and self confidence.

 Friday 13/11

The day started very early. My presentation began at 9am. Our panel talked for 90min. This was a great experience. I enjoyed working with other academics from over the world. It was difficult to reduce all my findings and all the data I’ve analyzed. I realized that presenters always have a responsibility to the audience.  I enjoyed my presentation and could learn a lot from the other panel members. Especially the Q & A session was fun. Overall this was a success.

Later, I listened to Martha Bigelow’s presentation. Her team collected data on literacy as a social practice. Martha shared some of her data, which was collected through Facebook.  She mentioned García, O. & Hesson, S. (2015). Translanguaging frameworks for teachers: Macro and micro perspectives.

Overall, this was a wonderful and very productive experience.

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