Sunday, April 06, 2008

SCOLT SCFLTA 2008 Conference Myrtle Beach Review

So, I've been in Myrtle Beach since Wednesday night for the Southern Conference on Language Teaching's (SCOLT) joint conference with the South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers' Association (SCFLTA). It was held at the Springmaid Resort Hotel at 3200 S. Ocean Blvd. Here is my review of the conference.

The Accommodations:

1) First and foremost, I didn't have internet access in my hotel room. This is 2008, for a business conference, that is unacceptable. The hotel was probably built in the late 70's to early 80's. My room opened to the outside air; the registration desk was in a remote building without ample parking to suit everyone trying to check-in or check-out; the buffet was overpriced, uninspired, and bland; the conference center didn't have sufficient elevators; the conference center was not sufficiently large enough to hold everyone wanting to attend sessions; the chairs weren't padded and terribly uncomfortable; there is no lounge space to relax and converse with colleagues; the indoor pool is dirty, mildewed, rusting, and has no poolside furniture; the housekeeping staff was rude and intrusive, especially when we had arranged a late check-out and they kept hounding us to get out (even before normal check-out times); apparently "they're on their way" means the cribs and pillows are located 35 mins away from my room; the beds were harder than the floor (not exaggerating....much); in case you can't tell, I did not care for the place and I won't go back.

The Workshops:

I paid to attend a workshop on Thursday morning called
"Reclaim precious time—Use free technology for oral assessment"
by Ms. Patricia Early and Dr. Peter Swanson, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA

In their presentation they taught about and how to use some powerful technology that can enhance language instruction (for free), like Audacity (free audio recorder and editor), Rubistar (a gigantor database of other people's rubrics), and some other stuff. Especially in the case of Audacity, their workshop was worse every penny. That software is incredibly powerful, allowing me to record my voice, have the students listen to it, and then simultaneously record their own while listening to mine. This will allow me to repeatedly check their pronunciation progress throughout the semester, without having the affective filters of an oral exam influencing their preformance. It also saves time and most importantly, because it's free, not having a language lab at Coker doesn't matter; they can do this at home or in the library lab. A language lab is an enormous expense, and this program effectively ends that need for us (in our present configuration). If I had only gone to this workshop, it would've been worth it.

I next went to the session called: "Advocacy for World Languages" by
Lynn Fulton-Archer, Richmond Drive Elementary School, Rock Hill, SC. This session was useful but not all that interesting. It was mostly intended for primary and secondary education professionals, but I did get a couple of good ideas from it, namely, lobbying our Congressman to get a Coker College interstate sign.

On Friday, I went to "Language Rock - Music for the French and Spanish Classroom" by
Cindy Tracy, World of Reading, Ltd., Atlanta, GA; an Exhibitor’s Session. After about ten minutes I got up and left. The music was horrible, and involved TPR (Total Physical Response) models of what can only be called imperative calisthenics. There is no-way-in-hell college students would do these exercises, let alone think that rap music in Spanish by Spanish teachers was cool or relevant or authentic. I'd have better luck doing "head-shoulders-knees-and-toes" with them. Patently ridiculous.

Unlike Thursday, Friday saw the arrival, en masse, of all the public school teachers whose principals wouldn't let them attend both days. The sessions were over-crowded with too few chairs and not enough room between. When I tried to go into "Me va de cine" by Nines Barbosa, Embassy of Spain-Education Office, people were seated on the ground outside.

After lunch I made it to "Digital Story Telling Using Microsoft’s Free Photo Story®" by
Michel Couet, Lexington High School, Lexington, SC. His presentation was really good and showed me about the Microsoft program, which I will most likely use in my Spanish classes from now on. This is the second of the two sessions that made the expenditure and trip worth it.

Next found me in "Intercultural Learning: Preparing Students for Study Abroad" by
Lara Ducate, Lara Lomicka, Nina Moreno, from the University of South Carolina. Their presentation gave me an idea for a class at Coker on Intercultural Communication and Study Abroad that we could teach to freshmen/sophomores to try and get them to go. A useful clinic it was.

Saturday morning I went to "Digital Storytelling in the Foreign Language Classroom" by Sophie Adamson from Elon University. Her presentation also dealt with using Microsoft Photo Story, but it was as thorough as the one by Michel Couet. She merely showed us student examples instead of explaining how she used the program in her teaching methods, which was what most interested me. She didn't do a bad job, and had I not been to the other one, it wouldn't have mattered, but it clearly wasn't as informative.

I went into a couple of other sessions, but didn't stay through the end. One was about how to get outside the classroom, and I was already doing all the stuff she talked about, so it didn't really give me much new to think about. The other one was the SCAATSP, and since I didn't have a ticket for coffee and doughnuts, I wasn't welcomed, so I left--which is odd since no one ever sent me an invitation.

The Exhibitors & My Final Opinion:

The exhibitors were clearly not there for me, they were there for kids and kids' teachers. The SCOLT conference isn't for college professors, it's geared primarily towards high school educators. There were no sessions specifically for professors. For the money, I would recommend attending the SCOLT conference only when it's near you, and then going to the ACTFL conference every year, or maybe every other year. I plan to go this year because it's in Orlando, and my family can piggyback along, but I won't go every year, because the professional development money I get isn't sufficient to go to a professional conference on language instruction AND one where I can present some literature research for peer-review. I teach language because that's what is required of me and I'm good at it. I teach literature because I love it.

So, in case anyone from SCOLT reads this:

I liked the workshops, the timing of it being AFTER Easter, and the number of sessions possible.

I did not like the facilities, the accommodations, the conference space, the lack of space, the lack of a lounge (not talking about a bar), the lack of exhibitors for my level of teaching, and the lack of SCOLT/SCFLTA seeking me out as a new language teacher. I only became aware of the conference because of a colleague. Also, in 2008, for a business conference, not having internet access in my hotel room was unacceptable. The conference was a success, but it could've been much much better.


chattypatra said...

Maybe the next time it will be held in Puerto Rico, and the experience will be far better.

I too had Audacity newly installed to my computer and plan to use it to record my songs, including the content-based ones I wrote when I was teaching; no, they did not all involve TPR. Maybe I should write some for college students.

I'll check out the Rubistar program and tell my friends about it. They might want to use it.

P.S: Did you get your "hair" wish?

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