With well over 200 participants from all around the world, the inaugural Conference on Language, Learning, & Culture (CLLC), organized by the VIU School of Education, was a major success. Attendees represented institutions from four continents including North America, South America, Africa, and Asia; the CLLC additionally hosted teacher-practitioners, researchers, business leaders, and community services from over 70 organizations. The 2014 theme, “Innovations at the Intersection of Language, Learning, and Culture,” sought to frame educational experiences as ideally meeting the needs of diverse students, their communities, and the various stakeholders who can benefit from high-quality, socially responsive language programs.
“The speakers were what most attracted me to this conference. It is remarkable that the CLLC was able to
|Dr. Ken Petersen, American Councils, Keynote Address|
attract such renowned and sought-after speakers its very first year,” said one participant. The event kicked off with a keynote address by Dr. Ken Petersen, Technical Director for Online Learning and Assessment for American Councils for International Education. Dr. Petersen provided insight into how technology is currently used in the classroom and the direction that the field of education is moving. He observed that today’s classrooms need to meet the needs of learners when, where, and how they currently participate in society. His call to action urges that teachers connect to the technology their students are already using. Dr. Petersen demonstrated that the field of education and language teaching needs to keep pace with the technology at hand.
After the first keynote address, participants broke out into paper sessions and workshops. Since the conference was organized around four relevant strands in the field of language learning, there were a variety of fascinating presentations. The strands included: language learning and development; pedagogical considerations; program evaluation and policy; and language in society. Session topics as diverse as a psycholinguistic approach to second language learning to using Mariachi as pedagogy attracted participants and engendered much lively discussion.
Following the first set of sessions, Dr. Shelley Wong, a professor at George Mason University and past TESOL president, addressed the audience. With a critical focus on inclusion in the classroom, Dr. Wong’s talk was centered on the rights of students in our classrooms. She urged that the call to social action and social responsibility around the issue of immigration rights is a key responsibility of teachers, policy makers, and the US government. She also stressed that the key issue in improving communities as a whole is ensuring that all students are able to receive an education and improve their lives.
The later sessions included several workshops, including one by VIU’s own Dr. Marietta Bradinova on non-verbal communication and cross-cultural differences. Dr. Bradinova started off her workshop by having attendees think about whether certain non-verbal signals were appropriate in their cultures or not. Nodding her head, she asked “does this mean ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” Conflicting responses from across the room led participants to the first of many signals that differ across cultures and continents. In small discussion groups, participants worked out a practical approach to solving cross-cultural communication challenges. “This is the best communication workshop I have ever attended,” commented a smiling participant from the southern United States to a colleague from Canada, as both walked to their next workshop.
The 2014 CLLC ended with a keynote address by Dr. Terrence G. Wiley, President and CEO of the Center for Applied Linguistics. As a guiding light in the fields of education and linguistics, Dr. Wiley framed the discussion around focusing on priorities in language education policies in the United States. In particular, he noted that the United States is a multilingual society built upon a long history of immigration, a fact which is often missed in a narrative around “English only” policy and thought. This discussion demonstrated that the US is a diverse society in which various languages color and enhance the multicultural tapestry that is at its core.
|Kevin Martin, Director of the VIU School of Education|
The conference received much positive feedback from its many participants. VIU Vice President of Academic Affairs, Ms. Badamsukh Yadamsuren, noted, “This conference has impacted so many people on such a wide scale, within several different academic areas. I am especially impressed by how many people traveled from such great distances.” Participants praised the quality of speakers, the highly relevant topics, and the interesting strands of CLLC 2014, which allowed for many fascinating papers, workshops, keynotes, and poster sessions. Many have written back stating that they have shared their newly-acquired knowledge with colleagues and are utilizing the best practices in their own teaching and research.
“I am incredibly grateful for the support of my colleagues at VIU and across the globe,” beamed VIU School of Education Director and CLLC organizer Mr. Kevin Martin. “We could not have organized this conference without them. The event was completely sold out, and we already have a lot of interest in next year’s topic. We are excited to grow and expand in 2015!”
About the Participants
70% North American
North American Locations
Canada, Maine, Mississippi, California, Missouri, Texas, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC
Participants were affiliated with Georgetown University, George Mason University, American University, Center for Applied Linguistics, Fayetteville State University, CUNY, Florida International University, ICLS, Mentora College, SUNY, Literacy Council of Montgomery County, Literacy Council of NOVA, Old Dominion University, Qatar University, Northern Virginia Community College, the Global Language Network, University of Pennsylvania, Trinity University Washington, UMASS, University of Maryland, and Texas A&M University, among others.