April 7th saw the 3rd live digital occasion, ELT: Making Tangible Progress from Intangible Domains, put on by Saudi TESOL Education since its auspicious inauguration on December 10th last year.
On December 23rd, Saudi TESOL’s 2nd event had a sharp focus on contemporary, regional ELT concerns, the potential solutions to which were unpacked in some detail by 3 guest speakers led by keynote Jason Anderson.
With organizers keen to explore formats which best serve Saudi TESOL's context, Tangible Progress pulled back on the sharp focus of the previous event providing speakers the scope to present on their areas of expertise or personal interest. In further contrast to the preceding event, there were 8 guest speakers delivering 30-minute sessions with concluding Q&A windows. A resulting sense of pace seemed to fully-engage the ELT audience hailing from near and far. Also notable were the finale of concurrent webinars from 2 keynote guests sustaining the fascination of attendees all the way to the ambitious 8-hour program's closing remarks at 4:30 pm.
Commencing punctually at 8:50 am, Dr Abdullah Al-Bargi, in his final duty as Chairman of the Saudi TESOL Founding Committee, opened by inclusively welcoming guests from all ELT sectors and contexts. He went on to outline the election of the Association's board of directors, to be held at midday. The 500 or so in attendance were further reliably informed by their host, also the Dean of the English Language Institute at KAU, that Saudi TESOL is the sole national TESOL association approved by the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom.
Mr Peter Lucantoni (Professional Learning and Development Manager for Cambridge University Press and the first of many popular ELT authors among the guests) suggested session shapes for those branching out into training roles akin to the lesson shapes often supporting recently qualified teachers.
Ms Lubna Omer, representing the ELI, illustrated how apps and software can add dynamism and personality to engage far-better those studying in Virtual Learning Environments in a very well received presentation.
Dr Maha Al-Shahrani, Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Public Education and General Director of the Centre for English Language, delivered an informative study on Digital Teaching Platforms which was of particular interest to the many attendees employed in the public sector.
Mr Michael King, Director of Exams at the British Council, explored online assessment in a detailed and measured session whose title was inspired by Beckett's thoughts; "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail Again. Fail better"
At midday, the launch of the election of the association's board of directors was hosted by Dr Ma'an Khayat. Saudi TESOL members studied the credentials of candidates before casting the first votes in the electoral process.
Following lunch, Ms Nicky Hockley, author & Director of Pedagogy at The Consultants-E, shared her wealth of online experience stretching back to 1997, before Dr Peter Watkins, author and Subject Leader for MA TESOL and Applied Linguistics programs, University of Portsmouth, UK, revealed the challenges of online reading and how we might help learners overcome them.
Concluding the day were Mr Mark Hancock, award-winning author, Pronunciation Games, English Pronunciation in Use, and Mr Damian Williams, author of Cutting Edge and Speak Out, who ran concurrent 90-minute webinars in which attendees worked closely with Mark and Damian developing approaches to online phonology and creating and adapting materials for online classes.
Co-hosts Dr. Turki Alsolami, the ELI Vice Dean for Graduate Studies and Research, managed the technical and admin. team at the event and Mr Ian Dickie, from the ELI Professional Development Unit, introduced the day's guests and oversaw the concluding remarks. Speakers and the audience were sincerely thanked with further gratitude expressed to HE Prof Abdulrahman Al-Youbi, KAU President, as the 3rd innovative and exciting Saudi TESOL event wrapped up.