This past weekend, I spent some time at the 2014 CATE Conference. Last time I attended the CATE Conference, Billy Collins read his poems during one of the dinner sessions. I learned so much from other teachers. I felt rejuvenated and excited.
I was also just beginning my doctoral program, and I made a few suggestions as to what the organization could do leverage social media and technology. I had lots of great conversations with key people, and I left feeling pretty good about it.
Two years later, I was back to do a presentation on game-based learning. I was just as excited to be with fellow teachers who are passionate about education. However, I realize not much has changed in terms of technology. It was still a great conference, but I thought a few things could make this conference that much better next year.
Integrating Social Media
During the registration, I asked what the official #hashtag for the conference was. CATE didn’t have one. Of course, the participants were tweeting about the conference regardless. I suggest that the conference takes charge of their brand by leveraging all forms of social media during the conference, especially Twitter. It will be simple to add the hashtags to the program, and encourage the conference attendees to use them. It should also consider having the Twitter feed during all the main sessions, so that the speaker can interact with the audience.
Intergrating More Technology
I suggest CATE create a place for the presenters and the participants to upload all the presentation materials. It surprised me that it did not already have such a space. It will be as simple as setting up a Dropbox or even Google Drive. I also suggest that the conference considers doing live streaming and/or recording of the sessions for future use. Of course, this will require the presenters’ consent. But starting with a few and expanding to offer additional webinar could be beneficial in continuing its legacy of excellence. This will also bring in new members into the fold.
Intergrating Hands-on Sessions and Diversifying Session Formats
I suggest CATE diversify the session formats and reduce the number of session per time slot. I also suggest adding hands-on sessions where teachers can demonstrate their lesson techniques and help others to create lessons that can use when they return to their classrooms. Rather than offering 8-10 lecture-style sessions, CATE could offer 4 -5 sessions, and give the presenters opportunities to participate in a poster session or to ignite talks. This will draw younger teachers or college students who might not be ready to present in a typical one hour and fifteen minute sessions but still want to present at the conference. I also suggest creating a better mechanism for selecting the presentation. I say that because I did not have to submit any sample work for my presentation. Although I think my presentation was excellent, I am not sure whether the committee would have thought that without seeing my work prior to the conference.
Conference Proceedings Publication
Finally, CATE with its existing literary magazine should consider working with teachers to publish conference proceedings as other major conferences typically do. I suggest CATE does this online. I believe this will serve two purposes. First, this will naturally facilitate deeper theoretical and pedagogical discussions among all participants. Second, this will provide opportunities for teachers aspiring to become researcher-scholars, which is one of the organization’s missions.
I think that CATE is a wonderful organization, dedicated to improving the lives of English teachers. Every time I attend the conference, I am struck by how amazing and hardworking all the teachers really are. I hope to contribute to this organization in a meaningful way by doing more presentations and providing suggestions. As a technology doctoral student, I want to help the organization leverage many available resources. I can’t wait to go back to the next year’s conference and many conferences to come! Teaching English is not easy, and we really need each other.