I attended the 22nd Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (MELTA) International Conference from 28th to 30th May 2013 at Persada Johor Convention Centre, Johor Bahru. The theme of the conference was “Innovations in English Language Education: Evolving Policy, Envisioning Curriculum, Empowering Practitioners.”
I presented my paper titled “Language Learning through Literature via WebQuest” in the afternoon session on the first day of the conference. WebQuests are a form of PBL (project-based learning) that include collaborative task, task-specific searches, rubric for self evaluation and an end product. The drive for the paper came with the idea that we as English teachers should always remind ourselves to incorporate critical thinking skills in teaching-learning situation so that our students become independent thinkers to fit themselves in the ever-changing modern world. My paper exemplified how combining a classic literary text and a web-based tool – WebQuest in teaching can make learners become more confident users of English by critically thinking and creatively producing. I implemented the project with my tertiary level literature students and found them taking interest in the task as it offered them a chance - of getting out of the typical way of passively studying a literary text, of using the language creatively and of videocasting. The WebQuest example showed how learners became autonomous and produced content for the web through the process of self-evaluation. At the end of my presentation I showed a video clip of my students’ performance.
The paper germinated through a project aimed at bringing a technology-related change in my classroom as part of the “Building Teaching Skills Through the Interactive Web” course which I undertook with the Department of Linguistics of the University of Oregon in January - March 2013 session.
The conference had Prof. David Wray from University of Warwick, UK as the plenary speaker who spoke on “Changing Times: Changing Literacies.” This speech drew on the technology tools used by students and the concerns regarding this. It also showed four models that educational institutions can adopt to accommodate new literacies.
Nithya Sidhhu, a columnist from STAR conducted a workshop on “Teachers’ Writing – The Power of the Shared Experience” which was motivational. She offered simple tips for writing and introduced SLURP to remember the simple guideline. 1. Keep it simple 2. Look outside, look inside 3. Unite all links 4. Respect your reader 5. What’s your point? She quotes Nancy Kelton, “Send your inner critic on holiday. Just do it, man. Just do it.”
Dr. Willy A. Renandya from NIE, Singapore gave a talk on “Is there a place for extensive listening in the L2 classroom?” as the plenary speaker. He firmly says that though language teachers focus more on extensive reading and writing, extensive listening is an inseparable idea in language classroom to ensure better language learning.
I attended a presentation on “ESL Undergraduates’ Attitudes toward Using Wiki and Skype in Completing Project-based Tasks” by Yolanda Hiew & Tan Bee Hoon which attracted my attention much as this was similar to my presentation being linked to PBL. The presenter proved by her survey that students preferred Skype as it offered them freedom but Wiki had more substantial amount of learning in the two projects that she conducted with her university level ESP learners.
Another presentation which caught my attention is by Faizah binti Jaafar. She spoke on “Reader’s Theater: A Step in Learning Literature.” I attended two Bangladeshi presentations. One was by Md. Imran Khan on “Understanding and Sharing between Two Generations of Teachers: The Bangladesh Context.” The paper detailed how psychological aspects impact the sharing of two generations of teachers and how team teaching can improve the overall scenario of English teaching-learning in Bangladesh.
Md. Ziaul Karim and Md. Jamal Hossain talked about the controversy in the grading system prevailing in the private university education system and professed for a uniformity for the benefit of the students in their paper on “Grading Controversies in the Assessment of University Graduates in Bangladesh: An Insight into Uniformity.”
The gala dinner was fabulous with all colors. The theme was ‘Colors of Malaysia, Colors of Unity.’ It was royal in style as Raja Zarith Sofia binti Sultan Idris Shah sponsored the dinner and attended it. She came to the stage with the President of MELTA, Prof. Dr. Ganakumaran Subramaniam to distribute awards. There was a cultural show starting with Malaysian songs and dances and having Indian Vangra, Frank Sinatra song.
It was an enriching experience as I visited a new country and made new friends along with learning new ideas.