Language Geek Teacher shoes (a bit ruffled but presentable)



∞∞    an image and quote to start    ∞∞




“Art is like baby shoes. When you coat them with gold, they can no longer be worn.”

∞  John Updike




I went to IATEFL because I’d never been to a conference and because I was curious.


1) to see what it was like

2) to meet my twitter peeps, and hear some of the well-respected among us.


MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, and I had an awesome time and am very, very happy that I went.  Here’s why I would go again:

Mosaic idea courtesy of Ceri Jones and made here:  big huge labs




C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y  is the single reason I would go again.

And I do want to go again, just not so far away (which is a big part of the reason “why not”).  Luckily I live in Paris and I will definitely be attending TESOL France in November and will hopefully see many of you again.  There will be a very very crowded ambrosia fest at my place

Come ! :)

Another important reason, but not good enough to make me travel and incur cost would be inSPIRation ( “bringing spirit into you” ).  Being with like-minded people, and exchanging ideas is amazing… but… I do that everyday on-line.  I’d wager to say that a week of twitter/blog/#eltchat could provide enough materials/ideas for at least a few years of ELT.  Or, why not read a book— there are tons of great inspirational ELT books out there.




Think about it for a few seconds…  am I exaggerating to make a point, or is it true?



Secondly, as Ken Wilson mentioned in his workshop on “10 things I think I know about teaching and learning”, there’s a serious ground-leveling effect with the Net today.  If you don’t agree with some of the “bigger names” in ELT, tell them.  I wrote 3 big ol’ long comments on Gavin’s blog yesterday because I disagree fundamentally with his view of Neil Postman and technology use in Education, and we went back and forth exploring.


I may be going out on a limb here, but I think those kind of exchanges can reach a much deeper level than the few seconds/minutes one can attempt to grab from a very occupied presenter at a conference.

(unless you’re pretty extroverted and smooth in a way that puts you with that presenter at a dinner table later on… but be careful not to be pushy—- fatal error)


And, honestly, it’s not just presenters.  Everyone’s attention is precious at conferences, and I’ve heard some call ATTENTION the currency of the 21st century.  As always to make currency you have to invest— and to get someone new’s attention, most of the time you have to listen first, then share.

In any case, conferences are fascinating social interactions, and I was like a kid in a candy store watching, listening, participating, and dressing up like a panda.  LOL

(quick aside- attention has fascinating etymological roots)

(“ten” is a 4500 yr old Indo European root that means to stretch (tendon)

(in latin it became tendere, and add an at, attendere, it becomes to “stretch towards”, with the mind as its common subject = to pay attention)





TRICK QUESTION:      what would you do if I gave you 500-1500 euros?


Even if the conference was free… it would still be expensive.

Even if we lived right next door… it would still be expensive.

Even w/o eating or drinking the entire time, it’d still be expensive.

Even we rode our bikes there… … … … .. .. .. .. .. . . i think i’ve made my point.


The ELT community and FREE resources available on the Net are a blessing, especially for those that simply can’t afford to spend 1000 euros on a conference.  I did this time and it was a huge personal investment.  I think it goes to show how much I’ve grown to care for many of the friends I’ve made on twitter.


Some might say I spent a lot.  Others certainly spent more.  Yes, there are scholarships, and yes some are lucky enough to be paid to go to conferences.  However, the bottom line is that conferences are expensive for many reasons, and in today’s anything, anywhere, anytime world—- there are FREE alternatives charging towards conferences like a tidal wave.



––––    Moving from REAL to Virtual ? ? ?    –––––


What can’t you get from a virtual conference that you can can from a “real” conference?


Physical presence.  Community.  A stronger PLN


What else?





I am a huge fan of personal interaction with people.  HUGE.  However, I’m also a big fan of environmentalism and localism, so honestly I feel a bit torn when it comes to travelling and investing a lot…. when there’s something similar, free, and on my couch at home.

Have you participated in the bi-annual Virtual Round Table, or EVO/BAW?

Heike, Berni and Shelly pulled together some greatness last month… and it’s free.  Same with the 6 weeks of EVO / Becoming a WebHead.  If I were a businessman, I’d be worried about that kind of competition.  And if I were a good businessman, I’d be pivoting that way in a heartbeat (see businessman shoes below).




To conclude… can u make a connection between my opinion of a changing conference environment and the original quote at the top?  Might feel a bit far-fetched,  but even more the reason to werk them critical thinking skills we all seek to challenge in class.  LOL   :)





as always, would love to hear what you think.

I’m not here to tell.

I’m hear to share and listen and learn.    (chosen mispelling… haha)


(oh… and only 24 hrs in a day, but you might also be interested in browsing our hippy and businessman shoe aisles to seek what that kind of a consumer thinks)


Cheers, b


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About Brad

--- i'm a learner-teacher, language geek, outdoorsy kind-of-guy --- U might miss the next tweet... Wanna subscribe by email ? ;-)
  • The hippy shoes (a sole/soulful pair) | A journée in language

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  • Naomi Epstein

    Using shoes as a way to present different aspects of your experience is an awesome idea and particularly goes together well with the title of your blog.
    While I enjoyed all three kinds of shoes I chose to comment on this one because I would like to attend an IATEFL Conference for the reasons you mentioned here.
    In addition, I have found exactly what you described here about severly limited opportunities to discuss anything in depth with a presenter at a conference. Joining blogosphere and twitter has allowed me to learn more all year and discuss things with “top brass” in a larger than one conference can offer.
    Nonethelss, I have set my sights on IATEFL two years from now…

  • Gavin Dudeney


    Not sure I’d count myself amongst the ‘big names’ – I’m vaguely an expert in a small field of ELT, which – in turn – is a small part of education, which – in turn – is a small part of life. However, I just wanted to say thanks for your perspectives on Postman and for the conversation, because that’s how we all learn.


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  • Sandy Millin

    Hi Brad,
    This is a fascinating way to present your ideas. The time you’ve taken to write these blogs posts shows the amount you have invested in the conference, not just financially, but professionally and emotionally too.
    Hope to see you there next year!

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Sandy ! Thanks for stopping by, and the nice comment.

    It was a fascinating way for me to describe the different ideas and emotions I felt as well. We’re not static teachers, but a plethora of experiences, and for me there’s a ton of language geek stuff, and hippy stuff in my daily world perception. There’s also the business side, but to be honest, if I shared my “cold business assessment” of the dinosaur of conferences and publishing, I would be worried that folks would STAMP me with that stigma.

    It was an investment as you’ve said, and I’ve written here, however, the return on investment was very very worth it ! ;-) LOL

    cheers, b

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Gavin-

    Thanks for stopping by. You are certainly the ELT Karaoke star, so I’d say you’re among the big names. :) However, I agree with your sentiment that our expertises and their importance shrink as we zoom out of our own perspectives, and see from a higher and higher perspective. From outer space, it all seems small, and fleeting, and yet precious too.

    I look forward to more exchanges, here and there and everywhere. Cheers, b

  • Brad Patterson

    Hey Naomi-

    So glad to have you stop by. I agree that the shoes are a fun metaphor, and important as an educator because understanding our audience helps us to communicate better, and thus have a more enriching experience.

    Don’t know if I’ll be at IATEFL in 2 years, but I wish you all the wealth I took away from this year’s conference. Cheers, b

  • Anonymous

    I need to read this a few more times. There are so many things to think about here. I agree with what you said about the expense. I learned so much at the Virtual Round Table conferences and it didn’t cost me (or my clients) a dime . I enjoyed many of the sessions after the fact (they were all recorded!) I noticed that some of the IATEFL sessions I went to were recorded. I wish I had known which ones were going to be recorded. I would have gone to different ones and watched these ones later. Also, the Wifi wasn’t great, which was really unfortunate. During the online conferences I was able to share the great learning experience via Twitter and invite others to join. But you’re right about the physical community. I was amazed by the fact that I already knew so many people, even though I had not met them face-face. It was a great feeling to walk into a room and sit beside people I’ve interviewed online or blogged with! I think the twitter/blogosphere experience will feel a bit different now that I’ve met many members of my PLN, but I still feel very connected to people like Jason Renshaw, Alex Case, and Barbara Sakamoto-teachers who weren’t at IATEFL. I had the time of my life, thanks to friends like you!

  • Anna

    Brad, great post (posts actually). And I know what you mean about being torn;) I was among those lucky ones who didn’t have to spend a dime thanks to the scholarship. But I started thinking about IATEFL Glasgow and even despite the fact that I really want to come, I don’t think I’ll be able to. But I will do my best – for me the face to face meetings and interaction are very important, I’m a people person;) And it was so great to meet my PLN and just talk and exchange ideas:) Thank you for being part of this great experience:)

  • Brad Patterson

    You’ve summed it up for me ! But Tesol France is right next door here… and I’ll be making food, and will choose the finest french wines, and cheese, and Vicky is bringing chocolate from Switzerland… and Ceci and Shelly will be here… and you need to come. :)

  • Brad Patterson

    It was the time of a life, and I’m so glad we could all have the chance to meet up.

    More to come, and lots of it on the web, which ain’t that bad after all.

    Bisous Tara !!!!

  • Anna

    I’ll definitely submit a proposal and wait:) And I’ll bring Polish “krówki” – cream fudge candy:)

  • The WHY, WHY NOT, and WILL of IATEFL | A journée in language

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  • Anonymous

    Hi Brad,

    Thank you for this blog post. It is creative, direct and challenges a discussion.

    I loved meeting you and so many others in Brighton. I think it must have been more than 20 or 25 people whom I met face to face for the first time after having been in contact via the VRT, EVO, webheads, Second Life or other online plattform.

    It was a delight to meet Dennis Newson and Carol Rainbow with whom I have been working looooong hours in Second Life. Dennis and myself ran the EVO session VILLAGE workshop and Carol, Randall and myself run EduNation, so we spent looooong hours building the islands.

    Then I met Delwen or DeeSnow in Brighton. She was a participant at our EVO session Village.

    The list goes on: Carla Arena and Aiden Ye (@motherchina) who are both EVO moderators and all the twitterers @tarabenwell @CeciELT @vickysaumell @theteacherjames @HerbertPuchta @willycard @nutrich @Shaunwilden @Marisa_C @esolcourses @ShellTerrell @harrisonmike @rliberni @brad5patterson @janetbianchini @bcnpaul1 @garymotteram @grahamstanley @dudeneyge @patjack67 @ann_f @DavidWarr @kenwilsonlondon @russell1955 @ozge @burcuakyol @annie_fox @vale360 @kalinagoenglish @irishmikeh @ericbarber @bethcagnol @dompates @teflpet @amandalanguages @nikpeachey … cool, very cool.

    I missed meeting Kalyan Chattopadhyay, with whom I am working lots in Second Life, who was scheduled to fly with his wife and daughter Olivia but could not make it because of some governmental ban on visa which had to do with the local ballotts but at least he was allowed to present at a distance.

    It was wonderful to meet so many for real and I could give them a big hug. It was very special.

    You challenge the costs and contrast this with sometimes better learning value online. Right you are but I would still want to see both a ‘Real Life’ and a ‘Second Life’. I love them both. More so, I believe that those who only have one life are to be pittied as could have been seen last year already with what I call the ‘Harrogate effect’, that a real conference life is greatly enriched by and active online life. We love Twitter.

    Personally I would have wanted to have more contact during the breaks, a lunch arrangement where many could meet and socialise, but I think the Brighton venue did not quite allow for this. Also I was suprised to see a small scale catering service with egg sandwiches for 3 or 4 GBPs. But this is England, it is rather expensive.

    Another thing that I find sad is that there are so many parallel sessions. I hate to miss out on things and if there is one session and I miss another 17 because they take place in parallel sessions, then this really gets to me.

    However, this is great that I attended IATEFL, because I am happy to invite those who have to do with language learning and tech to present at the Virtual Round Table conference. So, I am hereby inviting all those techies to submit their papers to the VRT.

    Thank you Brad, for joining the ranks of the bloggers. You are a very, very valuable addition and I am thrilled to have met you in person.


  • Brad Patterson

    Heike !!!

    Meeting you was awesome. Your smile is so warm and welcoming, just like at VRT, and I assume second life… i’m working on joining. LOL

    Loved your comment. It merits its own guest-blog, or an interview… whaddya think? :)

    Thanks for your sweet comment about my joining the ELT blogosphere. I’m having a blast because as you said, it can be “creative, direct (and indirect), and challenge a discussion”

    Bisous, b

  • Cintia Stella

    Hi Brad,

    Such a great post, as usual!

    I share Naomi’s goal of attending IATEFL, but I hope I can be there next year. I have learned – and keep learning – a lot on Twitter and from the blogs, but I do want to attend a “real” conference. There are many reasons for this and one of them is that I’d love to thank personally all the wonderful educators who inspire me daily. This online community of teachers is amazingly generous and supportive! I am filled with gratitude for all of you.

  • Brad Patterson

    @openid-77391:disqus , IATEFL was amazing for the reason you want to go… and a few weeks after writing this, I once again ponder the question: “Would I go again?” I think so now, but not every year, and my main motivation is just that community. I loved meeting all the PLN folks I hang with on twitter, facebook and our blogs.

    SO, hopefully we’ll be able to cross paths at some point. Until then, always a pleasure sharing with you here and chez toi aussi ! Cheers, b

  • Anonymous

    I can get out of the branch here, but I think that this exchange can reach more than a few seconds may be trying to answer during the meeting host is very busy.

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  • Anonymous

    I really like the sentence “Art is like baby shoes. When you coat them with gold, they can no longer be worn.” I am so inspired by your blog. Thanks for sharing with us. 

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  • Anonymous

    I would like to attend a meeting of IATEFL the reasons mentioned here. I found what is described here is very limited in-depth discussion, the host of the conference.

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  • Lexical Leo

    Seems it’s another conference we both attended but missed each other at… Judging by that photo with you holding mikes you must have been at the Karaoke Night?  

  • Brad Patterson

    Wild… Leo’s there’s something wrong, here!  What a bummer.  I think it probably has everything to do with the fact that “birds of a feather flock together” and tweeting birds tend to stick together… hence we’d never miss each other since you’ve joined twitter, but weren’t on the same radar before.  Wild, eh!