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XXXVI FAAPI CONFERENCE – TUCUMÁN – by Solange Muia

In September last year I was given the opportunity to attend the XXXVI FAAPI CONFERENCE held in Tucuman. Let me tell you this was the perfect time and place to meet each other, to share professional experiences and to reflect on the new trends of English Teaching. The Conference was fantastically organized in a stunning location surrounded by the beautiful hills of San Javier, in the district of Yerba Buena and we had the opportunity to share lectures upon the importance of Communicative Language Teaching, the use of technology and social networks in the classroom, the importance of rising cultural awareness and different tips and ideas on how to update our teaching skills and adapt them to the 21st.century.

The academic proposals lectured by distinguished presenters emphasized how different teaching and learning was thirty years ago and they highlighted some of the many reasons why we need to change into a postmodern pedagogy.

We live in an age of change. Technology and social networks are part of the new generations´ lives and this has affected the use of the language dramatically. Thirty years ago one of the tenses with higher level of frequency in its use was the past simple and the past continuous. However, today the most popular tense is the present continuous. Why? Simple, because of the use of twitter and Facebook. These virtual networks have become social environments. They answer one question, “What are you doing?” or the most recent one “What is in your mind?” to widen the concept and give way to a more academic, or intellectualized answer than a simple “combing my hair or making a cake”. Twitter and Facebook (to name the most popular micro blogging sites, of course there are many more) became a world-wide tool very fast because they mean a different, faster, easier and funnier way of communicating with people from all over the world, exchanging bits of information and sharing interests and views. During some of the presentations the participants had the opportunity of learning how to use these micro blogging tools in the classroom to help develop written and oral fluency and to encourage students to achieve common learning goals by working together in a more natural way or in a way they are more used to today.

Some of the benefits of integrating micro blogging into your teaching that were highlighted during the presentations are:

Conversations continue inside and outside the class.

It offers the opportunity to practice specific language skills.

It develops a classroom community.

It helps students get a sensed of the world.

It helps send instant feedback.

Users can choose to follow a professional/famous person.

Basically, micro blogging is all about conversation; therefore it keeps students in contact, leads to more interactive and swift discussions, emphasizes fluency in communication and focuses on conciseness and accuracy, thus being really well suited to what we are looking for today as regards language learning and teaching.

Another thing which was emphasized in several presentations was the need to make language learning more real. People need to feel that their lives are part of the process of learning. When a number of students were asked about which was their favorite part of the English class, researchers were amazed to find that most of them said: “The minutes before the class begins, when the teacher asks me “How are you?” or “What did you do last weekend?”.  This shows how important it is for us teachers to have real interaction with our students, real communication instead of only using fake activities proposed by books. Students need to feel a sense of achievement and authenticity in what they are doing. That will create a more spontaneous context as well. Some of the things we need to bear in mind when planning a speaking activity are:

Productivity

Purposefulness

Interactivity

Challenge

Authenticity

The plenaries and papers presented at the conference characterized the 21st century as an age of change, and discussed the conditions to implement transformative innovation in educational institutions. It concluded that Communicative Language Teaching constitutes a suitable framework for EFL teachers to make the most of the potential of digital technologies and to become creative professional enquirers and leaders of change.

What I am telling you about here is just a short summary of the many topics which were presented in the FAAPI Congress in Tucuman and I will be glad to give you more material and information if you are interested in going deeper into these topics.

Contact me at: teachersolange@hotmail.com

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