Once again, Michigan State University and National Geographic Learning collaborated and produced a brilliant learning experience for ESOL educators. Their second annual Learning Symposium was held Saturday, April 12, 2014, on MSU’s main campus in Lansing. Teachers, teacher trainers, graduate students, and others in the field of ESOL gathered under one roof to hear a knowledgeable group of presenters speak about a variety of interesting topics related to academic vocabulary.
During the first keynote presentation of the day, we heard from Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic Fellow & Emerging Explorer. Parcak is an Egyptologist/archaeologist who specializes in using satellite pictures and infrared images to find new archaeological excavation sites. Not only has she uncovered countless hidden towns and burial sites from ancient civilizations, but she has also brought awareness to the alarming increase in illegal looting of excavation sites by comparing maps of these areas over time. Sites that have been looted can be identified by a decrease in size and by a large number of looters’ holes dug into the surrounding landscape. Parcak held the audience captive with her interesting anecdotes and eye-catching photos. If you missed out on this year’s Symposium, don’t fret–This speaker’s work will be featured in upcoming issues of National Geographic!
In the afternoon, a number of concurrent sessions were available for attendees. Participants selected from presentations such as “Identifying and Teaching Multiword Vocabulary Units,” “Vocabulary Dialogue Quizzes,” “Pronouncing Academic Vocabulary: A System that Works,” and “Pushing Students Beyond Translation.” Last year, the Symposium’s presenters were all from Michigan; whereas this year, presenters also came from a few different states in the Great Lakes region. It was a great networking and idea-sharing opportunity for all involved, presenters and attendees.
The final keynote speaker was Pamela Hartmann, of National Geographic Learning, who has extensive experience in ESL/EFL/ELT teaching and materials development. Hartmann discussed the importance of teaching our students learning strategies in addition to the language that we teach them. She pointed out that we can do so practically, without eating up too much of our valuable class time (or our even more cherished free time).
Many handouts, PowerPoints, and videos from the 2014 Symposium are provided on the event’s website: https://natgeo2014.elc.msu.edu for your perusal. I strongly recommend that you attend next year if you are able (even if it is just for the free, delicious food which is so generously included in the event’s free registration).