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7 reasons to be excited about our Spring Conference!


TESL Toronto Spring 2013 Conference (TOSCON13) is right around the corner–May 24 & 25, 2013–and as conference chair, I’m extremely excited that registration has finally opened and all the planning over the last 8 months is beginning to materialise into a real event, with real people and real activity. Here’s 7 reasons why I’m particularly excited for this year’s conference!

There are 2 days of events!

Every year previously, our conference has been held on a Saturday in May, usually right around Mother’s Day. Much of the time, there have been two sessions, ending the day after lunch. Though we expanded to three sessions last year, we are trying out two days this year, Friday & Saturday! We just have SO many contributors with excellent sessions this year (we could have made it three days). Besides, I always questioned applying the term ‘conference’ to a one-day event. Now, it feels somehow more justified.

Lindsay, Thomas, Luke & Julia!

Though Friday’s event is still limited to fewer attendees, one could suggest it’s a bit more exclusive, special, and based on our speakers, an amazing opportunity.


Lindsay Clandfield – What can I say about Lindsay’s enormous contributions to our industry beyond what’s said here or here or here or by himself here or here or here? From Toronto, now living in Spain, Lindsay is truly global–a fitting title for his most recent (and Duke of Edinburg ESU English Language Book Award winning) course series from Macmillan. On top of everything, he formed the round with Luke Meddings after “a series of conversations about bridging the gap between blogs and books – and about the difficulty of placing innovative, niche or critical materials with the big ELT publishers.” Great, for people like me, who always feel course book content is a watered down white wash for mass appeal. His talk on “Rediscovering Writing” will be a hard one to miss!

tomThomas Farrell – It was during Thomas’ plenary talk at TESOL France that I was first really drawn to reflecting on reflective practice in teaching. I’ve blogged for three years now about teaching, and it’s through this exercise that I really learn about my own judgements, beliefs and how to use them to develop as a language teacher. Thomas is the expert in explaining, informing and guiding teachers in reflection. An engaging speaker and author, Thomas’ session “Reflective practice for language teachers” will be one of the most insightful and enlightening sessions of the conference.

lukeLuke Meddings – Not many people can claim they started a movement with Scott Thornbury that has swept over the language teaching community with a great deal of passionate disciples and equally passionate opponents, but Luke can. In 2000, he and Scott opened a Yahoo group to discuss the virtues of a stripped down approach to language teaching, and 13 years later, it’s known worldwide as Dogme ELT. Luke & Scott wrote about it in the British Council ELTon Award for Innovation winning Teaching Unplugged (Delta Publishing), have given talks about it worldwide and been written about countless times since. I met Luke in person in Paris at TESOL France last November, and can’t wait to hang out with him again. His talk, “Unplugged: The Ripple Effect” will be an awesome place to learn more about and experience teaching unplugged with others who share this philosophy!


Julia Williams – Out of all four, Julia is the person I’ve spent the most time at conferences with over the last 5 years and the teacher most directly related to my teaching context, EAP. Having authored one of the first EAP course books based on her program at Renison College, Learning English for Academic Purposes (Pearson), Julia’s insight into “Trends and Textbooks in EAP” will certainly give us a valuable look at how our EAP programs are (or aren’t) hitting the targets our international undergraduate students are looking for in pursuing their studies at Canadian universities.

Historic Hart House!

Never before has TESL Toronto held an event in a more elegant, historic and absolutely gorgeous venue as Hart House. For a couple years, the program I teach in at University of Toronto has held receptions for students in their Harry Potter-esque gala rooms, and there is no substitute for the castle-like architecture, hard-wood features and impressive atmosphere Hart House provides. Friday’s sessions are here, followed by a catered dinner altogether in a room that can’t be missed.

More diverse workshops than ever!

The response during our Call for Presenters for Saturday was bigger than ever. We had nearly 50 submissions, ranging from successful local presenters to first-time leaders with fresh ideas and a continuation of international contingents. Though it was a hard call, this range gave us such diversity of topics to create a well-rounded conference for everyone from all sectors and teaching contexts, from settlement to general English to EAP to ESP to exam preparation. Plus, if you like fast sessions or longer chances to participate, there are lots of both 60-minute and 90-minute workshops. I’m so proud of the offered workshops this year. Our only problem this year: choosing which ones to attend!

Zero pressure!

Whenever I have to choose the workshops I want to attend when I’m registering for a conference, I always feel an uncomfortable pressure to make the right choice too quickly. If I take time to figure out what’s best for me to see, the session might fill up before I register. If I register as soon as registration opens, I might overlook a really good session I read more about later. This is NOT the case at this year’s conference. All rooms hold over 60 people, so we’ve decided not to force your hand. Instead, spend the next month reading through the conference program (PDF / Online) at leisure. Plus, now presenters can promote their workshops. Pressure be gone!

$50 coupons towards any exhibitor!

You heard me. We’re flipping the traditional book draw on its head. This year, instead of the books being donated by the exhibitors, we’re drawing $50 coupons that can be spent at any of the exhibitors on Saturday by lottery. It’ll be YOUR choice as to what book you take home if you win. What’s better than putting the power into the hands of those who should have it?

“Our version of subversion”!

Did I mention everybody gets the opportunity to see Luke & Lindsay in action on Saturday too? One of the (many) highlights I’m so stoked about is our first-ever joint plenary by these two globally respected English language teaching experts! At 3:00PM, after following our individual paths all day, we can all come together to end the conference at this titillating plenary based on their coauthored e-book, “52 (one subversive topic per week)”, published through Luke & Lindsay’s progressive, creative collective, the round (yep, no capitals are needed for this creative company). I love the concept here: a collection of activities for increasing engagement with our learners on authentic topics that don’t always make the cut in traditional coursebooks. We’ll be giving away up to 150 coupons for this e-book to anyone who wants one, so if you think about heading home early, you absolutely may not! 😉

I can’t wait! Can you? No, I didn’t think so. See you in May

(I hope). 😀

TOSCON13 registration:
TOSCON13 website page:
TOSCON13 Facebook page:
TOSCON13 online program:
TOSCON13 downloadable PDF program:
TOSCON13 poster:
TOSCON13 invitation letter template:

This has been cross-posted on 4C in ELT, Tyson Seburn’s blog.

PS – A big shout out to our main sponsors, the International Foundation Program at New College!