This year the 45th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition was held in Brighton, England. Considering the professional obligations, the distance and the financial situation being physically present at the event was something totally out of the question. However, the fact that the event would be broadcast live seemed to be quite an opportunity and a real challenge not only for myself as a teacher and educator but also as a teacher trainer. To be more specific, I thought I could take advantage of this potential and tranform it into an actual learning situation for the teachers of English in my area.
Being a member of the videobridgebuilders community and supporting the view that Videobridge is a method to optimise global communication by broadening experience and understanding of local learners with the help of visual media and synchronicity, I have been trying to explore and exploit possibilities to include it to my teacher- training pracices. One of such attempts led to the Brighton-Larissa live teacher training event.
The event took place at the premises of the Regional Directorate of Education of Thessaly in Larissa on the 18th April 2011. English teachers had been invited to attend Tom Farrell‘s talk broadcast live from Brighton, England. The title of Farrell’s talk was “Reflective Practice For Language Teachers” . The teachers gathered at the teleconference room of the Regional Directorate of Education of Thessaly half an hour prior to the talk. During this period they were informed about the content of the event, the process and the expected outcome. They were also given information about the Conference and the presenter. They were asked to think of three questions that they expected to be answered during the talk and then to check the extent to which their questions would be answered.
The second part of the seminar involved watching the talk and interacting through the livestream chat. The presence of a technician ensured that everything would go smoothly and the appropriate equipment (interactive whiteboard, projector, internet access at the right bandwidth, a computer for each teacher) facilitated the teachers in a way that they perceived the live watching of Tom Farrell’s talk as if they were physically present at the Auditorium 2 in Brighton Centre where the plenary talk was being held.
After the talk, the teachers continued with an one-hour workshop during which they reflected on their teaching practices. They were asked to work in pairs on a given task which was designed to help them familiarize themselves with one of the techniques of reflection on teaching , that of the unseen observation. Afterwards all teachers shared their feelings and thoughts about the benefits of reflection on teaching with the plenary. Time was also allotted to the discussion of this learning experience as well as of the way that part of a conference held so far away had been transformed into a local learning experience. The teachers’ comments were so enthusiastic and encouraging that I am now convinced that, if designed appropriately, videobridges are feasible and can lead to sustainable professional development.