Talks to look out for at IATEFL 2018

Matthew Ellman

Matthew Ellman, an ELT Trainer here at Cambridge University Press is visiting and speaking at IATEFL 2018.  He is also going to be part of the team reporting back to you about what’s happening at IATEFL via our social channels.  Matthew is eagerly anticipating the presentations at the conference and below he’s given us a run-down of his favourites each day.

IATEFL 2018 is just around the corner and as always, the conference promises to showcase some of the best new ideas and research in ELT. The choice of sessions is HUGE, so to help you navigate your way through the programme here are some of my top picks!

As someone with an interest in using digital technologies for teaching and training, there’s a tech-y slant to my selections. The conference programme always lists talks according to broad topics though, so if you know what interests you, make sure you flick through to the relevant pages so that you don’t miss out on anything. There will also be an app to download so that you can carry the programme in your pocket throughout the week!


The conference kicks off with a plenary from Professor Lourdes Ortega, who’s been at the forefront of second language acquisition (SLA) research for many years. Her talk on what SLA research has to offer practising teachers is sure to offer plenty of food for thought.

On the digital side of things, I’m curious to hear tech guru (and CUP syndic!) Gary Motteram’s talk on developing mobile teaching materials for challenging circumstances. When it comes to using digital tools with primary learners safeguarding is a crucial consideration, so Jennifer Dobson’s talk on doing just that should also be a really useful one.

One aspect of the conference that is often overlooked are the poster presentations. These only last 10 minutes and take place around lunchtime each day. This year I’m looking forward to hearing Josh Underwood talk about using voice-driven AI language assistants in the classroom, and Heriberto Rey Garcia Alvarez’s presentation on using mobiles in ESP lessons.


Wednesday’s plenary speaker is writer and trainer Dorothy Zemach, vastly experienced and author of the very entertaining English for Scammers! I’ve no doubt that her ‘behind the scenes’ look at what goes into textbook writing will be popular with delegates.

Blended learning is a topic close to my heart (as those who attend my talk on Friday will discover!) so I will be turning up to Pete Sharma and Barney Barrett’s ‘Best practice for blended learning’ talk. Another talk with a digital focus on Wednesday is ‘We need pedagogy, not just cool tools’ by Learning Technologies’ SIG coordinator Sophia Mavridi, which sounds right up my street!

With a similarly uncompromising title, ELT grandee and CUP author Jim Scrivener will be delivering ‘Forget methodology. Learners just need more (and better) practice’. I’m sure there’ll be a big crowd eager to hear him explain what that means!


For fans of educational technology there’s no shortage of interesting talks on the Thursday. Jo Budden, editor of the British Council’s excellent LearnEnglish Teens website, will be explaining how to ‘keep it fresh’ for the YouTube generation, while Sarah Hopkyns, maintaining the social media theme, will be speaking on ‘Using Instagram as a motivating tool for paragraph writing’.

Gamification has been spoken of at IATEFL conferences in the past, but arguably hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. I’m curious to see what John Cruft has to say in his talk ‘Should gaming and education come together? A case for gamification’.

Finally, Thursday sees CUP’s very own Caroline Thiriau explaining what we’ve learned from looking at usage data from the Cambridge Learning Management System, which should be a ‘must see’ for anyone with an interest in online learning in ELT.


The last day of IATEFL is always a short one, but the conference organisers have saved the best to last with a handful of really fascinating talks.

Nik Peachey will be taking a break from presenting online coverage of the conference to deliver his talk on ‘Critical thinking as a key digital literacy skill for ELT’. ELT Jam co-founder Nick Robinson, ever at the forefront of technology and ELT, will be speaking on ‘Future-proofing your ELT career in the digital age’. And I’m sure there’ll be a good crowd for John Arnold’s talk on how technology can help teachers enable differentiated learning for their students.

Oh, and yours truly will be talking about how introducing technology into schools affects teachers, and what to do to make that change successful!

So, plenty to look forward to, and when the full conference programme is released in mid-March there’ll be even more information about the talks to whet your appetite. I for one can’t wait—see you in Brighton!

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