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April 27, 2013 by k. liz

I had the awesome opportunity to attend and participate in the Istek ELT 2013 conference today! Here are a few of my thoughts from the first day . . .


Veysel Çelikdemir – I just saw Veysel perform his sand art a couple of weeks ago and was thoroughly impressed. Needless to say, this was a great way to start the day and set the tempo!

Sugata Mitra – You might have heard before of either the “Hole in the Wall Project” or “Slumdog Millionaire.” If you have, you have Mr. Mitra to thank for that. Mitra is an innovator in the field of education, and he has experimented with ways to increase learner autonomy. He is most famous for his project where he placed a computer in the wall of a small town in India and then left to allow the children to play with the computers on their own. His experiments have yielded some really interesting results with curious implications for the field of education. So, what did I learn from Sugata Mitra?

  • sometimes, the teacher just gets in the way
  • if students get stuck, they might just need someone to ask what they’re doing and tell them that they’re doing great – not someone to step in and be the expert
  • Groups of students can learn anything by themselves provided they can read, write, believe, and put it all together
  • our educational system needs to be reorganized around the central concept of questioning and self-organizing/autonomous learners

Herbert Puchta – I found this talk extremely interesting and helpful, especially in light of Sugata Mitra’s talk the hour before! As Herbert Puchta reminded us “Bored students do exist.” Puchta talked about how to tap into the brain’s reward system to deal with boredom in the classroom. What did I learn?

  • the brain feels pleasure/fulfillment/reward through learning – it’s like cognitive ice cream! 
  • we get joy from successful, goal-oriented action
  • extrinsic rewards don’t solve the real problem – we need to let students see their progress in learning
  • as teachers, we need to sell what we are doing as important for the students’ lives

Daniel Banks – This concurrent session was helpful by introducing some good ideas for the classroom and how to de-centralize the teacher. Daniel Banks talked about how to positively use debate in the classroom, how to create positive groups, how to use silent time in the classroom, and he also introduced three great websites for classroom management and interaction:

  • Class DoJo – for classroom discipline
  • Edmodo – like facebook for the classroom 🙂
  • Quizlet – an interactive flashcard/quiz program

Next was my workshop!! I’ll be sharing the information from my workshop here later this weekend. 🙂

Zeynep Urkun – this final session addressed the dreaded topic of assessment! Zeynep had some good ideas on how to deal with assessment, but to be sure, we still have questions! Will tests be eliminated? Can we educate without tests? Do tests align to objectives? But, we did walk away with some good pointers:

  • vary assessment
  • involve students
  • lower anxiety by letting students in on the process and letting them know what is expected of them
  • never tell students that a test will close a door . . .

So, that was my Saturday. How was yours? What did you learn today?


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