I have just gotten back from Hachinohe, where The University of Hachinohe, together with Iwate JALT hosted the first Michinoku English Education Summit, or M.E.E.S. for short. This was a one day event packed with dynamic speakers. The theme of the summit was ‘Collaboration’, and it was the first summit of its kind in Aomori. Putting a conference of this size in Hachinohe let people come together and discuss collaboration and other topics without having to travel across the country to do so.
The plenary speaker for the summit was Mark
De Boer, an academic research at Iwate University in Morioka. He had a spirited opening talk about the death of the native speaker. He spoke about planning out classes in a way that places students in collaborative groups that mimic real-life jobs situations, thus having them use English for problem solving and presenting rather than simply as traditional classroom environment with grammar lessons and readings.
Following Mark was Mike Smith, a teacher at the Hachinohe Institute of Technology, who talked about globalism in Japanese school and the role of ALTs. He spoke about the motivations for English as a foreign language and looked at ways that ALTs an Japanese teachers could create more effective classroom environments. He also brought up the topic of costs of EFL in Japan.
After Mike, Ben Shearon gave a lecture about getting your ideas off the ground in schools and how to sell them effectively. Ben is a lecturer at Tohoku University. He believes that recruiting and collaborating with others helps get ideas off the ground. He suggested growing new projects slowly and carefully, and getting proper the proper funding to make them work.
James Hobbs from Iwate Medical University told us about running a medical lab class that taught practical English by getting the students to learn and collaborate with each other, much in the same way Mark spoke of in his opening talk. What started out as idea pitched in a report, ended up begin a successful class that has enhanced the English abilities of the university’s students.
To wrap up the morning session, Sean Anderson gave an intro to his popular English Learning Card game Question Quest. He gave an overview of his motivations for creating the game and have a quick tutorial on how to play it.
After a ninety minute lunch break, the afternoon sessions opened up with a workshop that let all participants collaborate themselves and discuss how the morning talks might be applied in their own realms of English Education. The workshop was divided into two one-hour segments, with participants switching groups between sessions.
Conferences of this size can often be a logistical nightmare, however the First Annual Michinoku English Education Summit was more than up to the challenge. Not only was it the first conference of its kind in Aomori, but it drew a sizable number of attendees and speakers. This can only help it further reach English education professionals in the future. I look forward to the next one.
A big thanks to Greg Anthony and Barry Grossman at The Universtiy of Hachinohe for putting this amazing conference together. I’ve placed a few more event photos at the bottom of the article.
Reported by Jason Hill
All photography ©2014 Jason Hill