The wrap-up of Tesol Unconferencevn1 (2023-2024) ‘Transforming English Education Together’

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The first two-day TESOL unconference, as known as TESOL Unconferencevn 1 sponsored by the US Department of State’s 2023 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) and hosted at Tan Tao University in Long An province, brought together participants from diverse universities, colleges and other educational institutions in the Mekong Delta provinces and those in Ho Chi Minh City. More than just a mere gathering, the event sparked a vibrant community of dedicated collaborators, fueling growth and innovation within the English language community.

Kicking off on the afternoon of December 14, 2023, in Levy Hall at Tan Tao University, the Pre-Unconference drew English educators from a range of higher education institutions, both local and international. On behalf of the Organizing Committee of Tan Tao University and the project team lead, Dr. Nhon Dang gave a speech welcoming educator attendees chosen for the first TESOL Unconference and briefly introducing the core principles, mission, and objectives of the winning project Unconferencing: Unleash innovative ideas to transform English education’. The Pre-Unconference also introduced the project team, and finalized the discussion themes with focused sub-topics. All tied to the Unconference theme ‘Transforming English Education Together’, setting the stage for the official Unconference day on December 15, 2023.

Dr. Nhon Dang, Dean of the School of Languages, TTU, the project team lead briefly introduced the project in the Pre-Unconference session on December 14, 2023

The project team of TESOL Unconference

On the official Unconference day on December 15, 2023, the event commenced with a speech delivered online by Mr. Jeremy Luna, the Information Officer, representing the US General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Mr. Jeremy Luna, the Information Officer, a representative of the US General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, delivered a speech online.

As Vice Provost of Ho Chi Minh City University of Economics and Finance (UEF), the President of HCMC TESOL Association, and the project member, Dr. Loc Do gave a welcome speech to the Unconference.

Dr. Loc Do, Vice Provost of UEF and President of HCMC TESOL Association, delivered a welcome speech to the Unconference.

As the host of the Unconference, Tan Tao University welcomed more than 120 educator attendees from diverse higher education institutions, within Vietnam and abroad. At the opening of the official Unconference, on behalf of the project team, Dr. John Baker awarded a Commemorative Plaque to the Board of Executive of Tan Tao University for their excellent contribution to the success of the event.

Dr. John Baker (from the right) awarded the Commemorative Plaque to Dr. Nguyen Mai Lam (from the left), TTU Vice Provost.

On behalf of the project team, Dr. Nhon Dang delivered a gracious thank-you address to the US Department of State, the US General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City for funding the project, to the Board of Executive of Tan Tao University for creating favorable conditions for the project implementation, to the project members working closely together, to the session facilitators, to the educator attendees regardless of their geographical distances, to media team, volunteers, supporters and to those who made the unconference possible.

Dr. Nhon Dang, the project team lead, offered heartfelt words of appreciation.
A/P. Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Vu addressed the message of Unconference ‘Transforming English Education Together’ at the opening of the Unconference event.

As a delegate from Thailand, A/P. Dr. Dhirawit Pinyonattagarn, enriched the Unconference by sharing his practical experience from Thailand in his role as a discussion session facilitator. A/P. Dr. Pinyonattagarn had flown in earlier to attend the Pre-Unconference session and engage with other delegates chosen for the event.

A/P. Dr. Dhirawit Pinyonattagarn from Thailand shared his experience at the Unconference.

The Unconference welcomed Horizon TESOL, the office of Ho Chi Minh City TESOL Association, and other organizations interested in the event.

Horizon TESOL, the office of HCMC TESOL Association, and other educator attendees.

The Unconference brought together English leading professionals as discussion session facilitators, including A/P. Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Vu (Vice Provost of HUFLIT University, President of STESOL), A/P. Dr. Tran Quoc Thao (HUTECH University), A/P. Dr. Duong My Tham (UEF University), Dr. John Baker (Ton Duc Thang University), Dr. Tran Tin Nghi (Dean of Foreign Language Department, HCMC University of Industry and Trade), Dr. Tran The Phi (Dean of Foreign Language Department, Sai Gon University), Mr. Tri Nguyen (International TESOL Academy), Mr. Phuoc Nguyen (ZIM Academy), Mr. Joseph Doerpinghause, Dr. Nhon Dang, Dr. Long Nguyen (Tan Tao University), and others.

Discussion session facilitators awarded Certificates at the opening ceremony

The morning’s session of the official Unconference was dedicated to the intricacies of English teaching, where educators and scholars from different institutions shared innovative methodologies and pedagogical insights. The breadth of topics covered during this session reflected the varied expertise present, including Technology Integration (focused on exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI) in English education, gamifying English instruction, harnessing the power of Augmented Reality (AR) /Virtual Reality (VR) content for personalized English learning), Classroom Activities and Techniques (regarding teaching the four language skills and some contemporary teaching methods), Classroom Motivation (focusing on enhancing student motivation and engagement, and promoting learner’s autonomy), Classroom Management (in addressing diverse learning styles and needs, teaching mixed-level and crowded students, and managing classroom conflicts to address misbehaviors and restore relationships), Teaching English for Specific Purposes and Standardized Tests (addressing teaching versus testing, teacing ESP, IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL and other standardized tests), and Cultural Sensitivity and Global Citizenship (focusing on promoting intercultural understanding and communication, addressing language barriers and cultural differences, and preparing students for global citizenship, and the issue of inclusiveness). The breakout room facilitators skillfully guided engaging discussions, fostering collaboration among English educators from diverse backgrounds. Together, they shared hands-on ideas, effective strategies, sound methods, and practical measures to address the evolving needs of English learners and today and tomorrow’s teaching contexts.

In the afternoon, the focus shifted to a Q&A format and discussions on organizing participant-driven unconferences. This unique format empowered attendees to actively shape the agenda, fostering an inclusive and participatory environment. The facilitators and attendees discussed the ideas of translating the unconference experience into concrete action plans, and the participants also expressed their concerns about finding funds for replicating this engaging format and fostering vibrant English learning at their own institutions. The facilitators, apart from introducing the availability of funding taken from part of the project winnings to award two education institutions with two respective feasible proposals for two follow-on unconferences, also suggested seeking funding from the participants’ affiliates, some agencies, organizations, and businesses interested in English education.

Q&A session created an interactive and lively discussion atmosphere

From left, A/P. Dr. Vu Nguyen, Dr. John Baker, Dr. Nghi Tran, and Dr. Phi Tran
(From left) Mr. Tri Nguyen, A/P.Dr. Vu Nguyen, and Dr. John Baker

As the two days unfolded, the unconference proved to be a catalyst for ongoing collaboration and knowledge dissemination, describing the core principles ‘CHANGE’ of the unconference as follows:

  • Commitment and Creativity
  • Harmonious Collaboration and Cooperation
  • Active Engagement and Learning
  • Network and Progress
  • Growth and Adaptability
  • Enthusiasm and Community Building
Attendees at TESOL Unconference1 gathered for a memorable group photo

Participants left the event with renewed enthusiasm, feeling inspired, armed with fresh and practical ideas in English instruction, and a strengthened network of colleagues across universities in the Mekong Delta area and in Ho Chi Minh City. The ongoing dialogues ensured that the spirit of collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the English language community would live on long after the closing ceremony.

Unveiling more moments! Catch another wave of snapshots from TESOL Unconference1