(Paul Henry says) I just spent an enjoyable weekend watching the second Istek ELT Conference on-line, and a very pleasurable experience it was, too. Not least because I watched a large part of it in the comfort of my pyjamas. As I’m fascinated by the art of tale telling I was particularly keen to watch Jan Blake, one of the artists promoted by the Crick Crack Club. To quote from their website:
‘The Crick Crack Club team is small, busy, ridiculously enthusiastic and takes great delight in managing an organisation which has been the driving force for the re-visioning of storytelling as a contemporary performance art for adult audiences, for over 20 years. Our Artistic Director Ben Haggarty founded the Crick Crack Club, and our work with artists, audiences and organisations, and our promotion of excellence, continues to influence storytelling as a contemporary performing art in England, Wales and Northern Europe.’
Jan Blake started telling tales in 1986 and her performances are famed for her wit, theatricality and strong singing voice. All this was apparent at Istek where she gave a masterclass in storytelling. She involved an audience which was left hanging on her every word and all this without a stitch of technology.
It was fitting therefore that in his closing plenary Scott Thornbury talked of the ELT movement Dogme which is dedicated to a ‘pedagogy of bare essentials.’ The group took its inspiration from Dogme 95, a Danish avant-garde filmmaking movement started in 1995 by the directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.
‘The goal of the Dogme collective is to purify filmmaking by refusing expensive and spectacular special effects, postproduction modifications and other gimmicks. The emphasis on purity forces the filmmakers to focus on the actual story and on the actors’ performances. The audience may also be more engaged as they do not have overproduction to alienate them from the narrative, themes, and mood.’
In an ELT context Scott made the very valid point that as educators we often walk into the classroom so over encumbered with materials and technology that we lose sight of ‘the point.’ Released from these confining shackles educators and students are more able to communicate and express themselves. As Scott so eloquently put it, ‘What is the problem for which technology is the answer?’
Jan Blake’s unemcumbered, refreshing, non-elt, storytelling plenary was a perfect example of what it means to be a great communicator and educator and Burcu Akyol, the conference organiser, needs to be congratulated on this inspired choice for conference opener. Indeed, on the line-up as a whole. A thoroughly enjoyable and motivating conference made more memorable by the fact that it’s the first conference I’ve attended in pyjamas.
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