On October 5-7, the 17th annual Umbrella Conference, “Gamification in TEFL: Fun for Learning and Learning for Fun” was held in Kursk.
An emotional opening with “Gaudeamus” and presentations of BVI students as well as three opening plenary presentations made a great impression on some 200 teachers from the Kursk region and 30 Umbrella participants representing 23 cities from across Russia.
This year’s conference coincided with the celebration of International Teachers’ Day and participants were also able to celebrate the re-birth of NATE (National Association of Teachers of English) which was legally registered just before the conference. Though workshops and plenary sessions are important elements of the conference, the real purpose of the annual Umbrella gatherings is for opinion leaders from the Russian academic English teaching community to discuss issues and trends affecting the profession and to form working groups to identify need for programming and areas for potential collaboration with the English Language Office.
Results from the brainstorming sessions included ideas for new projects on refining and expanding an emerging consortium of Academic Writing Centers in Russia, the development of a clearing house of information and resources for Russian teachers of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), and the generation of several project proposals related to issues of inclusion in ELT, including how to work with students who have disabilities and visual impairments.
A highlight of the conference was the presentation by the English Language Fellow from Kazan, Ana Maria Ferraro. Ana Maria described the “English Here” projectthat she is working on in Kazan and her presentation generated interest in replicating the project in other regions of the country. Essentially, the project seeks to identify “English Friendly” businesses in a community and helps to brand them with an “English Here” logo (similar to the ubiquitous WiFi here brand seen around the world). Maps and apps will be developed marking “English Here” participants and a training program has been designed to help businesses that currently do not meet the criteria for branding to eventually attain it.