6 Reflections from ISTEK

I’m writing this already back at work in my school in Ankara after a great weekend in Istanbul at the 2nd ISTEK Schools International ELT Conference. The whole weekend was a great experience from start to finish with great speakers and thought-provoking sessions. I really enjoyed Lindsay Clandfield’s talk on ‘The Power of Lists’ and so, inspired by that and his newly-archived 6 Things blog, here my list of 6 Reflections from ISTEK:

1. The power of the PLN

This was the first time I had ever met anybody from my PLN in person and the experience was surprisingly normal. Had I not built up my PLN over the last several months, I probably would have briefly chatted with a few people along the lines of ‘where are you from?’, ‘where do you work?’ etc. I might then have briefly spoken to a couple of the better known speakers and that would have been that. Instead, upon seeing people, conversations were struck up straightaway with hellos and nice-to-see-yous taking the place of introductions. I can honestly say that I enjoyed meeting everyone, all of whom were exactly as I expected (except for Ania who showed up as a brunette instead of a blonde)! The feeling of normality was such that it wasn’t even weird when Mike Harrison arrived and showed up in the room at 5.50am - that situation would have been seriously awkward with a complete stranger.


Caught in an unplugged sandwich

Thanks are also due here to Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury for a great chat and indulging me by signing my copy of Teaching Unplugged, Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clanfield for doing likewise with Teaching Online, Gavin Dudeneye who will help me supercharge my Android tablet device, Mike Harrison, Özge Karaoğlu and Marisa Constantinides for their kind mentions of me during their sessions and Işıl Boy for attending my session and also introducing my to a few Turkish ELT contacts around the conference venue. And thanks to everyone else who made it a great weekend, especially (goes without saying) Burcu Akyol.


University of Manchester well-represented!

2. “Good things happen to good people”

This is what the ever-optimistic Shelly Terrell told me after we had found her bag containing most of her digital life in the restaurant she had left it in the night before. Most people I know would have been in a blind panic to have lost their laptop, hard drive and files for upcoming keynotes and presentations but not Shelly. She just told me she had faith in people to do the right thing and was confident we would find it later. She even sat calmly though the morning plenaries before we went to find the missing bag in the lunch break. Sure enough, it had been found and put to one side by the cleaner in the restaurant. Shelly told me how she believed some good fortune would befall that lady for taking care of the bag and returning it. I think the good person who had the good fortune here was Shelly though - and don’t forget, you owe me a favour!

3. Always carry spares & back-ups

This comes partly from the above story as Shelly was not completely at a loss on Sunday morning as she had her iPhone and all her most important stuff backed up on an external hard-drive. It also partly comes from the stories of people not having enough photocopies for their workshops (like me!), running out of battery power on their mobile devices (me again!) or being in desperate need of an extra pair of shoes (like Işıl)!

4. Karaoke is actually quite fun

As you may have noticed from my pre-conference tweets, I wasn’t too keen on my forced participation in the karaoke but it was a good laugh in the end… And next year, I’ll try to be organised enough to get a Pecha Kucha ready!


Pecha Kucha and Karaoke night

5. There’s a lot of catching up to do

In many ways! On a conference level, I realised just how big the ISTEK event is in only its second year, much bigger than my own school’s event despite that being in its 4th year now. On a school level, I spoke to many other teachers of young learners based in Turkey who work with much smaller classes than I do and have much greater access to computers, both in class and as part of blended learning programmes - I still work in an environment with one class computer very much on its last legs… And on a personal level, I feel I’ve come a long way in recent years to now be involved in events like this one and the recent VRT but I still feel like I’m feeling my way around. I’ll reflect on my workshop in more detail in another post but I saw enough elsewhere to make me want to make some changes for next time.

6. I can’t wait for next year!

The conference was great and it was a shame the weekend had to come to end and I had to dash for the airport in the knowledge a whole year will pass before it comes round again. I hope I’ll be there again next time, either giving another session (if they’ll have me back!) or just in attendance. Counting down the days already - ISTEK is the new Christmas: It comes but once a year and it’s definitely worth the wait!

Still to come: reflections on my own workshop and a round-up of the other sessions I attended


  1. Love it when I get to echo what "David said". Not the first time I've followed him in blog comments. :)

    Yes, indeed, nice reflections here. I've seen some of the youtube videos and had the chance to catch Scott Thornsbury and Lindsay Clandfield on the live feed. Impressed.

    So cool to meet the PLN, especially when they've add to what you do in the classroom in so many ways, and then boom, you finally meet them. Count down 8 days to IATEFL!!! My first big conference and PLN meet up too.

    An aside... and to think back at the conference fire you started right here on this blog just a few months ago... 60 some comments of fire! Wooo!

    cheers, brad

  2. Very difficult to convey the kind of buzz and feeling connected we all experienced this weekend, but you've done a great job, David. Very very happy to have met you in person.

    Here is to more!!!!! Soon!!!!


  3. I do believe I must come to this conference (that I just learnt existed this year) next year. Must. There's a whole bunch of 'must dos' for 2012.

    I think it's funny that you got Scott, Luke and Nicky to sign your texts as once upon a time I had thought about doing that when we had Adrian Underhill over, but didn't think it'd appeal to anyone but me.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys. :)

    Brad - Hope you have great fun at IATEFL. I imagine the event itself and the PLN numbers in attendance will be HUGE! As for the conference fire, ISTEK is one of the few events that doesn't charge its workshop presenters any registration fees and on top of that, it turned out to be the best conference I've ever been to. :)

    Marisa - great to have met you too and look forward to doing so again some day.

    Tyson - that would be great but bad news as Burcu tweeted yesterday that the next ISTEK won't be until 2013. :( (I'm hoping that was a belated April Fool's Joke...)

  5. Oh man, are you serious? Well, on the bright side, I guess I can use the opp to save money.

  6. Great reflection, Dave. Although you've made it difficult for me to add anything very much - kudos to your telling of the weekend. It was weird, a little, wasn't it? I just remember being half-dead on the way across Istanbul that Saturday morning, it was kind of a blur of a meeting and, then a few short hours later, the conference proper! So gutted to have missed so much - opening night, Scott Thornbury's talk, the Bosphorous boat trip, boot incidents - but what I did experience was one of the best (brief) weekends I have ever had. Great to have met you, and looking forward to the next time - roll on 2013!

  7. Hi Mike,

    Kudos to you for surviving 2 days of sessions, the PK night and your own (excellent) workshop on just a few hours sleep! Luckily, I was able to stay for Scott Thornbury's full talk. Even though it started late, the guy's such a pro that he finished bang on time and I jumped straight into a taxi and was at the airport within 20 minutes. :)

    Hopefully, we'll both be there next time and get to hang out a bit longer!

  8. Looking forward to next ISTEK as well and spending more time with people I didn't get to know very well this time!

  9. Great post David! I love reading post-ISTEK posts!
    Amazing time, amazing inspiring people!
    Hope we'll make it to next ISTEK to have more fun and charge our ELT batteries again!

    Ania (the brunette) ;-)

  10. So, will you present next year even if you have to pay?

    Sorry, couldn't resist it (please imagine a cheeky smiley face here).

  11. Well, there won't be one next year and I'm sure even when it returns in 2013, workshop presenters won't have to pay. :)

    And if we did have to pay, I would hope to have a sponsor to cover my costs by then ;)


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