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TESOL 2023 in Portland: Feeling the #ELT Pulse

March 27, 2023

We're back! This year's TESOL team included (from left) Lei (Director of Accounts), Michelle (Accounts Manager), Tara (VP of Publishing, me), Tanya (Head of Video Production), Ann (Editor), Lise (Video Content Creator & Producer), and Ben (CEO & Founder of Ellii).

Team TESOL 2023 in Ellii shirts

In addition to the team above, we also had Ashley (Outreach Coordinator) working remotely with us all day, every day in "Mission Control." From hotel and restaurant reservations to session rooms and booth maintenance, Ashley ensured that everything ran smoothly from beginning to end. (Ben describes Ellii's work ethic in this heartwarming, pre-conference post: All Hands on Deck, All the Time.)

If last year's TESOL convention was about sharing and caring about feelings in the midst of a pandemic (with a focus on the pros and cons of SEL), this year was more about putting out the feelers to see how the #ELT industry is responding in a time where education and technology seem to be changing at lightning speed.

Here are some of the questions we headed into TESOL with (and some buzzwords we heard this year):

1. What are English language teachers worrying about in 2023?

2. What are some important trends and targets in ELT?

  • ChatGPT
  • digital & media literacy
  • critical thinking
  • differentiation
  • gamification
  • translanguaging
  • collaborative teaching
  • virtual excursions

3. Where is the ELT industry heading next?

  • AI-generated content 
  • prompt engineering 
  • student-focused apps
  • paid subscriptions (with reduced freemium features)

If you take a look at the #TESOL2023 chatter on Twitter or Instagram, you'll notice one thing that is differed from last year. Everyone was thrilled to be face-to-face in community, sharing moments, ideas, and even food together.  

Session Topics

With so many sessions to pick from, Ellii's Publishing team typically heads to TESOL with a clear mission on which types of sessions we want to focus on. This year, we walked in with more of an open mind. Rather than choosing specific topics to research, our goal was to get a feel for what's important to English language teachers today and where the industry is heading.

While Lei, Michelle, and Lise held demos and chats with teachers at the Ellii booth and Ben focused on giving Ellii presentations, Tanya, Ann, and I attended dozens of sessions and gained inspiration and insight on the following topics: 

Supporting ELs in Content-Specific Classrooms

TESOL 2023 Presentation by Sarah Levitt: Strategies for Supporting ELs in Content-Specific Classrooms

Watch for upcoming session highlights as well as content updates and additions born out of our research and reflection at TESOL 2023! 

At the Ellii Booth

For many years, showing off ESL Library at TESOL was pretty simple. Teachers asked to see the PDF content, and we showed everything we had. Many loved our offerings and subscription-based service and signed up on the spot.

Last year in Pittsburgh (our first year as Ellii), we focused more on sharing our new features. Teachers (especially those still teaching fully online) were very excited about tools like our Immersive Reader integration and digital Speaking task. However, it became clear to us in recent months that while our tools and digital features are nice to have (or even a must-have), most teachers are still more interested in the content itself. 

Video team at TESOL 2023

From Ellii's booth backdrop to our brochures and demos, we let our content drive our conversations at TESOL this year. Though we were thrilled to show off our new Lesson Planner and Grade Feed (released just in time for TESOL), we recognized that what English language teachers really want and need from Ellii is ready-made, high-quality, relevant content for every age, level, and need

Guess what else teachers wanted at our TESOL booth this year? T-shirts! Chocolate! Coffee! Stickers! (And photos with the team!) 

I love Ellii T-shirts

The City of Portland 

It had been nine years since Ellii (formerly ESL Library) had been to Portland. We had fond memories of Portland being colorful, liberal, and welcoming, and we were not disappointed. 

Here are some local businesses and products we enjoyed:

  • Q Restaurant & Bar (our top pick, highly recommended by AC Hotel)
  • Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen (huge portions)
  • Mother's Bistro & Bar (great service)
  • Portland Mama Mia Trattoria (good appys)
  • Portland City Grill (amazing view from 30th floor)
  • Urban Farmer (cozy brunch spot where basketball players were signing autographs)
  • 40 LBS (trendy coffee shop)
  • Voodoo Doughnut (tourist trap we had to check out and enjoy)
  • "I"-Lignment (a self-help book written by our Uber driver—ordered)
  • Punchbowl Social (where we bowled with some locals)
  • Powell's City of Books (where I found some local poetry)
  • Majita Wine Co. (featured at the women-owned Woodlark Artisan Market)
  • Portland Farmers Market (every Saturday, across from Portland State University) 
  • Steel Bridge and waterfront (where we enjoyed the cherry blossoms

Voodoo Doughnut Portland

Having shared these positive Portland experiences and eateries, it cannot go unsaid that Portland is different now than it was when we visisted for TESOL 14. There is a major homelessness problem in this city, and we understood the need to take a bit more care getting around than we enjoyed almost a decade ago. During our week in Portland, we had several interesting conversations with drivers and hospitality staff in order to stay both safe and informed.

During one of our seven presentations, Ben shared our Discussion Starters lesson on Homelessness, which we think is a relevant conversation to be having with language learners all around the world, including the Canadian cities many of us work from (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Windsor, where I'm blogging from today). 

Using Controversial Topics in the Classroom TESOL 2023

US State Department TESOL 2023 session on using controversial topics in class.

Thank You, TESOL & Team

As Ben mentioned in his opening remarks at TESOL, it is a great feeling to be able to give back to the ELT community by sponsoring this important event each year.

Ben Buckwold, CEO of Ellii (TESOL 2023 diamond sponsor) giving opening remarks before keynote

Ben Buckwold, CEO of Ellii, giving opening remarks before TESOL 2023 keynote on March 22. Ellii was a Diamond sponsor at TESOL this year.

Working remotely has its perks, but heading home after spending a week together laughing and making memories is always bittersweet. A big thank you to Ben for bringing us along for this year's TESOL adventure. We love Ellii!

Ellii team in welcome sign when TESOL 2023 was over

Ellii's 2023 TESOL team finally got a chance to pose in the Welcome sign after we took down our booth and got ready to say our final goodbyes.

Hope to see some of you next year for TESOL 2024 in Tampa!

~ Tara

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Comments (1)

Tara Benwell(Author)

Here's a nice reflection from "The Teacher Think-Aloud Podcast" about TESOL 2023!
I loved this quote from Shey: “It might not click right away, but everything we see and absorb at big conferences like these, it’s up to us to take and adapt what we might learn about to our own context.”

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