Conference season is upon us and our i2e Professional Learning Specialists have been out in force attending, presenting, and bringing back valuable insights to share with the rest of our team. We didn’t want to keep this great information all to ourselves, so we are excited to be sharing it with all of you in a multi-part blog series. This week we are highlighting the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Convention & English Language Expo in Atlanta, Georgia!

Sara Beebe, i2e Professional Learning Specialist:

“I recently attended the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Convention & English Language Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. Approximately 6,000 people attended the conference, representing multiple countries from around the world. I attended the conference as an exhibitor representing Microsoft, one of the conference sponsors. This was both my first time attending the TESOL conference as well as my first time working at the Microsoft booth. Rachel Berger, President of Decoding Dyslexia in Minnesota, worked alongside me in the Microsoft booth. Together, we also led a presentation for a large audience of English as a Second Language (ESL) educators on the topic of Microsoft Learning Tools that meet the diverse needs of students.

I am so excited that I was able to attend this conference because it was a great opportunity to meet so many ESL teachers from all over the world and exchange ideas and inspiration with them. As a former ESL student myself—originally from Spain—ESL teachers are very special to me. I owe so much to my high school ESL teacher, who knew how to help me when no one else understood my specific learning needs. In addition to this, I now work one-on-one with ESL students through my online teaching via Microsoft Teams, so I was able to share with other educators many examples from my own experiences. I shared success stories about the use of Learning Tools, such as Immersive Reader, Picture Dictionary, and one of my favorites, the translation tool built into Immersive Reader. As part of my presentation, I included a brief video interview with one of my students, Jimmy, who uses the OneNote dictation tool in Chinese to process his ideas and then translate them to English with the translation feature. I shared how his grades have improved significantly as a result of using this feature to help him prepare for class discussions where he is assessed not just on participation but also on the critical thinking behind his comments. As we demonstrated the use of these tools, including the translator used for subtitles built into PowerPoint, we heard many “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” from the audience. The engagement was incredible. During our presentation, the room was packed! There wasn’t even room for people to sit on the floor! People were lined up out in the hallway, peeking to see what Learning Tools were all about. Everyone who stopped by our booth after the presentation was ready to learn and so excited by these tools. We heard a lot of “This was the best part of the whole conference,” and “How come I never knew about this?” and “My school needs to know about these—I’ll go back and show all the teachers next week!”

The most surprising part of the conference was how new so many of the teachers were to the Microsoft Learning Tools available to help meet the needs of all students, including speakers of other languages. Many teachers shared with us the struggles they have with students who have shut down or don’t see the point in learning because there are so many obstacles for them. It was so rewarding to see teachers’ faces when I showed them programs like Skype in the Classroom, which could help them connect their students to classrooms around the globe and keep them motivated! Teachers were also ready to start using tools like the Microsoft Translator app with parents during conferences and meetings, which would allow them to collaborate and communicate more effectively.

After the three days were over, it was hard to believe how many people I had met and connected with. It was inspiring to see so many open-minded educators who all came together to learn from one another and to continue to improve their craft. Without a doubt, I will plan on attending the TESOL conference in the future and highly recommend it to all the educators out there!”

Learn more about the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages International Association.