Notes from Philly ACTFL 2012

I’m in Philadelphia for the ACTFL 2012 conference. It’s the yearly conference for language teachers and language learning researchers.

This post is going to be short on links and long on rambling. I’m posting from my iPad and I’m not exactly sure how to do everything yet.

S and I flew here from Seattle on a direct flight. We booked late-ish, so we both got middle seats in different rows. It wasn’t that bad. Got in at 5pm, and took regional rail into the city center. We booked late-ish, so the only place we found was the Hotel Monaco… we arrived to find that our room overlooks THE Liberty Bell. The lobby is a weird collection or random shit… I asked, and the front desk gave me some decorator’s story about a rich couple who collected random shit. The back wall of reception is a bunch of Chinese calligraphy brushes. There will be a picture later.

Our hotel is pretty swanky. Every wall has paper.

Last night we got dinner at Han Dynasty, which was a recommendation from my friend H. It was delicious but I was a little annoyed that there were no Chinese people anywhere. Also, the website is, and when I look at that all I can see is Handy Nasty. We ordered hot sauce pork, pea leaves, and cold cucumbers.

Anyway, it’s a short walk to the convention site, and this morning we registered and then snuck into Harrison’s talk about his research on endangered languages. There were thousands of people there all engrossed in his gorgeous visuals and his exotic Indiana Jones linguistics and his crew cut. The lights were dim and set to purple, which, note to self, is bad at 9am EST when you’re from the West Coast.

Anyway, he made a great case for documenting endangered languages, and for minority language populations to own and revitalize their languages. I did some snarky live-tweeting about Harrison’s being a big Whorfian, but no one bit. Definitely look at “The Linguists” I think it’s on Netflix.

Disclaimer: I don’t think Harrison is a Whorfian and he’s 100 times the scholar I am, but twitter is for snarking so I snarked.

We went to the Exhibition hall after that. I met Jason from Fluent U and saw SkritterJake. They both seemed busy so I didn’t chat too much. Met a rep from Vista to try to resolve a student’s online code problem, she was awesome.

Later S and I went to Reading Terminal Market (Big J’s recommendation) for a light brunch. We both ended up with corned beef sandwiches, and I will not eat again until I return to Seattle. Afterward, I met K and took her back to Reading Terminal. We caught up in an empty conference room while she ate her cheesesteak.

I went with her to a session with Bill van Patten, who was presenting about the hybrid classroom, which I know as a “blended” or “flipped” classroom. In language learning that means all the input and and mechanical practice is done online, and class time is reserved for communicative activities.

There’s two things I want to say about this. The first is that I was stunned that BVP wants the initial input to happen outside of class, which is gross to me, for egocentric reasons. For years I considered initial input to be the pinnacle of my craft as a Communicative language teacher, and now BVP says look at the new vocab on page X and do these exercises online. I’ll get over it.

The second thing is that he demonstrated an activity that was just a thing of beauty, classic BVP as I know him. It started with some hypothesizing about average ages of life events and ended when he pulled out census data, and it just took me back to the good old days.

Hybrid classroom is probably an inevitability. But I don’t feel that it needs me to be its champion.

The next session was one about using popular music, and I think I have a project what was better developed than the presenter’s was. The thing that was amazing about her work was that she was just relentless about hitting all the marks; prelistening, during listening cloze, post listening reflection, pre-viewing, during viewing, post viewing reflection, creative writing, evaluation rubric, participation rubric… relentless. This was all one lesson.

After that session, S and I walked back to the hotel, which puts on a wine hour. Then there was cheesesteaks at Jim’s at 4th and Stone, and then back to the ranch to unwind. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

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