Plenary and Keynote Speakers of PanSIG 2020

Plenary: Homo Docens: Lessons From Brain Science About Effective Teaching

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Amanda Gillis-FurutakaAmanda Gillis-Furutaka (selected by the Mind, Brain, and Education SIG) is a Professor in the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Kyoto Sangyo University, where she has worked since 1992. Before coming to Japan, she taught English in France, Portugal, China, and Brazil. She has a postgraduate diploma in ESL from Leeds University, an MA in TESOL from Birmingham University (and is a tutor for the distance learning programme), and a PhD in music from the University of London, Goldsmiths College. She feels honoured to be asked to speak at the Pan SIG conference because she has been a member and officer of the Kyoto Chapter and many SIGs since she joined JALT in 1988 (Bilingualism, GILE, ER GALE, CUE, THT, and BRAIN) and most of her presentations and publications have been for JALT. In recent years, she has been most active in the BRAIN SIG because understanding how the brain learns is the best way to understand how we can teach more effectively. She is looking forward to sharing some of the key insights she has gained.

Plenary Abstract:

The official scientific name for our species is homo sapiens (wise human), but evolutionary scientists and neuroscientists suggest that a more accurate description is homo docens (the species that teaches itself). Why? Well, although learning is universally widespread in the animal world, ours is the only species that actively teaches its offspring (Högberg, Gärdenfors & Lars Larsson, 2015; Dehaene, 2020). This presentation will draw mainly on the work of Stanislas Dehaene to explain four basic principles that lead to effective learning and the neuroscience behind each one. These principles are: 1) Help learners direct and focus their attention; 2) Foster active engagement with the subject matter under investigation; 3) Provide constructive error feedback that guides learning and does not evaluate the learner; 4) Create opportunities for consolidation of learning through regular practice and skill building activities that enable subconscious mastery of what is being learned. Examples of class activities for a variety of levels of English learners will be provided to illustrate each of these principles and it is hoped that participants in the follow-up Q & A discussion will share many more examples of their own.

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Keynote: Technology: Bringing us together in a chaotic world

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Gary RossGary Ross is a web developer, designer, and programmer, and the creator of He works as an Associate Professor at Kanazawa University where he develops the online learning program at the School of Pharmaceutical Science.

Keynote Abstract:

The web was born just 30 years ago with its sharing technology promising a world of tolerance, goodwill, and understanding. Yet somewhere along this road, this dream has been shattered with our online world apparently to blame for the chaos we seem to find ourselves in. This talk will be about why this has happened, what we can do about it, and how we need to redefine our relationship with this world both on a personal level and a societal one to better cope with this new reality.

Link to keynote session

Previous Plans:

When PanSIG was being planned as a regular, non-online conference in the days before we knew about the pandemic, we had two additional plenary speakers who unfortunately were unable to change their schedules when PanSIG moved our weekend from May 30-31 to June 20-21. Here is our previous introduction and the two speakers who were unable to attend our online conference:

JALT was started as an organization of local chapters and continued in that fashion for more than 20 years. However, members soon started to organize themselves around their areas of interest and specialties and began to form local groups. Exactly 30 years ago, in 1990, the first National Special Interest Group, the Bilingualism N-SIG, was recognized as an official JALT entity.

The three plenary speakers of PanSIG 2020 were all selected by SIGs. In their talks, they will be linking their own areas of expertise with the areas of other SIGs to encourage networking. Our plenary speakers will be:

Irina ElgortIrina Elgort (selected by the Vocabulary SIG) is a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at Victoria University of Wellington. She teaches graduate courses in applied linguistics and TESOL and in higher education teaching and learning. Her research into second/foreign language vocabulary acquisition has been published in Language Learning; Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Language Testing; Bilingualism: Language and Cognition; and Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Irina is a recipient of the Christopher Brumfit Award for her PhD thesis on vocabulary learning. Her research and supervision areas also include contextual word learning, learning and processing of formulaic language, the bilingual lexicon, teacher education, computer-supported text analysis, and CALL. Irina is a member of the editorial board of the CALICO Journal, Journal of Computing in Higher Education, RELC Journal, and the PROFILE journal. As part of the Distinguished Lecturer Series, she has taught at the Graduate College of Education, Temple University, Japan.

Setsuko ToyamaSetsuko Toyama (selected by the Teaching Younger Learners SIG) is a teacher, teacher trainer, and ELT author. She has recently retired from Keiwa College where she taught principles and practice of English education in primary schools for 17 years. She is one of the originators of PEN (Primary English in Niigata, NPO), and she continues working closely with primary teachers. She has team-taught in primary schools, using picture books, music, and drama activities, encouraging children’s cognitive growth as well as their English proficiency. She has extensively taught in special needs classes, where she became keenly aware that the application of the theory of multiple intelligences supports every child’s learning. Setsuko is particularly popular for her informative and interactive workshops and has interacted with audiences at many conferences. Her publications include 『さがして!みつけて!ABCゆかいなアルファベットだいずかん』(偕成社), 『ABC & 123カード』(偕成社), English Time series (OUP),『[特別支援クラス外国語活動用] 歌とリズムを楽しむ英語絵本セット』(コスモピア),『[特別支援クラス外国語活動用] ストーリーを歌で楽しむ英語絵本セット』(コスモピア),『英語の絵本 活用マニュアル』 CDつき(コスモピア),『はじめてのえいごでおしゃべりえほん』(パイインターナショナル),『英和えじてん』(ワールドコム),『和英』(ワールドコム)。