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Report from the AAAL 2017 Conference Chair, Tim McNamara

Wednesday, June 08, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Tim McNamara, The University of Melbourne
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WELCOME BACK TO PORTLAND!

The 2017 meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics will be held at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront in Portland, OR on March 18-21, 2017. It’s our third time in Portland  previous conferences were held there in 2004 (Conference Chair: Jim Lantolf) and 2014 (Conference Chair: Aneta Pavlenko). Eco-friendly Portland is a great city, famous for its hipsters, its food, its microbreweries and coffee places, its music, its literature, and its general cool. It’s a very walkable city and the conference location is ideal as a base for  exploration.

To get you in the mood, check this out: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/travel/what-to-do-in-36-hours-in-portland.html

And for your pre-conference reading (and while you’re awake with jet-lag), here are some Portland literary tips: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/may/14/books-about-portland-readers-picks and http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/apr/23/reading-american-cities-books-about-portland

The timing and location of the conference are convenient if you are planning to get to related conferences at that time. AAAL 2017 is immediately before the TESOL International Convention in Seattle, which runs from the evening of March 21 until March 24. Seattle is around 180 miles from Portland, and travel times are around three hours by car or three and a half hours by train. Immediately preceding AAAL is the annual convention of CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication), which is being held in Portland from March 15 to March 18.

AAAL always has an international flavor, both in its presenters, and in its membership (about 30% of members are based outside North America). Having for the first time a conference chair based outside North America is another significant marker of the international character of the organization. I feel honored that the Association has entrusted me with this role.


CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

PLENARY SPEAKERS: The theme of the conference is “Applied Linguistics and Transdisciplinarity”. Transdisciplinarity emphasizes the contribution that multiple disciplines may make, from their own separate disciplinary bases, to the understanding of common problems or issues. This theme is the organizing intellectual frame for current SLA research, according to the Douglas Fir group in the centenary issue of the Modern Language Journal this year. And it draws attention to the work on language being done outside applied linguistics, particularly within the humanities, which has relevance for our field. Thus, three of our plenary speakers are drawn from fields outside applied linguistics, in the humanities and computer science. Shaun Gallagher is a leading phenomenologist, and works on cognition and embodiment. Phenomenology is the philosophical basis for much current work in applied linguistics, particularly conversation analysis (CA) (see http://www.qualres.org/HomePhen-3590.html) and studies of embodiment in interaction more generally; it has also inspired many of the qualitative research methods in our field. Carolyn Miller is the leading exponent of rhetorical genre studies, one of the three schools of genre studies that have had such an important influence on our field. Janet Wiles works on the role of language in human-machine interaction, and the language capacities of robots. The other three plenary speakers are eminent applied linguists. Suresh Canagarajah will also be exploring, in a talk entitled “Spatiolinguistics”, the relevance of recent work on language in associated fields such as geography, this time for the field of languages for specific purposes. Li Wei will address important theoretical developments in the notion of translanguaging; his book on translanguaging, with Ofelia García, recently won the British Association for Applied Linguistics best book award. Finally, one of the leading European researchers on Second Language Acquisition, Simona Pekarek-Dohler, will explore how interactional competence in a second language develops over time, using CA as a methodology.

INVITED COLLOQUIA: Invited colloquia and joint invited colloquia allow in depth exploration of themes and issues in a range of fields. The joint AILA@AAAL colloquium focuses on the conference theme of Transdisciplinarity. Other colloquia focus on a range of contemporary social issues involving language: language and asylum (AAA@AAAL); indigenous language education (LSA@AAAL); language and sexuality. In the core field of second language learning and teaching, there are colloquia on creativity (TESOL@AAAL), the role of video games, specific purpose language assessment (ILTA@AAAL) and the legacy of Leo Van Lier’s ecological approach to language teaching (the subject of the annual pedagogy colloquium organized in honour of the first President of AAAL, Wilga Rivers, a fellow Australian). Others focus on methodological issues in ethnography and CA.


NEW FEATURES FOR 2017

SHARED SHORTER PAPER SESSIONS: We are introducing an additional format for presentations this year, Shared Shorter Paper sessions. Conferences in many other academic fields limit presentations of full papers to a maximum of ten minutes; paper sessions are thematically linked. This has some advantages: it encourages conciseness and focus; it allows more papers to be accepted; and it allows more time for discussion. A limited number of slots on the program at the 2017 conference will be made available to try out this new presentation format.  Sessions in this format will consist of three TEN-MINUTE ONLY PAPERS within a one-hour time slot. The three papers will be presented in the normal way, each with one or two minutes for clarification questions, followed by up to 30 minutes of discussion. We’re interested to see how this goes. One further advantage of this format is that it allows us to accept more papers in the program  this is important for presenters who can only get funding to attend the conference if their proposal is accepted as a paper rather than a poster or as part of a roundtable session.

ROUNDTABLE SESSIONS: We are also making changes to how the roundtable sessions are run. Sessions will be thirty minutes long, like paper sessions, with two presenters assigned to a table in each session. Each presenter will be allocated 15 minutes: eight minutes for speaking on his/her topic and seven minutes for group discussion. We encourage roundtable presenters to prepare handouts or laptop PowerPoint slides to accompany their presentations.

MORE STRANDS: We have increased the number of strands in which papers will be accepted for 2017. We have a new Vocabulary and Lexical Research (VOC) strand, and have revived the Language Maintenance and Revitalization (LMR) strand.

PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS: The very successful pre-conference workshops, held on the day before the conference opened, will again be a feature of next year’s conference. We will be announcing the topics of these workshops and details of how to register in the next few weeks.


PROPOSAL SYSTEM ALERT – DON'T LEAVE IT TO THE LAST MINUTE!

The Call for Proposals is out now at http://www.aaal.org/general/custom.asp?page=2017CFP

The proposal submission system opened on June 1, 2016 and the closing date for receiving proposals is August 17, 5:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. This is an absolutely firm deadline, and no exceptions can be made to it.

Access to the proposal system is via the membership database for AAAL. So to submit a proposal you will either need to be a member in good standing, or create a guest membership.  If you need to update your membership, or create a guest account, it takes time (up to 48 hours) for any changes to be registered in the system, which may prevent you submitting your proposal on time.

So please don’t leave clarifying your membership status and your proposal submission to the last minute… it may be too late!


CONFERENCE PLANNING TEAM

I’ve been helped in the choice of plenary speakers and invited colloquia by my colleagues at Melbourne, Neomy Storch, Janne Morton and Julie Choi. The Associate Chair is Marco Espinoza, who is also the Strand Coordinator Liaison. Marco, from Chile, is doing a PhD at Melbourne on bilingual education in an indigenous community in southern Chile. Trent Newman and Ivy Chen, also graduate students at Melbourne, are helping in the detailed planning and administrative work of getting the conference ready – sending out the Call for Proposals, organizing the reviewing of abstracts, and preparing the detailed conference program. They’re also gently teaching me the basics of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and program apps… You’ll meet all these great team members in Portland.

Looking forward to seeing you at AAAL 2017! 

— Tim McNamara, The University of Melbourne

The Conference Planning Team Photo: (left to right) Tim McNamara, Marco Espinoza, Neomy Storch and Janne Morton.


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