Summer 2020 was to mark my the end of my teaching at Warwick. I plan to retire at year end and didn't want to leave the next cohort part way through their learning. These were just plans in my head, but they were of course affected by the arrival of a global pandemic - forecast for some years by experts and yet unexpected by the UK Government, which of course had their eyes only on the earning potential presented by their #brexit agenda.
As it became apparent that we would not be able to travel easily, thoughts turned to how we could maintain some continuity in the Eurocall community which is almost entirely supported through an annual conference, already some way into planning to take place in Copenhagen. A difficult decision was made, we would not be able to go ahead. I had been co-opted to the board of Eurocall in 2018 and this organisation has a special place in my heart.
As an early adopter of technology for language teaching and learning I had become aware early in my career that there was a group of academics who researched in this area. As a teacher, even as a head of subject I didn't have resources to enable me to join a physical conference. I read some of their work and attended local training events in Warwickshire but back then there was no easy access to information through the internet. In the 90's, when Eurocall was founded I used CD-ROMs such as Granville in my teaching. Later in my career, having moved to work in Higher Education I was able to track down Graham Davies, thanks to his ICT4LT website and twitter. I contacted him in 2010 as I had taken on a role to support staff development at Warwick Language Centre and he kindly agreed to speak to our teachers in his Second Life persona. Even with my very rudimentary skills in Second Life I was able to get my avatar to wear a Eurocall t-shirt! Warwick language tutors listened to Graham together and discussed how we could further embed technology in our teaching practice. I felt I was offering them the chance to connect with the leading edge of research and those with most experience.
Graham and I shared a love of Europe and the need to support language learning:
Sadly Graham died 2 year later. I attended a celebration of his life in Second Life, a really moving event. He cared deeply for the fellowship he found in EuroCALL and I felt honoured to be able to pick up his legacy through working on the virtual strand blog. I felt that the challenges I had faced as a young teacher would not be going away. The opportunity to make the work of Eurocall more open and accessible to all who supported language learning was one I could not resist. For me this was personal
The idea of the #eurocallgathering event was born of the challenges presented by covid19 in 2020. 10 years after Graham had spoken to our teachers, I put a plan together to use the under-utilised capacity of our G Suite to ensure that we could still get the community together. I set up a site a hashtag and a You Tube channel and spent the summer months pulling it all together. Thanks to the support of the executive, the conference committee was able to transfer much of the planned event online. We didn't have the joy of visiting Copenhagen but we were able to share our work and and fellowship for two packed online days which will also leave a legacy behind them for others to find.
The wide range of research which is generated by this community continues and #eurocallagathering only shows a small cross section and much of my work continues with UNICollaboration which was born out of the work supported by Eurocall. The stream is widening, as John Gillespie pointed out in his keynote.