'6 questions for Gabriel Diaz Maggioli, President of IATEFL'

4th August 2021

Vicky : First of all, I would like to thank you for agreeing to give this interview and I would also like to welcome you!

Thank you for the opportunity!

Vicky : Can you talk to us about your working life routine? Can you tell us what you are doing currently?

I work as academic advisor in the Institute of Education at Universidad ORT, the largest private university in Uruguay. There, I am in charge of developing resources and activities to support the professional development of faculty university wide. I also work in the National Teacher Education College where I am tenured professor of TESOL Methods and teach two courses a week. I also have an active publication and research schedule.

Vicky : We would like to know about the challenges faced in the past year with the ‘new normality’ from your IATEFL position. Can you talk to us about the steps taken to support this gigantic association through these difficult times?

It is no secret that all non-profit or volunteer organizations are struggling because of the situation we are experiencing. Fortunately, IATEFL’s Board of Trustees are a team with a lot of experience and knowledge of the Association. So, with the unyielding support of Head Office staff, we were able to make the right decisions to secure the viability of the association and to minimize risks. We were also able to run out first ever virtual international conference which we received wonderful feedback about. Of course we are not “out of the woods” yet, and challenges remain in managing to support our members and helping the association to recover.

Besides focusing on the conference, both the Board of Trustees and Head Office have been working hard to secure we fulfil our mission of connecting and supporting the professional development of English language teachers. We have been meeting regularly to focus on opportunities to develop initiatives. Of course, that Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have been instrumental in helping us fulfil our mission. They do not only represent the wealth of knowledge and experience of the profession, but also carry out their volunteering efforts in an admirable way.

Vicky : ‘Virtual events came of age in 2020, but the future is hybrid’. Considering this statement, how has CPD changed and how  much more will it change also?

Looking at this situation in perspective, I do not feel that we have been engaged in true CPD. What we have been doing so far is mostly adapting to an emergency situation and trying to sustain educational provisions. Truly impactful CPD needs to fulfil a series of requirements. What I feel we have all been doing is come together as a professional community to share resources that help us solve problems of practice. Also, given that no one is certain of how long this emergency situation will last, it is hard to say we are making a move towards any definite model of delivery for educational provisions. The future may very well be hybrid, but it could also be fully virtual. One thing that remains certain is that many of the myths about the benefits of Technology-mediated instruction have been dispelled and that there is no turning back from teachers using technology widely in the classroom.

Vicky : Will COVID change EFL teaching forever? And how so?

I see a new era in EFL where technology is more ubiquitous. Learner autonomy certainly will make this presence necessary. What worries me is that, if and when we go back to the face-to-face synchronous type of lessons, our profession may revert to more traditional practices given issues of inequality experienced during the pandemic. In many parts of the world technology is not ubiquitous and access to education has been difficult. In those situations, traditional modes of delivery of information, emphasizing transmission-oriented approaches have become frequent and there is a possibility that some aspects of those traditions may be transferred to the classroom in the future. Hence, I feel that now, more than ever, we need to build networks to support colleagues working in these difficult circumstances and our Association is the ideal catalyst for that support network.

Vicky : It seems that supporting the continuation of EFL teaching and learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic has been definitely easier for the Western and more developed countries. Considering this, how easy do you believe it is to create a post-COVID EdTech strategy with leaving no one behind?

I guess this is a challenge that we have been unable to resolve. In fact, unequal access has been a long-standing fallacy in the profession. Access alone is not enough; quality is also fundamental. Providing unequal access or access to low quality education are equally as bad. And while it is true that more developed countries have been given more affordances, a lot has to be said for the efforts of teachers in not so well-developed countries. I think we will have an idea of the reality we have been inhabiting once more research data becomes available. I feel that, at least in the area of the world where I live, the creativity of teachers to reach and teach their learners besides contextual hurdles is really admirable. What we need is to socialize that knowledge gained from experience so that it may resonate with teachers in similar realities and thus truly make an impact.

Vicky : Before I let you go, I cannot resist to ask you one last question about Freire. According to him, There’s no such thing as neutral education. Education either functions as an instrument to bring about conformity or freedom. In times like these, does Freire sound truly utopian or is he more relevant today than ever?

To me, Freire’s work and ideas are timeless. Even if you do not come from or advocate for a critical perspective as an educator, Freire’s philosophy of education stresses justice, fairness, equality and the empowerment of all individuals alike. These are all crucial values to uphold for anyone involved in education. And if the current reality has taught us anything, it is that only true dialog, where teachers and learners learn – together – to name the new realities they inhabit, can we discover what success in learning is about.

Gabriel Diaz Maggioli

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