By Lyn Strutt
I taught English language for 14 years, both in the UK and overseas, so I knew about IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language). However, I did not actually join until I became an ELT editor. I started to attend the annual conference – to network with old colleagues from teaching, new colleagues in publishing and prospective clients (ELT publishers).
However, as the number of years spent as an editor (and out of the classroom) grew, I began to feel less engaged with some of the conference topics; they were for people who could take the ideas back to their classrooms and try them out. It was interesting to see new materials and hear about new approaches, especially since they might be appearing in the materials I was editing. But there was nothing that had a significant impact on my day-to-day work as an ELT editor.
IATEFL has a number of volunteer-run SIGs (Special Interest Groups), some of which also have their own conferences and events. One SIG is included in your membership and it was natural for me to join BESIG, as Business English is my specialism. Then, about three years ago, some of my associates decided to set up a new SIG: the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group (MaWSIG). I was naturally interested and applied for a post on the committee, which led to me becoming Publications Editor, as well as acting as Deputy Publications Coordinator.
MaWSIG was set up to bring together people who are involved in materials writing for ELT. That includes professional authors, digital content providers, teachers who want to write material for their own classes, publishers, designers – and, of course, editors. We have over 300 members in 50 countries and, in addition to face-to-face events including conferences and less formal Meetups in the UK and overseas, we provide online webinars and we’re active on Facebook and Twitter. We also have a website where we publish members’ blog posts; we’ve already published our first ebook.
To give you an example of what’s on offer, the MaWSIG conference in February 2016 (which I mentioned in a post on the new ELT forum), was titled ‘New ways of working for new ways of learning’ and covered a broad range of topics from avoiding mental overload and physical discomfort at the desk, to how the digital materials we work on are being used in classrooms and how we can better collaborate as virtual teams.
At the IATEFL Conference in Birmingham last week, MaWSIG offered a one-day Pre-Conference Event titled ‘Print vs. digital: Is it really a competition?’ where we explored the skills and techniques that writers and editors need to create professional, engaging, and relevant materials for a range of different teaching contexts, both print and digital. You can attend these events without being a member of IATEFL or MaWSIG, but membership gives you the benefit of discounts for these events.
The editorial work I do for the committee brings me into contact with both key ELT professionals and novice writers and it’s great to work with them on their submissions to the blog. As a member of the SIG, I get to hear interesting speakers (at conferences and online) and to engage in discussion with writers, editors, designers and publishers about the materials we produce, the challenges facing the industry and the exciting potential that new technology brings. IATEFL keeps me connected with the world of ELT, but MaWSIG keeps me connected with the world of ELT publishing – something I consider vital to my professional development.
Lyn Strutt (@conciselyn) is an Advanced Professional Member of the SfEP and holds the City & Guilds Licentiateship in Editorial Skills. She is based in London and works as a freelance content editor, copy-editor and proofreader of print and digital ELT materials, specialising in business and professional English, ESP and adult general English. Find out more at http://www.sfep.org.uk/directory/lyn-strutt.
Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.
Proofread by SfEP Professional Member Louise Lubke Cuss.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP