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Digital ELTon awards mixes high-tech with delight

This year the ELTons went digital, to great success, according to Melanie Butler

The 18th British Council ELTons awards ceremony, the English Language industry’s answer to the Oscars, took place entirely online in mid-October, offering a charming mix of high tech innovation, sustainable methodology and good old-fashioned British whimsy.

The good and the grateful of the ELT world mingled digitally in the virtual corridors, popping into ‘round table’ meetings with finalists sitting around tables from Brazil to Birmingham and trouped, digitally, into the award ceremony.

The ceremony was opened by Stevie Spring, the Chairman (sic) of the British Council and ‘one of the UK’s 100 most connected women’ according to her Council profile. Spring wore a glamourous red dress and matching red glasses though she confessed to the 2000 strong audience around the globe, as she poured a glass of bubbly and proposed a toast, that her feet were shod in comfy slippers.

Then a specially-written poem by best-selling British poet Sophia Thakur, and we were off to a rural vicarage and our host for the night, the priest, former popstar and popular radio host the Reverend Richard Coles who, dog collar and all, led us through the afternoon, prize by prize.

First up was the award for Digital Innovation, which went to IT wunderkind Busuu for its AI-powered English Smart Review programme, developed in the UK and Spain and received by Lead Product Manager Neil Ballantine.

The award for Excellence in Course Innovation went to New Magic Minds, and was received by Raquel Carlos of Brazil’s Learning Factory, as her colleagues whooped with joy behind her.

Brazil also took the prize for Local Innovation, with Angelica Manca appearing live in a local landscape as she received the prize for the Garden Project Brazilian Edition on behalf of Hoop publishing and Macmillan do Brasil.

Batting for Britain were Pearson and the BBC with Pearson BBC Live Classes, a free online learning environment for secondary school learners and teachers, which received the award for Innovation in Learning Resources.

Unusually, the prize for Innovation in Teacher Resources went not to a company, but to a community of teachers, ELT Footprint, which offers a space for teachers around the world to exchange ideas on how to reduce the negative impact of the industry on the environment.

But the highlight of the ceremony was the ELTons Outstanding Achievement Award, which went to children’s author, and pioneer of teaching English to very young leaners, Opal Dunn, aged 91. Tributes to Opal, who began reading circles for parents and children when she lived in Japan in the 1970s, were led by Professor Janet Enever and flowed in from across the world with some dozen contributors, including the current chair of Iatefl Young Learners SIG, which she founded, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador and the editor of the UK’s Nursery World.

Undaunted, Opal’s speech, which was deftly delivered digitally, expressed her surprise and delight at receiving the award and a clarion call for the importance of teaching young learners.

ELTons Judges’ Commendations

Commendations for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion went to:

  • Dyslexia Bytes, from Martin Bloomfield
  • I am not naughty – I really, really mean it! by Basirat Razaq-Shuaib, with The Winford Centre for Children and Women, Nigeria
  • Journey 2 Basic Skills from Klik2learn with City College Glasgow
  • Kids’ Web, from Richmond Publishing;
  • Real Lives, a Series from ELI Publishing and partners
  • The NO Project, from The NO Project with The Rights Lab, Nottingham University
Image courtesy of CAROL READ / TWITTER
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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