Thursday, October 17th
Guillermo de Anda, National Geographic Emerging Explorer
Friday, October 18th
Guillermo de Anda, National Geographic Emerging Explorer
Using Technology: Joan Shin
Future of English: Donald Freeman
21st Century skills for Teaching English: Donald Freeman
ELTeach: Donald Freeman
Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photographer
Saturday, October 19th
Next Generation of Language Learners: Joan Shin
Visual Literacy as a 21st Century Skill: Dennis Hogan, Fran Downey
Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photographer
Partnering with National Geographic Learning
Sunday, October 20th
Best known for his photographs of wildlife, Joel Sartore wields his camera in the battle to conserve natural spaces and
the habitats they support. With over 20 years of experience as a National Geographic photographer, Sartore is on a mission to document endangered species and
landscapes in order to show a world worth saving.
Sartore's interest in nature started in childhood, growing up in Nebraska, when he learned about the very last passenger pigeon from one of his mother's Time-Life picture books. Since then, his assignments have taken him to every continent and to the world's most beautiful and challenging environments, from the high Arctic to the Antarctic. He has been chased by a wide variety of species, including wolves, grizzlies, musk oxen, lions, elephants, and polar bears.
Sartore's work is about more than taking beautiful photographs. He is on a mission to teach people about the effects humans are having on the world's ecosystems. In his words, "It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we're actually saving ourselves."
His 30-plus stories in National Geographic magazine include the March 2000 cover story "Madidi: Will Bolivia Drown Its New National Park?" which played a crucial role in helping to convince the Bolivian government to abandon its plans to build a large-scale hydroelectric dam that would have submerged a large portion of pristine forest.
In additional to his work for National Geographic, Sartore has contributed to Audubon Magazine, Geo, Life, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and Time. He has written several books, including RARE: Portraits of America's Endangered Species, Photographing Your Family, and Nebraska: Under a Big Red Sky. Sartore and his work have been the subjects of several national broadcasts, including National Geographic's Explorer, NBC Nightly News, NPR's Weekend Edition, and an hour-long PBS documentary, At Close Range.
Sartore graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in journalism. He currently lives in Nebraska with his wife and three children.
Guillermo de Anda
Not all Maya ruins are picturesque temples that rise above the landscape and reach to the clouds. Some lie hundreds of
feet belowground in the watery depths of remote, flooded caves. Why did the ancient Maya exert such incredible effort to build within these dangerous, virtually
inaccessible labyrinths? And how? Underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda descends into the darkness laden with ropes, scuba gear, and curiosity to tell
their remarkable story.
With thousands of caves and cenotes (sinkholes) lacing the Yucatán Peninsula landscape, how does de Anda target prime sites to explore? He began by diving into a 450-year-old book filled with testimony from the Spanish Inquisition. Zealous to eradicate the Maya's religious practice of human sacrifice, Spaniards interrogated and tortured Indians to elicit locations of cenotes where ceremonies took place.
"The chronicles recorded names of villages and descriptions of priests going out of their way to reach specific cenotes that held special religious significance, places where people had worshiped for centuries," de Anda reports. He was the very first to connect the dots between Inquisition testimony, sacred texts, and mysterious remains discovered in caves. The puzzle his detective work seeks to solve depends on his skills as an archaeology scholar, an expert in human bones, and a high-level cave diving instructor.
"Exploring these caves is very demanding," he admits. "The ancient Maya liked to make it hard; they searched for extremely distant places. So we know the harder it is to get there, the better our findings may be."
De Anda's team of four disappears into caves for 12 or more hours at a time, draped with equipment, hacking apart overgrown entrances, rappelling down 100-foot vertical drops, diving into 200-foot pools, swimming horizontally along narrow passageways, squeezing through tiny openings, dodging swarms of bats, crawling on floors moving with snakes and scorpions, and never forgetting how to find their way out.
"When we literally reach the ends of the Earth, and find skeletons that match the age and sex of victims described in Inquisition chronicles, it's all worth it," he says.
But bones are only the beginning. De Anda's arduous explorations reveal construction projects that would be breathtaking aboveground, yet were created by hand, belowground, hundreds and thousands of years ago. Magnificent walled-off chambers with 50-foot ceilings and carefully cleaned and flattened floors. Altars bearing traces of burnt offerings. Secret doorways leading to submerged temples and pyramids. A sculpture of an elaborate headdress atop a dignified head. A mural dancing with jaguars and deer. And, most astonishing of all, a massive, perfectly paved road stretching more than a hundred yards into a watery abyss.
"Caves were considered thresholds to the afterlife, the realm of the gods, powerful spaces filled with important energy and supernatural forces," de Anda explains. "Since they believed everything from fertility to rain originated in caves, the Maya went to great lengths to stay on good terms with this fearsome spirit world."
De Anda linked this set of beliefs with his own discoveries to answer why such monumental building projects may populate cave depths. Ancient sacred texts depict the legendary journey to the afterlife as a perilous course strewn with steep canyons and terrifying obstacles. In those legends, the path hits a crossroads and turns sharply west, ending at a deadly underground body of water. In Maya religious tradition, west signified the direction souls moved after death. "The amazing road that we discovered and followed may have been built to symbolically re-create and simulate the path to the afterlife described in Maya mythology," he says. "It also took a sudden turn west, continuing above and below water, through multiple chambers, before vanishing into the cave's deepest lake."
How was a road built and traveled upon if vast sections of it lay underwater? It wasn't, de Anda asserts. "We believe it was built during a time of great drought, when water levels were down. This may also indicate why the Maya went to such monumental efforts. They were in such desperate need of water, they took extreme measures to reach and worship the gods, offer sacrifices, and appeal to them for rain."
The road would have been dry if the water level had been just two or three feet lower. Subsequent rises in water level submerged buildings and bones and became a perfect preservative. De Anda credits the excellent condition of many artifacts to the cenotes' deep freshwater environment, which is devoid of oxygen, stays at a consistent temperature, and maintains almost total darkness.
Experts in ancient climate concur that severe droughts in the ninth and tenth centuries likely caused huge drops in water level, even sea level. "These droughts match the age of remains and materials we found," de Anda notes. "In one cenote, after diving horizontally for about 60 feet, we came to a small niche at the end with a perfectly preserved ceramic pot dating to the drought period. It didn't swim there, and these waters have no currents. It was placed."
Other caves yielded sacrificial knives, jade, human and dog skulls, and a stone inscribed with hieroglyphics, all dating to the same years of drought. Recent discoveries from a cenote at Mexico's famed archeological site Chichén Itzá further confirm this theory. Just a few feet beneath the waterline, the bones of six humans were found alongside carefully placed jade beads, ceramic pots, and various animal bones. De Anda suggests that "this was a ritual offering that may have served as a desperate attempt to please the gods during a time of brutal drought."
For him, it is definitive evidence that these extreme shifts in the water level occurred. "This archaeological evidence of historically documented changes in climate long ago may help analyze dramatic storms and droughts happening today," he says. "The Maya, particularly those in the northern lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, were true survivors who appreciated how dependent humans are on the natural world. This profound respect for nature is a lesson we can all learn from them."
Grateful for a career that combines science and adventure, de Anda shares that "the moment of discovery is thrilling, but it's also a huge responsibility. My light may be shining on human remains or artifacts for the first time in 2,000 years. I have the privilege to stand here and the responsibility to translate it for the rest of the world."
Joan Kang Shin
Joan Kang Shin is a teacher, teacher trainer, professor, and researcher in the field of TESOL. She specializes in professional
development programs for teaching English as an international language to young learners and teenagers. She is also an expert in online TESOL education and is
currently conducting research on building international virtual communities of practice for English teachers. Dr. Shin is Series Editor for a ground breaking
six-level primary series for National Geographic Learning called Our World which will be launched in 2013 and co-author of a professional development textbook
about teaching young learners English as an international language.
Currently Dr. Shin is the Director of TESOL Professional Training Programs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). In this position she administers the U.S. Department of State’s E-Teacher Scholarship Program, a fully online teacher training program for EFL teachers in over 100 countries. At UMBC, she is also an Assistant Professor of Education and Project Director of the STEP T for ELLs Program (Secondary Teacher Education and Professional Training for English Language Learners) funded by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, she is an English Language Specialist for the Office of English Language Programs in the U.S. Department of State, conducting numerous face-to-face EFL teacher training programs every year in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East as well as large scale online teacher training events through webinars and digital videoconferencing to hundreds of English teaching professionals worldwide.
Donald Freeman is a professor at the School of Education, University of Michigan, where he works with undergraduate and post-graduate teacher preparation in all subjects K-12. For 25 years, he was on the graduate faculty at the School of International Training, where he chaired the Department of Language Teacher Education and founded and directed the Center for Teacher Education, Training, and Research, a unit that designed and implemented teacher education projects around the world. He is editor of the professional development series, TeacherSource (Heinle-Cengage), and his books include Teacher Learning in Language Teaching (with Jack C. Richards; Cambridge), Doing Teacher-Research (Heinle-Cengage). Dr Freeman is a past president of TESOL, a past member the International Advisory Council for Cambridge University ESOL Examinations (formerly UCLES), and immediate past chair of the International Research Foundation for English Language Teaching (TIRF).
Traveling to the Conference
Q: How do I get from Puerto Vallarta airport to the CasaMagna Marriott?
A: When you arrive at the airport, pick-up your luggage (if necessary) and go to the arrivals lobby. Look for a person holding this sign:
We have arranged free transportation from the airport to the hotel on Thursday, October 17th and from the hotel to the airport on Sunday, October 20th.
Q: Where am I staying in Puerto Vallarta?
A: You are staying at the CasaMagna Marriot. Click here for more information. A three-night reservation has been made under your name at the hotel from October 17th to October 20th. Your reservation includes a single room, all meals, and all beverages during your three-day stay. Check-in time is any time after 4:00 PM on Oct. 17th and before noon on October 20th.
Please note that all extra services such as telephone calls, Internet connection, laundry, spa, mini bar, prepaid movies, and purchases made at the shops are not included.
Q: What is the weather like in Puerto Vallarta in October?
A: The average temperature in Puerto Vallarta is between 25 °C and 35 °C at this time of the year. However, we do recommend carrying a sweater or light jacket as conference rooms will be air-conditioned.
Q: I have dietary restrictions. Who should I notify?
A: Please email Tatiana Trevino at email@example.com with a detailed description of your dietary needs as soon as possible.
Q: What type of clothes should I pack?
A: The attire is business casual (emphasis on casual) at all meetings, events, and dinners. Please note that rooms will be air-conditioned so a light sweater or jacket would be appropriate. There will be a gym and opportunities for yoga, walking on the beach, and swimming, so please pack accordingly if you are interested in participating in these activities.
Q: I am not from Mexico. Will I be able to plug in my small appliances/phone charger?
A: The electrical outlets in Mexico are 110-120 volts. Please bring the necessary adapters as the hotel has only a limited supply.
Q: Who should I call with questions or concerns while I am in Mexico?
A: For questions about conference details and transportation to and from the airport, please call Tatiana Trevino from National Geographic Learning:
For questions about the hotel and flights, please call Susana Terrones:
Q: Once I arrive at the hotel, who can answer questions about the hotel or the amenities on offer?
A: We have arranged a hospitality desk, manned by our travel agency staff, lead by Susana Terrones. They are available to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
For questions, please contact Tatiana Trevino at firstname.lastname@example.org