The Conference

Multilingualism is a widely-spread phenomenon around the world. Nowadays it is more usual to be multilingual than monolingual. Reading and writing competence development is a reflection of a rich literacy environment at home and competent instruction. Baltic Sea countries have a long experience of multilingual education, communication and culture. Together with many countries around the Globe we are facing new challenges for social coherence within increased immigration. The  language learning and access to quality education are the prerequisites of communication and social inclusion supporting the diverse cultures (and minorities).

Estonian Reading Association (www.lugemisyhing.ee) in cooperation with the Federation of European Literacy Associations (www.literacyeurope.org) organized 4th Baltic Sea Conference on Literacy. Searching for a Common Language. January 16th – 21st 2020 Tallinn, Estonia

The conference is open to participants worldwide interested in the topic. There were 225 participants from 34 country from all over the globe. There was an understanding of what was happening in literacy in different parts of the world.

Finland 25, Latvia 22, Russia 13, USA 10, Denmark 8, Lithuania 8, Sweden 8, Germany 4, Iceland 4, Romania 4, United Kingdom 4, Austria 3, Netherlands 3, Norway 3, Slovenia 3, Belgium 2, Egypt 2, Poland 2, Spain 2, Taiwan 2, Turkey 2, Uzbekistan 2, Brazil 1, Cameroon 1, Colombia 1, Czech Republic 1, Greece 1, Ireland 1, Israel 1, Italy 1, Mexico 1, Portugal 1, Switzerland 1.

The program with 6 parallel sessions included 111 presentations (167 authors and co-authors) in following subthemes: early literacy and intervention; literacy teachers and instruction; digital competences and literacy; literacy environments and libraries; equal access to literacy and support to students with special needs; lifelong development of literacy skills.

There were 3 plenaries (Janar Holm, Main Auditor of Estonia; Heikki Lyytinen, UNESCO Chair of Inclusive Education on Literacy; Anu Raud, Professor Emeritus/Academic of Estonian Academy of Arts) and 11 invited speakers.

The forms of presentations were diverse: Oral presentation, Storytelling, PechaKucha 20×20, Pitching (elevator speech), Virtual Lightning Talk, Poster presentation, Table presentations, Symposium, Round Table, Workshop.

The conference was a great success. 134 answers had an average of 9.06 points from 10 in their feedback. The same was confirmed in communication and comments (in Italic here and later):

4th Baltic Sea Conference on Literacy in Tallinn was very successful! Very well organized, it was so rich.

The total program including pre- and post-conferences showed a professional and ambitious planning. Excellent org team, well prepared conference, lot of pre-and post- conference activities.

The diversity of languages at the conference with such a symbolic name is very important. You really promote literacy in your country and around the world.

It was a very educational and enjoyable experience.

I am happy that I was able to make new friends, learn more about literacy education, and see a beautiful country. Thank you for your hospitality and for your impeccable organization.

Me as a participant I felt well cared for, all my questions were answered in no time. people were very sincere. When looking back at the conference days a warm feeling of genuine joy and satisfaction fills my heart! This conference was simply PERFECT!

Amazing that you were able to do it all so well! Brilliant event! Would be happy to attend more such conferences.

Web, blog and app

The homepage opened a year ago is still in update with presentations and follow up info www.4bscl2020.ee as well the blog where Estonia, Tallinn, Estonian Reading association and partners are introduced https://4bscl2020.home.blog/

We are presenting the concept and action of Green conference, moving games from Estonian Literary Museum and nature photos by Tiina Tuul.

The special conference app was used to present the program, presenters and abstracts but also for participants to interact, ask questions, evaluate presentations, ect. The app is open for visitors  https://app.worksup.com/, Event ID 4bscl2020.

Pre- and post-conference events, opening and closing

Participants had guided tours in Tallinn, Narva, Maardu and Paide, visited museums, libraries, schools and kindergartens.

Estonian Children´s Literature Center introduced their work and hosted the social evening with musical presentation by Ääsmäe Basic School students lead by Tiina Selke.

19 schools and kindergartens were visited to study about the Estonian Education system rated high in PISA study.

Participants introduced their culture and language and gave lessons in Estonian schools on last day of the conference.

The pre- and post-conference activities were the highlights for many.

Opening event at Tallinn Song Festival Grounds included presentations, videos about Estonia, Tallinn and the Song Festival, national dances from Pääsuke dance group from Randvere School and picturesque sunset.

Good food, concert after opening event. An opening event with dances and communication with conference participants – it was worth attending. Such a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and wonderful surroundings. I especially enjoyed the sunset at Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.

At the end of the first day of presentations, the conference attenders had the opportunity to relax, enjoy and spend time together in Creative Event singing, playing music and expressing themselves in visual arts or movements. In the Creative Event organizers offered the stage for music and the field for expressions on visual arts.

The farewell dinner was held according to the old Hanseatic customs, which were expressed in every act and every little detail of the servants, the current dwellers of the Olde Hansa restaurant. Everything had been made by the role models of 15th century to complete your medieval experience.

The additional quality was provided by participants presenting their national songs in their languages.

The presentations

The presentations and possibility to share, learn from each other and communicate with same minded people from all around the world was the best and most important aspect of the conference:

The conference had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with other countries’ experience in tackling this problem and to develop new ideas.

Great variety of seminars. It was very hard to choose the most interesting and useful paper between 6 what take place at the same time… But all was very good organized and we could go from one room to another. The conference’s schedule was organized really well. It is good that time was strictly defined for every presentation.

Different ‘structures’ of presentation (PK, Video, Table pr. …). I enjoyed the Virtual Lightening component. This feature allowed me to present and be part of the conference since I was not able to find funding to attend this conference in person.

Not too stressful program with time to socialize during lunch. Interesting.

It was a very good experience for me. I met many interesting people. Some presentations were very inspiring. I have many ideas for my professional growth.

Jesper Sehested, Anu Raud, Maie Kitsing, David Mallows, Greg Brooks, Shlomo Alon were mentioned several times among the highlights.

It was very international and we got change our experiences with other educators I met many new researchers and received new ideas for my teaching and research. It’s very hard to pick one highlight, as every day was so successful. I thought that the conference attracted very interesting participants and presenters, so having the opportunity to network with them at the different events was one highlight.

In the 4th Baltic Sea Conference I found so many ways of thinking about literacy that it made me resignify and really live it.

About Estonia, Tallinn and Green Conference

Estonia and Tallinn

The Conference was a good reason to visit Estonia for more than 1/3 of participants.

Estonia is a fantastic place to visit. A beautiful, interesting country: it is as well historically as culturally very much worth the visit. The people and the food culture are very nice as well. Beautiful destination and easy country to travel around. I’m sure that it’s very fascinating country with rich history, strong progress motivation and many identities problems concerned to geopolitical localization. I am impressed by the national narrative of Estonia. I hope that the nation will be able to keep it alive when opening the boarders for refugees. We are planning on visiting again, with enough time to travel around.

How much do you suggest to visit Estonia in 10 point scale the average was 9.4. To visit Tallinn 9.56.

Tallinn is a very nice and friendly town and the old town is beautiful. A lot of small shops. The service is very good. The local people were polite, friendly and helpful.

Every time I visit, Tallinn has moved forward as a modern European capital city. I am very impressed with the stay in Tallinn. The city has become noticeably Scandinavian, modern and beautiful. I hope to come back for a longer stay.

Green Conference

We paid special attention to make the conference green:

To be more environmentally friendly, we encouraged to share taxi or just to walk to nearby areas to have lunch or take the tram to the city center. Most events took place in locations that are easily accessible by trams. The public transportation was free of charge for conference participants.

Single use plastic was avoided. Drinking at coffee breaks was organized with the sale and exchange of mugs made by Support Center Juks for intellectually disabled people. Participants could bring their own mug and exchange it with fellow participants and to drink tap water.

The conference did not have custom-made bags, pens or folders and no printed materials.  A special conference app was used instead. Several hotels where accommodation was provided had a Green Key ecolabel.

All this was very well received by participants:

Very nice people, good organization, free public traffic, green conference, good venue. I liked the idea, that the conference was ‘green’. Nice innovative (cool App) and eco-thinking conference. Paper free, pleasant, functioning arrangements, transportation NRQ. Free local transportation was excellent! That made getting around very easy.

Baltic Sea Conference on Literacy with the focus on integration of learners with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds brought together the best practice, evidence-based methodology and modern study materials, provided a floor for cross sectoral and cross border cooperation between Nordic and Baltic countries and beyond.

What could be better:

Maybe the weather (joke), everything was excellent.

I am grateful for the opportunity to attend a conference of this scale and looking for the future Baltic Sea Conferences on Literacy!