It may be a couple of weeks late, but better late than never! The ICT Links into Languages Conference in Southampton (12/13 February) was packed full of so many things that I genuinely had to wait until half-term, to give my self enough time to really take in the amount of high-quality information to which I was exposed in the space of 48 hours.
Initially I had second thoughts about attending at all – a whole weekend so near the end of a long half-term would be something of a commitment, and the travel to Southampton – well, it’s down south, innit, and such a long way for us northerners … 🙂
But, as I wrote on the evaluation, it was the best CPD I had experienced in a very long time, and absolutely worth the time and effort to be there.
Before I get down to the details, I must thank Joe Dale, Zena Hilton and the team at Links SE for making it such a brilliant event. I have no idea how they managed to keep us all under control, and I’m sure lots of sleep was lost in the planning and preparation. But I hope they all feel, like so many of us do, that it was all worth it in the end.
An early start from Manchester, and a taxi driver who left me at the wrong place, but apart from that, I was very happy on Saturday.
Joe Dale perfectly set the tone for the weekend with his keynote “If you build it, they will come! The rise and rise of the MFL Twitterati” – singing the praises of social networking for its blend of both professional and personal support – a real community, a personal learning network. One of the wonderful things about the event was actually meeting my virtual personal learning network face to face – people I had met often, once, or maybe never before, but with whom I felt instantly in harmony.
During the day, I attended break-out sessions by Lesley Walsh, Helen Myers, Wendy Adeniji and Clare Seccombe, all of whom left me with loads of ideas and resources to try out – once my head has stopped spinning from the amount of enthusiasm and knowledge which each of the ladies shared! Clare in particular was a star – her session on sharing was precisely what the whole weekend was about for me, and I am really grateful to her for all the marvellous websites she collated and then unveiled to us.
After a very short break to catch my breath, we set out for the MFL Show and Tell, an informal evening where anyone there could stand up for 10 minutes and share something of interest for teaching and learning. The audience was lively, involved and game for a laugh, joining in with the songs, and even singing some of their own at the end of the evening(!). Perhaps foolishly, the session was recorded, and you can find the files here – but don’t blame me if you can’t get the darned tunes out of your head all day!
Boy did it rain on Sunday! But it didn’t stop another collection of excellent sessions taking place. Dale Hardy led a lively and challenging session on gifted & talented MFL learners, Amanda Salt shared some top tips for making sure ICT is a successful tool across the whole of the department, and Kath Holton demonstrated just how she gets her pupils to engage with languages by using a variety of web 2.0 tools. Each of the sessions gave me pointers as to how I want to improve my own practice. But for me the highlight of the day was that, in less than an hour, I succeeded in creating and editing my own wiki, under the guidance of Alex Blagona. Discovering how relatively easy it was made me wonder why I hadn’t done it before, and the subsequent sessions I attended supplied a whole list of ideas to incorporate into the wiki itself. It’s still very much in its formative stages, but I continue to add to it, and intend to use it much more next term. If you’re interested, you can find it here.
The whole weekend was summed up excellently by Rachel Hawkes, who reflected on all the positive work which is being done by teachers to support and promote language learning, and the mutual collaboration and sharing between those teachers which happens not just at events like this, but all the time.
… there was one downside to the weekend, it was that I missed so many other sessions that I really wanted to attend. I would love to turn back time and do it all again, catching up with sessions led by Chris Harte, Isabelle Jones, Chris Fuller, Lisa Stevens, Suzi Bewell … the list goes on. Fortunately for me, most of the speakers have made their sessions available either here or on their blogs, so there is no excuse for not knowing about what went on!