Reflecting on ICT Links into Languages

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 … ūüôā

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.

I’d like to thank …

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.

Whatever makes her happy on a Saturday …

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¬†‚ÄúIf you build it, they will come! The rise and rise of the MFL Twitterati‚ÄĚ – singing the praises of social networking for its¬†blend of both professional and personal support ‚Äď 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 Рonce my head has stopped spinning from the amount of enthusiasm and knowledge which each of the ladies shared!  Clare in particular was a star Рher 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.

Saturday night’s alright …

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!

Don’t¬†rain on my parade

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.

If …

… 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!


MANCEP – 18th February 2011

I was delighted to be invited to speak to teachers from Catholic schools in Manchester today. ¬†It was nice to catch up with a few colleagues whom I hadn’t seem for a while, and it was also a pleasure to work with such a receptive and enthusiastic group of teachers. I was asked to share some collaborative learning strategies, which seemed to go down well – at least, I had some lovely comments which indicated this was the case, so a good start to my half-term!

Here are the slides from the presentation.

The linked files or templates are here, if you find them useful.

QuizQuizTrade question template

321 Showdown examples

Random Name Generators:

Download The Hat

Link to Fruit Machine

Mug of Misery info

What’s the link PowerPoint

Guess my … doc

Question of … Italian

Question of … German

Question of … French

Secret message PowerPoint

Link to instructions for secret message

Year 8 activity PowerPoint

Feel free to use / adapt the materials here.  If you use any of the activities, please do let me know, or if you need help understanding how the PowerPoints have been constructed, do get in touch.

Kobayashi Maru revisited

So 10 lessons down the line, and it’s time to evaluate the attempt to engage Year 9 in their own learning. ¬†If you missed the introductory ramble, you’ll find it here.

I’m really pleased with some aspects of the work. ¬† For example, having the pupils work in peer-designated groups has highlighted which pupils are the ones actually causing the noise. ¬†It just seemed like it was all of them until recently!

I also like the progress that some of the quieter or demotivated ones have made by being in a group with an enthusiastic leader, who went out of her way to include everyone.

I’m not so pleased with the fact that actually getting the pupils to listen at any point, either to each other or to me, is still extremely difficult. ¬†Even though they are fed up with the noise themselves, they haven’t figured out the cause and effect thing yet.

Anyway, here are their comments on the half-term, which I received in response to a questionnaire (I was experimenting with Spicynodes!):

Whatever happens, I will still be meeting the same group of pupils last lesson on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until the end of the year, so I need to keep trying to get through to them. ¬†Guess what I’ll be doing at half-term …

Lingua Franca

I just changed the name of my blog.

Why? ¬†Well, when I first created it, it was really a bit of an experiment. ¬†I was a beginner in such things, and wasn’t sure I had much to say, so I gave my blog the first name I thought of at the time (Marie’s Language Stuff – original, huh?).

Over the last few months, however, I find I have much more to say and share, so have been thinking that I should find something more creative to headline my comments. ¬†In addition, I’m giving a presentation soon (which I haven’t done for a while) and wanted to share my blog with the delegates. ¬†I just wasn’t happy with the original title.

After almost a day thinking, googling and cross-checking, I’ve decided to change the name to Lingua Franca. I liked the¬†language-related connotations, but also the fact that, on occasion, I can use my blog to speak frankly on things about which I have a strong opinion.

There are a few other sites with a similar name, but I want to make it clear that I have absolutely no intention at all of stealing anyone’s property, intellectual or otherwise. ¬†If you search for Lingua Franca, none of the sites presented could be confused with my little blog, so I hope no-one will feel compelled to complain.

And finally, I want to thank @mark_purver for actually coming up with the name when inspiration had deserted me.  Sometimes all you need is an astrophysicist!

A ‘toofer’ response from on high

In December, concerned about issues arising from the Schools White Paper The Importance of Teaching (and learning?), for the first time in my life I wrote to a number of Members of Parliament, to seek their views on language teaching and learning in schools.

I had three responses acknowledging my email, all of which indicated that because these people were very busy, it might be some time before I received a response.¬† (I hope they are ‘busy’ finding out about and representing my views, actually.)

Today I received an email¬† from an address which showed up as ‘Unmonitored.ACCOUNT’.¬† I almost deleted it, as it didn’t look particularly healthy sitting in my Inbox, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Because as it turned out, the email was from the Public Communications Unit at the Department for Education, replying to my messages to both Michael Gove, and Sarah Teather.  Toofer the price of one Рor rather, one response, where I asked two separate people for their views.

Dear Ms O’Sullivan
Thank you for your emails dated 13 December addressed to the Secretary of State and the Minister of State for Children and Families, about modern foreign languages in the curriculum.  I hope you will appreciate that due to the large volume of letters that Ministers receive, I have been asked to reply. 

The Coalition Government is fully committed to the teaching of languages in schools, not only for its social and economic benefits, but also because learning a language helps pupils to understand the different cultures of people around the world.  In his speech at the Westminster Academy on 6 September 2010, the Secretary of State announced that learning a modern or ancient language would be one of the core subjects of the new English Baccalaureate, along with English, mathematics, science and a humanities subject: further detail was included in the White Paper The Importance of Teaching. 

I know that primary school teachers and others have worked very hard over the last few years to stimulate an early interest in language learning, and a recent NfER study showed that 92 per cent of primary schools are now teaching foreign languages within class time at Key Stage 2.  The Coalition Government believes that learning a language at primary school can inspire children with a love of languages that will stay with them throughout their secondary education and beyond. 

Given the importance of language learning, and the benefits of an early start, we expect that the majority of primary schools that are already teaching languages will continue to do so.

On 20 January, the Secretary of State for Education announced that we would be carrying out a review of the National Curriculum to return it to its original purpose Рa core national entitlement organised around subject disciplines.  The review will consider the place of languages within the National Curriculum in both primary and secondary schools and will ensure that our core curriculum can compare with those of the highest performing countries around the world.  In designing the new curriculum, we plan to consult a wide range of academics, teachers and others with an interest in what is taught in schools.  You can read the full remit for the review at:

We want to hear from as many people as possible as we take this review forward, and to generate a lively debate about what is taught in our schools.  In the first instance we have launched a Call for Evidence:
to which anyone can contribute their views and experiences. 
I hope that you will feel able to respond.
Yours sincerely
Public Communications Unit

Now, the whole prompt for writing in the first place was the White Paper, so that’s not helpful.¬† And having already given my response to the Call for Evidence, I’m not sure where that leaves me.

Toofer, or BOGOF?