Callington TILT event

It was a pleasure to be the keynote speaker for Sanako’s TILT (Technology In Language Teaching) event on 26th June. It was different to be talking about something other than my employer’s stuff for a change!

There are so many excellent ways to use technology in the classroom or for planning lessons, so I decided to limit myself mainly to websites, which are available from just about anywhere.  I also included The Hat, though, as I can’t ever seem to talk about technology for teaching without mentioning The Hat!

If you’d like to see the links I mentioned, you’ll find them all in this link.  I owe a huge debt of thanks to all the #mfltwitterati, through whom I have discovered many of these sites – all mentioned by name at the event if I could recall who introduced me to each particular link 🙂


TeachMeet Bolton

Has there ever been a TeachMeet which wasn’t worth attending?  I don’t think so!

This particular event was organised on a Friday evening by @DeputyMitchell and @Dughall, and the room was packed out.  Not only that, but there was a live video feed, and the event was being watched in Plymouth, Buckinghamshire, and in various other locations!

There were so many good ideas to take away, and the place was buzzing by the end.  @simonhaughton has already done the hard work in covering the highlights in his post, and I did my slot on one of my favourite collaborative learning activities, which you can find information about in these previous posts, or by typing collaborative learning in the search box on this blog.

But what I wanted to do was quickly highlight some of the ideas and links that I could see having a use in language teaching.  The majority are familiar to most, but by mentioning them here, at least I’ll know where to find them when I need them!

So, in no particular order:

  • Audioboo and ipadio for instant sound recordings and uploading to a blog.
  • Flickit for instant uploading of images
  • Coveritlive – live event publishing
  • Newspaper clipping generator – I tried this out quickly, and it seems to support foreign characters
  • Logo54 generates any words you like in the style of famous logos (like the one at the top of this post)

Those last couple of links were courtesy of @ideas_factory, who kindly shared a link to a whole host of generators here.  Whilst browsing, I found this one:

  • is an image generator specifically in German, which may be of interest to some.
Huge thanks to the organisers, and it was great to meet and learn from such dedicated and talented practitioners.

More fakery …

I learned about the brilliant Fakebook (fake Facebook pages) and Twister (fake Twitter messages) at the MFLSAT meeting at Cramlington Learning Village last month.  I have just this evening (thanks to @nikpeachey) discovered, which will reproduce a screenshot of a text conversation on an iPhone.  I just tested it out – the foreign characters appear in the image which is generated, but disappeared into nonsense when I embedded the result in my blog (which may indicate an issues with WordPress – perhaps you could tell me?).  But I took a Jing screenshot below.

Not the most imaginative conversation, but I hope it illustrates the point.

MFLSAT – the place to share

Following on from other successful events, the North East became the latest region to host a meeting for MFL teachers to share good practice.  Hosted at Cramlington Learning Village and organised by the most wonderful Chris Harte, the day brought together colleagues from up and down the country, who brought some examples of tricks and tips to enhance language teaching and learning.

I can’t begin to do full justice to all of the presentations here, but I’ll share the highlights, and where possible, link to people’s own blogs or presentations of their own work so that the information comes straight from the horse’s mouth.

First up was Mark Purves.  Mark is an enthusiastic advocate of singing as a tool for learning, and he got the day off to a rousing start by sharing some strategies for just that.  Music lifts the mood, and singing helps with controlling breathing – warm up exercises for voice,which is the instrument of languages.

Samantha Lunn was next, with some fabulous  suggestions for routines in the language classroom – she explains it all – and posts links to relevant documents – on her blog, so head on over and see what she has to say!

Thinking skills were the feature of Lynn Smith’s presentation, and she shared with us a multitude of ideas for developing these in MFL teaching and learning:

  • Odd one out
  • Give a selection of words, use each word once only to make 8 phrases in past tense
  • Almost encouraging pupils to be confused, part of the learning and thinking process
  • Memory map – a house is described on page outside classroom – pupils must take it in turns to read description, return to group and draw what they have read
  • DeBonos hats to promote discussions
  • Plenary- create mind-map ( = synthesising)
Clare Seccombe (whose article was recently published in TES) spoke to us about reading books for use in language learning.  Her presentation, including audio, can be found here, because she will explain it better than I ever could!  Oh, and she blogs here!
Emma Bains talked about some changes which she is in the process of introducing to her department’s curriculum.  They sound fabulous, and really imaginative.  Here’s a taster:
  • Pupils become a SatNav when learning to describe their town
  • Cluedo-type activity to encourage pupils to repeat several phrases whilst trying to guess the correct response
  • Rights and responsibilities
I had been looking forward to meeting Simon McLoughlin, as I am a huge admirer of the work he has been doing with his primary pupils.  He started by sharing a clip from Friends, to illustrate his point:
Simon uses Audioboo to record his pupils speaking, then lets them listen to themselves so that they can improve their pronunciation.  It works a treat!

The University of Newcastle’s computer aided learning resources were shared by Thomas Snell, who showed us the link to a vast archive of  language materials available at

Blockbusters was enthusiastically championed by Terri Dunne.  She presented an interactive template and a variety of language structures which work with the game, including practising different tenses.  Intensely competitive!

Dominic McGladdery shared some of his favourite classroom activities, which included:

Amanda Salt had flown over from Belfast just to attend this event, and she didn’t disappoint.  Amanda related the details of her school’s annual Spanish immersion weekend for A level students.  During this off-site weekend event, students take part in Dragon’s Den and treasure hunt style activities, and are not allowed to speak English in the presence of their teachers.  Amanda’s school wiki has all of the details …

We were then challenged to alter the way we mark our pupils’ books by Alex Blagona.  Alex was looking for ways to re-engage a group of demotivated year 8 pupils, so he began by asking them what they liked and didn’t like about their lessons.  Alex then adapted his teaching to suit the responses, and at end of each of lesson, asked again for feedback from pupils in their exercise books.  The marking process then became a dialogue between teacher and pupil, personalising the learning and assisting in developing conversations with parents too.  Pupils enjoyed the fact that they felt free to comment and had ownership of learning.

Joe Dale extolled the virtues of the QR code in this presentation so wander on over to have a look.  If you’re not sure what a QR code is, there’s an example below (you need a smart phone to read it), and there’s an explanation here.

Next up was Suzi Bewell, who graciously has blogged her own presentation about using Vocaroo – much better to have it from the person herself!

We then has a very special guest appearance, live from Oldham via Skype – Isabelle Jones told us about some cross curricular work she had done with music and art, resulting in some amazing rap music produced in French by some of her most demotivated boys.  We were all well and truly bowled over. and it was lovely to see Isabelle with us virtually!

Rene Koglbauer has done some lovely work with social media to improve writing, particularly that of boys.  Initially it was a dialogue for marking through email, and expanded to using Facebook in German for writing film reviews.  Pupils and staff commented on posts, and despite initial concerns over safeguarding, it turned into a very successful venture.

Fortunately, Alex Bellars has also posted a link to his presentation, in which he talked about three tools which he uses in the classroom:

  • Class Dojo – real-time behaviour rewards in class – increases engagement
  • Triptico – suite of IWB tools, eg Word Magnets for grouping, class timer, scoreboards, ordering priority of sentences
  • Lingro – turns a webpage into a clickable dictionary resource
During the day, there were also several ‘genius bar’ sessions, where people sat as experts during coffee break on a variety of topics.  As I was hosting one myself I don’t know what went on, but given the calibre of the other speakers I have no doubt they were worth the effort.
If you’d like to see the notes from my own genius bar, you could use the QR code above to take a look (see what I did there!), or check out this post.

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 … 🙂

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 “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.

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!