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 🙂


I heard it through the (grape)Vine

Since I first came across Vine just over a week ago, I’ve been mulling over the possibilities for use in language teaching.

Vine is brought to you by Twitter, and is an app (currently only available for iPhone and iPod touch – sorry Android users) which invites you to create a video of no more than 6 seconds, which then plays on loop after it’s been created.

Here’s my first attempt (created with my not-yet-fully-formed MFL idea in my head) to see how it could work (there is sound, so you may need to click the sound icon to activate it).

The ‘Vines’ are easy enough to create, and the fact that it runs on a loop means that you get a quick snatch of vocabulary which get repeated and repeated … until you hit stop.

There’s definitely something in there for vocabulary and language learning, and I’m thinking that pupils could listen to or create their own for revision etc.

Watch this space as I try to find more things to do with Vine.

But what do YOU love?

It occurs to me that one of the qualities of a successful teacher is that, in the course of their work, they are constantly thinking about other people – their pupils.

Working with trainee teachers, I was always delighted to observe the change in thinking from “what am I teaching” to “what do I want my pupils to learn”, because this shift in perspective usually indicates a much better understanding of what makes good learning and teaching.

So this means that teachers are always involved in the search for activities to engage pupils and are really pleased to find something which their students enjoy doing, because that brings a greater likelihood that they are learning at the same time as having fun.

But then I wondered – what learning activities do teachers like to use because they enjoy them themselves?  To be selfish for a moment – what do you love to do in the classroom?

One of my own personal favourites is Quiz Quiz Trade (you can find an explanation in this post), because it means I can be peripherally involved, do some formative assessment, and the pupils are moving around the room (not stuck to their chairs), and asking as well as answering questions.

To get a broader view, I then asked my Twitter amici “What’s the teaching/learning activity you love to use because you enjoy it?”

Here are some of the answers which I received

  • pass the teddy
  • X&O, hunt the object/flashcard
  • blindfold food tasting and naming
  • write dialogues\scenes and then act them out.
  • fashion show, cafe (even inviting parents in) and songs.
  • anything which takes me out of the picture; e.g. Running Dictation
  • Shoe box decorated as a room (doll’s house furniture), then video with running commentary a la Through the Keyhole.
  • I love the game ‘snatch’ takes forever to make but the kids love it and you can play match up, word and picture bingo with cards
  • “remote-control partner”, with big open space e.g. footie field/sports hall and lots of those little cone thingies
  • Cheat! Makes me completely redundant once I’ve made the cards. I also like post-it mania or headbands as I believe it’s called?
  • Pass the parcel – brilliant with sentence stems – very little time required to set it up.

Now although these are a varied bunch of activities, two things struck me about this collection of responses.

Firstly, although some of them may take a little preparation, the majority then hand control over to the pupils.  To me, this doesn’t indicate laziness on the part of the teachers, or a wish to opt out.  It’s promoting active learning, with the teacher as facilitator and not as holder of all knowledge.

And secondly, there’s the fun element.  The #mfltwitterati all shared activities which are fun for everyone involved, teacher and pupil alike.  Fun, which means engagement, involvement, and perhaps even forgetting that it’s work.  On both sides.

It may be a bit much of a stretch to link this to the quote by Confucius: ”Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, but I do think it’s true that in what can be a tremendously demanding and stressful job, planning things which are fun for everyone involved makes the job a little easier, and much more enjoyable.

With thanks to the following for their comments and contributions: @langwitch, @BonjourMcB, @PaulineSheaff, @bellaale, @IssacGreaves, @misstdunne, @zaragozalass, @amandasalt

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!

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!

Carry on tweeting …

I had an interesting experience at a meeting recently.  Serious items were being discussed, and I was making my contribution to the conversation.

I happened to mention that I had come across the information I was about to share via a colleague on Twitter, and no sooner were the words out of my mouth, than I realised that a certain amount of mirth filled the room.

Why was I surprised to receive such a response?  Had I said that I found the information ‘on the internet’, or that it had come to me ‘via email’, I am sure I would not have had the same response.

And yet, the fact that the source was a trusted professional (whom I have actually – not just virtually – met) seemed risible to some of the people in the room just because of the method of discovery of this interesting and important piece of information.

Now, I am aware that there are still many who think that people who use Twitter are engaging in little more than a daily dose of ‘Heat’ magazine, following vapid celebrities for their inane chatter.  And I will admit to following my share of celebrities, too, but I have chosen to follow them because they offer me something which I like: film commentary (Mark Kermode); giggles (Dara O Briain and Sarah Millican); veggie recipes (Simon Rimmer).

But looking through the 300-odd people whom I follow, the vast majority are fellow education professionals, most of them language specialists, to whom I am indebted for ideas, camaraderie, virtual hugs and a wealth of information.

Will the response from ‘real life’ colleagues stop me tweeting?  No way!  In fact, I feel a little sorry for those who have not yet discovered the power of Twitter.  It’s an incredible network, through which I have met some fabulous people, and learned an amazing amount.

Whatever the reaction, I am going to carry on tweeting!