Saturday, 13 December 2008

IOW Show and Tell Update for October 2007 and 2008: In The Audio Mirror

I am delighted to announce that Joe Dale has now published ALL the audio for the Show and Tell from this year and last year’s Isle of Wight Conference.
As I could not attend last year, no doubt this will make me realize how much I have missed out!

It felt odd listening to my own session “Preaching To The Converted”, about how to spread the word about ICT in languages. I wrote a blog post about it and even included my presentation but listening to the audio felt so different from what I remembered.

My first reaction was “Do I really sound like THAT?” but Joe assured me he had not been using any of the trendy Audacity sound effects that he demonstrated at the conference!

Funnily enough, this really made me think about how I use my voice and I am very tempted to sneakily record one of my own lessons to hear what it sounds like to be in my own classroom…
I love singing and acting and I have always been very aware of my voice and how I use it in a physical sense. The recording made me listen to my intonations –sometimes very French, sometimes very Northern English.

I love accents because they say so much about what makes us who we are. It always makes me smile when I have the following conversation with a cheeky student (remember I work in a school with about 50% students from ethnic minorities):
“You are French? Why do you speak like THAT, then?
-Like what?
-You have an accent.
-So have you.
-Oh yes…
-You should be proud of it-that’s who you are.”
(end of conversation-Student usually smiles back and grows that little bit taller!)

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Let's Explore...Slideshare Groups

Thank you to Alice Ayel for getting me to look at slideshare groups. Alice's group, teaching-languages, is definitely worth joining as it already has many good slideshows designed to teach different French topics and items of grammar.

I also subscribe to E T Albert's web 2.0 tools for effective teaching but there may be a lot more to discover on slideshare groups...

Following in Alice's steps, I decided to upload my "preaching to the converted" presentation (IOW conference Show and Tell) and a "Blogging for all" presentation I did for an introduction to blogging during our termly joint Faculty meeting with Humanities.

I also tried to blog these direct from slideshare but it sent them to my student blog!!

Monday, 24 November 2008

The Conversation Prism

The Conversation Prism
Originally uploaded by b_d_solis
I am experimenting blogging from other accounts and I am now sharing this overwhelming "Conversation Prism" from Flicker.
I like the fact that the conversation is in the middle as it should be the reason for interacting with all the different products mentioned, but it could also be a bit daunting in terms of all the information it contains...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Are we ready for Edu-Wikinomics?

As I am trying to promote and develop our new local Languages Ning, I am starting to feel the extent to which a lot of educators are NOT prepared for what I call “edu-wikinomics”.

Edu.. what?
I was very inspired by the book, Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything, which depicts an optimist picture of collaboration in the business world. In fact, I felt it was more than optimist. It presents collaboration as the only way to survive in an increasingly competitive global markets, where well-kept trade secrets and the power of highly trained and experienced executives can be threatened by the masses getting together to improve on products and ideas.

My first reaction was that if the profit-making sector could see collaboration as a priority, why was not education following suit… What are the barriers?

Isolation: some people still see teaching as an individual activity on which team work does not impact directly. “In the end, it is still me with 30 children”

Lack of trust: suspicion that the outcome will not be as good as if it had been produced by one person only. “What will be given to me will not be as good as what I have contributed”

Fear that good materials or ideas are going to be “stolen” for someone else to reap the rewards.

Time: the misconstrued idea that collaboration involved endless meetings and is time-consuming when the aim is really to make everybody gain time.

Lack of control: As teaching is not a collaborative activity per se, collaboration can sometimes feel like a dangerous loss of control over the planning and preparation process, with still the same exposure to the consequences in front of the class. “It was not really my planning-that’s why it did not work for my class”.

Accountability: Accountability for results is individual and it often clashes with the need to collaborate.

Isolation is dangerous, Education is a collective responsibility including colleagues, parents and society in general.

• If the criteria for the outcome to be produced are shared and come from the group, it is easier to challenge and control the quality of that outcome. The positive pressure on the members of the group should also ensure that no individuals want to let the group down.

Original ideas and materials should be referred to clearly, so that the group can see the extent of each member’s contribution.

Time should be gained by collaborating, if not in the short term, at least in the long term. If it is not the case, then the individual project is not viable in its original form.

Learning to let go is not easy and it really is a continuum. Teachers need to identify what they are ready to do NOW to let go and how they are going to go about developing their students independent learning skills. It is a leap of faith.

Accountability for results is ultimately personal, but let’s work on it as a team. We can all be accountable for our own results but we can also all benefit from the sum of our experiences…

Any more ideas and arguments to foster more collaboration amongst our working teams???

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Ningomania: The Aftermath of The IOW Conference 08

After mentioning the creation of our Oldham SLN Ning online group at The IOW Conference Show & Tell, I had a chat with quite a few colleagues who said to me they just had or were thinking about setting up a local online MFL group to provide support and share good MFL practice locally.

A number of new groups have been set up and are linked with ours through reciprocal membership. The groups are based in Belfast, Birmingham (Sutton Coldfield), Bath and Stockton-on-Tees.

They were created by Amanda Salt , Head of Spanish and Community Link Manager at Grosvenor Grammar school, Lisa Stevens, Primary Spanish teacher, PLL coach and eTwinning coordinator at Whitehouse Common Primary School, Marie-France Perkins, Head of Languages at Oldfield School and Helena Butterfield, language teacher in Stockton-on-Tees .

Some more teachers from my personal learning network also joined: Joe Dale (SSAT lead practitioner with a MFL/ICT blog that is now a legend), José Picardo (Spanish teacher and creator of the fantastic “Asi se hace” website. José also run the “Box of tricks” blog, which is full of brilliant ideas/ tutorials for integrating ICT into languages, Lisa Stevens and Jo Rhy-Jones (Primary Spanish and French and use of ICT tools like voicethread).

No doubt this will be a fantastic opportunity for everybody to share and learn together and off one another.

Viva la Ningomania!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Thinking Outside The classroom Box-Chris Fuller (IOW conference)

Here is the link to Chris Fuller's presentation

I will hold Chris responsible for introducing me to moblogging. It really is something I had not considered, being the proud owner of a 4 year old "greenflag phone" (definitely without a camera). Now things have changed... and I have even registered My Languages with mofuse...

Friday, 31 October 2008

IOW Conference: Video-conferencing With Flashmeeting-John Warwick

John Warwick’s background is Science/Chemistry but his present educational focus is ICT and e-learning. He is also an eTwinning ambassador, which has provided him with many opportunities to explore the possibilities of flashmeeting as a tool to connect schools globally.

· Flashmeeting is a video-conferencing tools that is free for educational purposes.

· The aim of video-conferencing is to set up live interactions between groups of people or individuals. It is however possible to record sessions on a webcam and send them to partners if synchronous communication via flashmeeting is not possible.

· It is worth remembering that a professional set-up will only work well if the video-conferencing partner has equipment of similar quality.

· Another alternative is an intermediate set-up where a webcam is used with specialist computer software (PVX)

· The advantage of flashmeeting is that it is free to use and that you only need to invest in a webcam (from £25)

· The video confererences are private-by invitation- only, which makes this activity safe and secure.

Students could be talking about/ comparing:
· Hobbies
· Local environment
· Food
· Topical issues

Staff could use flashmeeting for:
· Organizing international projects (planning meetings)
· Languages INSET
· Friendships
· Preparing visits abroad/ exchanges
· Setting up penpals schemes
· Record a session and send it to the partner school

The webcam image can also be projected onto an Interactive WhiteBoard or a whiteboard using a digital projector. The quality of the image is not always of high standards but the linking in itself is a great way to motivate students. As only one person can talk at any one time, students must take turn and this is also a great way to focus on oracy.

Flashmeeting can support languages projects/ tasters e.g. Kent primaries who do Chinese are using flashmeeting to link with Chinese school.

The sound quality can be improved by having an external microphone and the sessions are also recordable, although this function can also be disabled. Parental consent may be needed to be able to share the link to the recorded session.

When used within a class/ a group, video recording can be used:
· To develop students’ AfL skills (with teacher or FLA, for instance)
· To help with KS2/KS3 transition projects: mini language lessons from Y7-9 to Y4-6? (lunchtime clubs?)
· To support enrichment projects e.g. Sharing cultural differences about Christmas
=> Gains in students’ self-confidence and improvement of self-image as a language learners.

More research about flashmeeting links here.

Setting up a meeting
Authorised user to book and input date, time and duration of the meeting. More than one person/ school can be invited. Each computer is ONE station. The guests then receive a url to click on to join the flashmeeting. Bookings are always done using UK time.

Meetings can be :

*Recorded or not
*Syndicated or not
*Included in a powerpoint presentation to share parts of a meeting

You need to be a registered user to be able to book your own meetings and invite other people.

Online tips and hints are available here and here.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

IOW Conference Show and Tell: Let's Not Preach To The Converted

The Show and Tell took place on the Saturday night in a local pub in Newport. The pub was a great venue with good food and a large function room that was soon to be filled by rowdy language teachers. I had volunteered to talk about what can be done to promote the use of ICT amongst colleagues.

After being told that the person due to do the presentation just after Joe Dale would not be taking part, I thought "follow THAT" as Joe was sharing his wonderful ideas and tricks to turn powerpoints into truly interactive classroom resources.

As a summary, I would highlight the following:

  • I believe that 100+ brains are better than just one-even if it is mine! That's why I love twitter and social networks.
  • Networking is one of the most effective ways to solve problems-ours and other people's.
  • Twitter is spontaneous, messy, professional and individual-that's real life
  • Diigo is the best platform to find like-minded colleagues to exchange resources and ideas with them.
  • I am a Ning addict but sometimes, sharing is just about making yourself available and dipping into selected conversations. Time IS a precious commodity.
  • VPD is the future-When will we get regular VPD free periods to network and exchange ideas about Learning & Teaching?
  • To anybody who tells you that they prefer talking to "real people" rather than take part in online communities, tell them that I have met a lot of people from my online communities at the IOW Conference-they seemed pretty real to me...
  • Sharing does not just happen, opportunities for sharing must be engineered within the school context. It must also be a genuine two-way process.
  • All threats and inconveniences can also be opportunities to "spread the word" within and across departments, across the LA, the country, internationally...

Impressions from the Isle Of Wight Conference (24-26th October 2008)

Twitter was the guest of honour at the conference and all the delegates should now know what Twitter is all about.

The Mash-up of the Twitter activities during the conference makes an interesting reading and gives an accurate idea of the atmosphere at the conference: positive buzz all around and excitement at the prospect of learning so much from each other.

Why you should use Twitter-Interview with the amazing Drew Buddie. Drew mentions the IOW conference in this interview and how Twitter contributed to the positive buzz. I also managed to blush in from of my computer when I heard my name mentioned as a self-confessed Twitter addict.

Photos from the IOW confererence 2008

Thanks to @joedale and the Twitter (A) Team for those great links.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Funky flipcharts and interesting interactivity (IOW Conference Part 1)

Funky Flipcharts and Interesting Interactivity was the first session I attended. Lesley Welsh from The English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College, Hartlepoool, delivered an enthusiastic presentation about the benefits of using an IWB. OK, I was already convinced, but her positive energy was certainly infectious!

· Look at primary resources for simple graphics
· Move furniture/ objects around to teach prepositions
· Bubble game: text with multiple choice options in a bubble. Students work in pairs, one reads, the other one tries to guess what option was chosen, if it is right he/she then takes on the reading .
· Spotlight tool used with all new words/ pictures for new words on a slide
· Blind tool can be used to slow reveal: Team A un …./ Team B une …
· Erase and reveal e.g. country shapes, students have to say the name of the country.
· Brainstorm: paste a circle with a word in it and draw a line to show connection
· Drag and drop: Key phrases to fill in, re-order sentences (good starter)
· Phrases to fill in with extra support behind a colored rectangle
· Focus circle (with a countdown clock in the circle and a key word e.g. job). Make as many sentences as you can on jobs with te words provided
· Team vocabulary test: get the right spelling on your half with 10-15 chances given for somebody else in your team to amend the spelling.
· Labeling activity: e.g. a house
· Taking a picture with a camera tool is better to keep quality of picture rather than use copy and paste.
· Numeracy: looking at prices, students have to put the right coins in the till.
· Blockbusters, noughts and crosses
· Dice: Person 1=je 2=tu 3=il/elle 4=nous 5=vous 6=ils/elles
Verb 1=finir 2=parler 3=manger 4=dire 5=boire 6= être
· Use the dice to make a sentence with different types of words e.g. pronoun/ verb/adjective
· Flipcharts are good to ensure all the resources are together e.g. music/ audio
· Scroll adjectives (e.g. 10 ), write down as many as you can remember
· Scroll words with some vowels missing
· Match up exercise for the answers
· Use photographs of pictures instead of re-sized images for higher quality
· Activote systems: can be used for survey, quizzes, spelling or vocabulary tests (e.g. numbered parts of the face, multiple choice answers). They are good to identify students’ overall weaknesses as well as individual students’ difficulties.
· Use videoclips: e.g. weather forecast to listen to authentic audio

Best of all, I enjoyed Lesley’s top tips:
· Be prepared
· Find out what works for you
· Experiment and enjoy

Couldn’t agree more!!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Isle of Wight Conference, 25-26th October 2008: A Fantastic Opportunity for Professional Development and Networking for Language Teachers

Visit The Isle of Wight Conference

Web 2.0? Blogging? Podcasting? International Projects using ICT?
Here are a few of the themes for the wide range of workshops offered at the Isle of Wight conference due to take place 25-26th October 2008.

Masterminded by Joe Dale for the third year running, this event promises to have a strong impact in mfl classroom practice across the land.

The event is now running on 2 days with opportunities for informal networking before, during and after the Conference with an additional “Show and Tell” session at The Bargeman’s Rest Pub on the Saturday night.

This is a great opportunity to meet other language teachers and ICT experts to find out more about how new technologies can be integrated creatively in the mfl classroom. I also challenge anybody to find an event that is better value for money.
I am looking forward to be refreshed and inspired!

So come and join us now

Friday, 19 September 2008

My Adventures In Second Life: Trying Out Sound And Missing Out On Appearing On Uruguayan TV

I mentioned before that I had joined the slexperiment wiki to try to gain more understanding about how Second Life can be used for teaching and learning languages.

The group is lead by Nergiz Kern, an EFL teacher based in Turkey and meets on Education Island every Friday at 6 GMT . It aims to show tools and share ideas to be used for language teaching in Second Life.

I found the couples of meetings I have attended very interesting and informative although my personal contribution to the group was minimal. Through just listening and watching what can be done, I really feel I am slowly developing a real understanding of the potential of Second Life as a platform for language teaching.

Of course, I need to do more studying to develop my own SL skills.

As ever with technology, if I know what can be done, at least it gives me an idea of what to aim for! I can choose, discard and sometimes even improve the use of a tool and that process of discovering “What can be done” is really empowering as it means I truly own my integrated ICT practice. I also make it work for my aims rather than it being an end in itself, which is always a danger.

Nergiz emailed yesterday about an experiment to be carried by a journalist from the Uruguayan TV who was planning to join the meeting, introduced by Alicia Barbitta or Wonderalica Alturas.
There was a problem and the journalist did not turn up tonight, but the event is due to be re-scheduled for Tuesday.

I also mentioned before that my first attempt at using sound in Second Life was far from successful. So when the group dwindled a bit, I thought I would try sound again. I found it a very positive experience and I can see why the use o f sound in Second Life would greatly enhance language learners’ confidence.

Learning a language is a risky business, people do not always acknowledge that fact. You put a lot at risk: yourself image, physical and social as well as your sense of cultural identity. All these things you sometimes did not know you had-particularly if you come from a mono-cultural and monolingual background…

All this definitely takes you out of your comfort zone and can feel threatening unless you see the benefits fairly quickly. If you use role-play or drama, it is not as threatening. You are still yourself and the other “you” can make mistakes-it is only a game. The drama cover is then a very real protection and it can make the learner more willing to take risks using the language.

I am now planning to have a look at the SL Teen Grid to see how this translates in a school context… Any pointers welcome!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Free Rice is Going Multi-Lingual and Cross-Curricular

I blogged about Free Rice, an online vocabulary game aiming to improve “word power” while also giving rice to the third world in November last year. Although I did use it as a starter in languages lessons to demonstrate the links between romance languages and English and encourage students to infer meaning from the few latin stems they knew, I always thought it was such a shame the game did not exist in other languages .

Thanks to Marie-France Perkins’, Sans Probleme blog , I have just found out that this oversight has been rectified and not only Free Rice has gone multilingual with games in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian,but also cross-curricular with games covering Art, Maths, Chemistry and Geography.

I could see the English grammar and vocabulary games useful for EFL as well as native students and the Art and Geography games are certainly useful resources for developing cultural awareness.

What now? Let’s test it out and see if it lives up to its promises…

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Connecting Online

Visit Connecting Online COO9

My Ning addiction is getting worse!
Despite a very busy first week complemented by a number of technological challenges, one of them being the loss of interactivity of my whiteboard-I am already behind with the IWB challenge..-, I still managed to join another Ning Group, Connecting online.

Created by Nellie Deutsch and described as “A place to connect and share your "online" personal and professional learning experiences”, this groups already includes more than 200 members.

Nellie Deutsch is from Canada and she has been working on technology integration in the ESL/EFL classrooms since the early 1990s. She has been involved in collaborative projects and WebQuests via Moodle for the past 5 years and she is currently studying for a doctorate in educational leadership specializing in curriculum,and instruction online at the University of Phoenix. Her research focus is the use of web 2.0 tools in blended learning environments in higher education by teaching staff.
She has her own website and her blog is about exchanging ideas and best practices on how to integrate technology into face-to-face and online distance learning environments.

I was particularly happy to be indirectly involved in a conversation about online Friends started by Nicola Avery , eLearning Adviser at the University of Surrey.

This really is a great group, so come on come and join us!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Holiday Homework 3: Social Networking for the Next Academic Year

It is official. My name is Isabelle and I am a Ning addict.

I like the fact that you can associate with groups of fellow professionals and find out about their experience of education in their own country, although Ning languages network seem to be dominated by American and Australian “educators”-not a word often used in UK edu-speech.

I have gradually got more involved with Talkabout Primary, my first Ning, created by "Ning Queen" Jo Rhys-Jones, a teacher from Devon, my favourite part of England and another fellow Ning anonymous member??. I often call it my "favourite Ning" as it was the first one I ever joined and I have seen it grow and develop. I am not always as directly involved as I would like to be and I am still to write a blog post a la Lisa Stevens, who is another active contributor and constant source of inspiration.

However, I have really enjoyed participating in the conversations on the forum and trying to get to find out more about each member from as they join. I even created a Spanish group when I found out I would be concentrating on Spanish Primary liaison. I have not really done a lot with it yet but the fact that some people already joined it make me aware of where to find support or where to go to pick other people’s minds-I will have to make sure all members feel the same…

Over the holidays, I also found out about the RezEd Ning, a Ning dedicated to teaching and learning in Virtual World. As part of my holiday homework was to start with Second Life, I joined the Language teachers’ group set up by Baldric Commons -Graham Stanley in RL- which has provided with some support with my SL holiday homework.

I am also moderating the Fabulous French Teachers group on Jess McCullough’s Technolanguages. Jess is a teacher of Chinese based in Australia and she is also keen to promote ICT integration into language teaching.

With the sad situation of language learning in the UK, getting involved with the FFT group has been a breath of fresh air as it has made me stop the navel-gazing to finding out about what is happening out there in different parts of the world including mostly the US and Australia. I find the Technolanguages Ning a constant source of personal and professional development and I am grateful to Jess for allowing me to get more involved in it.

I also joined the fabulous EFL Classroom 2.0 Ning run by David Deubel , an experienced teacher of ESL/ EFL from Canada, who has taught all over the world including the Czech Republic , France, Ukraine, Canada and Korea.

I feel that languages teachers in general have a lot to learn from what is happening in EFL as it is represented all around the world unlike the teaching of some other languages for various cultural and sometimes also political reasons. For instance, and I stand to be corrected, I am under the impression that Spanish is not selling really well in Australia whereas it is a certainly a very popular subject in the US! This Ning is a goldmine of ideas and resources to integrate ICT in lessons, an area in which we can all contribute and benefit from.

Finally, I decided it was time to join Nings directly run in French and Spanish, so I joined Internet en el Aula some time ago and I decided to set up a “FLE dans le monde” group on Florence Meichel’ s Apprendre 2.0.

Florence has set up a fantastic platform with Apprendre 2.0 and I really welcome the opportunity to connect with fellow native speakers as well as using French as a lingua franca with French teachers from all over the world.
Alors si vous enseignez le francais ou si vous voulez enseigner le francais, n’hesitez pas. Rejoignez-nous !

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Holiday Homework 2 : Microblogging-Is there life after Twitter?

Some time ago, I blogged about Why I still love Twitter .
Have things changed over the summer?

After trying the beta version of something called Kwippy , a message from a member of my Resources for Languages group reminded me of Plurk.

“Have you checked Plurk out? There is a nice group of educators on there…” and there is also a Diigo group for Pluking Eucators, created by Jo McLeay, a friendly teacher from Australia .

As Kwippy really had not convinced me that it had something different to offer from Twitter, I decided to have another look at Plurk and found that I could quite easily import my Twitter followers into Plurk. Easy, I thought-but what is the point? Funnily enough, I found that people had slightly different connections on Plurk and through the same “friends”, I often got to befriend different people.

When I started on Plurk, I asked straight away what was the difference with Twitter and I was directed to a number of bookmarks about this well-debated topic of conversation.

I like Plurk for its tidiness as it makes it easier to develop deeper professional conversations in it and in some ways to find out more about the people you befriend. However, I feel it can lack the spontaneity Twitter has and the fact that there are now so many tools to complement Twitter.

Twitter is messy, can be disorganised and unreliable but it does have that infectious energy that will be very hard to beat…

Friday, 29 August 2008

Holiday Homework 1: Venturing on Second Life

I have known about Second Life for over a year and I have even been known to lurk on there. However, I really struggled to see how this could be used for “serious teaching”.

Challenging? Yes. I kept having flashbacks from the past, imagining that the flatmates from my long gone student days would have loved Second Life. After all, they were all into role-playing games and willing to stay up all night to throw a few dice about.

At the time, I was told this was educational too : numeracy (probabilities and sums at least), literacy (LOADS of reading involved). I did give it a go but I felt so uncomfortable I did not even crack under peer pressure after that.

Was it the role-playing I found uncomfortable? Not at all. Although I would describe myself as a quiet person- most of the time, I have no problems singing, playing an instrument on stage or taking parts in role-plays.
So what is the problem, I thought?

After a twitter discussion with Helena Butterfield aka Langwitch Shoshtakovich, we decided to meet in SL Barcelona. Langwitch teleported me-Isabelle Firanelli, pictured above- to the Plaza Real and we sat down for a coffee. Well, Langwitch taught me how to sit down and to fly over to the roof top. I even tried out my headsets without any success as the echo was terrible and I am sure Langwitch could have sued me for damaged eardrums if the noise was as bad at her end.

How did it feel? Very strange but also liberating and refreshingly different, something that could really work as an low-stress environment to practise languages in.

I then did more reading and had another Twitter conversation withNergiz Kern, Daffodil Fargis in SL. On her slexperiments wiki, Nergiz introduce herself as a teacher of general, business and technical English to adults with a wide range of teaching experiences in Germany, Brazil and the UK. Nergiz now lives in Turkey and she teaches online and in Second Life.

She also runs a very interesting and informative blog about her SL experiences at
After joining the wiki, I managed to attend the end of one of the weekly meetings Nergiz runs for language teachers. I managed to sit on somebody else’s lap and on top of a cat, so I was a bit nervous to try out my audio after that, but then again, the atmosphere was both really relaxed and stimulating. A Brazilian traveller even gate-crashed the meeting and Nergiz turned this into a learning opportunity for everybody, using a translation tool to help us communicate with him.

Next week, I am definitely giving it another go and now I have met like-minded language teachers, I might even carry out other SL experiments with different people. Ideally, I would love other “lurkers” to meet with me. This is an open invitations to all the language teachers out there who are still feeling odd about trying it out. Come on! Even Oldham MBC has bought a plot of land in Second Life (that discovery did make me realise that it could not be so strange if even my local council was going for it)

You will stand on tables, fall over or even drop into the sea, but I really can see that this is time well spent (honest). Remember the first time you touched a computer mouse? It is a bit like that …

Friday, 8 August 2008

Flowgram: Jog the Web with Sound, Highlights and Much More...

On 30th July, I blogged about Jog The Web, a very useful programme to devise tours of the web to recommend websites by topic for students, blog tours or compile training material "packs" for colleagues.

I came across Flowgram on my web travels and decided to sign up for the Beta Version.

Flowgram also has a blog to keep you up to date with the beta development.

Although it clearly is not the finished article yet, it certainly has a lot of potential.

The difference with Jog the Web? It is a Beta, so there may be some technical problems at this stage, but you can include sound, post to Facebook and quite a few blog platform. There is also a facility to email your friends about your flowgrams. You can also browse for other people's Flowgrams if they decide to make them public.

I like the fact you can add highlights, notes and sound and it does work with "framed websites", unlike Jog the Web who are currently working to solve this problem.

The program did not like one of my recommended website, but the rest of it went relatively smoothly. Do check the blog out to see when the final version is coming out!

And... Have a look at my own creation (will update this with sound at a later date...)

Enjoy, try it out and tell me what you think!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The IWB Challenge is Back!

Jess McCulloch is a teacher of Chinese in the seaside town of Warrnambool on the south west coast of Victoria, Australia. She teaches students from 5 to 17 years old and is very keen to develop her own use of the interactive whiteboard. She is also a prolific blogger with lots of tips, hints and useful resources to be found on her fantastic Technolote blog.

Her original April 08 IWB challenge focused on:

*Using the SMART Board in at least two new ways each week ;

*Posting a ‘Weekly Whiteboard Workout’ post on her Technolote blog ;

*Making sure all students are directly involved in interacting with the SMART Board-considering impact on the students directly involved and the rest of the class ;

*Finding some great IWB resources to share.

This has been a great opportunity to concentrate on regularly developing whiteboard skills and share experiences through blog posts.

The IWB challenge is back. It is now bigger and even better !!

It starts in August, which means that some of us will have more preparation time, but what a fantastic way to focus for our new academic year…

Check out the IWB Challenge Wiki for all the details of the 7 challenges set (one a week) and for a look at who is taking part.

IWB experts from all over the world will be helping by setting the challenges and there are already quite a few interesting links for support. More can also be found here .

This promises to be the best CPD session ever… See you there!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Blogging and Writing : Same Difference?

I recently came across this excellent post by Terry Freedman, information and communication technology specialist

Terry is interested in the differences between blogging and writing and especially in the reasons why some writers blog and some don’t. He has put together a very thought-provoking short survey .

The following really got me thinking…

What is blogging?
It is a versatile form of writing that can be informal or as developed as academic writing, so how do you define it? It made me consider what I wanted my blogging to be…
Approachable in terms of readability, practical but also thought-provoking and hopefully useful to others.

What are the similarities and differences between writing and blogging?
The style? Writing sounds to me less spontaneous but more elegant and backed-up by evidence. The audience? I feel blogging is more of a reflective activity even if there is always a desire to reach an audience.

Where does microblogging fit in?
I see it as something quite different: even more spontaneous, sometimes even untidy but also full of creative energy as a brilliant way to bounce ideas off like-minded or very different people.

How important is dialogue between blogger and reader?
Essential! However, it is also so difficult to develop but microblogging can help a lot here by helping the creation of communities where people feel more confident to comment on each other’s posts.

I can’t wait for the results…

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Jog The Web: The Whistle Stop Tour of My Favourites on My Languages

With Jog The Web you can organise a guided tour of your site or blog as well as comment on the pages you like.

A few weeks ago, Marie-France Perkins created her own Jog The Web mfl tracks , blogged about this tool and started a discussion about it on the mfl resources Yahoo group.
All agreed that this tool has a lot of potential to highlight particular features in a website or a blog or to recommend specific websites in the face of the digital information overload both teachers and students often have to cope with.

In addition to recommending your own favourite blog posts or sites, it is also worth checking the site for the creations of fellow language teachers (rss feed available for all new creations). A similar system to VodPod, enabling registered members to follow like-minded colleagues would be useful.

However, a quick look was enough to unearth some “tracks” produced by Ana Maria Cult for EFL and James Pearson for Spanish recommendations .
I also found some recommendations of sites for practising foreign languages and of ICT resources to develop speaking skills .

Jog The Web could also be used for student homework or to show a series of websites within a lesson using the IWB, for instance, without having to open and close web pages as Jog The Web also has a very handy slideshow feature.

Have a look at my own creation on
Look at Comments for an update from Jog The Web's CEO-new version to be released in September...

Monday, 30 June 2008

Getting ready for the new National Curriculum in Languages

I was asked recently about what we are doing to get ready for the new PoS…

We are now in the process of reviewing our schemes of work. Our review aims to provide students with motivating new contexts rather than concentrate on just covering a number of topics as in the past. Grammatical and linguistic progression is still the main focus but we are mindful of not diluting our language input and making it more student-centred through the use of ICT. Cross-curricular opportunities are highlighted in our Schemes of Works and more liaising is being done to establish overlaps and ensure seamless progression rather than repetition of the same topics in different subjects.

We have recently moved into a new building with state-of-the-art ICT facilities so we are in a strong position to make ICT the centre piece of our new approach. We already use the IWB for all our MFL lessons as a way to structure them. We also have a number of links abroad that we aim to integrate into our Schemes of Works to provide our students with real writing opportunities.

There are more plans to develop our student blog to showcase our students’ work and provide them with a “window on the world” as well as access to extension resources. Podcasting also is high on the agenda as a motivation tool to make listening comprehension and speaking tasks less threatening for students. It has already been used by students to revise for GCSE in Spanish.

However, before we get all our students ready to use ICT independently in day-to-day MFL lessons, my priority is to make sure all members of staff feel comfortable with it and are clear about our aims.

I have put together this teacher blog, My Languages, to support them by sharing resources and ideas on how to use ICT creatively. The response has been extremely positive as the foundations were laid some time ago with more electronic communication, use of ICT for administration and use of data projector to structure the delivery of lessons. I am also very proud that the commitment of each member of the Faculty to develop their own ICT skills to enhance language learning has been very high.

I now need to make my own ICT action plan to ensure that I can show how I am developing and therefore lead by example.

As I want to highlight that improving Learning must be at the heart of everything we do with ICT, I am planning to include the following:

1. IWB training (on-going) to ensure it is used more and more interactively. The training is not only for teachers but for students too, who must learn how to interact with the board in an appropriate and effective way.

2. Use of ICT room to enhance lessons with a focus on Listening and Speaking skills (use of audacity and training staff and students to use the ICT room for listening tasks)

3. Use of links abroad and ICT-like cartoon software or blogging- to develop writing skills

4. To develop independent learning skills-access to podcasts and suitable online materials

5. Use of Wikis for administration and to encourage collaboration within Faculty

Review of plans in September to see if it can all be fitted in with our school development priorities…

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Finding My Blogging Voice and Helping With Literacy

Odiogo is a free tool that allows you to convert your blog posts into audio files. The sound is of good quality but there is no choice of accent or gender.

Odiogo is compatible with all blog engines that publish RSS feeds such as Typepad, Blogger, WordPress or Overblog. The process is very straight-forward, you register and Odiogo lets you know when the audio version of your blog is ready. Each blog post is converted swiftly and is easily accessible in its audio form through an icon next the post heading.

I found listening to the audio version of some posts an interesting experience as something that reads well sometimes does not sound as good, and vice versa. This really has reinforced my awareness of language and how it should be influenced by the media used for communication. I certainly will bear this in mind when I have a real attempt at podcasting, hopefully over the summer holiday…

Odiogo could also be used in a variety of ways with students to reinforce literacy, by reading and listening or listening and looking at a different text-easily done with an Interactive Whiteboard- or for EFL listening skills.

Unfortunately, it does not seem to be available in French or Spanish, although listening materials can also be produced using the variety of text-to-speech software available, although quality can vary a great deal-from the robot-like to the nearly human...

Monday, 16 June 2008

Wordle: Word Inspiration

Wordle is a tool for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds highlight the words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can personalise your clouds by using different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The Word Clouds can be printed or saved to the Wordle gallery to share with others.

According to Wordle, this is what My Languages is all about...

I also think that wordle has a lot of potential to generate discussions and debates, as well as encourage creative writing. I am also planning to use it to present the aims and objectives of My Languages as a blogging project.

Any more ideas??

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Why I Still Love Twitter

Twitter has been up and down a lot lately, which has irritated a lot of people. Why should a social networking activity that basically amounts to answering a basic question-What are you doing?-become such a part of some people’s life?

Recently, Twitter has made been in the headlines for breaking the news of recent China’s earthquake, partnering with MySpace for its “data availability” project and even helping a student get out of jail.

In the past few months, Twitter has grown rapidly. According to Lee Odden’s Twitter usage poll , the most popular reasons for using Twitter were:
  1. Sharing links to items of interest to your network
  2. Networking for new contacts
  3. Reinforcing current network contacts
  4. Promoting specific content
  5. Re-distribution of content from blogs, web sites
  6. Twitter cat posts: flight delays, eating habits, who knows what and why
  7. Replacement for Facebook updates
  8. Influencing your network-leadership
  9. Group and project communications

At first, I was uncomfortable with the mix of formal and informal and personal and public. I also could not see what Twitter could do for me. Now that it is sometimes unavailable, this is what I miss-apart from the quick responses to any of my “tweet”:

* Technical Advice: I received some brilliant tips when I started using my IWB ;

*Specific advice offered when requested ;

*The opportunity to pick somebody else’s brains ;

*the 140 Character Limit: great to help you clarify your thoughts and get to the point ;

*Discussing issues that are important to you ;

*Finding out how an issue is dealt with in different countries: I find the differences between the different educational systems fascinating ;

*Getting links to suitable reading to keep you up to date with your areas of interest: This is personalised CPD of the highest quality

*Finding out about blogs and blog posts of interest to you: Helps with social networking locally as well as globally.

*Blogging Ideas..

Twitter can also be used with students. Some practice can be very daring and more suitable for post 16-particularly when it involves Twitter and mobile phones.
However, some simple projects like “Foxford Meteo” set up by James Padvis from Foxford School and Community Arts College in Coventry can turn out to be a real source of motivation for students.

Now the sticky point: How to introduce it to other people?

A number of short videos and blog posts will be useful:

However, it sounds so unrelated to our professional concerns that some of its uses will need to be highlighted formally-like in this blog post. I would encourage any colleagues to get started to see its real potential. Like many ICT tools, it is difficult to evaluate its usefulness until you start using it, but what is for sure is that there is a lot more to it than just talking about what you are up to…

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Let’s Get Started: Plain Hook or Photo Soup?

PhotoSoup is a visual word puzzle generator that allows users to create word search puzzles with tag-related photos taken from Flickr. The words are hidden in the puzzle, and only the associated photo is shown as a clue although it is possible to reveal the words on the screen. The objective is to find all the words hidden in the puzzle before you run out of time.

This has a lot of potential for being used with an Interactive Whiteboard as a starter or a “hook” into a new topic. Our Languages faculty has been experimenting with the use of interesting visuals as “hooks” in an attempt to maximise students’ engagement at the beginning of the lesson. This concept is also linked with the “Connect” phase of the Accelerated Learning cycle,when the teacher provides an opportunity for students to make new connections across lessons and if possible across subjects too.

To create and play a new puzzle, you have to provide a topic. Alternatively, you can use your own username to generate a puzzle that shows your photos. Only public Flickr photos that have the Creative Commons Attribution license are used when generating a PhotoSoup puzzle, so you will not have to worry about copyright issues.

If you choose to provide the topic in Spanish, this works quite well although some words in English may appear too. However, when I tried this in French, the results were not as good and varied greatly according to the topic entered.

This is my attempt for the topic “transporte”

Monday, 2 June 2008

Networking: What Sort of Friend Are You?

After reading Vicki Davis' blog post “Why I think More Teachers Don't Share Their Blog with Others”, I started to think about what a networking teacher “Friend” really is.

According to Vicki, teachers would be naturally humble and not sure about sharing their musings-or would it be that we are out of our comfort zone when we start blogging and that it takes time- blogging and reading time-to develop a strong blogging voice?

Inferiority and not wanting to join in some debates
“Teachers might just feel like their blog is not good enough”. I would agree that giving opinions on such a public medium can sometimes feel like having your secret diary displayed on billboards. Our blog might be written with no particular style but it is close to our heart and the risk of being criticised could be oh so personally hurtful…

Paranoia and fear
Vicki says “Teachers organizations have come out against blogging. Somehow we are pariahs. Why? Be a professional, don't share confidential information and focus on best practices and you should be OK”. I would add that the general idea spread in the media that there are lots of malevolent lurkers out there does not help

What is the point?
It is often difficult to see what can be useful to other people…
As a summary I would say a networking teacher “Friend” can be:
  • Somebody who has some common interest with you e.g. subject, interest in technology integration
  • Somebody who would like to find out more about your area of interest
  • Somebody you think you can help
  • Somebody you think can help you
  • Somebody who makes you think by challenging your perceptions
  • Somebody who inspires you by blogging about their own experiences and projects
  • Somebody who keeps you up to date with things

What sort of “Friend” are you? What sort of “Friend” would you like?

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Creating a Learning Community

I feel very strongly that the aim of all educational organisations should be to model lifelong learning. This has the advantage of teaching students by example that learning is an enjoyable process that really is on-going. However, to create teaching and learning communities, proof must be made that the professional and personal development of each member of the group is taken very seriously indeed.

Nothing will happen if the only way of sharing is through monitoring. Sharing has to happen in all directions and this can be tricky as some of the group members’ skills will be more visible than others. Every contribution that has the potential to move Learning and Teaching forward by making us consider a different way to do things should be valued. This should be considered regardless of experience or status within the organisation.

Within our Faculty, I have considered different ways of “growing together as a learning community”:

· Providing opportunities to share ideas and resources through my bulletin and Faculty meetings -by asking for contributions and allocating meeting slots for sharing-“Bring and Brag”-example of a powerpoint by a colleague who wanted to reflect through educational reading on how students’ concentration and listening skills could be developed ;

· Identifying niches of expertise that have a potential for positive impact in the classroom: cross-curricular, extra-curricular, pastoral, ICT integration… ;

· Constantly evaluating our practice as a group and providing opportunities for self-assessment. The evaluation needs to be honest and respected by the other members of the group if it is shared. The discussions started by the self-audit will also help support the more formal development plans linked with performance management;

· Providing resources and opportunities to find out more about a particular area of interest through our Faculty bulletin and its links to My Languages and Diigo / . This would equate to developing our students' independent learning skills-provide scaffolding and opportunities for extension work!

Locally, ideas can be cross-fertilised through subject meetings and StrategicLearning Networks consisting of a number of local schools with very different profile.

Nationally, lists like Linguanet and mfl resources are also invaluable to refresh and exchange ideas, but participation will often depend on ICT skills and access at home. The same goes with the international professional connections now possible through networking sites like Twitter or Diigo .

To some extent, a number of Wikis have also been set up with that aim and I hear that Second Life is likely to be the next developmental tool, with an International Language Conference being scheduled for 23rd/ 24th May 2008…

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

My Studiyo: First Attempt and More Ideas for Quizzes

After trying to design quizzes with Studiyo, I found out from a colleague today at our Faculty Bring and Brag that the Smartboard gallery of Notebook 10 includes very similar templates, without having to put up with the unreliability of a live download.

However, Studiyo would still be very good for home studies and class blogs-something to think about...

My Visite a Paris Quiz can be found on

Saturday, 3 May 2008

The IWB Challenge: Week 4

I can’t believe this is the end of my challenge and also my 100th post on this blog. In some way, this is only the beginning…

On Monday, I used some simple Notebook drag and drop exercises with my Year 5 to get them to practise talking about time in Spanish. I also learnt how to use shapes as text boxes, fill them, group and lock them –while allowing move. I feel there is quite a lot of potential with the colour fill and the shapes as a way to highlight grammatical patterns from an early stage.

I have also been experimenting with the blind. My topic was clothes, so I set up a “What is in my wardrobe” activity. Students had to guess the item slowly revealed and we also played an alternative game where I flashed the whole content of the wardrobe to the students and they had to list as many as they could remember-in Spanish of course!. To make sure a team won, I made sure I was really strict with pronunciation and it was great to hear members of the different teams correct each other in order to win the game.

On Tuesday, I continued to exchange ideas and tips with my colleagues and this lead to Notebook 10 being installed onto our school network server. After enquiring about Notebook 10 new features on my Twitter network, I was referred to the magic pen feature presented by Danny Nicholson on his whiteboard blog and the Smartboard lesson podcast by Ben Hazzard. Some other features highlighted by Danny were object animation, page themes, magic pen, tables (and the cell shade), page animation and the new fill effects. I am still working on some of those, but it was a great start.

On Thursday, I also went ahead with idea of using powerpoint to structure the whole of my lesson and import links to bring in more interactive Notebook activities. Unfortunately, I was not able to upload those documents here as Scribd and docstoc do not recognise the Smartboard Notebook format.

My real find has been various shortcuts to import various parts of a Powerpoint presentation to make it possible for it to be manipulated on the board by students. For instance, I copied and pasted in Notebook the text from a slide and dragged part of it out of the text box, which duplicated it. I also found out that all the different labels or parts of a phrase could be locked simultaneously by using the control key, which saved me considerable time.

I then used the original box with the complete sentence/ paragraph to put in order and hid it using the white marker with the idea that I could start reveal the sentence to be put back together-by erasing the white marker ink- if students were starting to get stuck at a particular point.

As my board decided to freeze at that point, I changed my activity to get students to link the different parts of the sentences using the board markers. I also got somebody to time the students to add a little competitive element as the timer I had imported from the gallery had also frozen on that occasion… At the end of the lesson, the board revived and I was able to do a similar activity directly on the board. The erase and revealed effect worked well but next time, I will put the answer to be revealed in a shape to avoid searching for it with the eraser!!!

After reading about Helena Butterfield’s amazing second week, I am determined to try out Studiyo and Animoto.

The challenge is definitely still on…

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The IWB Challenge: Week 3

This has been a bit of a strange week, with our school feeling eerie and deserted due to the Teachers’ strike today. As a result, just like Jess McCulloch, I feel that I did not spend as much time trying things out with my Smartboard as much as I would have liked to.

On Monday, I used my Smartboard as usual with animated Powerpoint to present and reinforce new language. I played a new game with Y6, “Guess which item is going to go round and round”, which worked well and is a different take on “guess the next item to disappear”, with team competitions and extra points being given for correct guesses and pronunciation.

I also had a look at Ink Aware, the Smartboard Application recommended via Twitter by Lisa Thumann to amend my Powerpoints.

On Tuesday, I used this blog on the IWB to demonstrate “Word Magnets” at our Faculty meeting and introduced a colleague to the magic paper and the erase and reveal techniques so clearly demonstrated in the Rebbeca Duncan ‘s videos recommended by Jess last week

I got my Notebook training going, exchanging ideas and tips with my colleague. We looked at the Smartboard Gallery in order to select tools that could be useful to a language teacher. We selected the timer, interactive dice, the spinner, the scrolling banner and many more like the question and answer template.

I was also shown how to colour shapes on a different colour background and, last but not least, how Smartboard Notebook resources can be imported into Powerpoint presentations. I then decided to give up on my original idea to export our many powerpoints into notebook and replace it with my new plan: keeping the best features and ideas from our powerpoint presentations and importing links to more interactive Notebook activities into them. The types of Notebook activities I am currently considering will be drag and drop activities to start with.

I have also just noticed more training resources by Jose Picardo on his brilliant blog, Box of Tricks. My aim will now be to put at least 2 of these great ideas in practice for next week!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Social Bookmarking: My favourite Diigo features

With Diigo, you can highlight the web and add sticky notes too. You can also access and search your findings from any computers as well as create groups to pool resources for specific projects.

Enticed by all the positive comments from my twitter network and despite being a fan of, I recently decided to give Diigo a try. Last year, I was already looking at Diigo as an alternative to but I am now convinced that and Diigo can really be the perfect partners.

After downloading the Diigo toolbar, I transferred all my bookmarks to Diigo but decided to keep both to still be able to consult the bookmark recommendations from my network.

I have now set up Diigo to save all bookmarks to too, which was very straight-forward. I discovered that the automatic saves were not possible from to Diigo but saving my bookmarks from Diigo to meant that I did not have alter the tags published on My Languages blog.

So what is bigger and better?

I like the fact the each Diigo user has a profile, which makes networking a lot easier and personal. There is also a facility to join groups with similar interests in order to share bookmarks and directly send messages to “friends”. Yours and your friends’ recent bookmarks are listed as well as a list of recent visitors to your profile. The bookmarks can be public, private, tagged and untagged and there is a facility to share them as well as comments about them with friends and different groups.

Diigo groups are god to share resources and good practice. They are made up of people who choose to join others who have common interests like the use of web 2.0 in education, specific subjects etc… A Diigo group can be public, private or semi-private.

A great feature I have not tried yet is "Lists", which provides another way to organize bookmarks. In “Lists” you can arrange and re-arrange the sequence of the items in the list by simple drag-and-drop, and by separating the items into sections. With one click, you can also easily turn a list into an interactive slideshow using our WebSlides. Now, that is worth a try…
Other users’ list can also be consulted and are arranged by topic, which is very user-friendly.

The tags can be sorted by my usage and by community usage and are also a way to connect with people with similar interests. Likewise, the reader community for your favourite sites can be checked out easily and this can also be a way to enlarge your circle of “friends”. You can also Subscribe to the most recent bookmarks by tags, sites, or users, which is a great way to keep track of the latest information on topics you are interested in.

Last but not least, I have noticed how well Diigo works with twitter and some people who request to be friends on Diigo first can end up being part of your twitter network as well.

For more research, check out my short collection of Diigo bookmarks and join me on Diigo to recommend more bookmarks to introduce Diigo to my colleagues!

diigo it

Saturday, 19 April 2008

The IWB Challenge: Week 2

The IWB challenge with Jess McCulloch carries on…

The sound on my whiteboard got fixed on Tuesday, so I was able to use it for a listening comprehension activity. Nothing unusual here apart from the quality of sound and the possibility to combine it with extra prompts “frozen” on the board while the sound file is playing-lots of opportunities for differentiation ….

I also tried out the Word Magnets programme with the IWB. Word Magnets is free and can be used to practise word or letter order through drag and drop exercises on the IWB.

You need to type in your phrase or word with appropriate gaps, click 'Next' and let Word Magnets do the rest. You can also type accented vocabulary in Word first and then copy and paste it across. As the colour and size of the magnets can be edited, you can colour-code parts of a sentence or parts of a word like prefixes or suffixes.

The only issue was that I was not able to upload the words beforehand, so I used this as a “warm up" activity rather than a proper starter. I included the Url on a powerpoint slide and used it to input the key words to be put back in order while students were copying their lesson objectives from the previous frozen slide.

I have also looked into getting students to use the onscreen keyboard for such activities but felt that a lot of student training was still needed as these activities are often affected by the orientation of the board.

The students liked the activity but I felt that it was difficult to ensure complete engagement from all students. Drag and drop activities like the ones with Word Magnet should really support other kinaesthetic pair activities in the classroom-e.g. students do the activity with dominoes made out of card and only come to the board the model their or the correct answer.

I did look at Notebook and discussed useful features with my colleagues. The gallery has a lot of resources like a scrolling heading that can remind students of lesson objectives-or number of days before the exam!-, templates for questions and answers games a spinner and a timer.

I managed to design very basic drag and drop exercises but was unable to import powerpoint into Notebook, which is what I wanted to do in order to develop the interactivity of all the powerpoint resources we have already available. I put the question to my Twitter network and lots of advice and trouble-shooting links were suggested to me. One of the reason why the powerpoint presentations could not open in notebook could be that they contain pictures and they are large documents.

Next week, I will need to develop my knowledge of what are transferable features from powerpoint to Notebook and what features are unique to Notebook… and more importantly, how they can translate into more interactive and engaging activities in the classroom.

Monday, 14 April 2008

New Secondary Curriculum Regional Subject Briefing for Languages, 9th April 2008, Liverpool.

My previous post on “Compelling Language Learning” described the kind of changes that could be implemented by using the increased flexibility offered by the new Programme of Study (PoS).

Throughout the presentations and workshops, I liked the fact that our subject was referred to as “Languages” although there are still many references to “MFL” in a lot of official documents. I still think that LOTE, Languages Other Than English, the acronym used in Australia is far more inclusive than our old “MFL”. I think “Languages” is a better alternative as it also includes “community languages” without discriminating or showing some kind of priority order. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to raise the linguistic self-esteem of many of our bilingual students…

At the Liverpool Briefing I attended, two main approaches were presented:

The “inside” approach:

· Building PLTS (Personal Learning and Thinking Skills) and other cross-curricular dimensions into planning
· Making connections with other subjects
· Exploring alternative ways of organising learning e.g. intensive learning, block of lessons, every student to visit a foreign country by the end of KS3…

The “outside” approach:

· Co-delivering activities with other subjects
· Ensuring an input from languages in all new initiatives
· Taking the lead on a dimension or skill
· Establishing a Unique Selling Point (USP) for languages within the whole school e.g. global dimension, identity & cultural diversity, thinking skills, creativity, work-related learning

The briefing then tried to refocus on practical auditing and target-setting in order to move things forward:

· What are we trying to achieve?
· How do we organise learning?
· How well are we achieving our aims?

The opportunities were highlighted as:

· Be creative
· Revitalise/ raise the profile of languages
· Increase motivation and uptake at KS4
· Get away from topic-based learning
· Promote the relevance of languages
· Use cross-curricular approaches as a way to develop transferable skills.

There were also a few concerns:

· Time to deliver and plan
· Impact on KS4
· Quality of skills and knowledge needed to cross-curricular delivery

The delegates were provided with a toolkit to organise the plans ahead and the materials were extremely useful to clarify the situation and highlight possible next steps in planning for the changes.

I was also very interested to see how cross-curricular and other approaches to avoid word level work in Year 7 could be used as a way to ease transition issues at the beginning of KS2 and avoid de-motivation in students who have had substantial exposure to a language at KS2 . All the materials given to delegates are to be found here and the case studies and ideas by Lynne West and Martine Pillette are very relevant to what I feel should be our priority in the short and medium term.