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.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt-What Are You Passionate About in Education?

Earlier this week, I was tagged by Jose Picardo for the Passion Quilt meme first sent by Miguel Guhlin. This Passion Quilt meme aims to represent visually what we are most passionate about in Education.

After taking the picture of my new Faculty ICT room, I carried on thinking about it.
Am I just passionate about the use of ICT in teaching languages?

I am passionate about using this opportunity to show that learning a language is more than just learning words. It is about communicating with real people and understanding other cultures.
What are people from a different culture like? Don’t take what your teacher says, talk to them directly, ask them and see for yourself.

ICT has empowered us to make our own minds up about so many things by giving us access to so much information and the tools to express ourselves on so many different levels… What is right, what is exaggerated, what is biaised, what is plain wrong, is this fact or fiction?

You decide. That IS education.

I would like to tag five more people to pass on this “Passion Quilt”:


· Write a short post about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
· Post a picture from a source like Flickr CC or Flickr Creative Commons or take your own picture that represents what YOU are most passionate about teaching your students and give your picture a short title.
· Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to Miguel Guhlin’s original blog entry.
· Include links to 5 people in your professional learning network or blogroll or whom you follow on Twitter.

It is all about finding what makes us tick… Have fun!

Friday, 11 April 2008

The IWB Challenge: Week 1

As mentioned in my previous post , I have decided to take Jess McCulloch's IWB challenge, trying to use my whiteboard in at least 2 different ways each week.
I have had a technically challenging week with a couple of loose connections causing chaos with the development of my project.

On Monday, I used the board with a Powerpoint presentation to play traditional games like noughts and crosses. Students are split into two teams and come to the board to play the game. They have to identify an item of vocabulary, say it correctly or make a sentence with that particular word. I order to get the O or X, the pronunciation has to be perfect. What I like about the way I play that game is that it is collaborative. It does not really matter who comes to the board as the rest of the team has to help and a "team decision" needs to be reached for each square that is chosen for a O or X.

On Tuesday, I decided to use a Youtube link to develop reading and listening skills and provide an authentic stimulus to our Food topic. This is when my sound started to be unreliable...

On Thursday, I organised a game to focus on the spelling of expressions used to talk about holidays (in French). It was presented as one Powerpoint slide with pictures and the phrases partly written with *** in them and another one with the phrases fully written out (to be displayed for correction).

The students, split into 2 teams, had to come to the board in turn to write out the missing letters. The team was allowed to make amendments for their own team as the game developed and I was pleasantly surprised at how competitive some of them were becoming, trying to ensure the correct accents were written out.

This was also the start of a very interesting conversation about accents, their purpose, their sound and their link with etymology e.g. How the "s" from the original Latin word becomes a circumflex accent in modern French.

Finally, on Friday (today), after an attempt at using the board to brainstorm environmental issues in Spanish, my IWB turned into a projector, losing its interactivity and had to be seen to. Although the brainstorm worked quite well, I was unable to save the students' contributions as the board lost its interactivity after some of their ideas were added to a Powerpoint slide with a spider diagram on it.

My target for next week is to use the Smartboard software!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The IWB Challenge!

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 Technolote blog.

Her IWB challenge is the following:

*Using the SMART Board in at least two new ways each week.
*Posting a ‘Weekly Whiteboard Workout’ post on her Technolote blog on Wednesdays on her blog to talk about what she has done.
*Making sure the students are directly involved in using the SMART Board-considering impact on the students involved and the rest of the class
*Finding some great IWB resources to share

I feel this is a great opportunity to concentrate on regularly developing whiteboard skills and I aim to post any “steps forward” on My Languages on Friday.

More details and for a peak at Jess McCullogh’s classroom see

Is anybody else up to The IWB Challenge?

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Developing my own Student Blog

My blogging journey has been mostly focused on developing My Languages, my rationale being that for blogging to have a real impact on learning, I needed first to get the members of my team to consider it as something they could do with their own classes. I am now considering how the student blog I created could be developed further.

What would I like on it?
I would like some links to extensions resources for the topics covered in class. However, more than just references to resources, I would also like to use it to celebrate students’ achievements and develop peer assessment.

The main obstacle so far had been the difficulties to upload to Blogger. I did include a “box” widget on mrsjoneslanguageresources but I found that although it was easy to upload materials to it, it was not always easy to find them from the blog as the list cannot be fully displayed at all times.

However, I very recently found out about Scribd, a very useful tool to publish all sorts of documents on blogs and websites.
With scribd, I can upload any documents and either embed them or refer to them in a blog post via a link. I can also see what other people have uploaded and browse it through categories. I also like the group facility that can be made public or private in order to share documents-something that could be useful within a learning network.

As a results of my musings, I have been looking at a number of student blogs-more often more “for” students than “by” students and I have found this very useful.

Dianne Krause is a French teacher from Pennsylvania-and also my Voki twin!-, her blog includes: information about each of her classes, current and past homework assignment, upcoming tests and quizzes, Information about project assignments, additional Internet-based practice activities and quizzes and links about French culture, French language and the learning of a foreign language.

Sans Probleme, Marie-France Perkins’s blog includes links to extension material, home-made audio, interactive practice exercises (quia)

Les chevalier du chateau des champions , Andrea Henderson's blog from Texas, also includes lots of excellent materials for students, but the blog has not been used to display student work.

Spanish @Owen's does have some student work and recording as well as posts about school trips although it has lots of other posts in between that can detract from that fact.

When student work is peer assessed through comments like in the Two Star and a Wish or Rate My Mates blogs, more student work is displayed.

So, our blog would include vokis, links to visual resources including video, podcasts by students and work to be commented on following the 2 stars and 1 wish rule. I do not anticipate developing different blogs for different classes as the audience given will then be local and international.

Last but not least, my first consideration when getting the students directly involved in their blog will have to be their safety and I need to consider how I will deliver corresponding student training.

My review time will be the end of the academic year in July. Let’s see how this develops…

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Blogstorm: What is Compelling Language Learning?

The new Programme of Study (PoS) for MFL will start from September 2008. It is a thought-provoking document that encourages languages teachers to take their curriculum content into their own hands and seems to turn its back on vocabulary spoon-feeding and topic-based transactional exchanges.

I will agree that “Languages are part of the cultural richness of our society and the world in which we live and work” and that they contribute “to mutual understanding, a sense of global citizenship and personal fulfilment”.

I also approve of the key concepts-linguistic competence, knowledge about language, creativity and intercultural understanding- and key processes-developing language-learning strategies and language skills.

It goes without saying that we need to work with the whole curriculum dimensions: Identity and cultural diversity, healthy lifestyles, community participation, global dimension and sustainable development, enterprise, technology and the media and creativity and critical thinking.

But… what about this compelling language learning thing?

Here is the “recipe for compelling language learning” I concocted from the materials currently available about the new PoS:

• Has clear objectives shared with students
Engages students
• Is authentic
• Develops creativity by making connections between ideas
• Is regularly assessed in different ways and with shared criteria
• Has a memorable original context
• Is active learning
• Can be problem-based
• Can be enquiry-based
• Is cross-curricular and includes literacy, numeracy, citizenship
• Can be themed work
• Can be joint curricular work

Can you help me to complete my blogstorm?

Happy Birthday, My Languages!

With this 90th post, I am celebrating My Languages’ birthday.

I started this blog last year and I used it then mostly as an aide-memoire to enable me to keep up to date with all the mfl developments that occurred when I was on maternity leave. I also found it invaluable to keep providing my Faculty with The Big Picture and make them aware of our options for the future.

As I discussed in a previous post , I have used My Languages in many different ways:

*to make a note a good resources for languages and other educational topics ( tags). The advantage of this rather than the links I used to provide in our Faculty bulletin is that the list is regularly updated and can be filtered by key words. My next target is to develop the active use of our Faculty account.

*as a training resource (As a reference for our trainee teachers and to support our recent Faculty INSET on the IWB, the use of Web 2.0 tools and moderating assessment at KS3)

*to keep the Faculty up-to-date with national developments, facts and figures (I regularly include links to posts and links in our Faculty bulletin)

*to help with display

*to identify existing IWB resources for the topics covered by our Scheme of Work

*to keep up-to-date with ICT/MFL good practice

*to encourage networking

*to provide links to enable mfl teachers to keep up to date with what is happening in French and Spanish-speaking countries and practise their languages.

I would like to thank all the bloggers and linguists out there who gave me some inspiration to start and carry on with this project.

My top 10 blogroll of honour would consist of-in no particular order-:

Jess McCullough from Technolote

Lisa Stevens from Vamonos

Helen Myers from ALL and MFL Resources

Helena Butterfield from The Langwitch Chronicles

Marie-France Perkins from Sans Problèmes!

José Picardo from Box of Tricks

Thanks to you all and Happy birthday, My Languages!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Research on the Use of Web 2.0 Applications: Where are we at in the UK?

There is a lot going on in technology and education. Maybe it is time to look at what has happened to decide how things can be taken forward-realistically.

A Web2.0 Technologies for Learning at Key Stages 3 and 4 project at Nottingham University is doing just that. This project focuses on the use of Web 2.0 activities by students in Key Stages 3 and 4 in the UK. It is funded by Becta – the UK government agency with responsibility for policy and practice involving educational technology. It seeks to see how schools are encouraging communication and participation and how young people’s increasing involvement with social networking and the uploading of creative material is being channelled back into education.

An interesting website with more details about what web 2.0 is and case studies has also been developed alongside this project.

Lee Bryant from Headshift is also involved with the project and has also blogged about the other side of the coin to what appears to be for some the ultimate technological development.

Ewan McIntosh, National Adviser at Learning and Teaching Scotland also had a sneak peak at the research, where the concept of digital natives and digital immigrants is being questioned again.

“Their findings show that the preconception, evident in the original research question, that young people at large are being drawn "into a wide range of creative production – such as video, images, and expressive text, all of which can be uploaded, systematised, and shared", is a utopia reach by only a minority.”

According to Ewan McIntosh, the 4 educational focal points the research was likely to highlight in young people’s use of web 2.0 were expected to be: Inquiry; Collaboration; Literacies and Audience (Public / Private?).

However, “Coordination is not collaboration and many of these technologies actually bring about coordination, rather than rich collaboration where everyone pulls together”. Are we “so busy uploading materials and coordinating comments that we are not concentrating on the learning?”

In my own experience, one of the barriers for many teachers to develop such activities has been the TIME required to get started, rather than commitment to using ICT in an engaging way. We will have to wait for the report to be published to have further evidence about what the situation really is…