The introduction of computers and digital technology to schools marked a huge leap forward and a dramatic sea change for both teachers and learners. In the latest guest post in the series Technology in Modern Foreign Languages, Marie-France Perkins recounts her first encounter with a computer at school 25 years ago and reflects about how technological progress and its adoption by schools has helped her and her pupils.
I started teaching languages in the mid-eighties (last century). Our use of technology in the MFL faculty was limited to using a reel to reel tape-recorder and showing films from the film strips projector. With the introduction of the tape-recorder, our life became easier as locating the right track was less time consuming.
My first encounter with a computer was a BBC acorn. At first, I did not see how computers could be used in MFL. However, I discovered a game called Granville. I started taking classes into the then very basic computer-room to play the game. The students enjoyed playing the game which involved visiting the town of Granville and spending holiday money. I started seeing the potential of computers and how students could control their own learning.
I have been in my present school since 1992 and I have seen technology evolved at such a speed that the mind boggles. My teaching has changed so much in the 21st century! My favourite tool in the classroom is the Interactive Whiteboard, but, for me, access to the Internet in the classroom has been the greatest breakthrough.
Finished are the days of collecting newspapers, magazines or leaflets and filling up my car boot with realia to enhance my teaching. I still use some but students can now be exposed to the latest news, up-to-date prices, products etc. They can explore towns, shopping precincts, visit museums and so much more in the francophone world.
Search engines have helped me access these resources. Listening exercises are more appropriate to the students; all our bought textbook recordings are accessible on the school’s Intranet. I like to challenge students with the news from Mon jt quotidien, songs from YouTube, their own recordings using Audacity or the Easispeak microphones.
Reading skills are enhanced by texts which are more relevant to their lives. Students have read about their favourite actors by searching information online. Often the learning does not stop at school, research is also done at home as independent study.
I also use the Internet to create and host my own games. I use Hot Potatoes, Quia and Linguascope to promote new vocabulary. Every day I discover new tools and interesting websites which I know will make my lessons more interesting and will bring the world to my classroom!
My tape-recorder and my overhead projector are still in a corner in my classroom… gathering dust!!