In the first in this series of Technology in Modern Foreign Languages, Amanda Salt, a teacher from Northern Ireland, reflects on how she has built a successful Personal Learning Network and how she has used web applications to enhance the teaching and learning of MFL.
I suppose it is normal to reflect back on the year as Christmas approaches and the new year looms, and even more so when it comes to writing a guest post. I feel that I am often a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’, yet I suppose that I am hard on myself, given how far I have progressed in a relatively short space of time.
And it leads me to consider: how did I get to this point? Well, it all started with a trip to the Building Learning Communities conference in Boston, in the summer of 2008, closely followed by a jaunt to the Isle of Wight to an MFL conference organised by the illustrious Joe Dale. I came away from both conferences totally inspired, and set about establishing my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) primarily through contacts I had made at said conferences, as well as Twitter and the MFL Resources Yahoo group.
There is so much I could talk about but the main aim of this blog is to share practical examples, so I am going to focus on Edmodo and our departmental wiki. It was José Picardo himself who first mentioned Edmodo, and this interested me as I had issues with the current VLE in school and plans to change it were slow to come to fruition. Edmodo is free and has an appealing style, similar to Facebook which many pupils are obviously familiar with.
It proved extremely easy to set up an account for myself at www.edmodo.com, and equally so to establish group accounts for each of my classes. Pupils were given the group code and told to set up an account. My tip to encourage this would be to set a homework on Edmodo and tell them it is only available there!
Within Edmodo, there is a poll facility which is useful, as well as the possibility of posting comments and replies. I use Edmodo to set assignments for pupils of all ages; they like it as they can access the site at home and download any relevant files I have uploaded, as well as see the due date. They can also submit the work electronically, which saves a lot of time in class, instead of using memory sticks, and it is more contained than email. You can grade the work on Edmodo or download it to Word and use track changes before uploading it again.
I also set optional ICT tasks such as creative websites like Image Chef or Toondoo, whereby pupils gain stars for the star chart if they choose to complete the task. Pupils are embracing the opportunity to use their language in a more creative way and are keen to show their end product off to a wider audience.
And this leads me on to my second focus: our departmental wiki. I set up the wiki primarily as a means of displaying the pupils’ work and they love looking at the Clustrmap on the home page to see how many visitors we have had, and where they come from. Each class has their own page, and those who are confident in ICT or keen to learn are encouraged to upload or embed their work themselves, otherwise they can email the code or file to me and I do it for them, at this stage.
So far this year, we have Toondoo, Go!Animate and puppet dialogues recorded using our new FLIP camera. This encourages peer assessment on a formal or informal basis, and pupils are enthusiastic about this display of their work.
Other pages include a list of useful websites, study skills and audio files, amongst others. I find the wiki so handy from this regard, as pupils invariably lost the pages produced in the past with this kind of information, or paid no attention to them. Putting them on the wiki means that we are talking their language, through a medium they understand and value.
There is no doubt in my mind that my teaching has changed dramatically for the better. At this stage, the results are not necessarily different, but the buzz in our department and the uptake figures tell their own tale. Teachers in other departments come to us for advice and to borrow some of the equipment pupils have told them we are using in lessons.
And, as a department, we are keen to share and learn from others, and go into 2010 with an enthusiasm for the benefits technology brings to our pupils and ourselves.