It was a real privilege to be invited once again by Macmillan to deliver the keynote speech and a seminar at the Alicante Teachers’ Day on Saturday 21st May, where I was delighted to be able to address and meet so many committed teachers of English who were giving up their Saturday morning to keep up with the latest ideas and innovations in the field of language learning.
The keynote speech was titled The Case for Social Networking in Education was largely based on the research I have been carrying out for my MA in ICT in Education. A summary of the keynote speech can be found here.
Above are the slides the seminar titled Using ICT to Enhance Language Teaching and Learning. Links to all the tools mentioned in these slides can be found in the resources section of this blog and examples of the tools in action can be found by browsing this blog and my school blog.
The event attracted many language teachers and educators from all over the country who came to Nottingham to share good practice on the use of technology in the classroom in what hopefully was a relaxed, informal environment.
The morning session saw presentations by those teachers who volunteered in advance by signing up to the event’s wiki. Presenters were chosen at random to start with and showcased what in their view was good, effective use of ICT in the classroom.
My most sincere thanks go to these volunteers who selflessly gave away their time and effort to share their experiences in both the classroom and the staffroom. The presentations ran as follows:
Joe Dale‘s presentation was titled Recording Skype and Editing in Audacity. In the face of adversity -embodied by continuing technical glitches – Joe did brilliantly well to explain to us how to record authentic foreign language using Skype, Pretty May and Audacity for use in the classroom.
Lisa Stevens talked about Things that Make my Pupils Smile. Her presentation was a brilliant reflection on the often inspired strategies she had used this year to enthuse her pupils with the passion to learn languages.
I talked about Innovative Creative Technologies and looked back at my top ten internet resources that I have used this academic year in the classroom (a slightly extended version of my presentation can be found below).
My colleagues Kerry Turner and Andrew Winter wowed us all with their astounding Cross Curricular Work with MFL, History and ICT, using the very versatile CrazyTalk software, among other things.
Clare Seccombe showed us her Talking Pen and how easy it was to make listening resources by recording sounds which where then encoded onto tiny stickers which could be placed almost anywhere.
Dominic McGladdery talked about his experiences Persuading Collagues to use ICT in MFL. His was a very entertaining presentation which, although centred on how hard it is to engage colleagues in using technology in the classroom, made some very sharp observations on the survival of languages beyond KS3 in the state sector.
Finally, Mark Purves presented his simply excellent Song Phonics to Improve Pronunciation. He soon had us all dancing to the phonics haka and singing and dancing along to French songs and lyrics.
All the presentations were live-streamed on Ustream by the very excellent Leon Cych (thanks ever so much Leon!) and are now available for viewing here, where you can find links to all the resources cited in the presentations.
A full programme of the day’s events can be found here.
This event would have not been possible without the willingness to participate shown by the committed teachers who travelled sometimes hundreds of miles to chat, share and develop professionally. It couldn’t have taken place without the help of my colleagues at Nottingham High, especially Kerry Turner. And it couldn’t have happenned if it weren’t for the generosity of our sponsors Links into Languages East Midlands, Naace and Scholastic. My most sincere thanks to you all, I hope you found the day fruitful and worthwhile.
In the latest instalment in the Technology in Modern Foreign Languages series, Clare Seccombe writes about how she uses the internet in the classroom as a window onto the world in order to better illustrate the culture of the countries whose languages students are learning.
I’m sure that quite a few of my students over the years have thought that French and Spanish are languages that I have made up deliberately to confuse and bewilder them. Their immediate reaction to the hard work and thinking involved in the subject is often “Everyone should speak English”, “France is stupid” or “I’m never going to Spain”. I’ve needed to have in my repertoire something else to tempt them with, something else that will help them to have a deeper understanding of what the languages they are studying are all about.
Community cohesion is one of the big things at the moment, and the Global Dimension is now an integral part of the KS3 curriculum. As teachers of MFL we are ideally placed to address these issues; we are fortunate to be teaching a subject where different cultures and ways of life are the essence of our work. We deal with other countries on a daily basis. By bringing aspects of culture into our lessons we not only enrich and enliven them, but we also enable our students to see and understand that their culture and way of life are not the only ones and are not necessarily the right ones. It is imperative that students understand that foreign is not synonymous with wrong or bad.
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.
Technology is like electricity: it’s pervasive, it’s everywhere… it’s useful. We ignore it at our peril. We wouldn’t expect our pupils to read by candlelight or to write on wax tablets. Equally, we should be encouraging them to use the tools they have available, the tools with which they are familiar if we are to ensure they remain engaged and motivated.
Xtranormal is a text-to-movie website which allows you and your students to create short films with your own scripts using very clever text-to speech technology. This means your students write a script and then feed it into Xtranormal to produce films with characters enacting it. The free version of Xtranormal allows for a maximum of two characters, so dialogues, which are much beloved by us language teachers, are not a problem.
Although some of my colleagues and I had used Xtranormal before as a starter in a lesson to introduce a topic and reinforce vocabulary, this time I decided to let my students do the work and produce their own scripts and films in Spanish as a means to elicit creative writing, which would then be assessed for quality of language. So how did we do it?
Setting the scene
My pupils, 16 – 17 year olds, were first introduced to Xtranormal, a web application with which they were not familiar, in one of our new Digital Language Suites – two ICT suites with specialist language software. This specialist software, incidentally, was not needed for this activity, we simply needed a word processor and an internet connection.
I projected a ready made sample film on the Interactive Whiteboard and quickly managed to engage my students’ attention: it soon transpired that this was an activity they really wanted to do.
Despite their unfamiliarity with this particular web application, I was counting on their familiarity with social networking sites and other web applications we had used in the past, such as Glogster, Go!Animate or Animoto) to quickly figure out how to use Xtranormal. I was not disappointed.
I allowed my students a few minutes to sign up (free) and explore the application before I set out the task to them: to produce a 1 – 2 minutes long film script based on a dialogue between two people on the topic of La Salud (Health), using appropriately complex vocabulary and grammatical constructions, which would then be turned into a short feature film using Xtranormal.
My pupils were then given the rest of the lesson, around 25 minutes, to start planning and writing their scripts, using a word processor. I was then able to monitor each individual’s work and intervene, advising, correcting and discussing my pupils’ scripts with them to ensure I was getting the best Spanish possible out of each one.
An additional 40 minute lesson was spent editing the script in this way, all the time reinforcing valuable grammatical constructions and eliciting creative use of the target language.
Once we were all satisfied the script was finished to the best of each pupil’s ability, they were then set the homework: sign on to your Xtranormal account, choose two characters, assign Spanish as your language and create your film. Once the film was finished they were to send the URL link to me using Edmodo or email (incidentally, they all opted to submit the work using Edmodo).
At this stage I would like to emphasise that I only possess a very nebulous understanding of how Xtranormal works, and that it was my pupils who, essentially, taught themselves how to operate the application to produce the films, an example of which you can see above.
The films have now been received and have been published, we would like to think, to a world audience in our departmental website, which you are most welcome to visit and view the other films our pupils have created. You may even wish leave a comment for them to see!
The plan is to use these pupil created films as a starter in our lessons after a two week long half-term holiday, allowing my pupils to revisit the vocabulary they had learned prior to the break and take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity to engage in peer assessment.
What do you think? How have you been using Xtranormal?
Do you know of a teaching and learning resource you would like to share?
Please do not hesitate to get in touch.