Monday 25th January – MFL Flashmeeting #5

This evening I found myself sharing ideas and good practice with teachers from all over the UK, plus one or two from even further afield, such as New Zealand and America.

The meeting’s agenda included discussions on new technology that Santa brought us for Christmas, discussing our New Year’s resolutions with regards to using ICT to enhance language lessons, tips and tricks to help Year 11 with their speaking skills, ways to use collaborative tools such as vokis, wallwisher and voicethread safely in the classroom, and even how to turn your whiteboard into what looks like a Wii, with the use of a Wii Remote and an infrared sensor bar.

You can catch a replay of the meeting here. Enjoy!

I will (eventually) write a post about the Chinese course I have begun, and I have two idea in the back of my head for use in the classroom – the first being to use twitter to receive real-time responses to a target language question, and the second is to use voicethread to practice an AQA oral exam stimulus card for AS and A2 Spanish. Watch this space for an update soon.

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Half Term Top Five

This half term I have been able to get a lot done – not only have I been abroad (to Bilbao – a place very dear to me as I lived there for two years), but I have also had the chance to catch up on lots of paperwork and get to grips with a few more online tools, plus I have changed the them on this blog. So here are my recent top 5 from Twitter:

1. The first is Google Wave. I was able to get an invite and after a few days of waiting, here I am, with my very own account. Except I have very few people with whom to try it out! Luckily, as always, my Twitter network came to the rescue and @josepicardo and briefly ‘waved’ at each other – (h)ola – before agreeing that for now, Twitter is more suited to our needs. I am gradually adding other educators and I have bookmarked a few articles to read, but I reckon this tool will really take off when more of us are able to enjoy it.

2. Another tool that I really like the look of is Xtranormal, which (again, thanks to @josepicardo) looks as though it has massive potential in the classroom. See an example of the animated videos created by his Spanish 6th form students on his department’s website.

3. ImageChef is a wordle-esque tool that @icpjones has recently blogged about. It allows calligrams to be made (an image of a word made up with the word) and as Isabelle writes, it can be adapted, embedded and/or downloaded. I think the Word Mosaic tool and the Visual Poetry tools look the most exciting. Enjoy!

4. I have recently tweeting and blogged about a website called YacaPaca. It is a free website, where pupils log in with a given name and password, and teachers log in with theirs. Teachers can make interactive exercises and assign them to pupils so that when the pupil logs in, they see just the exercises they need to do. One or more attempts can be given to the pupils, and their results are recorded in the online markbook. It is also possible to look at the results in-depth and display the questions on-screen in ‘whiteboard’ mode. A pretty useful tool for independent computer room work or for homework – and not just for MFL!

5. The last of my top tools for now will have to be Storybird as my PLN has been talking about it over the last few weeks. See some exemplar stories from Dom, Clare and Lisa and now one from me too! For now stories written in a foreign language are not public, but you can access the ones you have made from your account of from a link, for now, just English ones are embeddable.

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It is also definitely worth mentioning the many CPD opportunities that are coming our way this month. The first is this weekend at the Languages Show, Olympia London with its own Show & Tell session, followed by MFL Flashmeeting 4 on Monday 2nd November.  Saturday 14th November is the MFL Show & Tell event in Coventry. I am also doing two sessions for the University of Cumbria for the MFL PGCE students on using Spanish in the classroom and have set up a wiki for them where I have stored the session’s resources and where I want them to hand in their homework on the merits of learning Spanish. Fingers crossed the session will be enjoyable!

TeachMeet NorthWest

This Friday (2nd October)  dozens of us are going to meet at the BBC’s 21st Century Classroom in Salford for TeachMeet NW. I am looking forward to, not only meeting so many colleagues face to face for the first time, but also to doing my first ever presentation. TeachMeets only have 2 types of presentations: 7 minutes or 2 minutes. I have opted for the 2 minute nano presentation and, if I am picked, I will talk briefly about using Wordle in the classroom, as this has been such a popular post on this blog. If you are unable to attend in person, you can watch it via the Flashmeeting or check back sometime next week, when I will have had time to gather my thoughts and blog about the experience.

For now, here is the presentation that I will be doing:

Additionally, it is worth reminding that this Monday (28th September) is the MFL Flashmeeting, which currently has the following agenda:

1. Cunning tips: how do you save time in blogging/podcasting/resource creating and so on, to keep work/life balance & prevent divorce/forgetting names of children, etc.?
2. What did YOU do for European Day of Languages and how did it go?
3. Is there a place for audio feedback instead of written feedback for pupils’ work delivered via email or through a VLE?
4. How can blogging help raise intercultural understanding for pupils?
5. Is the specific teaching of phonics important and what difference does it make to pupils’ understanding?
6. What’s your favourite Web 2.0 tool at the moment and why?
7. How do you use your VLE and what sort of resources do you have on it?

See you there!

Twitter #MFL #2

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 Having now firmly signed up to the tweeting life, I am slowly beginning to learn more and more about what Twitter can offer. I have realised that unless I go on it every few hours, or at least once a day, it becomes almost useless as I will have missed a lot of information. In one way this worries me as I cannot spend all day on Twitter, and I cannot access it from a school computer. I can, however, check my updates via TwitterBerry and do so, if I have a spare minute or two, about once a day. On the other hand, most of the people I follow are in the same position as me and most tweets seem to come after 4pm, so in a sense I don’t miss out on too much.

Earlier in the week I watched the flashmeeting, organised by Joe Dale and other MFL teachers on Twitter. I would have been there myself if I hadn’t been watching the wonderful Derren Brown at the Blackpool Opera House, however, once I got home I was able to watch the meeting and I listened with interest to the things that were discussed. Some of the things that I clearly remember and wish to do more on myself include Wordle, Glogster and Animoto .

 I am also in the process of understanding what the enigmatic # symbol means in Twitter.# (also known as the hash tag) is placed directly before a key word by someone sending a tweet, which makes it easier to search for popular topics. Unfortunately, in the search for #MFL I came upon a whole load of weather and sea watch information but still…the intention is there. The updated website page of twitter.com now also has a search facility in the sidebar which could reduce the need for the hash tag, although I don’t tend to go directly to www.twitter.com, I prefer to use my TweetDeck.

Other useful tweets I have come across this week include:

  1.  José Picardo’s MA dissertation on Vokis & Blogs in Education
  2. A link to a video on thinking skills in MFL (something I think I have been doing anyway, but something I am interested in developing)
  3. Using TL music in the classroom at the beginning or end of a lesson for cultural awareness (I also have a Year 12 form who are all linguists, so it is fun to play them Girls Aloud singing in French!)
  4. More blogs from other interesting educationalists – see the blogroll to the side of the page. I will update this every time I come across a new one that I wish to share.
  5. Finally, I have found out more about Wiki’s after having signed up for the flashmeet via Lynne Horne’s wiki page. Something I need to look into further though!

Talking of blogs, I now have my own International EduBloggers Directoy badge! Proud member no. 692. I just have to figure out how to put the badge on my blog……any ideas anyone?

 

Internation EduBloggers Directory

Internation EduBloggers Directory

Twitter

I first joined Twitter back in February 2008, but for such a long time it seemed slightly pointless, and ever so slightly overwhelming. A few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge again after having seen a little bit more about it in the press and in the forums that I regularly read.

I now follow about 100 people and about 80 people follow me ( @spanishsam). My favourite ‘tweeters’ are those in a similar position to me, ie. MFL teacher in the UK with a passion for ICT, however I follow a range of other relevant professionals and the odd real life friend. Oh, and Stephen Fry ( @stephenfry)! I got a good tip-off about who to follow by reading Joe Dale’s blog entry on how to create a PLN (Personal Learning Network) using twitter as it has the names of many MFL teachers. Furthermore, over on the TES website, in the MFL forum there is a whole thread devoted to saying who you are on twitter. This is definitely the key to making twitter work for you. If you don’t have anyone to follow then you can’t get much out of it. Likewise, if you have something to say then you want a decent amount of people to follow you that might be interested in what you have to say.

The second thing I did was download TweetDeck from http://tweetdeck.en.softonic.com/ . This allows me to (very quickly) open my recent tweets list on my home PC and see exactly what has been going on throughout the day. I can easily search, send direct messages (private messages to people – put a ‘d’ before your tweet), or re-tweet a message that I like and want to re-transmit to my followers (RT in front of a message). TweetDeck also has a separate column on the page for me to see messages that have been aimed at me without losing them in the stream of tweets that are regularly being updated, and there is a column for the direct messages I have sent and received that no one else can see. TweetDeck also offers the added advantage of being able to display my Facebook updates on the same page. I guess this is where my professional and my personal worlds collide!

I have also fed my recent addiction to twitter by making use of my lovely BlackBerry Storm by downloading TweetBerry. I can read all messages and update my own status from it very easily. There are various other options open to BlackBerry users, and I chose this one after reading a blog post where various applications were discussed, as it seemed the most user friendly.

So, what have I gotten out of being on twitter? Well, apart from having a reason to be on my computer all evening long, I have actually learnt a lot. Many of the people that I follow are respected members of the MFL/ICT community and apart from being completely in awe of being able to communicate with them directly, I have been able to be on the receiving end of so much information. I have actively read many people’s blogs over the last year or so, but it is often hard to know how to find them and I have normally stumbled upon them as a result of surfing the net with no real purpose. Since joining twitter my list of RSS feeds at home has almost doubled with updates to blogs that I now subscribe to so there is always something new for me to read when I have the time. I suppose that what makes twitter useful (and at times frustrating) is that you can only post a maximum of 140 characters, which means that your message has to be short and sweet. It must get straight to the point and it is therefore very obvious as to whether it is something that could be of personal use to you.

This week, the top 5 things that I have learnt/found out about/been told about via twitter are:

  1. There are versions of twitter in a closed group setting, such as yammer or edmodo but they have other uses as well such as file sharing
  2. I know know what a flashmeeting is (video conferencing at its best)
  3. The MFL teachers on twitter have set up a flashmeeting here for next Monday (4th May 2009) at 9pm, you can sign up for it here by clicking on the ‘edit’ button
  4. Speed dating to practise MFL orals in the classroom