MFL Show and Tell in Coventry Part 2

As promised earlier in the week, here is a more in-depth post about last weekend’s MFL Show & Tell get together in Coventry.

Firstly, I must say a huge thanks to @jjpadvis and @joedale who, together, organised the venue and ‘chaired’ the event for just over 20 people. We began the day by sipping (a much-needed) cuppa and introducing ourselves to our online ‘friends’. For me, one of the great things about the day was to finally meet in person people who I have begun to rely on so significantly through my PLN. Over the last few months I feel as though I at least ‘know’ them a bit (ie. if I saw them on the street I would know who they are) because of having seen their faces and heard their voices in the MFL Flashmeetings, but to meet face to face, and to have the chance to share ideas with like-minded people was brilliant.

After the caffeine fix and a comical attempt at us all trying to get online (cue laptops and macbooks and frantic typing combined with cries of “it’s not loading!”) we sat down and began to come up with some ideas of what we wanted to discuss. Typically, we all wanted to be able to talk about everything, so instead of breaking into small groups, we discussed things generally, kicking off with Isabelle Jone‘s Easi-Speak microphones. I was very excited (!) to see these in action as I am currently waiting for my own set of 5 to arrive in school to unleash upon my unsuspecting pupils. For those of you that have never seen them, they look like normal microphones but can also record voice and create sound files that can quickly be uploaded to the computer and adapted to whatever needs you have. (I have to admit though, I am just a tiny bit jealous of Isabelle’s pro versions!)

A natural follow on from this conversation was to look at other digital voice recorders – something which has been on my radar for a while too. With the new style speaking assessments we need to be able to record pupils without it being much hassle, and as we need to submit two assessments to go towards a pupil’s speaking grade, being able to electronically record and store their work is a sensible option. I will be looking into the purchase of these very soon.

I am afraid I cannot remember the exact order we discussed everything, but after a brief distraction with my dalek-sounding voice changer(Question: How can you make pupils speak? Answer: Let them feel as though it is not them speaking) @josepicardo gave us the low down on Edmodo. Edmodo is a safe environment to use as a platform to communicate with pupils and I have used it with my Upper VI and Year 10 pupils, however, after José’s demonstration I realised that I had not been making full use of all of the features – I have now updated my profile to receive an alert when anything on the page changes (eg. a pupil writes a comment or uploads a homework) and I want to start making use of the assignment feature for pupils to hand in work. I used Edmodo in a lesson a few weeks ago, in conjunction with Etherpad (a collaborative tool that allows multiple editors of a page) with the Upper VI where they not only had to hand in (electronically of course) an essay on environment, but they then had to translate each other’s in Etherpad, which I could correct from my PC, but they could see onscreen as well.

José also showed us how he has begun to develop his department’s blog with examples of Xtranormal videos produced by students and we also had a sneak preview of something he has been working on which is a private communication platform between the teachers he has added (eg. his department). Looks like it could be the next Twitter for Teachers guys……

After lunch we heard some presentations from a variety of teachers, including @joedale who spoke about moblogging (and he used Cool Iris to present with – a tool I would definitely like to look at more), @suzibewell who gave as an idea of how she used Skype in the classroom to connect to a classroom in another country, and she also did some things on French phonetics which got me thinking about phonetics in Spanish. Initially I thought that pronunciation in Spanish isn’t a massive problem for English speaking pupils, but throughout my lesson’s this week I have been even more aware of the lack of ability to make the ‘J’ sound, how some vowels sound together in Spanish (eg. causa) and the silent ‘H’. @valleseco was kind enough to tweet me a link to some resources she has on her site and on a blog for her pupils, and @lisibo has suggested I look at Rachel Hawkes – when  I get a moment this is something else I will research some more.

@Kath52 enlightened us with her use of wikis and blogs in the classroom to enhance pupils’ learning, and although I knew of some of the games/sites used there were two that I had not used myself – Quizlet and StudyStack – and it got me thinking about developing more games, not only for use in the classroom as an activity, or as a ‘testing’ tool, but also as a learning tool. Therefore, I have already begun to develop a few more games for my pupils to practise current and relevant vocabulary. Apologies that for now, I only have Spanish games! I will try to add some French stuff soon.

@icpjones gave us a presentation on her favourite tools for CPD in the MFL Faculty – I particularly liked how she compared the old style paper bulletins that used to be received in pigeon holes to how we can communicate now. And as she said towards the end, what will the future hold? The key thing from her presentation (for me) was to start considering Diigo instead of Delicious as a bookmarking site. As a newbie, I started my Delicious page which currently has over 450 pages bookmarked, and I also made one for my pupils so they could easily find revision tools, however, I would like to look into what Diigo can offer, especially as I know it is relatively easy to transfer my bookmarks over. Maybe I will keep Delicious for the pupils, and develop Diigo for me. Again, watch this space!

I gave a quick talk about ways to use Wordle in the MFL classroom and also showed my bag of tricks to the group. These include :

  • my faithful lion, Leo, who meets and greets every class I teach (he could even teach them sometimes, but I don’t want him to have too much power….),
  • a bicycle horn (various uses, especially to let a pupil know you have heard them speaking in English when they should have been using the target language!),
  • a very tactile ‘ball’ (if pupils have grown out of Leo, older pupils tend to like to catch this in order to answer a question/have permission to speak);
  • squidgy eyes and ears (to help with the pronunciation of ‘hay’ and ‘ir’ in Spanish – you could also use a soya sauce bottle and Bisto gravy granuals for ‘say’ and ‘visto’ if you want to go down the route of an item for each word….),
  • clackers and ringing mallets (to let me know when a team wants to answer a question, of course), and
  • my most recent acquisition – fly swatters. Pupils can come up to the board, and either on the teacher’s command, or a pupil’s, they have to be the first to whack the picture. Just don’t do this on a SMART board…).

We rounded off the talks with an example of SongSmith from @joedale and examples of using  Crazy Talk in the MFL classroom from @valleseco – I shall definitely be giving all of this a go sometime soon. In fact, I am downloading Crazy Talk as I type.

Thank you so much to everyone for sharing such innovative and forward thinking ideas. I love teaching languages, and I love using technology to help with learning and teaching (read what I have to say about it on my group’s newsletter on page 15 ) and without you all, I do not think I would be half the teacher I am today.

PS – José – I hope you don’t mind I have used one of your fab pictures in this post. The other pictures from the event are all on flickr.

MFL Show and Tell 2009 in Coventry

This weekend I finally got to meet so many of my virtual colleagues in Coventry at Foxford School where we discussed many, many, many issues. I have had a whirl of a weekend so do not have enough time to write a long enough blog post about the things I learnt and wish to learn, however, for now, here are the links to the wiki from the day and the etherpad I made notes on from the day.

More to come later in the week – I promise!

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.


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!