Experimenting with IT in MFL

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If my main aim for today’s lesson with a high ability year 8 group was to engage and enthuse, then (modestly) it certainly ticked that box. Independent learning and use of IT, further so. However it wasn’t without its problems and, in hindsight, maybe I overloaded the cart with introducing too much new technology, in one sitting. Happily, my group responded well and were patient.

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The set of iPods used by the class for independent learning and skills based work.

The aim of the lesson was to use new technology so that pupils could learn, practice and use some new infinitive verb phrases and create a text using 3 tenses. They were to use the iPods for research and practice, and the laptops for creating a text using their new found knowledge, whilst covering all but one for of the four language skills (time was a factor and, unfortunately, finding something suitable for speaking fell by the wayside). This an evaluation of the lesson for my benefit but also of the technology use for the benefit of anyone who may read this article.

The connector (iPod, wordreference)

The pupils entered the room to their seats complete with laptop, iPod and headphones. They were to log on and find the meanings of three new adjectives using wordreference.com and then apply them in a phrase in the preterite tense in their books; so far, so good.

Input (iPod, Weebly, word reference)

I then had a PowerPoint with a link to a prepared Weebly webpage with instructions for the lesson; I showed it to them and explained that they were by themselves for the rest of the lesson (… I acted more like a referee than a teacher…). The Weebly had instructions and the input, which was to match ten infinitive phrases of holiday based activities (tomar el sol, nadar en el mar, beber demasiada sangría…ok, maybe not the last one). All managed to match them correctly in their books and complete a conjugation exercise as instructed on the Weebly page (each stage had an appropriate extension etc and separate Weebly pages allowed for differentiation).

Activation (iPod, QR codes, Qrafter and YouTube)

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Instructions for the listening activity that followed were in the Weebly but as you can see, the QR codes that linked to the YouTube listening (set up as a gcse listening, with each phrase read twice, although the video could be paused, stopped, rewound etc if the student required). The pupils got up and scanned the code with their iPod and were automatically linked to a YouTube video to which they listened (equally, the soundcloud app would be suitable for this) and on which they filled out a grid already placed in their table (again, with extension and higher level questions). In my opinion, this was the activity in which the pupils were most engaged and is arguably the single most valuable use of the iPod in he MFL classroom as it allows pupils to work independently and the possibilities of differentiation are huge as essentially (although unrealistic to this extent) each pupil could potentially have their own listening, tailored to their own ability.

Reading

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A QR code and one of the texts

Next, pupils had four texts written from the point of view of four different Hispanic celebrities in the style of a tweet. The four texts were stuck up on the wall and pupils had to go and take a picture of each text. Now, I missed a trick here as potentially, there could have been several more smaller texts and students could go around reading and taking pictures of them according to the order in which they should be arranged, something to try for next time. Instead, pupils learned to use the camera function to collate the four texts on which they answered questions from the Interactive White Board; they also seemed fairly engaged by the Spanish adjective hash tags as well as some they may use to talk to their friends; a small thing but amusing for them as well as stretching their range of vocabulary.

Demonstrate (laptops, My Big Campus)

Pupils then used all that they had learned today to create a class blog on a discussion board on My Big Campus. I feel that it is important to note that at this point, I had taught them nothing; they researched the phrases by themselves, they used word reference to help them understand those phrases that they couldn’t work out themselves in the match-up as well as in the reading activity. On the board was a set of criteria about which they had to write; they had to tell me about where they had gone on a past holiday, including what they did/didn’t do and thought about it. They also spoke about where they normally go and where they will go on holidays this summer, although I must admit, not all had time to mention the latter two tenses. The potential then, is that using My Big Campus, pupils could peer assess each others work easily in class as it was displayed on the IWB and the log of their work in one page shows progression of the year or even key stage.

Review (laptops, Socrative, iPad and Apple Airplay)

Finally, pupils completed a ten question mini test on the phrases learned in the past tense Socrative; an online quiz software aimed at facilitating formative assessment. This class have used this software before and really enjoyed using it as I allow pupils to use made up names as long as they are not offensive and let me know which they are as again they find this engaging. I then use Apple Airplay to show the live results of those doing the test in the board (I actually now have realised that using fake names may actually be a bonus as it allows for anonymity…happy accident). The pupils and I are thus able to see exactly how well they have learned today’s material.

Evaluation

I really enjoyed today’s lesson, as it seems did the pupils and as I have already mentioned, it ticked many boxes. I could also use the story boards, iMovie or Voice Recorder pro for a speaking activity next time. Pupils still asked for help as much as possible in the target language (although admittedly in a limited way) and in return I explained as much as possible in the target language however, and this is my reason for mentioning it, I didn’t feel there was much teacher pupil dialogue which I feel is important in an MFL lesson for questioning and stretching what they know. Perhaps the reason for this was the absence of a speaking activity and so I feel that perhaps elements of this lesson are to be used in the future but perhaps the balance of new technology was too heavy as it didn’t have the dynamic of conversation in the target language upon which you could expand between a teacher and a pupil, but rather some short repetitive conversations between a IT user and an IT technician. In short, I feel each individual idea was a success and created well exploited opportunities for engagement and learning of new skills but their use should be very much in cooperation with activities that focus on the development of language skills based on pair, group and teacher-pupil work.

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