Monday, 27 October 2008

Gathering thoughts on writing a language programme in the 21st Century

I'm currently working / thinking as I blog here - it seems to be the only way a blog post gets written (most are still in the draft folder).

Anyway, I'm trying to come up with a new and hopefully more effective approach to teaching the languages that I teach. There's a lot floating around in my head that I'm trying to gather together and create a relevant 21st Century Programme with. I am fascinated by and love the work of Andrew Churches at his Educational Origami wiki and am looking forward to a time when I can delve further into the wealth of information and ideas there. On the front page of the wiki it is written quite clearly - "Welcome to the 21st Century". Happy to be here!

But what is that for a language teacher? How can we use the Web2.0 tools available to enhance our student's experience of language learning and indeed get them speaking, reading and writing the language - being able to communicate in the language. Well firstly it brings an overseas country (where they speak the language) into the classroom. But how do I put all these tools and ideas into a programme that would be accepted? Also, my programmes at the moment are based around a textbook; do we need textbooks anymore? Do parents really need (at a school with a laptop programme) to fork out more money for textbooks when all that is in them can be found for free using the laptop? Now that's a programme I want to create and I suspect that Blooms Digital Taxonomy can help us here.

There are some great tools to aid in the lower order thinking skills (when applied to languages) - remembering & understanding. I love the simplicity and fun of Quizlet and, it seems, the students find this a very useful tool; not only do they ask to use it but I happily discovered that the Quizlet bug spread to other students in the year group who are using it in a variety of subjects (unfortunately their teachers are not yet aware of quizlet or that their students find it an effective tool for 'remembering' and thus for revision). Voki is another simple and effective tool to engage language learners.

I know I'm rambling but bear with me - I am trying to gather my thoughts and the endpoint is an effective programme for teaching language in this new era of change. For the moment, let's take it back to the beginning. To be able to communicate in a language you need to remember the vocab and understand the grammar. We'll start with the vocab. Textbooks are full of lists of vocab, usually topic based. I like topic based approaches but sometimes the vocab selected in a list is a little odd (my favourite in the text I use at the moment is 'haunted house'). So, for the next unit with my Year 9s I think I'll take a different approach; trying to make it more relevant using Web2.0 tools. The first stage will go something like this ...

  • The students will need to learn the skills necessary to use a bilingual dictionary - both print and online. I will create a lesson to show them how to best use each of these types of dictionary and ensure that they are choosing the correct word in its right context. They also need to be sure the online dictionary is an accurate and reliable source.
  • They will then decide on the words in their vocab list and work together to build a suitable list of vocab on that topic (using Google docs). My theory is that they will choose words that are relevant to them, they they would want to use. If they thought 'haunted house' was relevant and useful, then it will go into the list.
  • As they have created the list for themselves, it should be easier to remember, but quizlet can always help.
Teaching grammar is always a little trickier but I suspect an interactive whiteboard would serve as a useful tool. Hmmm... we now have one in the library. Need to install the software on the laptop and check it out.

Will have to leave this next stage for the moment ...

Flickr photo:
Scattered Thoughts, Like Scattered Leaves:-)
Flickr user: mysza831


andrew churches said...

I absolutely agree with you that web 2.0 is an enabler for 21st century learning and especially the languages. At my school our languages teachers are moving steadily to this, they are exploring skype and establishing relationships with other schools (but as u know the time zones are not brilliant) they are podcasting and using this as a tool for learning, teaching and looking at assessment too.
Students and staff are also creating resources using tools like photostory and voicethread for oral vocabulary. We are lucky to have native speakers for many of our languages to help this.
There are some many tools out their and they are brilliantly engaging for students and staff alike.
You are right the 21st Century is a great place to be

ajep said...

Thanks for the comment Andrew.
Photostory and windows movie maker are much underutilised resources I think. Great for story-telling and spicing up the old "dialogue" that was previously the staple in language classes.

RW said...

Interactive whiteboards are a fantastic tool for teaching languages. I have specialised in this area for the last 6 years and the opportunities are endless. Get the software installed and you will be amazed. I recommend using Promethean's ACTIVstudio, which is really the Rolls Royce of whiteboard software.