Language Log

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Monthly Archives: March 2011

VLE Languages User Group

On 16th March I attended the VIth Annual Conference of the above group at Coventry University. There were some interesting presentations on recent language projects, some entirely online and some involving blended learning. Gavin Dudeney, a former EFL teacher, now e-learning consultant specialising in technology enhanced language learning, gave a particularly good plenary talk on “New Literacies, teachers and learners.” He explored the meaning of digital literacy and discussed the implications it has for teaching and learning. In the afternoon session he gave an excellent workshop on using the web for language teaching. Below are some of the websites he recommended and some ideas on how to use them for language learning activities:

http://www.wordle.net/Blog Wordle

I am familiar with this site already, in fact I used it to create the logo for this blog! The idea is to input text and wordle generates a word cloud. Class activity: Vocabulary exercises; if you cut and paste an extract from a text, the resulting word cloud can be used to introduce the text to the students. You can see an example on the left, I input the definition for “Blog”; you can click on it to see a larger version.

http://photofunia.com/

TPhotoFuniahis site can be used to manipulate photos; upload your own photo and the programme will merge it with an existing photo with some amusing results. Such as this one of me on the  cover of the Oberserver magazine!  Click to enlarge it. Class activity: students prepare a series of manipulated photos and their partners  imagine their life story.

http://www.wherethehellismatt.com/

A particularly good one for language teaching. This is a short film made by someone called Matt who filmed himself doing a silly dance in every (yes every!) country in the world. Class activity: students write down as many countries as they can in two minutes, then watch the film and write down the countries they recognise and why (eg the landmarks, the people, clothing).

Simple film animations: http://www.dfilm.com/live/home.html

Students can design short animations and input a script; good for beginners and younger learners.

Collaborative multimedia slide shows: http://voicethread.com/

Can be used to make audio slideshows, digital stories or simple movies. Users can upload their “voice threads” and comment on others.

Simple podcasting : http://www.podomatic.com/login

An example of student podcasting can be found in the following link; students learning English had to record a podcast entitled “I didn’t do my homework because…” http://aprilfoolsday.podomatic.com/

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Virtual Learning Group 4th Session

Two avatars discussing "The Evolution of Language"

Two avatars discussing "The Evolution of Language"

Despite major technical difficulties on the French side, it was another good session. The theme was “The Evolution of Language” and again, while monitoring the groups, I heard some very good discussions. Not all the English students turned up so the groups were made up of one English student and two French students. This seemed to work well despite several of the French students’ avatars regularly disappearing; they were having major problems with some of their computers which kept on crashing. We are not sure whether this was due to the Second Life upgrade; upgrades can be a real problem as all the computers in the Language Centre study area have to be updated, which is a lengthy process and can have a knock on effect producing technical problems on the platform.

Interesting comments from the discussion on “The Evolution of Language”

  • Technology, especially social networking, has changed the way we speak
  • We use a lot of Frenglish such as “Je te phone” and “Je suis aware”
  • We use many more abbreviations now when we write, due to texting
  • “Google” is now a verb!

Leading to some discussions about the use of technology in general:

  • Should cell phones be banned in work meetings?
  • Do we have less freedom now our mothers can text us to ask us where we are?

Why Languages Matter

Do languages matter?

Above is a short film which was shown at the beginning of the event “Why Languages Matter”, hosted by the LSE Language Centre on 8th March. The footage was taken by a group of students, who went around the campus one day to interview students about the languages they spoke and why languages were important to them. I edited the footage and made it into a short film.

The event was attended by around 80 people, both students, teachers and language professionals from Universities and other organisations. A round table discussion on the importance of language learning was held and the panel discussed issues such as the following:

  • Are monolingual Brits at a disadvantage?
  • Is English really enough?
  • Should a language qualification be compulsory for university entry and be re-introduced in all schools until 16?
  • Which are the languages for the new century?
  • Is language learning just about employability?
  • What do we mean by intercultural communication?
  • Is the future Multilingual?

If, like myself, you believe in the importance of language learning, here is some information on a new campaign to promote languages, which has just been launched:

http://www.speaktothefuture.org/

Virtual Learning Group 3rd Session

Group Photo

Group Photo: an interesting bunch of avatars

A highly successful session; some very interesting discussions on Cultural Stereotyping and the students are becoming more and more proficient at navigating within Second Life. They now have fewer technical queries and are able to move around, teleport and communicate with other avatars easily.

The exchange of languages continues to be fruitful with students engaging with the topics and gaining confidence in their target language. Myself and the other two facilitators now mostly stay inworld to monitor the groups instead of going to the students’ computers to help them out. The discussion within the groups generally flows aided by notecards containing suggestions for discussion and vocabulary hints.

Some anecdotes from the session:

  • One group decided to have their discussion in the swimming pool despite one of them wearing a full ball gown (her avatar appears in the photo above)
  • One avatar’s clothing did not generate for the entire session and another avatar appeared only as a particle cloud.
  • Some teleport boards continue to teleport us into the sea..
  • A French student, while discussing stereotypes, was overheard to say the following; “The British have the best tea in the world but the worst teeth.”

Next Monday is a bank holiday in France so the next session will be in two weeks time. We are thinking of taking the students to visit some other islands within Second Life, any suggestions are welcome!