Friday, 28 October 2011

Half term catch-up!

This has proved to be quite a busy but incredibly stimulating half term 'break'!

On Saturday and Sunday I attended the Language show in London, giving a talk on ICT on Saturday, hosting a show and tell alongside Joe Dale and ALL London committee stalwarts in the afternoon, enjoying a social with many language people in the evening 'Down the Albion' and giving a talk on Second Life on the Sunday. ALL London website has an account and pictures here, and my flickr account has downloadable pics here. I really enjoyed the talks I managed to attend and having the chance to 'catch up' with so many friends.

On Monday I was delighted to be invited to the French Institute by Dr Anne Preston and Professor Paul Seedhouse of Newcastle University to learn about the Digital French Kitchen. A bonus was to hear Graham Davies' thoughtful and succinct presentation on CALL over the past 30 years. See my account and pictures here. Main intended message: those who do not look into history are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. Overwhelming evidence that there was a lot of good in the past which seems to have been 'forgotten'. We need to lead a campaign to 'Bring Back Granville!'

In the afternoon I attended the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) which is convened by Baroness Jean Coussins and meets at the House of Lords every two months to discuss issues relating to languages in the UK. Ann Carlisle spoke to us about how language skills are identified, developed and put into use by the London Metropolitan Police. Language skills are clearly a real 'plus' for police when dealing with such a multicultural community. The Lords posed some good questions (e.g. are applicants required to state language skills on application forms? Is there renumeration for those with extra language skills?)and I could not help thinking of ways in which the context could be used for the mutual benefit of school learners, the community and the police ...(cluedo .. Second Life simulations ... opportunity for communities to 'teach' the police?)

On Tuesday I arranged our third 'Passegitaliano' which took place in the evening in Second Life: a lovely get together of people who want to practise their Italian skills, meet real Italians, and explore interesting places in thee magical virtual 3D world. We went to a wonderful Halloween build created by the talented Dabici of the University of Washington. Karelia Kondor has written a blog post about it here.

Sadly my colleagues who put such a great deal of time into leading an excellent Duke of Edinbugh Award Scheme at school (over half of year 10 are doing the bronze award)were away over half term and could not take up the offer of accompanying 6 of our Gold Award students to St James' Palace. I was really privileged to be asked to go in their place, and I just felt so proud of these young people who had committed their own energy and skills to completing the award. The Earl of Wessex and the DofE volunteers created a very special event for the young people, their parents and others. A bonus was to meet and hear Simon Callow who hosted our room.

In the afternoon I went over to the LanguageLab / English City offices near Chancery Lane to see how they operate. I receieved a really friendly welcome, I was videoed for the student blog, and treated to a lovely coffee and chat. Pictures here.

Thursday I up-dated the ALL London website where you can now follow links and read about the first ALL London committee meeting at Linguascope offices, the PGCE event at the Institute of London (thanks to Cat for arranging this)and my latest reference sheet about Second Life. In the evening, I attended the regular staff meeting in English City in the form of my English teacher avatar, Kara Ashland. She is /I am (!) planning to host a games show along the lines of 'Celebrity Squares' in English City in the near future.

On Friday I continued to prepare for the forthcoming ALL events in January and June. They are going to be fantastic! Saturday January 21st: Joe Dale, Greg Horton and Sara Sullivan at The French Institute ... Saturday June 16th 2012, well-known speaker and writer in the English teaching world Jeremy Harmer, alongside the ever-popular Rachel Hawkes and James Stubbs at the European Commission. We are going to be spoilt!

It's Saturday, and I look forward to a day of being sorted out by my parents before I go to Karelia's fourth birthday party in Second Life (she is sooo excited!!!! .. there is an open invitation to anyone! ...)then on Sunday I just might start practising the 'cello part for the forthcoming school production of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Hope you are impressed, Dr Taylor!

Phew. Not long to Christmas ....!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Eurocall 2010 - recovered!

Sorting out my laptop's c drive, I have come across my piece on Eurocall 2010. I so enjoyed the conference, and I'm sorry I cannot be there this year. I shall 'park' my piece here and try to finish it off before next year!

Eurocall 2010

I have always wanted to attend the Eurocall conference, and this year I have! I was especially keen to go as I knew that my good neighbour in Second Life, Cyber Placebo aka Edith Piallait was going to be attending (on sabbatical from New Zealand for 6 months .. so unlikely to be here again) .. Graham Davies, who was one of the first people to introduce me to SL was giving the keynotes, and the theme of the conference matched my particular interest .. virtual worlds (and I knew that several of my SL friend would be there) .. I had befriended and met some of the key people organising the conference in SL (Ciara and Thierry) .. and, oh, nearly forgot, it was being held in one of my favourite French cities .. Bordeaux.

I was very sorry to miss the preconference where I was due to be involved in Graham and Sally’s session introducing SL and the afternoon follow up and a reception at the town hall .. but the strike and delayed flight prevented this. (Long boring story about the challenge of accessing my hotel and bed available on request!)

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference.

Here are some highlights ..

THE WELCOME and atmosphere was fantastic. .. it started with the website and various social networking (thanks especially to Lesley and Antoine) everyone was keen to talk, to share and to enthuse. I was incredibly fortunate to sit next to Inge Anna (having complimented her on her Norwegian!) who made sure that I knew the names and faces of the main organisers .. I came away with loads of names and contact details and am sure I will be keeping in contact with people.

THE Variety OF SESSIONS meant that I was fully occupied for the whole three days I was there .. I have given a quick description of each of the sessions I attended and would be happy to elaborate / give more details if asked! In particular, I am sure I will read through all the detailed ‘abstracts’ of talks I could not attend.

THE CONTENT of the sessions was different from many I usually attend. Many were reports on research I learnt a great deal of research and academic vocabulary .. words like affordances .. salience ..

THE VENUE was great .. the transport system in Bordeaux is superb and the university proved to be easily accessible from any hotels .. trams and buses arrive frequently and promptly. The university itself had many rooms fairly close together, so it was easy to move from one session to the other . and people obeyed the instructions to keep to times!

Monday, 29 August 2011

GCSE and A level June 2011 statistics and initial analysis

I have up-dated the severe grading information with the June 2011 data here:

In fact virtually all the trends are a continuation of previous trends and severe grading remains an acute issue, both at GCSE and A level (including A* at A level).

A new concern is the drop in the GCSE A* grades (both percentage and actual numbers).

This is the year of the new specifications and the changes to speaking for which there had been hopes that the grading situation would improve as candidates are better able to demonstrate what they know and can do with teacher control of what the content is and more flexibility over the exam conditions (see Dearing Review based on teacher comments and subsequent consultation).

Sadly this is not the case and there seem to be a range of concerns about the grades and skill marks. The posted information analyses overall grades because that is the only information currently available. It will be important over the coming months to do a thorough analysis of the skill marks across the country and across the boards. It is often the case that with changes to specifications etc. there are more fluctuations in the marking and it will be important to distinguish between the ‘first year randomness’ and underlying trends.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Radio5Live phone in with Tony Livesey about why languages / which languages

Late night show with Tony Livesey Thursday 27th January 2011. Overall a positive message for learning languages I felt .. and I really look forward to Tony's show in French on 27th June 2011!

I'm parking this here temporarily for friends who asked how it went...

For the next few days, the programme is stored here:

Intro [00:48:14 ] Conversation [00:57:00]Farewell [1:06:16]

Sunday, 16 January 2011

BETT 2011

I very much enjoyed the short time I spent at BETT this year. Met up with old friends e.g.

  • Dan Bowen at Babcock 4S,

  • the team at Sanako,

  • Justin at Vocab Express,

  • Martin at TaskMagic - I keep discovering new things that software can do .. really really useful

  • The Fronter people (who showed us how to link content)

  • Steve Glover .. my original inspiration fro all things ICT!
...but also looked at some new stuff which I'll be passing on to others at school e.g.

  • Shakespeare in bits - looked a great way of getting into Shakespeare

  • Serious Games Interactive - citizenship issues coming to life

  • Languagelink - a way of accessing speech therapy for primary - will roll out to secondary

  • Some fantastic music hardware and software which allowed us to make music by breaking infrared beams with our hand (James has the card - will add link - I want one for ME!)

  • Xdream - the real biking simulator .. simply amazing! (loved it even though I was so soundly beaten by James!)
The highlight was Teachmeet. Well done to the organisers who engendered such a fun, comfortable atmosphere as well as ensuring an efficiently run event; congratulations to all the presenters who provided a great spread of ideas; commiserations to those who were psyched up to present but were not picked by the random fruit machine, and greetings to the many people I met and talked with around the tables and while eating pizza afterwards. A special 'Goddag' to my new Danish friends who had spent the day with me and Joe Dale at The Ashcombe School on Thursday.

The machine chose me to be the first one to do a 2-minute nano presentation. I talked about some lessons I have recently done with Year 10, when I 'mediated' their interaction with real French people in Secondlife. My talk is from 45:22 - 47:39 here (thanks to Leon Cynch for capturing this) (and grateful thanks to Johh Davitt, the camel thrower, for sparing me despite 17 second overrun ...!!) and the short slide show which should have been showing as I spoke is here (thanks to Ian for persevering with the link and getting some of the photos to show, and to Alan for telling me about Twitter fileshare in the morning). The lesson plans are here in the SLExperiments pb wiki. I regret that I did not give a public MERCI to CathyChou Bea and the wonderful people at Arcachon (including Tupper Weir .. DevLink Garside .. Eve Kazan .. Janis Allen) whose dedicated work and love for their island has made this possible.

I have uploaded pictures taken at BETT here on my flickrstream, and added them to the group here. I'd love people to add captions so that I can get to know more names!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

OFSTED report / English Bac

Sadly we have yet another OFSTED report which could be construed as criticising language teachers.

These are interesting times with much change, uncertainty and opportunities.

Tomorrow will see the publication of performance tables which will include the English Bac measure.

Undoubtedly there will be much ‘huffing and puffing’ about what this might mean.

Stepping aside from that, what is positive from the perspective of the language community is that there is now a performance measure with a high profile whereby it is to the advantage of a school to have more pupils within a cohort gaining a C grade GCSE in languages.

Although there are various aspects it does not include (Asset / NVQ / Applied or grades below a C grade etc. etc.) .. YET it does provide an incentive for schools to get more students continuing with ML.

And therefore I feel that we should be positive and optimistic and reflect on the great work which ML teachers have been doing at KS 4 (and KS3 to prepare for KS4) to continue to maintain an enthusiasm for languages .

We are all aware of the challenge which the new Controlled Assessment regime poses, but equally we need to recognise that this was the outcome from Lord Dearing asking teachers what they wanted and the imperative which was given to move from the 7-minute one-off oral test.

Whereas we were very aware that because of performance measures currently and previously in operation, such as CVA, studying ML at KS4 was potentially detrimental to a school’s ‘performance’ and OFSTED judgement, we are now in a situation which promotes getting a C grade per se (rather than in comparison with other subjects) .. and there is an opportunity to be grasped here.

We still need to continue to press resolution of the ‘Severe grading ‘ agenda (see here BUT to use a metaphor, we are now on the front foot rather than the back foot.

In conclusion, I’d like to urge a positive response so that we can be offering constructive suggestions in response to the English Bac and highlighting the successes of ML at KS4.