ICT in Language Teaching & Learning´s archives ↓

Where to go on the internet, with thanks to Alex Blagona

Thanks to Alex Blagona who has kindly let me use his talk The A-Z of internet – presented at ICT Links into Languages February 12th, 2011 – as a springboard for this and my next few posts. The presentation pointed me in a few good directions!

Blogging: there are all kinds of blogging software on the internet – bloggerwordpress (which I use, and which supports theLanguage Village website), typepad and many more. It’s really a matter of choosing one and learning how it works.

The only way to learn is by doing! WordPress have very easy-to-follow tutorials, although it takes a while to get used to posting. Once you get the hang of it, you can post anything you like on it: student work; diaries of school trips abroad; it can be a way for parents to follow what’s going on in the language classrooms; a place to publish projects or photos (you can have passport protected pages to keep your students safe). On my own blog, I also have study notes and links to useful websitesfor my students.

The fantastic thing about blogging is that you create a real audience for your students, such a bonus when you’re motivating students to produce meaningful written texts. I’ve since seen other teachers who promote their class blogs among their Twitter network to help students get an audience beyond their peers and their school.

Bubbl.us – This site is for making mindmaps. You can prepare them yourself, print them off and save them, although the latter is a little more complicated. It’s very easy to learn how to use and can also work well as a homework task for students: after you have done a topic, they have to create a mind-map for themselves to study from. In our school, we are recommended to produce mindmaps for students with special needs, so this and the site below have come in handy in this context.

Classtools.net – This site has many free educational games, quizzes, activities, venn diagrams, fish diagrams, mind maps etc. You can use them in class or embed them onto your blog or wikispace (more on wikis later). The most commonly used tool from classtools.net that I saw during the Links into Languages Conference was the random name picker called the fruit machine which chose kids? names to put them into groups, and the countdown timer – self explanatory! These tools are obviously more useful for those teachers lucky enough to have an interactive whiteboard or a digital projector in their room. The site is free though you can sign up for premium membership to create more sophisticated tools.

Cueprompter:  I had cause to use this website when creating a podcast under the expert guidance of Joe Dale. To use the website, you type your text into a little box, which, at the touch of a button, can be turned into a prompter. The text scrolls like a telecue. It is excellent for reading practice and the speed at which the text scrolls can be adjusted for each student. It is therefore particularly good for podcasting and presentation to video. I plan to use this with my junior students when they are creating their Vokis (see below) and with my senior students so that they can record themselves as part of practising for their oral exam.

e.ggtimer:   This is a great one for those with screens in the classroom. You put in the time you want and can then choose either a timer or a countdown clock, which displays for the students and a buzzer sounds when time runs out. I have brought my laptop to the classroom and put it on that – the students like it because there is no chance for you to lengthen or shorten the activity (as I certainly tend to do if something is working well)!

flickr Although I am familiar with flickr myself, the idea from Alex that really struck me and has stayed with me was the idea of finding a photo taken in an interesting situation, writing to the person who took it and asking them to describe what was going on at the time. The example he used was a photo taken during the rescue of the Chilean miners. It’s a simple, but brilliant idea to get students involved with what’s happening all over the world.

Facebook – I have a facebook page which I use with my class. They use it far more than my blog. The advantage of a Facebook page over a Facebook profile is that the owner of the page cannot see the profiles of the people using the page, which is vital. It means that I cannot see what the students write on their pages or on their friends’ pages. However, they can write on the wall of my Facebook page and I can comment on what they have written (or remove it – though fortunately this has not yet been necessary). Also, the students cannot – if you have maximum security on your own facebook profile – get to you through the page. Facebook brings its own concerns; I okayed the page with my principal before going ahead with this.

Imagechef: Image chef is extremely easy to use and is lovely for (as the name suggests!) making images with words. You can either have your chosen words as a background around your image, or as below, filling the shape of your preferred image. Here?sa quick one inspired by the supermoon last weekend:

Visual Poetry - ImageChef.com

Other people: Use the internet to create your own PLN (personal learning network) through Twitter, Facebook and blogging.  Joe Dale and  José Picardo are two leaders in the area of ICT in MFL teaching. A little time spent browsing their websites will give you lots of easy-to-use ideas. Alex Blagona blogs here and there are many many more teachers out there who are writing about their teaching and generously sharing their ideas with others.

Quizlet – On quizlet you can make or use flashcards, quizzes and games to teach or to revise language. I have used it with my own classes as a homework to pre-teach or to revise language we are using in class. You can create your own, but I have not done this yet as there are many prepared activities to which you can direct your students.

Slideshare – you can make and upload presentations to this site or you can search it for presentations. It?s possible to record and add a vocal track to your presentation. Susan Watson has a nice example of using slideshare to teach the places in the city in Spanish. Susan has a number of resources on the site in different languages.

twitter You will find a supportive, enthusiastic teaching community here. One Twitter user at the conference described it as ?a virtual staffroom, without the cynicism!? It takes a little getting used to, but only a little! You quickly get hooked.

Voki –  This is a great site! Students can use their own or a computer generated voice to create an online character. It?s extremely simple to use, though we had problems at our school when all the members of a large class logged on at the same time and the site didn?t work for all of them. This was my first attempt at one.

There’ll be more to come as I try them out, but if you know all of these ones and are ready for more, please visit the Links into Languages website and have a look at all of the fantastic talks that the speakers have shared. Some of the talks are also available to watch for free on the same page.

Follow Alex on Twitter @blagona  or read his blog.

I can be contacted at:

susanleahy[at]gmail[dot]com @susanleahy                             http://pancomido.wordpress.com

It would be great to get feedback on how you have used any of these sites. Leave a comment below to share what does and doesn’t work for you and give us some more ideas!

Inspiration from England!

Last month, I attended the Links into Language conference in Southampton University on integrating ICT into Modern Foreign Language Teaching. The conference was inspirational. Despite similarly dispiriting cuts and attacks on education and educators in England, there is a group of highly motivated teachers teaching others about ICT in MFL teaching and offering huge online support to each other on Twitter.

I was greatly encouraged by the prevailing attitude that you could start from anywhere and catch up fast, and that although the ideal set-up in a classroom is one which rarely exists in reality, any little thing that you do will have repercussions in terms of motivating and engaging your students. My own situation is that I have neither an interactive whiteboard nor a data projector in my room, so sometimes I can bring students to the computer room, or sometimes I bring my laptop down to the classroom.

My next post (read it here on Monday) will be based on a presentation made by Alex Blagona, called The A-Z of Internet. The title is self-explanatory, but Alex’s presentation was extremely clear and the quick description of the programmes meant that I actually understood what people were referring to in later talks. Alex’s talk is available as a powerpoint at the Links into Languages website (scroll down the Links page), as are many of the talks which took place that weekend.

Following the conference, I’ve tried my hand at some of the programmes on the websites that Alex and the other speakers recommended. As with anything else, an investment of time is essential for success. You have to keep the big picture in mind – a little playing around on the computer in the evening will save you time (and stress!) in the classroom the next day, and if the class goes well, you have a plan to use in future years.

Rather than looking at all the resources in one long blog post, I thought I’d pick out a few over a couple of posts, beginning with the ones that seem to me the most accessible for those of us who are restricted by:

(a) time

(b) experience

(c) school policy

(d) ICT resources

and -I hate to admit – but (e) fear or nervousness – which can hold me back when I try to plan an ICT based language class.

The most important lesson I learned over the weekend was that you?ve just got to try it out to see if it works for you! Some sites you just won?t like that much and others you?ll love and they?ll become part of your lesson planning. Remember, you?re not on your own! Even if there?s not huge support within your department or school, there is an online community of teachers in Ireland and the UK who can be reached by joining Twitter.

Please get in touch with any comments, questions or suggestions.

E-mail me at susanleahy[at]gmail[dot]com, follow me on twitter @susanleahy , read my blog or leave a comment below.

Choosing a data projector – help!

Hola a todos!

I’m a Spanish language teacher in Dublin. In the past year, I’ve committed myself to trying to improve my ICT skills with regard to teaching. This has involved setting up a blog Pancomido (means as easy as pie in Spanish) and a facebook page for the students in my school. It’s been working really well, but I want to bring the ICT into the classroom and I feel that what I really need is a data projector.

Now clearly, the school is not going to fund it as they have no money for that kind of thing and nobody in the school seems to have a clear idea of what’s a good projector or why. I’ve been doing some research on it and I’ve figured out some of the basics but I’m still at a loss as to which projector to buy. Given that I’ll be funding it myself, I’m really looking for value for money, though I realise it will probably be expensive enough.

I’m working off a Mac, which I know is a consideration for some projectors.

Any advice/pointers would be greatly appreciated!


All you need to know about ICT conference

If you could travel to the UK, and are interested in using more ICT in the classroom ICT Links into Languages weekend event will showcase all you need to know about ICT in the MFL classroom.

Whether you want to find out how to use blogs and wikis to trying out digital voice recorders, you?ll be inspired to try something new! A range of speakers will demonstrate tried and tested models for different skill levels. You don?t have to be an expert in ICT to attend.

It’s on a Saturday and Sunday so would be possible to make it even if you have to work Friday and Monday… there are direct flights from Dublin to Southampton.

For lots more info click here

Some good examples of blogs in languages education

The following blog examples provide practical examples of the kind of things that you could start doing with your students.

Royds Languages Department have a good example of a blog featuring lots of student work.

Chiltern Edge MFL department are a great example of a blog with lots of integrated interactive stuff and you can see examples of the kinds of tasks teachers are giving their students and the work they get back.

Marie-France Perkins’ blog is called Sans Problème (UK). Regularly updated, very varied with lots of student work.

Enjoy! And remember if you want to use the blog just to communicate with your own students just put protect your posts with a password which only your students will have.

How to blog and why to blog


I put together this powerpoint but I’m sure you have lots more ideas… see my previous posts too…