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June 09, 2010

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John Connor

My feelings on such matters are well documented, and I absolutely agree with the direction that you, Fiona and José are taking. It's a great programme, with much food for thought and affirmation that it is possible to engage and motivate youngsters by harnessing the very technologies with which they are innately familiar. How, though, do we convince the people at places like Civitas (right wing think tank) for whom ICT is merely a "distraction" from proper learning? And when you factor in the neanderthal rantings of Nick Gibb, who clearly hasn't yet had his turn with the family brain cell,it becomes clear that there is a mountain to climb. In SAS parlance, maybe it's to go "noisy", before this bunch of fascist retards do incalculable harm to young peoples' life chances. I've glimpsed a possible future, and it's OK if you're an able girl attending Leafy White Highlands Selective Girls' Academy, but if you're a white British working class boy from Scotswood, forget languages - not for you, bonny lad. MFL becomes the low hanging fruit, as it has in several academies of my personal acquaintance. And if KS2 withers on the vine (death of Rose Review) and languages remain optional in KS4? I'm so angry I can hardly articulate.

Graham Davies

My experience in using ICT to teach foreign languages goes back to 1976, when I began to learn how to use a mainframe computer. By the early 1980s many UK schools were using the ubiquitous BBC Micro to teach foreign languages, and numerous programs appeared, produced both by commercial companies and enthusiastic DIY amateurs. At first they were mainly drill-and-practice programs, reproducing on a computer screen what could be done on paper. But then simulations such as Granville appeared, and John Higgins launched the first “total Cloze” program (impossible to reproduce on paper). Tim Johns waded in with his concept of Data Driven Learning (DDL), which raised students’ awareness of language usage by enabling them to search large corpora of authentic texts. The COBUILD dictionary was the first dictionary to be based on authentic corpora – which would have been impossible to compile without using ICT.

By the end of the 1980s it was clear that ICT was motivating for language learners at all levels. But the powers that be remained unconvinced and insisted on “evidence” that computer assisted language learning (CALL) was “effective”. It is, of course, difficult to prove that CALL “works”, but most of us who have been working in this area know that its overall impact is positive. Professional associations such as EUROCALL (Europe) and CALICO (USA) have gathered a mountain of evidence about the positive impact of CALL that should convince all but the most sceptical. See Section 3 of Module 1.1 at the ICT4LT site, headed “How effective are new technologies in promoting language learning?”
http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod1-1.htm#effectiveness

My only concern now is that youngsters are exposed to such exciting manifestations of new technologies as part of their everyday lives that the technologies used by most teachers in the classroom will appear outdated to them and therefore unexciting. Time for more training, I guess.

Graham Davies

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