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Graham Davies

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Everything posted by Graham Davies

  1. Graham Davies

    I am a retired (Emeritus) Professor of Computer Assisted Language Learning, but I continue to maintain and update the ICT for Language Teachers website at http://www.ict4lt.org, which was initiated by my former university, Thames Valley University, London. I do occasional consultancy work in the area of ICT and language teaching and learning and I sit on a number of national and international committees. I am a partner in Camsoft, a business that develops and retails software for Computer Assisted Language Learning. A less boring summary of my life, with hyperlinks to my activities and information on the other members of my family (who are also my business partners) is on the Web at: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/whoare.htm Alternatively, have a look at my personal wiki, which also includes an audio recording about myself: http://grahamdavies.wikispaces.com
  2. SLanguages 2008 Online Conference, 23-24 May 2008 The SLanguages 2008 Conference brings together practitioners and researchers in the field of language education in Second Life for a 24-hour event to celebrate languages and cultures within the 3D virtual world. This second annual event is entirely free and takes place on the EduNation islands within Second Life. Take a tour of the venue: http://www.slanguages.net/venue.php Starts 18.00 GMT, 23 May 2008 Ends 18.00 GMT 24 May 2008 Further information and registration form at: http://www.slanguages.net The ICT4LT site contains an intro to teaching and learning languages in Second Life, with a brief report and screenshots of the SLanguages 2007 Conference: http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod1-5.htm#secondlife I have just started a new thread on the SLanguages 2008 Conference at in the ICT4LT blog: http://ictforlanguageteachers.blogspot.com CALICO 2008, 19 March 2008 I made a small contribution to a workshop at the CALICO 2008 conference in San Francisco on 19 March 2008. The workshop was entitled Virtual Worlds and Language Teaching: Real Ideas for a Virtual Classroom. I made my contribution from my home in the UK via Second Life. I was able introduce myself briefly, using voice chat, to the workshop participants gathered together at "Renoir's Roost" on one of the EduNation islands. A wiki relating to the workshop, with lots of useful links and information has been set up by the workshop leader, Randall Sadler: http://sl4calico.pbwiki.com I am becoming more and more impressed by this technology as a means of holding "virtual" meetings. At the same time as the workshop was taking place I was conversing via Skype with a friend in Abu Dhabi - and later we continued our conversation via Second Life. CMC SIG Conference, Padua, Italy 17-19 April 2008 I shall be giving a short intro to the EUROCALL HQ in Second Life at EUROCALL's forthcoming Computer Mediated Communication conference in Padua, Italy, 18 April 2008, GMT 17.30. Further information can be obtained via the CMC SIG discussion list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CMC_SIG/
  3. Mc A levels

    I used to teach at Thames Valley University (TVU). Mars - which had a large factory near to the Slough campus - was one of TVU's sponsors. I believe they donated quite a bit of money to TVU.
  4. Mc A levels

    Well, there is/was a Wimpy Professor of Management Studies... Oops, wrong Wimpy! I meant Wimpey, of course.
  5. Computer Mediated Communication

    CMC is a hot topic in Modern Languages right now. The last two EUROCALL conferences (2006 and 2007) each had a Virtual Strand that enabled people to participate at a distance. I especially appreciated the 2006 Virtual Strand as I was recovering from major surgery at the time and could not travel to Spain to attend the “real” conference. The archives are still available, complete with streaming videos of the plenaries: 2006 Blog: http://eurocall2006blog.blogspot.com/ 2006 Wiki: http://eurocall2006.wikispaces.com/ 2007 Virtual Strand: http://vsportal2007.googlepages.com/ At the 2007 EUROCALL conference a CMC SIG was set up. It now has a very active discussion list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CMC_SIG/ EUROCALL's CMC SIG will be holding its first regional conference in Padova, Italy, 17-19 April 2008. Further information in the above discussion list. EUROCALL has also set up a headquarters in Second Life. We aim to use the HQ for informal meetings and, in the future, for training courses and teaching. Here is the SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/EduNation%20III/9/29/22/ Yesterday evening, while I was setting up furniture in the EUROCALL HQ, I noticed that David Richardson was online, so I offered to teleport him to my location and we were able to chat using SL’s recently introduced voice chat facility. Just after he left I was visited by an old friend who had picked up the above SLURL from an email. His voice chat was not active so we came offline and I skyped him, using audio and video comms. We are really fortunate in having such useful comms tools available to use free of charge. In recent months I have made use of the following comms tools: - blogs (every day) - wikis - podcasts and vodcasts - Flashmeeting - Skype with video (my Skype name is groovyguzi) - Ventrilo audioconferencing - Second Life text chat and voice chat. There appears to be a great deal of work being done with such tools in the secondary schools sector in the UK. Take a look, for example, at: - Joe Dale’s blog entitled “Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom”: http://joedale.typepad.com - The MFLE blog, Learning and Teaching Scotland: http://ltsblogs.org.uk/mfle/ http://ltsblogs.org.uk/mfle/category/ict-b...casts-software/ - Ewan McIntosh’s blog (Ewan is a key mover and shaker in CMC in the secondary schools sector in Scotland): http://edu.blogs.com (where I picked up his announcement about TeachMeet08, 11 January 2008, London BETT show: http://www.teachmeet.org.uk) I can foresee great potential with this new technology, especially in language learning and teaching. All we need is a bit of imagination!
  6. I am reproducing here what I wrote in the ICT4LT blog at: http://ictforlanguageteachers.blogspot.com/ On 23 June 2007, I took part in a virtual conference, SLanguages, on learning foreign languages in Second Life: http://www.secondlife.com The venue was the Glass Pyramid on Second Life's EduNation Island and there were around 50 participants from all over the world. The conference made use of audioconferencing facilities, using the Ventrilo audioconferencing software, so we could hear the speakers and talk to them. The SLanguages conference went very well, with only a few minor hiccups. I've added a couple of screenshots to the ICT4LT site: Section 14.2, Module 1.5, headed Chat rooms, MUDs, MOOs and MUVEs http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod1-5.htm#14.2 The main thing that made the conference so engaging for me was being able to listen to and communicate with speakers from all over the world - all in our various avatar guises. It worked. We could use the standard Second Life text chat at any time and when we wanted to ask a question or make a comment we lit up a bulb on top of our heads in order to attract the chair’s attention and then we spoke when invited. Coffee breaks and a lunch break were built in, and we were able to continue chatting at the disco after the formal day’s proceedings had finished. The advantages of Second Life compared to videoconferencing were immediately obvious to me. I have taken part in several videoconferences and, even as an adult, I have always felt a bit uncomfortable seeing myself on screen. Lip-synchronisation in all the videoconferencing systems that I have used was not very good - although it may have improved a lot by now. Head and arm movements came across as rather jerky too. In the SLanguages conference I was able to sit my avatar down and then do what I liked. He was always quiet and attentive even if I sneaked off to make a cup of coffee, and I could hear the audio very clearly, either through speakers or headphones. I could speak to the other participants by pressing a single key to activate my microphone - or I could ask questions and make comments in text chat. The speakers were able to show slides on a large screen - which you can see in the screenshots at the ICT4LT site. Don't be misled by the negative reports about Second Life that you may have read in the press. I was very sceptical when I first had a look at Second Life. It appeared to be peopled by sad geeks who probably only have a half-decent First Life. but as a colleague of mine, Chris Jones, stated in the title of an article he wrote way back in 1986: "It's not so much the program: more what you do with it: the importance of methodology in CALL". At first sight Second Life appears to be quite daunting. There’s a lot to learn, but I picked up the basics in a couple of hours and I’m content to ignore the bits that I don’t need. There's a lot of garbage there - shopping malls selling virtual designer gear, casinos, etc. All this can be ignored. In any case most of us only use a fraction of the facilities of the software installed on our computers - and there's nothing wrong with that. The SLanguages conference proceedings will be archived at: EduNation 178, 40, 22 http://www.secondlife.com/
  7. SLanguages Colloquium in Second Life

    Oops! I meant "in Padova, Italy, April 2008" (I type faster than I think). "
  8. SLanguages Colloquium in Second Life

    There is a great deal of activity going on in the area of Computer Mediated Communication right now, especially in Modern Languages. EUROCALL has set up a CMC SIG, which has a very active discussion list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CMC_SIG/ I notice that David has already made a contribution about his activities in CMC. EUROCALL's CMC SIG will be holding its first regional conference in Padova, Italy, April 2006. Further information in the above discussion list.
  9. SLanguages Colloquium in Second Life

    David dropped into the new EUROCALL HQ this evening in his Second Life avatar guise. We were able to chat using Second Life's voice chat. Just after he left an old friend dropped in. We used text chat for a while - his voice chat was not activated - so I contacted him via Skype. We chatted, free of charge (of course) for around an hour. His webcam was activated, so I was able to see him as well as hear him clearly. I can foresee great potential with this new technology, especially in language learning and teaching. All we need is a bit of imagination.
  10. SLanguages Colloquium in Second Life

    I forgot to mention that there is a lively thread on Second Life going on right now in EUROCALL's CMC SIG discussion list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CMC_SIG/
  11. SLanguages Colloquium in Second Life

    I've recently taken part in another audioconference in Second Life, using voice chat. The theme of the conference - or rather "tour", which was led by Graham Stanley of The British Council - was the use of quests in language teaching. EUROCALL now has an HQ in EduNation III, Second Life. The building is still empty, but it will be furnished it during the next few weeks. If you have already downloaded the Second Life software and wish to locate the EUROCALL HQ just paste it into your browser's address box: http://slurl.com/secondlife/EduNation%20III/9/29/22/ This will enable you to teleport to the front porch. Turn right round and you should see the EUROCALL logo on the wall next to the front door. Click on the door to open it and then have a look round. It is possible to hold meetings and run training courses, etc in the EUROCALL HQ (and many other places) using voice chat, text chat and visuals (PowerPoint, videos, etc), but there doubtless many more interesting things that can be done. I can meet you at the HQ at a pre-arranged time for a chat. Just a reminder that if you are new to Second Life then there is an expanded Section 14.2.1 in Module 1.5 at the ICT4LT site that should help get you up to speed: http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod1-5.htm
  12. Chris Higgins

    Hello, Chris! I attended Maidstone Grammar School from 1953 to 1961. I got A-Levels in French, German and Latin and then went on to study German with French at Queen Mary College, University of London. Your modern languages staff may be interested in what an old boy of the school has achieved. See my CV here: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/cvgd.htm They may also be interested in linking to the website that I maintain: ICT for Language Teachers http://www.ict4lt.org I am now resident in Berkshire, but I visit my brother and his family on regular occasions. They live in the Maidstone area. Regards Graham Davies Emeritus Professor of Computer Assisted Language Learning
  13. EUROCALL Conference 2007

    I have just got back from the EUROCALL 2007 conference at the University of Ulster, Coleraine - followed by a tour of the North and North West of Ireland by car. This conference was probably one of the most stimulating EUROCALL conferences that I have attended since EUROCALL first became an official professional association in 1993. The keynotes were all good, and all of the regular sessions that I attended were interesting. This year's online "Virtual Strand" was more elaborate than in the previous year. The bloggers were more active and all of the keynotes were streamed and are now in the process of being archived. Several of the regular sessions were captured with the Lecturnity software, and there were three virtual presentations via live chat. A number of podcasts have also been made available. You can catch up with the main Virtual Strand events here: http://vsportal2007.googlepages.com/ We were blessed with good (for Ireland) weather, entertained by an excellent Irish/Scottish band and a fabulous dancer after the gala dinner, and we danced ourselves to exhaustion at the Ceili. Many of us also managed to fit in a trip to Bushmills Irish Whiskey Distillery and the Giant's Causeway. You can't do that online! It's great to see Northern Ireland blossoming again. The tourists have returned, and there are signs of an economic boom everywhere. We crossed the border several times, but now the army watchtowers have gone and it's no different from moving from one county into another in the rest of the UK - apart from the changes from miles to kilometers and different road signs.
  14. An educational environment on Second Life

    David, see my most recent posting in the Modern Languages section in the Education Forum. Patrik Svensson has been working in this area for several years, and he's not a million miles from you, namely at Umeå University, where he is Director of HUMlab: http://www.humlab.umu.se/patrik http://www.eng.umu.se/vw/ re the Virtual Weddings Project in Active Worlds, which is a virtual world predating Second Life.
  15. SLanguages Colloquium in Second Life

    OK, I'll look for you on my next visit. Presumably you know about Patrick Svensson's work. He is Director of HUMlab, Umeå University, and has worked in the area of virtual worlds and language learning for some time. There was a well-known project he set up within Active Worlds, for example. See: http://www.humlab.umu.se/patrik Svensson P. (2003) "Virtual worlds as arenas for language learning". In Felix U. (ed.) Language learning online: towards best practice: Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger. See also Lesley Shield's work. Lesley used to be an Open University tutor: Shield L. (2003) "MOO as a language learning tool. In Felix U. (ed.) Language learning online: towards best practice: Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger. Lesley and I are members of the EUROCALL Executive Committee. We are both involved in the Virtual Strand of this year's EUROCALL conference in Coleraine. I'll be helping Lesley to run a workshop on blogging for beginners - part of which will be delivered online. You can join the conference's Virtual Strand free of charge via EUROCALL's website: http://www.eurocall-languages.org http://www.eurocall2007.com
  16. SLanguages Colloquium in Second Life

    I sometimes hang around EduNation Island in the early evening, around 6-7pm. You can search for me under my avatar's name, Groovy Winkler.
  17. An educational environment on Second Life

    Language courses in Second Life are already being set up, notably Avatar English at: http://www.avatarlanguages.com The English Village in Second Life will also be launched in the near future. See also Section 14.2 at the ICT4LT site, where I write about MUDs, MOOs and MUVEs and my experience in attending the SLanguages Colloquium on EduNation Island on 23 June 2007: http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod1-5.htm#14.2 and see also my report on SLanguages in the ICT4LT blog: http://ictforlanguageteachers.blogspot.com/ Gavin Dudeney, The Consultants-E, was the organiser of the SLanguages Colloquium. It worked very well as a virtual conference. We were able to talk to one another using SL text chat and audio chat with the Ventrilo audio chat facility. You can see screenshots at the above location at the ICT4LT site. Talking of virtual conferences, EUROCALL's 2007 conference in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, next month will include a virtual strand (as it did last year in Granada, Spain). It's free and you can join it via the EUROCALL website: http://www.eurocall-languages.org There will be an introductory workshop - also with an online strand - on blogging, which I am helping to run.
  18. BBC suspends net learning project

    John writes: I am unable to judge the quality of the modern languages material but I did use the sections on English and Maths for 5-6 year olds with my grandson. It seemed superior to commercial products that you had to pay for. The main advantage of BBC Jam was that it could be accessed at home. Graham writes: There is undoubtedly variance between different subject areas. Therefore the BBC Jam products need to be scrutinised very carefully by experts who are competent to do so, i.e. who have the relevant background knowledge of their subject areas and of instructional design. John writes: It is not the role of government to protect every small company. We live in a capitalist society where we are all victims of market forces. Graham writes: It's also not very nice of government, particularly this government, to introduce policies that damage small businesses like mine. They won’t get my vote again. Anyway, I am moving into other areas, such as designing websites for small local businesses. Here’s my latest: http://www.mirakel.co.uk. I doubt that the government can make much of an impact on small businesses like these. John writes: The BBC in fact were sub-contracting a lot of their Jam material to small companies. As has been reported in the press, most of these companies will now go under. Graham writes: Yes, but a lot of these companies are hi-tech presentation and multi-media companies, e.g. Illumina (as cited in David Puttnam's article above). I have worked with and for Illumina on a DfES-funded ICT training project. They are a good, competent company, but they are mainly concerned with presentation and publishing, not pedagogy or instructional design. I am not aware of the BBC sub-contracting any big names in instructional design, at least not in my area of interest, namely computer assisted language learning. John writes: It is the multinational companies who will benefit most from the decision to take Jam off the market. Graham writes: Who are the multinational players in this game? I know that RM played a key role in complaining about the money allocated to the BBC, and so did other members of BESA. But these are not really big players, are they, e.g. compared to Microsoft? John writes: It is the British taxpayers who will suffer as it means that £150m of their money will have been wasted. Graham writes: It's not too late to put the remaining money back into the production of high-quality educational TV broadcasts, which is what the BBC is really good at. As I keep saying, the units that produced high-quality TV broadcasts for learners of foreign languages at all levels have been closed down. So now we can enjoy more cheap-to-produce programmes about people buying and doing up their houses. No more high-quality broadcasts such as the last two in the series for adult language learners covering Modern Greek and Mandarin Chinese. John writes: What is more, the subscription model will not work in a free-market. Schools are not willing to spend money on materials that can be obtained free from other sites. This is why the government had to introduce e-credits. When e-credits come to an end these large companies using the subscription model will close down. Graham writes: My business is registered as a eLC supplier. We registered as an eLC supplier with great reluctance, however. I don't think you fully understand how eLCs have affected small businesses. They have caused us a lot of extra work, registering our products via an unnecessarily complex tagging tool, keeping records of schools that use eLC money to buy software, and providing monthly returns to BECTA. The result has been to restrict educational software to selected so-called "approved" products produced by a limited number of suppliers. The approval process is a mockery. There is little or no quality control. You just have to find the time to enter the details of your products via the tagging tool and upload them to the Curriculum Online website. As a result of the introduction of eLCs our turnover took a nosedive, mainly because we could no longer sell the high-quality products that we were importing from Continental Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia, as they aren't eligible for purchase with eLC funding. They are still sitting on our shelves. Remember we specialise in materials for learning foreign languages and we don't have the narrow UK-only focus of most educational software suppliers. I will be glad to see the end of eLCs, as all they have done is create a cosy clique of UK suppliers who have the time and staff to cope with the bureaucracy that they have created.
  19. BBC suspends net learning project

    Derek writes: If education damages business it is a fair indication that it is doing its job. Graham replies: Great thinking, Del! How do you feel about education wrecking Sainsbury's, Waitrose's, Tesco's et al? Where will you buy your groceries? Derek writes: Education is about the free exchange of ideas and passing on the knowledge we have *for free* to the next generation to make of it what they will. Graham writes: I agree. And I also think that teachers should work for free, just as my daughter has been doing for the last two years attempting to keep her little, home-based educational software business going without drawing a salary from it. Derek writes: And business by law is about maximising profits for shareholders. They want to sell knowledge to our children. They are not happy with the idea of people giving it away. Graham writes: Alongside the major publishers there are hundreds of educational software "mom and pop" businesses working on a shoestring budget. They have no shareholders, their partners or employees draw small salaries. I am still a partner in such a business. The most I have ever drawn in one month over the last 25 years is 1000 pounds. Currently, I am drawing zero. The sikhs who run our little corner shop don't have shareholders either. They are open all hours and they are not driving big BMWs. Derek writes: I appreciate that the BBC itself is involved with some shady entrepreneurs as a result of New Labour's policy that profiteers know best. Graham writes: I am familiar with the way the BBC works. I was a consultant to the BBC in the development of the German Steps package - which was produced on a low budget, not with the mountains of cash that were made available for BBC Jam and which just resulted in it being wasted. The members of the team that I worked with at the BBC were hard-working and competent. Here is the German Steps URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/german/lj/ I believe that you might actually be able to learn some basic useful German from this package. I wish BBC Jam French was still online. I challenge anyone, as an autonomous learner, to try and learn useful French from BBC Jam. It's all glitz, with no substance, and it shows little understanding of MFL pedagogy or methodology. If you dip your hand into your pocket and shell out 25 quid for a CD-ROM to teach you or your kids basic French you'll get good value for money. I spent 25 quid on a EuroTalk CD-ROM in order to pick up some basic Polish before going to Krakow a couple of years ago. It did the job. It was money well spent.
  20. BBC suspends net learning project

    Forget about the political issues surrounding the suspension of BBC Jam for the moment, and forget about the commercial implications. Let’s focus instead on the QUALITY of the BBC Jam products. I am a retired teacher of modern foreign languages (German and French). I cannot judge the quality of the whole range of BBC Jam products, but here’s what I wrote in a review of BBC Jam French in November 2006: START OF MY REVIEW The BBC Jam page at http://jam.bbc.co.uk opens with a Flash-driven sequence consisting of menus bouncing up and down - very jazzy, but this can create problems. It took me some time to work out what I had to do in order to call up the French materials and then find out whether I had to register as a user in the boxes inviting me to do so or just dive straight in. I decided to dive straight in. The navigation is confusing. Essentially, it's driven by a beach scene image with hot spots. The user has to explore the image to locate the activities. I didn't like it as it was unclear what I should be doing, but it might appeal to spotty 14-year-old males who like a trial-and-error approach. There are video sequences, which are irritatingly slow to load, even on my 1Mb broadband connection. These are linked with a series of multiple-choice exercises, with zero feedback apart from a tick or a cross. There is a cartoon strip (bande dessinée), which is just a linear presentation. I learned very little from this, apart from a few new French words such as "vroummm!", "boum!", "cool", "super", "crii!", and I can now recognise different motor car sounds. I've also driven my neighbours mad with the loud throbbing music in the background. I looked at the crossword puzzle based on motoring terminology. It's slow. Entering the letters takes time. And how relevant is this language to teenagers? Have the designers of BBC Jam learned nothing from the development of computer assisted language learning over the last 30 years? A lot of effort has gone into flashy presentations and not enough into the pedagogy. It's mainly linear point-and-click stuff, but dressed up with flashy presentations. The slowness of interaction will probably frustrate youngsters used to fast action video games. The BBC Jam French materials display two fundamental weaknesses, namely a lack of structure and a lack of a clear contents page indicating what's there and where it can be found. Above all, the site breaks the No. 1 rule of instructional software design insofar as it fails to provide a "default route" (v. Laurillard 1996:36: "the route through the material that the author believes to be optimal"). Providing a clear indication of what a software package contains and where it can be found saves teachers time. My frustration with BBC Jam French is due to a large extent that I haven't a clue where I am and where I am supposed to be going. I don't have the time or patience to find out things by trial and error. END OF MY REVIEW Another reviewer, Donald Clark, wrote: START OF CLARK’S REVIEW Thought I'd try the new stuff from the BBC as I have kids at the right age. Confused from the start. Menus that bounce up and down on the screen may look good but the designers need some serious help on interface design. Basic design errors abound. For example an icon with a tick on it is the confirm button, yet the meaning seems to be 'you got it right'. You have to press exit twice from each section, one would have sufficed. There's also too much loading time, this was disruptive with endless countdowns and waits. Some just didn't load at all, with no explanation. First episode is a few cartoons - linear and next to zero learning. The second is video broken down into phrases, but some edit points are in the middle of words! Identifying the parts of the car was fine, although the vocabulary (windscreen wipers, licence plate, gears etc) seems a little advanced for this age. In another you have to identify words as you hear them, but this is just identifying what's said, divorced from the meaning of what's said. In some interactive exercises when you get things wrong there's no formative feedback to tell you why or what the right answer is. The 'make your own comic' is fine, but is an exercise in sorting sentences and takes too long to navigate and complete. The DJ game is simply to identify masculine, feminine and plural, this is OK, but the vocabulary is too complex at this stage. The whole thing is VERY clunky and clumsy in navigation, style, interaction, vocabulary and learning. 'I was fiddling around with it for ages and nothing happened. It was just a movie. It was crap. It's confusing. I didn't know what to do. I felt like it was, like, I should have been getting involved more as I was getting a bit bored. I thought it'd be better cause it's BBC.' Carl (12 years old). Oh dear! END OF CLARK’S REVIEW Source: http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2006/...ticky-mess.html What appears to have happened is that the BBC commissioned a team of graphic designers, Web designers and multi-media specialists to produce a product that is essentially pedagogically unsound. If you compare BBC Jam French to the BBC’s broadcast TV programmes, to which I referred earlier, it’s crap. If it were a commercial product no one would buy it. The “rush to the Web” has resulted in the closure of the excellent units that produced broadcast TV programmes for learners of languages. Jobs have been lost and the expertise has now been dispersed to other TV stations and to commercial companies.
  21. BBC suspends net learning project

    So what do you say to my daughter, whose little home-based educational software business has taken a nosedive and who is now spending three evenings a week stacking shelves in Waitrose's in order to pay her mortgage?
  22. BBC suspends net learning project

    Essentially, I am delighted to see BBC Jam disappear. As a former language teacher, I was disappointed with the materials that were produced for learners of French - all noise and gimmicks and little evidence of sound pedagogy, especially what we have learned about computer assisted language learning over the last 30 years. As a commercial producer of software, I could not compete with the BBC, which benefited from the injection of £150 million for BBC Jam (“Money for Jam”), which derived from licence payers' money that could have been spent more wisely on producing the high-quality educational broadcasts that the BBC does so well. I saw my income from my commercial activities drop to zero over a period of two years - and so did many other small operators. The whole Digital Curriculum initiative (which embraces Curriculum Online as well as BBC Jam) has been a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money. It's resulted in a lot of money ending up in the pockets of hi-tech consultancy businesses that would not have had the slightest interest in education if the money had not been freely available and propping up failing educational software producers. You cannot compare closing down BBC Jam with closing down the NHS or schools. BBC Jam has helped drive producers of educational materials out of business. This could be compared to driving the companies on which the NHS relies, e.g. producers of hi-tech equipment, drugs etc, out of business. State schools rely on commercial producers: builders who build the schools, furniture manufacturers who make the desks and chairs, and publishers who produce books and computer software. Another thing: The shift towards Web-based materials at the BBC has resulted in the closure of the unit that produced the excellent series of TV broadcasts for adult learners of foreign languages. Shame! Producing such high-quality educational broadcasts is what the BBC is really good at.
  23. "Un American"

    Excellent informative reply, David. I agree with your explanation. I was fascinated to find on my first visit to Portugal that I could understand a good deal of written Portuguese, because of its similarity to Spanish, but I could hardly grasp a word of spoken Portuguese. Although the two languages are closely related they differ insofar as Spanish is syllable-timed whereas Portuguese is stress-timed and so, as in English, unstressed vowels in Portuguese are reduced to schwa. It makes a huge difference to the way the language sounds. I understand that Korean is syllable-timed, which probably explains why Korean students of English are trained to weaken unstressed vowels in English. I believe that speakers of syllable-timed languages generally have greater problems with English intonation patterns than speakers of stress-timed languages, e.g German, Dutch and Swedish speakers usually manage to sound "more English" than French, Spanish or Italian speakers. Hungarian was an eye-opener for me when I had to pick up a bit of the language. You hit the first syllable of each word quite hard but you have to resist the tendency to weaken the following syllables too much and to make a clear disitinction between long and short vowels regardless of where they occur in a word. I had a look at the GMU Speech Accent Archive some time ago. It's interesting to hear such a range of native speakers of different languages pronouncing English. However, I found the English dialects section a bit watered down. The Belfast speaker sounds quite "posh" to me (my wife is from Belfast). Try BBC Northern Ireland' "Give My Head Peace" pages if you want a "quare gunk": http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/gmhp/
  24. History and Modern Languages

    Modern Languages are in serious decline in schools throughout the UK. This is the result of the daft decision made by Estelle Morris, who did not seriously consider the consequences and who, as the following article by Philip Hensher points out, cannot even speak correct English: By Philip Hensher in The Independent, 6 December 2006: "If only Estelle Morris had learned French" http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnist...icle2040149.ece See the following article at the BBC site, 4 December 2006: "Languages 'should be compulsory': Universities say many pupils do not have the chance to study languages. Heads of languages at dozens of top universities are calling on the government to reverse a decision allowing pupils to drop language study. University College London is even considering making it compulsory for new entrants to have a language GCSE." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6205914.stm But see the following reactions from the public to ULC’s proposal: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbtoday/F5963509?thread=3721073 Xenophobia, ignorance and prejudice rule, OK? An O-level in a foreign language, along with English and Maths or a Science subject, was a university entrance requirement when I applied for a university place in the early 1960s, regardless of the subject one intended to study. French at that time was considered very important. It was a core subject, and an O-level in a foreign language was not only essential for university entrance but was also considered the mark of a well-educated gentleman or lady. Consequently, French was allocated the same amount of timetable time as English and Maths, which were also compulsory for university entrance. We had a 40-minute lesson every day in each of these subjects for five school years. If you get out your calculators you will find that this amounts to just under 600 class-contact hours per subject. Timetables were less crowded in those days, and “soft option” was a concept that had not yet been invented. I recall a friend of mine who studied Aeronautical Engineering complaining about having to get an O-level in French - which took him several attempts. He dismissed French as a "useless" subject - until he got his first job, working on Concorde in Bristol and having to travel regularly to Toulouse to collaborate with French engineers. I cannot recall meeting any historians at in my university days who were not competent in a foreign language. At my university they had to pass a paper that involved reading foreign-language documents and making sense of them. I believe a Foreign Language, History and Geography should be compulsory subjects at school. Make room for them by ditching some of the dubious-value trendy new subjects.
  25. History and Modern Languages

    Modern Languages are in serious decline in schools throughout the UK. This is the result of the daft decision made by Estelle Morris, who did not seriously consider the consequences and who, as the following article by Philip Hensher points out, cannot even speak correct English: By Philip Hensher in The Independent, 6 December 2006: "If only Estelle Morris had learned French" http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnist...icle2040149.ece See the following article at the BBC site, 4 December 2006: "Languages 'should be compulsory': Universities say many pupils do not have the chance to study languages. Heads of languages at dozens of top universities are calling on the government to reverse a decision allowing pupils to drop language study. University College London is even considering making it compulsory for new entrants to have a language GCSE." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6205914.stm But see the following reactions from the public to ULC’s proposal: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbtoday/F5963509?thread=3721073 Xenophobia, ignorance and prejudice rule, OK? An O-level in a foreign language, along with English and Maths or a Science subject, was a university entrance requirement when I applied for a university place in the early 1960s, regardless of the subject one intended to study. French at that time was considered very important. It was a core subject, and an O-level in a foreign language was not only essential for university entrance but was also considered the mark of a well-educated gentleman or lady. Consequently, French was allocated the same amount of timetable time as English and Maths, which were also compulsory for university entrance. We had a 40-minute lesson every day in each of these subjects for five school years. If you get out your calculators you will find that this amounts to just under 600 class-contact hours per subject. Timetables were less crowded in those days, and “soft option” was a concept that had not yet been invented. I recall a friend of mine who studied Aeronautical Engineering complaining about having to get an O-level in French - which took him several attempts. He dismissed French as a "useless" subject - until he got his first job, working on Concorde in Bristol and having to travel regularly to Toulouse to collaborate with French engineers. I cannot recall meeting any historians at in my university days who were not competent in a foreign language. At my university they had to pass a paper that involved reading foreign-language documents and making sense of them. I believe a Foreign Language, History and Geography should be compulsory subjects at school. Make room for them by ditching some of the dubious-value trendy new subjects.
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