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Graham Davies

ICT Amenability and MFL

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BECTA have produced a report entitled "ICT, amenability and the BBC digital curriculum service". I found a downloadable version in PDF format on this page:

http://www.becta.org.uk/corporate/corporat...tion=12&id=3363

What do colleagues think of the MFL section on p. 17? How "amenable" are Modern Foreign Languages to being taught with the help of ICT? Has the report got it right?

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I've just glanced through the BECTA document. No wonder you poor teachers in the UK are going cross-eyed having to wade through this kind of stuff!

Here's what I thought was a significant passage:

"We note,however,that some requirements are not amenable.These are listed below.In particular,4b,– which requires pupils to ‘be taught about different countries and cultures by communicating with native speakers’– is considered non-amenable in the context of speaking and listening,though amenable in the context of reading and writing.It is possible that developments in technology will alter this position,and this outcome may be reviewed at some point in the future."

It strikes me that, once again, the writers have got caught up on the 'I' element of ICT (information) and missed the 'C' (communication), with the hidden assumption that learning a modern foreign language is just a matter of getting the bits of information in the right order.

We have the technology now to 'alter this position'. Should any of you out there wish to link up a class in France with a class in Germany (learning French, for example) with a class in the UK (learning French, for example) in order to speak French and ask questions, all you'd need is a cheap webcam, a headset with a microphone and a broadband connection, and I'm sure we can make our Marratech server available. Imagine if you lent each class a digital camera and asked them to take pictures of their day (breakfast table, trip to school, typical lesson, break, lunch, after-school activity, evening meal, typical evening at home). You'd have enough material for a term's lessons, and listening and speaking would be just about all they'd do.

Years ago (1995) the place I worked at ran a French course (university level) where the teachers were both in Sweden and Tours and communication took place with another ICT, namely ISDN-based video conferencing. I remember one session in particular when they brought into the studio in France an Algerian doctor who'd married the daughter of a Frenchman who was thrown out of Algeria at independence, losing his possessions and a comfortable lifestyle. The doctor was also a Muslim and his wife's family were firm Catholics, so the Swedish class had lots and lots to ask about, both on a 'historical' level and personally (such as, which religion have you brought your children up in?).

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I agree with David. I think the document got it wrong regarding 4b. We have videoconferencing and we have Wimba, both of which can facilitate communicating with native speakers in different countries. We also have the telephone!

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There's a good article on ICT in MFL in the education section of today's Independent (14 Oct). I am biased when I say "good" as they have quoted me extensively (and accurately), and they did follow up an important lead that I gave them:

http://education.independent.co.uk/schools...sp?story=571842

It's nice to be listened to. I sent BECTA a long email on ICT Amenability and MFL, but they appear to have ignored it totally.

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