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John Simkin

ICT in the Classroom: Current Good Practice

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This is a joke yes???

A more crappy politically biased little nonsense of a quiz I am yet to witness

I agree...

I think it's also something that needs looking at by teachers using the net. How many people looking at the link would take the trouble to click around, do some googling and find out exactly how strange some of the ideas supported by this group are? We're all encouraging our kids to get on the net to "find stuff" but I'm not sure we spend enough time teaching them how to sift the grain from the chaff. There's a lot of really weird people out there, as a casual glance at some of the "conspiracy theory" threads on this forum will show.

I will allow Terry to defend himself against these attacks. However, my defence against being classed as being one of those "really weird people" can be found here:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=3049

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This is a joke yes???

A more crappy politically biased little nonsense of a quiz I am yet to witness

I agree...

I think it's also something that needs looking at by teachers using the net. How many people looking at the link would take the trouble to click around, do some googling and find out exactly how strange some of the ideas supported by this group are? We're all encouraging our kids to get on the net to "find stuff" but I'm not sure we spend enough time teaching them how to sift the grain from the chaff. There's a lot of really weird people out there, as a casual glance at some of the "conspiracy theory" threads on this forum will show.

I will allow Terry to defend himself against these attacks. However, my defence against being classed as being one of those "really weird people" can be found here:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=3049

No one's attacking Terry are they?? I just don't rate that web site. One of the features web based learning can offer is instant interactivity. This can be used to consolidate learning, revise, review, apply, challenge and extend. Much of what we saw online in the early days was fairly low level stuff - self marking quizzes, comprehension exercises, but www.self-gov.org doesn't even get there... I don't see the point of it or how it can be seen as a learning resource in any meaningful way.

Perhaps it would be more helpful of me to present an alternative Citizenship resource?

These pages which are thus far only half way finished will be able to be used by the teacher in a real lesson situation introducing the ideas of voting, party beliefs, and citizenship.

The activities and interactivities are structured to develop and test the students learning. They are also pitched at an appropriate level for your average secondary modern KS3 pupil. They are used as the second activity phase of a tripartite lesson..... don't forget though they are not ready for use yet!!

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As I see it, there are five main advantages to the use of ICT in the History classroom:

1. Engagement/interest

2. Accessibility

3. Differentiation

4. Independence

5. Cross-curricular application

Taking them in order:

1. Engagement/interest - why is it that most pupils enjoy a lesson in the ICT suite so much? It can't be novelty value as many of their lessons are held in such places and they have grown up in an ICT-enriched world. I believe it is the interactive nature of ICT applications and resources which stimulates. Indeed, as this BBC news report shows, the interactive nature of the Internet is eating into the number of hours of TV watched by Europeans.

A text book, no matter how good and colourful, presents facts, resources and questions as a fait accompli. Although some websites are merely an online facsimile of such text books, the majority (such as Schoolhistory.co.uk/lessons) are engaging, involving pupils in the learning process. People are often told during teacher training to be a 'bigger' or more dramatic version of themselves in the classroom. Using ICT in the classroom is often like this: a simple quiz becomes 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' or a plenary session can be transformed into a highly visually-stimulating game.

2. Accessibility - in the introduction to A Brief History of the Future: the origins of the Internet, John Naughton describes how, as a child, he yearned to actually see things such as letters Abraham Lincoln wrote during the American Civil War or Leonardo da Vinci's famous 'mirror handwriting':

A biography of Mozart merely fuelled a desire to visit the British Museum and inspect one of his manuscripts for myself, if only to verify that it was as free of corrections and revisions as the author had claimed. And a book about the history of New York prompted a yearning to see the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan by night.

However, as he continues:

To a child in my position in the 1950s, these were aspirations on a par with coveting a vacation on Mars. Yet today they are virtually achievable by anyone with an Internet connection.

Being able to take pupils on a 'virtual field trip' is now fairly straightforward to achieve and, although never a replacement for actual field trips, can enliven the curriculum. In addition to this, the actual documents relevant to the pupils' programme of study can often be viewed online. This has huge benefits when teaching skills such as validity, historical reliability and usefulness.

3. Differentiation - some methods of differentiation can potentially lead to self-esteem issues. Differentiation by task, for example, can lead to certain pupils feeling inferior to their peers. Teachers often overcome this by graduated tasks or by giving pupils a choice of activity, steering more able pupils towards the higher-level option and the less able towards the lower. Using banked, networked computers this becomes even easier.

Piaget, as we all know, discussed the progression of the child. Those at the 'concrete operational' stage (approx. 7-11 years old) can deal with objects and events, but find it difficult to deal with more abstract propositions. Some pupils in secondary schools (especially those on the SEN register) will be working at this level. Trying to explain a concept such as causation, therefore, can be quite difficult using only words and static pictures. Animations using Flash can help with this enormously.

4. Independence - although many people have argued down the centuries as to the purposes of education, one upon which most would agree is to promote independence in thought. Given well thought-out extension tasks in a traditional classroom this can be developed to some extent. Given structured access to the wealth of research and resources on the Internet, however, and independent learning can really take off! The outcome of open-ended tasks can only be as good as the materials available to the participant, but when faced with the deluge of the Internet the limiting factor is the participant, not the materials.

So much for the more able pupil, but ICT can really help the less able as well. No matter what the ability of the learner, some concepts - due to prior experience, understanding, culture, and environment - can be harder to grasp than others. Imagine the scenario where the task set is to extract the ways in which a certain extract of film is biased. In the traditional History classroom the whole class would watch the clip perhaps twice, making notes whilst the film was playing. Less able pupils and those who have difficulty multi-tasking or structuring their own work would subsequently have to be given a lot of attention by the class teacher. Given the clip on a computer screen in front of them with the ability to replay it as many times as desired, and the pupil can develop their own skills rather than being, as is often the case, 'over-helped'.

5. Cross-curricular application - my last point is a small but obvious one. Subjects such as 'English', 'History' or 'Mathematics' have no ontological reality: they are human constructs to help us classify knowledge and understand methods of enquiry. Cross-curricular links, therefore, are extremely important to foster pupils' true understanding of the world around them. ICT can enable pupils to easily apply skills learned in other lessons to their historical enquiries. For example:

  • Analyzing data on the number of soldiers who died from different countries in WWI.
  • Evaluating how Haig's use of written communication.
  • Re-enacting the Battle of Hastings, filming it, and then editing the product.

Another aspect of cross-curricular application is that education becomes less parochial if schemes of work, resources and ideas from other departments (or even countries!) are used to plan lessons within a given subject.

ICT, although now taught as a discrete subject (at least in England), is still a method of communication. It is therefore imperative that applications of ICT are seamlessly integrated with more traditional methods in the curriculum. The end result should remain the same: the 'goalposts' of learning outcomes should not change just because technology makes such-and-such a thing easier to do, more fun, or more exciting. Given a work-out-of-a-text-book lesson with real, measurable learning outcomes versus an unfocussed all-singing, all-dancing lesson using every application of ICT imaginable, I'd always plump for the former. ICT is a means, not an end.

:) Doug

Edited by Doug Belshaw

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One of the things I fogot to mention in my original list was the facility which ICT offers for 'problematising' the past.

Jim Schick in the US has argued that the eye-catching features of multimedia have deflected attention away from more meaningful facets of interactivity. Does the activity force the learner to think, rather than simply remember, does it put the seeds of a new idea in learners’ minds? Does it make them think about ‘connections’ (either temporal or geo-political) that had not occurred to them before- including links to present day problems and dilemmas? Does the question posed intrigue the learner in a way that encourages them to read in more depth, and persevere in a difficult enquiry? Does it disturb their preconceptions?

In his 'History a short introduction', John Arnold points out that the Greek word which has become ‘history’ originally meant ‘to enquire’, ‘and more specifically, indicated a person who was able to choose wisely between conflicting accounts’ (Arnold, 2000: 18). The ‘Communications’ strand in ICT has transformed the scope for presenting pupils with a range of differing interpretations and representations of the past, and ‘conflicting accounts.’ Given limitations of space in even the best of text books, it increases the opportunities for pupils to learn history ‘by reading multiple texts on the same topic, and by discussing controversies of interpretation’. (Britt et al, 2000: 438) The internet, and some of the more recently produced history CD-roms make it much easier for the history teacher to set up an argument or problem relating to the past, in such a way that pupils have to think, reason, and make judgements and decisions about information, rather than simply ‘learning it’. This is the ‘real’ interactivity that Jim Schick refers to in his papers on interactivity through the use of ICT, not the Tony Blair (1995) definition ('The other important thing about CD-roms of course is that they are interactive. Learning is no longer a matter of passively receiving information; you can become actively involved in the process, answering quizzes, manipulating images, summoning up pictures or music and pasting together your own notebook of words, images and sounds on screen.', or the Bill Gates (1995)definition: ‘the person controls what he or she sees or hears’.

In defence of the 'World's shortest political quiz', whenever I have used it it has generated argument and discussion (real human interactivity), it makes the point that political position is not just a matter of where you are on the left-right wing continuum, but whether you believe in 'statism' or laisser-faire' (an important part of understanding, for example, what happened over the course of the French Revolution, Fascism etc).

As for the quiz being politically biased, this is part of its use in developing/sharpening pupils'/learners' internet literacy. It is only after I have pointed out, at the end of the activity, that the site is the home of the Libertarian Society, that pupils grasp that the quiz was not neutral, that they have been manipulated. Even PGCE trainees have not questioned the provenance of the questions.

The other advantage (although it makes it crude and limited in scope), is that it is quick to do. 'Political Compass' is a more elaborate exploration of political position but there are six pages of questions and it takes a long time for pupils to work through it.

In England now, developing pupils' political literacy is part of the responsibilities of school history, and I think that these forms of quiz can help to develop pupils' understanding of some political concepts. How many of your pupils have a sophisticated understanding of the political concepts which are part of these exercises? Compared to 'Throw the teacher' etc, I still feel that such activities have more potential to be meaningfully interactive, if accompanied (as always) by intelligent teacher questioning and exposition. Anyway.... I've overexplained enough.

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I agree with much of what Terry posts here. However if we are to agree that there is a hierarchy of thinking skills it is perhaps appropriate in schools to get the pupils on the first rung of the ladder first - comprehension, knowledge, recall, context. Practising classroom teachers are also very must products of the 'League Table' mentality which pushes us towards the old "body of knowledge" model of teaching using modern technology.

However I think it is mistaken to draw such a stark comparison between the "interactivity" of the quizzes, games and activities found on my site and others written by practising classroom teachers, and the higher ranking thinking skills we would like to see developed through ICT.

The key questions are how are such activities used and in what context. The computer does not replace the teacher in the classroom. A relatively simple and apparently comprehension focussed e-learning object can be used to stimulate critical and thoughtful debate. ICT on its own cannot do this. This can only be achieved through discursive human interaction. The resource is the stimulus only.

I dare say the skilled teacher could even make the online politics Quiz I slated earlier useful :blink:

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My first website was constructed in connection with the work we did at Virtual School. After the Toulouse meeting March 2002 I made a site about “Sweden and the Spanish Civil War”. At this site I meant to gather a lot of different sources about the official Swedish reaction and Swedes that participated in the war. I got a permit to use and translate material from a Swedish writer, Göte Nilsson who had interviewed several Swedish volunteers in the beginning of the 1970’s (Svenskar i spanska inbördeskriget. (Swedes in the Spanish Civil War). P.A. Nordstedt & Söners Förlag. Stockholm, 1972). In connection with this I also carried out my own interview with a volunteer, living in Gothenburg. At the University Library in Gothenburg I followed the war through the newspapers (five newspapers representing different political opinions) and gathered copies of specific events like the outbreak of the war, some notes about the Swedes that was going to participate in the People’s Olympic Games, the reports about Swedes in Spain, the bombing of Guernica, the May riots in Barcelona etc… I also read and listed the written material that had been published in Sweden (in Swedish) with the intention to use it in some articles at the website. Some material was put together and published, both in English and Swedish, with the help of Richard at the schools server in Toulouse.

What had I then done with ICT that improved the quality of teaching/learning, which would have been impossible/difficult to achieve without ICT?

My first attempt was directed towards a Virtual School project and therefore it was of limited use in my own classroom though I let my IB students read the interviews and the official Swedish reaction to the war. This website had more an all-European dimension since several people participated in the same project and they also contributed with material. This would have been very difficult to achieve without ICT. I still keep some of this material on my website today so anybody can, free of charge, get access to information about the Swedish reaction to the Spanish Civil War based on different sources (and several interviews). This would not have been possible without ICT!

My following websites has been mostly connected with my teaching at Hvitfeldtska Gymnasiet, Gothenburg (a secondary school in the centre of town). The website has several functions;

1. It’s a web based “diary” for the students of the different classes where they are able to go in and see what happened during the previous lessons and a bit about what’s coming up; home work, tests, deadlines for certain papers, projects etc… Sure this can be done by handing out papers at every lesson, but the web based “diary” has several advantages. If you are sick (or just absent) you can fairly fast and easy find out what happened during the lesson you missed. You can also find out what’s expected from you to the next lesson. When you try to gather your notes at the end of the year to prepare for the “End of Year Exams” or the final Exams you can go back and see what has been covered, material used, pages read, etc… Putting this information on the website has saved a lot of time, both for me and my students.

2. It’s a “library” for the students of History where I started to publish my own papers and present links to sites which cover areas in our courses. This will make it easier for the students to see the variety of material that does exist and sometimes great connections to primary sources. The material at the pages gives enough references to carry out many smaller projects and a few role plays which would have been much harder with “just” class-room material (and one chosen textbook). Now the textbook serves as a teaser and summary but the web based material gives the opportunity to go into depth when necessary. This is possible with written material that you bring to class as well but the use of ICT makes this process much easier and less time consuming.

3. It’s a “library” for more official papers and some presentations like the Swedish Course Plans for History (published by Skolverket), the individual course plan for each class, agendas and meeting minutes from the History Department, presentation of the History Department and all the activities connected to us, a presentation and a link to each history teacher at school, etc…

4. It’s a developing project… In Gothenburg History I’ll let the students read and copy primary sources about the inhabitants of a certain part of Gothenburg called Haga. They check out who lived at a certain house/apartment building the years 1880 and 1900. The records are usually tax records so they can also find out the relation between the members of each household, their occupation (often noted exactly where they worked), ages, if the person lived on “welfare”, affiliation with different congregations, etc… Then they make some conclusions about the change between the two given years. This project exposes students to “history research”, it gives them some insight in where to find material about the Cities past and they are able to present and see their results on the web – Published!!! This last part is an important factor which encourages some of them to perform better than they normally do.

5. It’s a chance for me to publish my own small projects. In connection with VS I started a few projects (gathered material and wrote some papers). These I intend to publish on my own site as well as the official VS site. This publishing ability is very important when you want to create material. I think that many of us has loads of projects, papers, etc… in our bookcases. The website gives me an opportunity to let other people benefit from what I’m doing as well as I get to publish something without the depressing delays and financing problems the publishing of a book would bring along.

In May 2004 I arranged a VS department meeting in Gothenburg and to this specific event I created a little website for the meeting. This was very convenient because it gave me the opportunity to inform, write an agenda, present different places in the city, etc… and change all of these parts when ever necessary. Much easier than just send out the basic information without the opportunity to gradually update what’s going on. This has also been a way to use ICT which would have been more difficult without it.

Some of the things above have inspired some colleagues and students. I know that I’m only in the beginning of my own learning process and that my website of today is a very traditional early attempt, but it has widen my own perspective and ideas, it has contributed to my own organization and its slowly but gradually changing the way I’m teaching (this last part includes the disadvantage from being a slow learner).

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Jim Schick in the US has argued that the eye-catching features of multimedia have deflected attention away from more meaningful facets of interactivity.

There's a neat story about this in "In Search of the Virtual Class". One of the authors had been to Mexico to evaluate their educational TV service in the 1980s. Groups of secondary school pupils in areas which were too poor to have their own school studied the same curriculum as regular schools studied, and learned in groups from TV programmes with the support of printed materials (but usually without a teacher). At the end of the course the pupils took the same exams as pupils in regular schools.

There was one small town in the shadow of a volcano, where the TV signals only got through well enough to transmit sound (i.e. not pictures). The pupils studying there achieved the highest scores of all the schools in the whole of Mexico (both conventional and TV-based) …

One tentative conclusion was that the pictures actually distracted the pupils from learning, rather than enhancing it.

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Jim Schick in the US has argued that the eye-catching features of multimedia have deflected attention away from more meaningful facets of interactivity. Does the activity force the learner to think, rather than simply remember, does it put the seeds of a new idea in learners’ minds? Does it make them think about ‘connections’ (either temporal or geo-political) that had not occurred to them before- including links to present day problems and dilemmas? Does the question posed intrigue the learner in a way that encourages them to read in more depth, and persevere in a difficult enquiry? Does it disturb their preconceptions?

I absolutely agree with Terry on the idea that sometimes "the eye-catching features of multimedia" can be a nuisance. Fortunately, as time goes by it is more and more difficult to come across those unbearable web sites with gaudy colours and spasmodic things moving around.

On the contrary, multimedia and ICT can be very powerful to implement "connections" in students' minds. I think this is one the most important challenges in the future. Mind maps, adequate sequences of different sort of activities that imply diverse mental abilities... can be extremely positive for our teaching history.

The key questions are how are such activities used and in what context. The computer does not replace the teacher in the classroom. A relatively simple and apparently comprehension focussed e-learning object can be used to stimulate critical and thoughtful debate. ICT on its own cannot do this. This can only be achieved through discursive human interaction. The resource is the stimulus only.

As Andy says, teaching and learning are human activities. Men and women use different resources to achieve their goals. ICT is only a tool. Nothing more than that. The point is why most of the teachers go on using so ancient tools to teach in the 21st century. We, teachers willing to use ICT in the classroom, are to discover the best way to use ICT to achieve the same goals that teaching has tried to fulfil at least from the Enlightenment.

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We plan to hold our first E-HELP meeting in Toulouse (17th February – 20th February). The theme of the first meeting is the identification of current good practice. We hope to run part of our meeting online and would like as many people as possible to get involved in our debates.

We will be discussing the value-added aspect of ICT. What have you done (or seen done) with ICT that has improved the quality of teaching/learning, that would have been impossible/difficult to achieve without ICT? 

The E-HELP team is  interested in your ideas. If this thread is successful we hope to get this material published in book form.

I am very much looking forward to the trip to Toulouse and to meet you all.

I have been rather busy with different projects like the Spring Day in Europe 2005 project.

I am the national pedagogical adviser for Hungary on the international advisory board of this project, and besides that I do all the translations of the texts that appear on the website. Incidentally I do some teaching at school, and some teacher training as well. :-)

Well, but here comes some examples of how I made use of ICT:

Introduction

I am a Hungarian EFL teacher at an academic grammar school in Nagykanizsa and have been interested in the potentials of information technology in English as a foreign language (EFL) education since 1997, when I read about email projects in English language teaching journals (e.g., Tillyer, A. (1997) “The InfiNET Possibilities: English Teachers on the Internet.” Forum 35.1, pp. 16-25.). I began to understand hardware and software, the use of teaching and learning packages, and some of the latest developments on the Internet, such as easy and free file and voice message exchanges and the opportunities of their use at schools supported by a scheme founded by the Ministry of Education. I started thinking about the application of the technology to meet the requirements of communicative methodology and the project-based approach. As an EFL teacher and a British Council in-service teacher educator, I had an opportunity to take an increasingly growing interest in developing teaching practices and methods.

I have been involved in several projects with my students, such as the ones I mention in an article I have written about collaborative projects, and the Tolerance project, Spring Day chats, and even the Spring Day eventswere trigerred by and preceded by some online preparation and collaborative work. I have also got my students engaged in webquest projects. I have created several webquests (e.g. Webquest on tolerance, Webquest on the Enlargement), and online games like the online quiz on the enlarged Europe, and have created together with my students the visual poster on Hungary, and this year I will try to get my students' reflection on such texts as the Charter of the Fundamental Human Rights of the European Union.

I have found several benefits of ICT projects. They increase students’ self-esteem as they realise that English is not only another compulsory subject they have to learn at school but it is a vehicle for communicating with their peers all over the world. My experiences with online projects also show that they accommodate different learning styles - e.g. shy students open up when it comes to writing emails; learners are encouraged and motivated to become involved in authentic communicative situations. In keypal projects students write for a real audience, usually to their peers instead of merely composing a piece of writing for the teacher. In addition, the privacy afforded by technology allows learners to participate cooperatively in the educational process.

I think ICT projects can reduce the feelings of isolation by linking schools with the global community, and by creating a student-centred learning environment the teacher’s role changes from being the purveyor of information to the role of an organiser, collaborator and coach. Students and instructors do not need to be masters at ICT skills. The only prerequisites of ICT projects are to enable students to communicate, search for and analyse information in an electronic environment.

The essential role for teachers in our era is, as I see it, to give students the opportunity to discover and take an active part in this new world, which has an increasingly important part in our lives.

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I was interested to read about János's background as an EFL teacher in Hungary. I was Director of the East European Computer Assisted Language Learning project (EECALL) in Hungary from 1991 to 1996. The project was funded under the EC TEMPUS programme and involved setting up the EECALL Centre at Dániel Berzsenyi College, Szombathely, which offered in-service training courses in ICT to teachers of English and German, as well as to students undergoing initial teacher training. Over the period of five years we trained hundreds of Hungarian language teachers in ICT, as well as offering language courses to former teachers of Russian who were required to undergo retraining as teachers of English or German. The culmination of the EECALL project was the 1996 EUROCALL conference, which was hosted by Dániel Berzsenyi College:

http://www.eurocall-languages.org/confs/pastconfs.html

EUROCALL awards an annual scholarship in memory of the late János Kohn, who was the first Head of the EECALL Centre. The annual scholarship enables a young Hungarian teacher or researcher to participate in a EUROCALL conference by providing €400 towards the cost of attendance:

http://www.eurocall-languages.org/research/kohn.html

This year's EUROCALL conference will take place in Cracow, Poland:

http://www.eurocall-languages.org.pl

I have fond memories of my regular visits to Hungary. I even managed to learn a little bit of Hungarian:

Egy kicsit beszélek magarul. A magyar nyelv nagyen nehéz, hanem érdekes!

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I was interested to read about János's background as an EFL teacher in Hungary. I was Director of the East European Computer Assisted Language Learning project (EECALL) in Hungary from 1991 to 1996.  ...........

Thank you very much for the information you have provided. It is really great to hear that you used to work in Hungary and actually at an institution I know very well since I graduated from that college before finishing my university studies.

I hope you have some nice memories from your stay in Hungary.

Unfortunately I haven't been lucky enough to know Janos Kohn, the highly valued and respected EUROCALL colleague. But next time when thinking of going to a EUROCALL conference I'll make sure to apply for the scholarship.

Otherwise Crakow is a wonderful place. I was invited by British Council Poland to an ICT training held there in Crakow (9-12 September 2004) and ran several workshops there.

The town is magnificient! Grazyna Studzinska was there, too. I'm absolutely sure that she is doing a good job organising the upcoming EUROCALL conference.

Your Hungarian is impressive. In Toulouse you could brush up your Hungarian with my wife since her English is rather poor.

Remélem hamarosan látjuk egymást! :-)

Janos

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I think ICT projects can reduce the feelings of isolation by linking schools with the global community, and by creating a student-centred learning environment the teacher’s role changes from being the purveyor of information to the role of an organiser, collaborator and coach. Students and instructors do not need to be masters at ICT skills. The only prerequisites of ICT projects are to enable students to communicate, search for and analyse information in an electronic environment.

The essential role for teachers in our era is, as I see it, to give students the opportunity to discover and take an active part in this new world, which has an increasingly important part in our lives.

I agree. All the projects I have been involved with have encouraged collaboration within Europe. I would like to see this taken a stage further. Given the problems that our world faces we need to collaborate with teachers throughout the world. This International Education Forum makes this possible. We now have active members from a large number of countries outside Europe.

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Hello

I’m Leslie Simonfalvi, a teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages and a teacher trainer for the same. I’m also the director of the International Language School Group and the International Teacher Training & Development College in Budapest, Hungary.

The whole thing, i. e. flirting with computers and IT and ITC, started back in 1982 at that time Hungary, along with other ‘communist countries’, was under a very strict technological blocade and the COCOM – list [acrynom for Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls] still applied.

We [and by ‘we’ I will understand my brother Louis representing the LOGOS Foundation and the LOGOS Language School, and myself representing the International Language School Group and our training agent the International Teacher Training & Development College, all in Budapest, Hungary,] teach persons through English.

For this we use the Communicative Approach to teaching, and the Humanistic Approach – Person-Centred Approach to people. It also means that technology and technical devices, including CALL, and IT , and ITC, can only come to the second place. To the extremely important second place right after interpersonal relationships.

I was educated for my present profession in England and elsewhere in Europe, so I knew about the existence of certain technical possibilities, but these possibilities were strictly limited by the COCOM – list and politics. We knew what others might aim at doing and we had to do the same or better within very strict technological limits.

We were invited to Rome in 1983 on a CALL Conference and there we showed our CATS program [Computer Aided Testing System - a sophisticated educational software offering step-by-step feedback to the student by telling him whether or not his answer was correct, displaying the correct answer, calculating the score and the reading speed, measuring the time and giving a printed certificate of achievement].

We also showed LOOK SHARP [a series of printed booklets that contained the language material in a HARDWARE – SOFTWARE – PAPERWARE tripartite system; altogether some 10,000 tests], and we called CATS and LOOK SHARP together as RED FISH .

We made tests of Grammar, Vocabulary, Language Functions, Reading Comprehension, as well as General Knowledge, Science, History, Geography, Literature, Fine Arts, various fields of Engineering, Human Relations, Management, and Business. The test format varied from True – False, through Multiple Choice, and Matching – Relationship Analysis, to Find-the-Odd-Man-Out.

It was great success and for our students the horror of traditional exams and testing periods was transformed into the joy of achievement and new discoveries. We did the LOOK SHARP material as speechwork in cooperative – helping groups and we sent the computer aided work into the self-access centre or home.

This system worked with Commodore 64. or ZX 81, or Enterprise 128, or even with a Sharp KA –160 pocket-computer. This is what bus drivers used to print tickets on ‘Pay-the-driver’ buses …

All this would have been totally impossible without IT and ITC and without the creativity induced by our primitive conditions, many thanks to COCOM. Please do not forget that we live in the country of John Neumann …

At about 1989 John and Muriel Higgins from the UK offered a series of educational software for the English teachers of the ex-communist countries free of charge. One of them is called Sequitur and it is a story-reconstruction program, normally based on Listening Comprehension. Since it does not accept anything but perfect syntax, it helps composition skills, both oral and written, a lot. Students do it again and again up till the result is 100% and the time is below 1 minute.

Another program is called Eclipse and it reconstructs stories in a bottom-up approach. The whole text appears as a series of dots, as many as the number of letters in the words, and we have to type in words 1 by 1 up till the text is complete. Since it does not take anything but perfect spelling, it helps an otherwise much feared skill a lot.

There are five such programs altogether and they are editable by the teacher. We pumped something like 50,000 pages into these programs, and the same text appeared in different test formats. It made the students practice-time totally tailor-made and all students could work on materials that had top-priority according to the needs-analysis, or client-mapping, or a Pareto Analysis.

All these would have been totally impossible without IT, and ITC, and John and Muriel Higgins.

Now I will list the more recent IT – ITC ventures more briefly. If anyone is interested in any one of these, I would be willing to detail them later.

We have a Chatty Class running all the year round, really non-stop, every morning for 90 minutes. There are 5 to 7 triples in the classroom and the groups are formed on the ‘find your relative stranger’ – basis. It is very similar to the principle widely used in management: ‘work on the relationship with the least favoured co-worker’.

Each triplet has a topic that is different from, but closely related to the other topics in the room. As if they were different segments of a jigsaw puzzle. In about 30 to 45 minutes the triplets process their topic till full understanding. After a global understanding, they can use dictionaries, printed or electronic, computer encyclopedias [Encarta, Webster, Encyclopedia Britannica, Guinness, Eyewitness, Genie, Cambridge, etc.], the Internet, and as a matter of course they can ask the trainer – teacher.

When they are ready, they change partners, tell their topics and listen to the others’. In four or five rounds they complete the jigsaw: they learn their own stories by telling, and they learn the others’ stories by listening. If one group is ready but the others are not yet, they have time-killer exercises handy to work on.

It is all intensive speechwork and after such a high level of fluency in the topic they feel the urge to read more and write something about it. For this end, they can take home all the topics built into computer programs, their own as well as the others’. The analyses of the time needed and of the mistakes will show the successful communication, as well as the blocks in the communication, within the class.

All this would be totally impossible without IT and ITC.

Now, something completely different. I’m a very busy man and besides teaching and training I have a managerial job, too. I run a paperless office and my home computer is linked to the computers in the office, in the multimedia classroom, and in my educational planning – production room.

The whole thing would be totally impossible without IT and ITC.

Last year I translated Carl Rogers’ ‘On becoming a Person’ into Hungarian. It’s a massive job partly because it’s 400 pages, and partly because it’s a sort of English that was too difficult for many Americans to read back in the 50s.

I scanned the English version and simply wrote the Hungarian version between the lines. I sent it to the editor like that chapter by chapter attached to emails and both the publisher’s reader and the editor had relatively easy jobs with that arrangement of the material.

The use of IT and ITC made the whole job possible at all.

We are the local training agents for the EDEXCEL – University of London Diploma in Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages project. Something like 100 of my students have entered for this program and they live in more than 80 different places all over Hungary. Candidates / trainees collect all study materials through email messages and on CDs, and they turn in all their work the same way.

We have formed a learning community and we keep in touch through the email on a daily basis. If any one of them writes anything, they will send it to all the other members of the group. We have a classroom too, and candidates / trainees can organize Special Interest Groups and turn up in the classroom to work in cooperative groups. All this is self-directed peer-learning.

It would be totally impossible without the proper use of IT and ITC.

The International Teacher Training & Development College is the total opposite of many other existing colleges http://www.ilsgroup.hu/ilsgroup.php?in=ittdc/index . For example there is no entrance examination. Instead, we have a 300-hour pedagogical live-in arrangement during which both parties can decide whether they want the other or not.

We show potential trainees what the teacher’s job would entail and they can decide whether they still want to be teachers or not. During the same time they show us how they learn and through their learning capacities we can extrapolate to their future teaching capacities.

The six semesters are seen as one extended conversation and this kind of work-mode needs a very flexible organization of study-materials. Through the use of the Internet and CDs and DVDs and the rest the material is extended and / or polished each and every day. If a student or trainee asks a good question, I write both the question and the answer into the material within a minute.

It would be totally impossible without the clever use of IT and ITC. If anyone is interested in it in more details, I would be quite happy to write a rigmarole on a lesson we learned about Wickham.

For the last three years I’ve been working on a huge program called Dilemmatic Grammar. http://ilsgroup.blogspot.com/2005/02/project-summary.html

It helps LD students [Learning Disabled – Learning Difficulty – Learning Difference], as well as Asperger Syndrome and Semantic – Pragmatic Disorder students in their comprehension and in their meaningful memorization.

If / when it is ready, it might be about 60,000 frames [PowerPoint and similar arrangement]. It would be totally impossible to handle without the expert use of IT and ITC and Blogs http://ilsgroup.blogspot.com/2005/02/project-summary.html

The International Language School Group Cheese Test is something really unique. It shows on the screen with the help of [Flash] whether a certain answer to a test question was correct or not, as well as the hierarchical position of a certain mistake as related to our 12 grades from Total Beginner up to Proficiency and above.

With the help of this test we can do the level-testing on the basis of the next logical step in a student’s learning rather than on the basis of the percentage of the test score. It is very important since students with the same percentage / score may or may not work together very well, but students having the same urgent problem to solve most definitely will.

It would be totally impossible without an expert use of IT and ITC.

Last but not least, participating in FORUMS like this would be totally out of the question without the clever use of IT and ITC.

Thank you.

Leslie

Edited by leslie simonfalvi

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Leslie writes:

At about 1989 John and Muriel Higgins from the UK offered a series of educational software for the English teachers of the ex-communist countries free of charge. One of them is called Sequitur and it is a story-reconstruction program, normally based on Listening Comprehension. Since it does not accept anything but perfect syntax, it helps composition skills, both oral and written, a lot. Students do it again and again up till the result is 100% and the time is below 1 minute.

Another program is called Eclipse and it reconstruct stories in a bottom-up approach. The whole text appears as a series of dots, as many as the number of letters in the words, and we have to type in words 1 by 1 up till the text is complete. Since it does not take anything but perfect spelling, it helps an otherwise much feared skill a lot.

Eclipse was developed from a program called Storyboard, originally written by John Higgins, published by Wida Software and now forming part of Wida’s package, The Authoring Suite. Storyboard was originally called Rebuild, which was derived from a program known as Masker by Tim Johns, University of Birmingham. A variation of this, also written by Tim Johns, was Textbag, which first appeared in the early 1980s.

John Higgins and I adapted Storyboard for the BBC Microcomputer, and it was published in by ESM under a new name: Copywrite. Copywrite now forms part of Camsoft’s Fun with Texts package: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/fwt.htm

There are numerous other variations of the same idea: Developing Tray (Bob Moy / ILECC, London), TextPlay (Simon Fenn / Cambridge University Press), Storyline (Martin Phillips / British Council), Storycorner (Wolfgang Meyer, Germany) and a Swedish version by Åke Hägg, published by Corona, Malmö and known as Memory. John Higgins went on to produce yet another variation of Storboard, known as Rhubarb: see Higgins J. (2001) “Text reconstruction: what else happens in Eclipse?” TELL&CALL 1/2001: 17-19:

http://www.e-lisa.at/magazine/tellcall/01_01.asp

All these programs fall into the category of what is known as Total Cloze text-reconstruction or text-manipulation activities. See Section 8 of Module 1.4 at the ICT4LT website: http://www.ict4lt.org Fun with Texts continues to be a best-seller and is currently used in over 3000 UK secondary schools.

By the way, John Higgins and I wrote one of the first books on CALL: Computers, language and language learning, CILT, London, 1982. This was revised in 1985 and reissued as Using computers in language learning.

Regarding language testing, see Module 4.1 at the ICT4LT site and the DIALANG diagnostic language testing website: http://www.dialang.org

Yes, a lot of things would not be possible without ICT. The Total Cloze activity would not be possible using pencil and paper - or rather it would, but it would be a completely different kind of exercise and require an awful lot of time.

Footnote: I was in Hungary in 1989 too. I attended the 1989 conference on CALL at the University of Debrecen.

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Hungary was certainly in the vanguard of East European computer assisted language learning in the 1980s when it was still a "people's republic". During that decade I collected every CALL book around and I still have my copy of Mikroszámítógépek használata az idegennyelv-oktatásban by Dr Kecskés István from 1987!

I also have the proceedings of the 1st International Symposium on Computer Assisted Language Learning held at Kossuth University in Debrecen, November 12-13, 1985, where that jewel of British foreign language courseware, "Granville", was showcased by its developer Barry Jones. We forget sometimes how much East-West exchange of information about CALL preceded the fall of communism.

For the last three years I’ve been working on a huge program called Dilemmatic Grammar.  http://ilsgroup.blogspot.com/2005/02/project-summary.html It helps LD students [Learning Disabled – Learning Difficulty – Learning Difference], as well as Asperger Syndrome and Semantic – Pragmatic Disorder students in their comprehension and in their meaningful memorization.

I have a research interest in the application of information and communication technology (ICT) to the teaching of languages to learners with special educational needs. Have you published any papers describing how your Dilemmatic Grammar has actually been used with LD, ASD and SPD foreign language learners? If so, I would like to include references to them in my online bibliography of modern foreign languages and special educational needs at

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/mfl/biblio.doc

There is a particular dearth of research literature about foreign language learners with autistic spectrum disorders. By way of contrast, the issue of foreign language learners with learning disabilities (or as we call them in the UK "specific learning difficulties" or SpLD for short) has generated many publications. My bibliography lists over 400 of them.

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

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