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David Wilson

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About David Wilson

  • Birthday 05/24/1947

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    Newcastle upon Tyne

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  1. Holger: Have you done an online search with MFL and Moodle as search terms? I've just done one and several schools and courses were flagged up: http://learning.thedustonschool.northants....egory.php?id=16 http://www.rsc-london.ac.uk/cms/865/ http://www.ag-consulting.co.uk/mflelearning/tools.htm http://moodle.fallibroome.cheshire.sch.uk/...egory.php?id=12 When I've researched the use of ICT in MFL, I've always started with the problem - the teaching point within MFL I wanted to impart - before proceeding to the solution, which may or may not involve ICT. Choosing the solution before defining the problem seems like putting the cart before the horse. And MFL teachers are likelier to adopt new technologies such as VLEs if they begin with what they know - the MFL teaching tasks they have to be perform - before casting round for imaginative and effective ways of delivering them. I've attended too many INSET sessions when a new technology was demonstrated and the only impact was to dazzle the multidisciplinary audience. There was little follow-up and little take=up, because no spadework had been done on finding out what the real underlying educational issues were. Pedagogy must come before technology.
  2. The teaching dream I used to have regularly was one about the A-level German Literature exam. I would go into the exam room to have a look at the paper, only to find that it had no questions about any of the set books I had taught my students. I had taught them the wrong set books, those prescribed either for the previous year's exam session or the following year's. I could barely look my students in the eye and they glared accusingly back at me from their desks. This never happened to me in real life, but I still occasionally dream the same nightmare even though I last taught A-level back in 1990. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  3. On the TES Forum, a poster drew my attention to an interesting statistical analysis of the relative difficulty of school subjects when they are examined at GCSE level: http://www.cemcentre.org/Documents/News/su...tiesbyrasch.pdf This topic seems timely as the annual debate goes on about what constitutes a "hard" and a "soft" subject. The traditional universities seem to favour the former, while even brighter school students are increasingly choosing to play safe with the latter at KS4 option time. I'm particularly concerned about the way this trend is impinging on continuation rates for MFL. The document comes from the Durham University CEM stable, the people who devised MidYis and YELLIS tests to provide schools with baseline assessments of the literacy, numeracy and non-verbal skills of their Year 7 and Year 10 pupils, to predict their likely GCSE grades over a range of subjects, and more controversially, to supply evidence of pupils' under-, over- and in-line achievement for individual teachers' performance management. Anyway, the document seems to confirm what we all surmised, that Latin is the hardest subject, followed by single sciences and modern foreign languages. The "usual suspects", e.g. PE and Media Studies, do indeed appear to be the easiest options when aspiring for higher GCSE grades. There are regular postings on TES Forum from teachers of so-called "soft" subjects, protesting that it's really much harder to get an "A" in the likes of Media Studies than it is in English Literature. As a curmudgeonly educational traditionalist, I'm having none of it! What do others think? David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  4. I'm glad I moved from MFL into Special Educational Needs in the mid-1990s. When my school was 11-18, it used to be a worry getting enough "bums on seats" to run a one-class (Upper and Lower Sixth together) A-level German course. Now the problem is affecting KS4 MFL. Surely the government must have seen this coming when they decided to make MFL study voluntary after key stage 3. The oft-vaunted rejoinder that primary MFL will compensate for the drop in pupil numbers doesn't give me any satisfaction. I lived through the first, Nuffield, primary MFL initiative back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which produced magnificent linguists but fizzled out because of a shortage of suitably qualified teachers. I hope the latest initiative doesn't go the same way and we are left with just three years of "MFL for all". I subscribe to the language teachers' forum Linguanet and yesterday I posted a message on that discussion group about an Ofsted document of 2005 entitled "'You don't know at the time how useful they'll be.': Implementing modern foreign languages entitlement in Key Stage 4" and downloadable from http://tinyurl.com/fpwv4 The publication interests me professionally because it highlights good practice in making MFL less élitist and more inclusive at key stage 4. I don't want MFL to return to the status it occupied when I began studying it back in the early 1960s and it was a subject for the select few. I've had no response to my message so far on Linguanet. I wonder whether I will have better luck here? David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  5. I agree with Graham. I check into the forum regularly, always clicking the "View New Posts" button, and I'm always disappointed when the JFK thread is the only one to be active. These days, I spend most of my "online forum time" with the TES Forum, which has very active modern languages and special needs sections, the two areas that interest me professionally. The TES Forum has the advantage of a "critical mass" of primary and secondary school teachers who are prepared to read messages and respond with advice and opinion. The forum has an excellent resource bank to which I have contributed - schoolteachers do like to share and borrow classroom resources! On the downside, there can be aggressive trolling and personal abuse on certain TES forum threads which goes far beyond what is acceptable. So all forums have their good and bad points. What I appreciate on The Education Forum is the thoughtful, courteous correspondence that invariably ensues when an educational topic exercises the minds of a sizeable body of the membership. When this happens, intelligent people drawn from a multidisciplinary background share their ideas, views, problem-solving strategies. More light than heat is generated and everyone comes away feeling that they have been listened to and valued. This is The Education Forum at its best. I'm just saddened that when I do make a solitary contribution to the modern languages section, there is so little response other than Graham's, and when I contribute to the special needs section there may be no response at all. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  6. David, This is an interesting viewpoint and very logical. However, it leaves one very vital step out of the equation. New tools and technologies are not created by teachers and are not developed with teachers as their core audience. Flash, for example, was put together to assist web designers in their work. Therefore, it is up to teachers to spot the potential in these applications and exploit them for their own ends. In the grand scheme of things, Flash is new and we are just starting to unlock its potential. It will only be when usage among teachers increases that we can say with exactly what Flash can do. I have seen some fantastic categorisation activities and source analysis work done with Flash, but I know that is capable of much more. I am currently trying to develop a thinking skills activity that has visual outcomes for looking at change and continuity over time. I know what I want to do, but I am not sure if I can achieve it. We need to experiment in order to find out what is possible. Someone needs to pioneer this - but the more pioneers we have the better. Thanks for responding, Neal. Yes, my understanding too is that Flash is a general web technology, not a teaching-specific tool. I also commend those teachers who recognise pedagogical potential in such general technologies. My fear is, however, that such pioneering teachers sometimes lose touch with the language and thinking of their less adept classroom practitioner colleagues as they explore all the possibilities that the new technology has to offer. You mention categorisation and thinking skills activities that can be implemented using Flash. Don't we need to list all such educational activities made possible or better via Flash first to get our less ICT-savvy colleagues on board? I'd like to see more presentations on Flash with titles such as "Using Flash to develop Thinking Skills" to get people started. Most teachers will understand the value of Thinking Skills and may then be prepared to countenance and embrace new ICT tools such as Flash if they are introduced in the context of a recognisable lesson activity. I'm all for teachers experimenting with new technologies and identifying new applications for them, but let's put the latter ahead of the former. If we do so, and demonstrate the pedagogical value of what we are doing, our beginners in Flash may well follow the experimental route too and come up with interesting educational applications of their own to throw into the common "pot". David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  7. My main concern is that starting with a computer program - Flash - instead of a particular teaching point/activity/lesson, which any teacher would recognise - is putting the cart before the horse. There will always be a technological divide among teachers so long as the ICT-adept talk about a "new way of thinking" without anchoring it to at least a few curriculum-based examples which would be familiar to all teachers. There has to be a strong, compelling reason to make initiative-weary teachers change their practice and adopt a new teaching tool. In the 1990s, my brother encouraged me to set up a website of my own using his server. At first, I did very little with it, except the usual "Hello world!" brochureware. Then I was asked by my local university school of education to run a workshop on ICT and SEN for their MFL teacher training students. It then occurred to me how useful my website could be as a delivery medium for problem-solving tasks, where SEN questions could be partly answered by following links. I still have the workshop on my website at http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/case/ I've never looked back since then. I've also learnt the lesson that website-making is never an end in itself, it is for me a means to another, more important and pedagogy-based, end. I've since posted a lot of my teaching materials on the site, but only in response to teachers on online forums requesting task sheets on particular topics. The problem with Flash - and that goes for Interactive Whiteboards, Blogs and Podcasts for that matter, is that I'm hearing a lot of talk about the medium but very little about the educational content, which is what interests me. For example, somebody inviting me out of the blue to come and read and contribute to their blog will probably be ignored. On the other hand, somebody announcing that they want to share their experience about teaching MFL to learners with SEN via a blog will have my full attention. In other words, there has to be a "hook", preferably a non-technological, down-to-earth one to get the uninitiated started. I'm sure I'm not the only person to think this way. Couldn't Flash be "sold" in the same way: develop, say, in French a few examples of Flash being used to enhance some basic teaching point, to help vocabulary learning, whatever. Stimulate curiosity by suggesting how the exercise could be edited and personalised with a little effort. Then many teachers will have dipped their toes in the water and be more ready to jump in. Having done so, they will be more willing to get on to the more advanced stuff, such as higher order thinking skills. There's a saying "Keep it simple, stupid". I don't always follow such advice when I get carried away by a new tool, but I try to keep it foremost in my mind. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  8. Well, you might begin by getting acquainted with the authoritative comparative education textbooks, e.g.: George Bereday, "Comparative method in education" (Holt, Rinehart and Winston) I. L. Kandel, "The new era in education: a comparative study" (Harrap) Edmund J. King, "Other schools and ours" (Holt, Rinehart and Winston) Victor Mallinson, "An introduction to the study of comparative education" (Heineman) Be aware, though that the above may be considered a little outdated: they were recommended in the 1970s and 1980s and I dare say other luminaries may have superseded them. I've just done a Google search with "comparative education" and "globalisation" as search terms and I came across a 31-page book entitled "Education, Globalisation and the Role of Comparative Research". It's advertised at http://www.johnsmith.co.uk/shop/product_di...ctID=0854736689 and priced at £5, which is very low indeed considering what most books cost these days. I suggest you also do a Google search using the same search terms. I hesitate to recommend particular websites, as my experience of comparative education is a little dated. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  9. Sohair: I know a little about comparative education, having submitted an MEd research thesis on the teaching of English and French in the schools of the German Democratic Republic back in the mid-1980s. I made a point then of studying the authorities on comparative education, including Marc-Antoine Jullien de Paris who founded the discipline, and such luminaries as Kandel and Mallinson. One of the best introductions to the subject of comparative education is Bereday's "Comparative Method in Education", which explains, with examples, how to analyse and evaluate an element of education in one, two or three countries. "Compare" and "Comparative Education" are two journals in the field worthy of attention. I'm afraid I'm at much more of a loss when it comes to the concept of globalisation as applied to comparative education and of course it's a relatively new idea which would not have been familiar to the comparative educators I listed. My advice is that you study the principles and methods of comparative education first and then, so armed, approach the globalisation issue. I wish I could help more. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  10. My only experience of "Flash" is when websites ask me to download software to run it when I access them. I'm afraid my reaction is simply to exit the site concerned. I commend you on beginning with "how TEACHERS can use Flash" rather than "How to use Flash". I wonder, however, whether that goes back far enough down the problem-solving path. My "take" on problem-solving is that we teachers have to begin with a proper definition of a teaching and learning problem before we start looking round for solutions, some of which might involve information technology. There are so many ICT solutions around at the moment - virtual learning enviornments, podcasting, blogging, interactive whiteboards to name but a few - and they all seem to be chasing round in search of problems to solve. I teach French, German and learners with special educational needs and some of the foreign language and special needs professionals I know have become so mesmerised by new technology that the "tail" - the technological answer they are currently passionate about - "wags the dog" - the educational question they are ostensibly trying to resolve. I recognise this "technophile tendency" because I too fell in love with a particular kind of technology in the early 1990s - Germany's online videotex system "Bildschirmtext" - which I was convinced would solve all my German-teaching issues. Yes, it did enrich my teaching, but the international telephone rates with a slow modem were huge and the technology, unlike the German teaching and learning it was supporting, was eventually superseded by the World Wide Web. Consider identifying first some routine subject-based classroom tasks, easily recognisable to not very ICT adept teachers, from a variety of school subjects. Then consider how Flash might enhance the completion of these tasks, or better still, enable them to be done in a unique way. We must get away from the idea that just because something's done on the computer, it must automatically be better. I speak as one who has owned and used a computer educationally since 1983, so I'm not a natural technophobe, just somebody who wants to define classroom problems properly first before reaching for the keyboard. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  11. Last weekend, on another forum, a contributor complained about the plethora of unexpanded abbreviations and acronyms used in educational inclusion in general and special educational needs in particular. I enjoy problem-solving and did some research on existing abbreviations lists, compiled by national government, local authorities and support organisations. No list seemed definitive, or regularly kept up to date, so I decided to compile my own. It's already been welcomed by two online forums dedicated to SEN, so I thought I'd draw colleagues' attention to its existence here. I am sure there are plenty of omissions and there may be many corrections needed too - please feel free to comment and suggest additions. The terms relate to England only at the moment, but at some future date I will be adding terms from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, then abbreviations from continental Europe. http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/sen...breviations.pdf I do so hope to get some feedback here about this document. It saddens me how contributions about special educational needs go for months without a response. Countries are often judged by the way they treat their vulnerable minorities. Since the passing of the Salamanca Agreement and disability legislation in developed countries, education systems are also rightly judged by the way they serve those with individual learning needs, such as the gifted and talented, those who speak English as an Additional Language or those with special educational needs. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  12. Chinese, alongside Arabic and Farsi, is also the American choice of future school foreign language on "national security" grounds, according to a recent American Educational Research Association article entitled "Foreign Language Instruction: Implementing the Best Teaching Methods" at http://www.aera.net/uploadedFiles/Journals...RP_Spring06.pdf It makes interesting reading as it illustrates how much we and the States have in common when it comes to the teaching of MFL in schools. As for the point of teaching MFL in schools, one could argue that most countries will sell things to us in English but expect us to speak their language when they purchase our goods. I'm glad to see that German is the language most in demand after English in continental Europe. It's often forgotten that within Europe German has more native speakers than English does, and that Germany remains an economy to be reckoned with, despite recent setbacks. French and German still make a good choice of introductory MFL for English speakers to study because English is a Teutonic language with a lot of French thrown in. That makes both easier to learn as well as shedding light on the development of our own language. Having learnt such languages in the "shallow end" of MFL immersion, it will be easier afterwards to proceed to the "deep end" and begin languages such as Chinese which have little in common with English. MFL isn't just about learning a particular language nowadays. It's about metacognition, learning how to learn languages other than our own, because nobody knows for certain which language will be key in the years to come. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  13. There's a new MFL-specific "Ask an Expert" session running throughout May on the BECTa Schools website, entitled "ICT activities, resources and approaches for inclusive MFL teaching", at: http://schools.becta.org.uk/index.php?sect...022007631de7c77 I'm delighted to say that Graham Davies' excellent ICT4LT website has finally got a mention on the BECTa site! It's listed among the resources and in one of the answers to questions. Do come and ask a question if you have an interest in the use of ICT with "included" foreign language learners, e.g. those with special educational needs, the gifted and talented, speakers of English as an additional language. David Wilson http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/
  14. I agree with Graham. During my surgery last year, I was eager to maintain as much control over my life as possible while I was in hospital. Every day I purchase a copy of the Daily Mail, whose anti-state-education stance I abhor, but whose puzzles, cartoons and "answers to questions" I enjoy each morning before school begins. I looked forward in hospital to the man coming round and selling newspapers so that I could do my daily soduku. It kept my daily routine going, something I value very much as a single person. Like lots of people of my baby-boom generation, I grew up listening to the "wireless" and the comedy shows were something to look forward to in the 1960s which I recall as being more grim than swinging. One of my favourite presenters was Robert Robinson, particularly in "Stop the Week", which had professional entertainers and journalists doing witty slots about the week's news and everything and anything. Then the series stopped, probably because the BBC thought it was all too stagey and rehearsed, which actually was the best aspect of it, the effort that had gone into the show on behalf of the listeners. The show was replaced by a series where Robert Robinson had conversations with lawyers, accountants etc and where he tried to get them to be funny. They duly obliged - and their pathetic contributions were the unfunniest I've ever heard. It's wrong to believe that members of the public that do other things for a living can automatically be funny at the drop of a hat. Becoming an entertainer requires a long apprenticeship, preferably involving compulsory multiple visits to unappreciative audiences in Glasgow theatres! David Wilson
  15. Having been brought up on the grammar-translation method, I found audio-lingualism a nightmare. During the school year 1968-1969, when I worked as an English Language Assistant in a lycée in central France, I decided to attend a course of lectures for foreigners at the local university. Language laboratory courses were on offer at intermediate and advanced level. With the arrogance of youth, I decided on the advanced course. Hubris soon had its consequences. In the first lesson, over my headphones, I heard 30-word sentences in the present tense which I had to repeat with each verb converted to the perfect tense. Desperately I looked around in my booth for a bit of paper with the sentences written down on it. I could do the verb transformation easily, but I couldn't remember the remainder of the long sentence. As I stumbled, the disembodied voice of the teacher at the front of the lab intoned with a mastery of the obvious: "Vous êtes britannique, n'est-ce pas?" Humiliated, I never returned to the course. This is the first and almost only time when I have given up doing an educational course on which I was enrolled. I also echo Graham's point that bright children will make up their own spelling system if their introduction to the foreign language is purely oral. It's absurd to expect literate students to ignore the writing system of the language they are being taught. There is hard evidence from the USA that many high-functioning foreign language learners with dyslexia will cope if they are taught the rules of the foreign language's sound-symbol correspondence explicitly.
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