Links checked 5 May 2012
1. Background: languages in crisis
2. Survey of ICT initiatives in the UK
3. Case studies: examples of good practice
4. EC-funded projects and resources
5. Global information technology report
6. Conclusions and recommendations
This report should be read in the context of a crisis situation in the teaching and learning of Modern Foreign Languages (Modern Foreign Languages) in the UK and the recently announced government plans to tackle the crisis.
The introduction of the National Curriculum in 1992 (see Section 2.1) made it compulsory for all secondary school children in England and Wales to study a Modern Foreign Language up to the age of 16, but this has been accompanied by a steady decline in the number of 16-19 year-olds continuing to study a Modern Foreign Language, the current figure being below 10%. As a result, university languages departments have been forced to close due to lack of recruitment of suitably qualified candidates: v. the report resulting from The Nuffield Languages Inquiry, Languages: the next generation (2000), which makes depressing reading.
Something clearly needed to be done. In 2002 the Department for Education and Skills published a document titled The Green Paper 14-19: extending opportunities, raising standards. While the Green Paper had several positive things to say about the future of Modern Foreign Languages, it also set alarm bells ringing, The Centre for Information on Language Teaching (CILT) and the Association for Language Learning (ALL) both expressed their concern.
Nevertheless, the plans set out in the Green Paper went ahead. A document titled Languages for all: languages for life - a strategy for England was published by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in December 2002. The document described the government’s plans to transform the nation’s capability in languages, including two radical new initiatives:
The development of a new Key Stage 3 Framework for Teaching Modern Foreign Languages: Years 7, 8 and 9 (i.e. for children aged 11-14 in the first three years of secondary education) - but Modern Foreign Languages was no longer to be a compulsory element of the National Curriculum for children beyond the age of 14.
The Languages for All document is peppered with references to ICT, which is perceived as playing a key role in the strategy, for example:
A government document titled Towards a unified e-learning strategy was produced in July 2003. It referred to a number of different possible uses of ICT that are relevant to the teaching and learning of Modern Foreign Languages, e.g.
In the meantime little has been heard about the e-learning strategy.
The use of ICT in the teaching and learning of Modern Foreign Languages in the UK goes back over 20 years and has been the subject of a series of initiatives at national level.
The National Curriculum has undoubtedly had a significant impact on the use of ICT across the curriculum. The information that follows relates only to the National Curriculum for England. There is separate provision for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - links can be found to relevant websites from the main National Curriculum website.
The National Curriculum was introduced in 1992, making the learning of at least one Modern Foreign Language compulsory for all secondary school children up to the age of 16 - but this situation has now changed (see Section 1). The current National Curriculum contains several references to the teaching and use of ICT, e.g.
General Teaching Requirements
Language teachers who are already in service can no longer avoid ICT. Here is the message from the National Curriculum website under the heading General Teaching Requirements / Use of information and communication technology across the curriculum:
Pupils should be given opportunities to apply and develop their ICT capability through the use of ICT tools to support their learning in all subjects.
Programme of Study for Modern Foreign Languages
ICT is now mentioned in several places in the Programme of Study for Modern Foreign Languages, Key Stages 3 and 4:
Pupils should be taught:
(h) techniques for skimming and for scanning written texts for information, including those from ICT-based sources;
(j) how to redraft their writing to improve its accuracy and presentation, including the use of ICT.
Pupils should be taught about different countries and cultures by:
(a) working with authentic materials in the target language, including some from ICT-based sources [for example, handwritten texts, newspapers, magazines, books, video, satellite television, texts from the Internet].
During key stages 3 and 4, pupils should be taught the knowledge, skills and understanding through:
(d) producing and responding to different types of spoken and written language, including texts produced using ICT;
(e) using a range of resources, including ICT, for accessing and communicating information.
It should be pointed out that there is no mention of computer assisted language learning (CALL) software here because the National Curriculum is more concerned with outcomes and towards enabling pupils to meet stated learning objectives. This is one of the reasons why there is a greater emphasis on the use of generic software in the UK and why there have been no specific recommendations at national level for CALL software. Schools tend to purchase "safe" software, e.g. text-manipulation packages, or software that relates directly to coursebooks that they are using. The National Curriculum is more concerned about the way in which children learn about and use ICT and not how teachers use CALL software in the classroom (Davies 2000).
The key to making good use of ICT in Modern Foreign Languages teaching is training. The following statement appeared at the Training and Development Agency for Schools website (formerly the website of the Teacher Training Agency):
ICT is more than just another teaching tool. BECTA’s ImpaCT2 (2002) study indicates that it has the potential to improve the quality and standard of pupils' education. Equally, its potential is considerable for supporting teachers, both in their everyday classroom role, for example by reducing the time occupied by the administration associated with it, and in their continuing training and development. ICT is an integral part of the initial teacher training standards “Qualifying to Teach”.
Teachers who are already in service have been given the opportunity to increase their expertise in the use of ICT in teaching their subject to the level expected of Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) through the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) training initiative. The NOF initiative is one of the most extensive ever undertaken in in-service training (INSET). Funded with £230 million of National Lottery money, the initiative has offered ICT training to thousands of teachers in all subject areas, as well as to school librarians. A nominal sum of £450 was allocated to each full-time teacher in the maintained sector, but schools and local education authorities have had the flexibility to channel the funds where most needed. Training under the first phase of the NOF initiative, which began in April 1999, will come to an end in December 2003.
The initiative includes the delivery of INSET courses at selected venues all over the UK. Schools wishing to take advantage of the NOF initiative have to use the services of an training services provider approved by the Training and Development Agency for Schools.
It was assumed from the outset that NOF training should target teachers who had already reached a level of general competence in ICT, although there has been considerable confusion amongst teachers and school management alike with regard to this issue. Many positive reports have been received from teachers who have undergone NOF training, but there are several lessons to be learned. The following is a digest of feedback from trainers and trainees who have contacted the author of this document:
The following is a case study of an approved NOF training provider, namely the Centre for Information on Language Teaching (CILT). I am grateful to Clare Dugard of CILT for providing this information.
CILT is the only training provider in the NOF programme that focuses specifically on Modern Foreign Languages (Modern Foreign Languages). All other training providers cover a range of subject areas or a specific subject area other than Modern Foreign Languages.
The CILT-NOF course consists of:
A school is charged £400 for each participant on the course – which is claimed back from NOF.
The CILT-NOF course has seen three distinct phases of development since 1999 and has enjoyed the enviable position of a very high level of customer satisfaction and a dropout rate of less than 10%, which paints a very different picture from that emerging from reports on the NOF scheme as a whole. Teachers of Modern Foreign Languages who completed the CILT-NOF course have reported on the following positive outcomes:
Some useful lessons were learned during the early days of the course and various elements were adapted over time as a result of both internal and Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) evaluation processes. These improvements have now been fully implemented and the CILT-NOF course provides an excellent training model for future INSET provision. Approaches that were found to work less well and were adapted include the following:
As mentioned earlier, the CILT-NOF training model has proved a success and the Web materials and hands-on workbook used in the course have received much praise. Evidence suggests that many teachers of Modern Foreign Languages are still in need of basic Modern Foreign Languages-specific training, despite having completed NOF training with their provider. CILT therefore intends to continue to offer a course aimed at the NOF/ITT Expected Outcomes, adapted for the new market but following a similar model and exploiting materials already developed. Furthermore, CILT is looking to extend the model to provide for those teachers who wish to undertake a post-NOF ICT structured training programme. A series of intensive hands-on one-day workshops is also being developed to focus on specific elements of ICT in Modern Foreign Languages. The relationship between CILT and the TDA has been further strengthened in the field of ICT training for teachers, and future collaboration is likely.
In April 2002 the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) produced a general report on the UK government’s strategy to boost the application of ICT in teaching and learning: ICT in schools: effect of government initiatives.
The report made important observations on the use of ICT in schools, including a number of successful case studies, but it was also critical of training initiatives, especially training delivered under the NOF programme. Relevant quotations from the report follow:
The above statements refer to the NOF programme as a whole. Another OFSTED report was published in June 2002, titled ICT in schools: effect of government initiatives (secondary Modern Foreign Languages. The report states:
In many schools it is too early to evaluate the effect on pupils’ achievement, as the increase in opportunities to use ICT in Modern Foreign Languages is very recent and the ability to use a foreign language effectively has to be built up over sustained periods of time. Where evidence is available, there has been little or no effect so far in about one school in four.
The National Grid for Learning (NGfL) was initiated in April 1998 by the then Department for Education and Skills. The aims of the initiative were set out in a consultation paper titled Connecting the Learning Society (October 1997). Essentially, the NGfL aimed to link all schools, colleges and universities to the Internet, providing them with information and resources. BECTA was responsible for setting up the NGfL. However, the NGfL turned out to be rather different from what people imagined it would be, and it was not really a "grid" - more a collection of resources and links. The website at http://www.ngfl.gov.uk/ closed in April 2006.
The Centre for Information on Language Teaching (CILT) has been active in the area of Modern Foreign Languages-ICT since the early 1980s. CILT is now known as the National Centre for Languages.
In collaboration with the Council for Educational Technology (CET), CILT helped organise the first major conference focusing on Modern Foreign Languages-ICT. The conference bore the title "New technological developments for language learning and teaching" and took place in 1981 at Queen Mary College Halls of Residence, London. The CET was the forerunner of the British Education and Communications Technology Agency (BECTA) - see Section 2.7.
In April 1982 CILT ran the first of a series of annual workshops on Modern Foreign Languages-ICT at St Martin’s College, Lancaster. As a result of the first workshop the newsletter CALLBOARD was launched, and CILT announced that it had commissioned its first publication on Modern Foreign Languages-ICT (Davies & Higgins 1982). This publication was to be the first of many: see the CILT titles under References at the end of this report. CILT continues to be active in promoting Modern Foreign Languages-ICT in a variety of ways:
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own branches of CILT:
The Council for Educational Technology (CET), a forerunner of the British Educational and Communications Technology Agency (BECTA), began to be active in the area of Modern Foreign Languages/ICT in the late 1970s. In 1981 the CET joined forces with CILT in the organisation of the first major conference focusing on Modern Foreign Languages/ICT. In the same year the Microelectronics Education Programme (MEP) was launched under the auspices of the CET, leading to the establishment of a network of support centres and teams of advisory teachers responsible for offering advice and training in a range of different subject areas, including Modern Foreign Languages, for primary and secondary education teachers. A number of Modern Foreign Languages software packages and Modern Foreign Languages/ICT printed publications were produced under the MEP initiative. A national centre, the Microelectronics Education Support Unit (MESU), was then set up as a successor to the CET. The MESU was renamed the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET), to be renamed yet again (in 2000) as BECTA. BECTA was finally closed down in January 2011.
The Northern Ireland Network for Education (NINE) tackled the provision of ICT for schools head-on by setting up the ambitious Classroom 2000 (C2K) initiative. Classroom 2000 involved consultation with teachers, schools, advisers and inspectors on software titles that were to be provided for schools as part of a major investment in hardware and software for the whole province. The following software titles were approved for Modern Foreign Languages:
The British Council began to initiate a series of outreaching activities relating to ICT and English language teaching and learning from the early 1980s onwards, organising training workshops, developing software, providing an information service, etc. An early landmark was the British Council Special Course titled Computers in English Language Education and Research, which took place at the University of Lancaster in 1984. This course was a landmark in two ways: (i) it led to an important publication (Leech & Candlin 1986) and (ii) brought together the group of enthusiasts who went on to found EUROCALL at the University of Liège in 1986. The British Council continues to be active in the area of EFL-ICT and offers a free LearnEnglish website.
The origins of EUROCALL date back to a British Council course that took place in 1984 at the University of Lancaster (see Section 2.9). The name was coined at a meeting at the University of Liège in 1986, which brought together a number of ICT enthusiasts who had attended the 1984 course. At the 1986 meeting it was decided that the EUROCALL group would aim to meet on a regular basis, running conferences and workshops, setting up research projects and disseminating information about ICT and language learning and teaching. Throughout the 1980s a number of EUROCALL conferences took place in different EU countries, and several (unsuccessful) funding applications were made to the European Commission.
Following the 1991 EUROCALL conference in Finland, renewed efforts were made to set up EUROCALL as a formal organisation. The outcome was that another funding application was made to the EC in 1993 under the Lingua Programme. This time the application was successful, and the funding that was awarded enabled EUROCALL to set up its headquarters within the CTI Centre for Modern Languages (CTICML) at the University of Hull (see Section 2.11) and to establish itself as a professional association with fee-paying members. Following the closure of the CTICML in early 2003, EUROCALL’s headquarters were relocated to the University of Limerick, Ireland. EUROCALL's HQ has now moved to the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland.
EUROCALL now has around 400 members in more than 30 countries. EUROCALL is one of the Founding Members of WorldCALL, an umbrella organisation that embraces a number of professional associations worldwide that promote the use of new technologies in language learning and teaching. WorldCALL held its second conference in Canada in May 2003. One of the principal aims of WorldCALL is to outreach to nations that are currently underserved in access to new technologies in language learning and teaching.
There have been number of initiatives addressing the needs of the further and higher education sectors.
The National Centre for CALL (NCCALL) was set up at Ealing College of Higher Education in 1985, focusing on the further education sector (post-16). NCCALL functioned as a resources centre and offered regular training courses, as well as developing a number of software packages, but its funding came to an end in 1990 and since then there has been no major initiative focusing exclusively on further education.
In 1989 the Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for Modern Languages (CTICML) was established at the University of Hull, acting as a resources centre and running regular training courses in Modern Foreign Languages-ICT for the higher education sector. The CTICML did not develop software, but it collaborated closely with NCCALL until the closure of the latter in 1990.
In 2000 the CTICML was renamed the C&IT (Communications and Information Technology) Centre, and was finally closed down in early 2003. Some of the CTICML archives are located at Fred Riley's CALL@Hull website.
Some of the CTICML/C&IT materials have been transferred to the website of the Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), University of Southampton, which continues to be active in the area of Modern Foreign Languages-ICT in the higher education sector and has published The Good Practice Guide, a collection of commissioned articles written by recognised authorities in their field, including CALL and Web-based language learning experts.
The Web Enhanced Language Learning (WELL) project was set up in 1997 with assistance from the higher education Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL) in order to promote wider awareness and more effective use of the World Wide Web in Modern Foreign Languages teaching across higher education in the UK. The funding period came to an end in August 2001.
Curriculum Online was a government initiative that ran from 2003 to 2008. It was beset by problems from the outset. Curriculum Online had the noble aim of providing ring-fenced funding - known as e-Learning Credits (eLCs) - to schools to enable them to buy software and online services to support their teaching, but it was also accused of creating market distortions, in particular in view of the involvement of the BBC in providing a substantial amount of free online teaching materials. Tom McMullan described the Curriculum Online initiative as being a government plan for "backdoor nationalisation of the UK educational content marketplace": Wired to Learn, Adam Smith Institute.
The Curriculum Online website at http://www.curriculumonline.gov.uk/ has now closed.
Futurelab is a high-tech educational initiative. They have produced the following articles and reports:
A recent call for funding bids under the Futurelab "ideas incubator " programme highlighted Modern Foreign Languages as a priority area.
There are a number of developers and retailers of Modern Foreign Languages software in the UK. These include general education software retailers, who offer a good selection of Modern Foreign Languages materials in their catalogues:
Information provided from Camsoft’s database indicates that around 2500 state and independent secondary schools in the UK (out of a total of around 5500) have bought some kind of CALL software during the last five years. Text-manipulation packages, e.g. Fun with Texts and Wida’s Storyboard (part of Wida’s Authoring Suite), are the most popular form of CALL software in UK schools.
According to Camsoft’s database, CD-ROM sales to schools boomed in the period 1995 to 1997. After that, sales dropped steadily, reaching their nadir in 2000. Sales of CD-ROMs began to increase slowly in 2001 and have now reached quite a respectable level. The majority of schools buy text-manipulation packages or associated materials. The current CD-ROM market leaders are:
Training materials for teachers on CD-ROM are also popular, for example: Virtual language learning revisited: Information on Web-based language resources, which accompanies the book Beyond Babel (Felix 2001).
CALL authoring software used to be quite popular, but nowadays very few UK schools buy any kind of authoring package from Camsoft, apart from Fun with Texts. The current trend is to author materials for the Web, using authoring packages such as Hot Potatoes and Quia.
There is an identifiable demand for software for interactive whiteboards. Many schools in the UK are being equipped with interactive whiteboards. Such software incorporates an old idea, namely whole-class teaching with ICT.
The BBC is not strictly commercial in the same sense as the commercial operators described above, as it is supported by public funds, but it has been marketing language courses in printed, audiocassette and video format for many years. More recently, the BBC has begun to develop free online language courses. The following report has been provided by Mick Webb, Editor, Languages: BBC Interactive (BBCi), Factual and Learning.
BBC Languages has been a specialist area of education production for many years and the brand still enjoys a nationwide reputation as a distinctive provider of trustworthy and high-quality products. This has stemmed, historically, from a unique service of Radio and Television programmes and a powerful range of support materials. The portfolio has ranged from the main European languages to Japanese and Russian, short tasters to full-length courses, with special interests that include leisure and business. The current narrowband site grew up around the need to support Radio and Television programmes, it has recently developed as an independent category, with the launch of its stand-alone courses in Spanish, French, German and Italian.
The online materials include: Quick Fix – an online phrase-book with printable survival phrases in all of Europe’s majority languages; video clips and activities to support the Talk range of short beginner’s TV/book-based courses in French, Spanish, Italian and German ; a weekly topical news update for advanced learners in French and Spanish based on BBC foreign-language news services; The Steps range of online beginner’s courses, which provide an introduction to the spoken language through a flexible, bite-sized approach. They integrate audio and video in a variety of entertaining interactive formats.
Our main public service objective is to use the flexibility of online delivery systems ("in your own time" and "in your own home") to encourage British people to convert their oft-quoted interest in language learning into practical action. The BBC broadcasts big-audience TV programmes, such as the Holiday Programme, which are an ideal vehicle for motivating viewers to visit the language site and try out its products. The level of the courses does not extend beyond UK entry-level (A1 in the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework) but suggestions are given to students as to how they can take their studies further.
There has been encouraging level of subscriptions to the online courses (around 12,000 people took up the option of tracking their progress through the first 6 months). Feedback from users is very positive. However there are difficulties caused by long download times of some features, which are experienced by users with slower modems. Our next major challenge is to reach the more committed learners who attend adult classes and centres, and to encourage tutors to take advantage of these online products, either by integrating them into courses or using them as support material.
NetLearn Languages offers a range of courses in EFL and Modern Foreign Languages for group language learning and private language learning online. Extensive use is made of online tutor support and synchronous videoconferencing. For further information see: http://www.netlearnlanguages.com/
The business now known as Virtual Language Systems (formerly called Vektor) has been producing CALL materials since the 1980s, including interactive videodiscs and a range of multimedia CD-ROMs. More recently, VL Systems has developed an online distance-learning scheme for schools and colleges that find it difficult to offer classes in a wide range of Modern Foreign Languages at advanced level because they are not able to meet the minimum required number of students to make the classes viable. The appropriate use of ICT – CD-ROMs combined with tutor-supported distance learning – means that more students can study Modern Foreign Languages at an advanced level. The scheme began in 1998 when Vektor, together with a group of schools and colleges, started to run advanced level courses in French, German and Spanish under the name A Level 2000. Further information can be obtained from the VL Systems website: http://www.vl-systems.com
Three distinct and different case studies are described in Module 3.1 at the ICT for Language Teachers (ICT4LT) website.
Each of the above schools has provided the ICT for Language Teachers website with a detailed case study of its activities in the area of Modern Foreign Languages-ICT. The full case studies are not included in this document, as they are available at the ICT for Language Teachers website, where they are regularly updated. Only a summary of each case study is therefore given here.
The "specialist" status of two of the above schools requires a definition. The following explanation was extracted from the website of the former Department for Education and Skills (DfES):
The specialist schools programme was initiated in 1994 as a cornerstone of the government’s drive to raise standards of education. Specialist schools are required to develop a particular specialist character and ethos and through that character to raise standards in their chosen specialism, and more generally across the school. This should be in partnership with their sponsors, other schools and the community at large. Specialist schools are required to be a resource for other local schools and the community, and to disseminate good practice.
This mission statement for Language Colleges was extracted from CILT’s website:
Language Colleges will raise the standards of achievement in Modern Foreign Languages for all their students across the ability range. They will be active learners in a learning society with their local families of schools and their communities, sharing resources and developing and sharing good practice. Language Colleges will promote an educational culture which is international, technological and vocational. They will raise the Post-16 participation rate in Modern Foreign Languages, and provide young people with the skills needed to progress into employment, further training or higher education according to their individual abilities, aptitudes and ambitions.
Schools with Language College status are encouraged to offer a lesser-taught language such as Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic, etc.
NB: The specialist schools programme has been abandoned since this document was produced.
Cox Green Comprehensive School is a state comprehensive school that has succeeded in attracting external funding from a local business in order to finance its language centre. The language centre at Cox Green School shows what can be done under energetic and enthusiastic leadership. Richard Hamilton, Head of the Modern Foreign Languages Department, is virtually a "one-man-band" – a language teacher turned ICT expert, who has succeeded in raising standards among students taking the GCSE examination as a result of regular use of ICT, and he has also managed to convince less than enthusiastic staff of the advantages of using ICT as an integral part of their teaching. The students at Cox Green School use the language centre both as part of their regular weekly class-contact hours and as a self-access centre. Integration is the watchword: the work carried out in the language centre is tied in closely with the work done in the "normal" Modern Foreign Languages classroom. Richard has opted for a battery of stand-alone computers as he lacks the time and expertise to manage a network, and technical support for a network is not forthcoming from other quarters. He also makes extensive use of his student’s ICT skills, involving them in setting up new hardware and software and in the day-to-day management of the centre’s resources. The software that is used in the centre cannot be classed as "leading edge". The emphasis is on content rather than the delivery medium: a large volume of materials has been developed in-house and slotted into a small number of authoring packages, namely Fun with Texts, GapKit and Topguns.
St George’s School is a state school with Technology College status, which means that (i) the school is committed to promoting technology as a subject discipline throughout the school, and (ii) benefits from considerable technical expertise in-house and within the local education authority. It has had a prestigious language centre – the Brealey Centre – since 1985, thanks to a generous donation from a businessman who had been a student at the school. The Brealey Centre at St George’s is an example of the "high-tech" approach to the use of ICT in Modern Foreign Languages. In contrast to Cox Green’s centre, networking within St George’s and to the outside world is a significant feature of The Brealey Centre. The school enjoys fast connections to the outside world and makes extensive use of the Internet.
The Ashcombe School is a state school with Language College status, which means that it is committed to promoting languages as a subject discipline throughout the school. It also enjoys a high level of technical support. The Ashcombe School demonstrates that a strong commitment to ICT, tight management, technician support, and recognition of the need for staff training are the recipe for success. It has a well-developed website, which enables it to share its knowledge and experience with other schools. Students have regular classes in its two Modern Foreign Languages-ICT multimedia labs, so access is regular and integrated into the language teaching programmes as a whole. The emphasis is on ICT as a means of enabling students to practise key skills, especially listening and speaking.
ICT offers a range of possibilities for children with Special Educational Needs.
The following case study has been provided by Hilary McColl, based on data collected in an urban secondary school in Scotland.
Shopping for French Cheeses was chosen as the first theme for an Access 2 class in S3. This aspect of Life in Another Country: French was selected from the Transactional Language content grid, and relates to the topic food and drink. There were 6 students in the group, four boys and 2 girls, all from the Resourced Location in the school, and all of whom would have been withdrawn from modern languages prior to this year. They came to lessons in the Modern Languages department for two periods a week.
One of their first tasks was to access the site http://www.fromages.com, where they found their way to a long list of French cheeses, which they printed out. They took this list along to their local supermarket delicatessen counter where they ticked off the French cheeses that were on sale there, and added one or two which weren’t on their list. They asked the man behind the counter what he thought was different about French cheeses and reported this back later. They bought samples for a cheese-tasting session they planned to organise.
Back in class, they accessed the Fromages site again and clicked on the cheeses which they had identified. This brought up detailed descriptions of the cheese (in French or English), place of origin etc (which they found on a map). They made printouts, which they used with a map for a wall display.
Before the cheese-tasting they learned the names of the cheeses and made printed cards to go alongside the samples. They included some British cheeses for comparison. They learned that the French cheeses should be served with bread, whereas local custom dictates crackers or oatcakes. They also learned how to express their opinions in French (miam miam / j’aime ça / je n’aime pas ça / c’est bon / c’EST moche / pouah! / c’EST dégoutant / ça sent mauvais...) and the cheese tasting session was used as part of their assessment for Outcome 2. A survey of opinions provided data for a bar chart revealing the most and least popular cheeses, French and local.
The web site and the local community provided the stimuli for a whole range of activities which embraced far more than was required for the two outcomes. On a future occasion it may be possible to consolidate community links by asking students to prepare handouts that the supermarket could copy for customers. Later in the programme, in their S4 year, students will be able to refer back to this experience when they learn how to buy cheese in a French shop as part of the Transactional Language unit.
The second theme, on personal identity, related to the content of the Personal Language unit. This time students studied the French Foreign Legion. The main stimulus was a visit to the class by a former legionnaire who lived locally. The Internet was used to gather more information and to generate discussion. Following this, students started more intensive language work on the Personal Language unit but were unable to complete it by the end of the year.
Next year the teacher plans to complete the Personal Language unit in the first term and to spend the rest of the year on Transactional Language. This will allow the students to complete the Access 2 Modern Languages Cluster by the end of S4. One student who has experienced particular difficulty with work in the foreign language will be entered for the Access 1 unit which involves only the study outcome. All of the students reached the end of S3 with one unit successfully completed (Life in Another Country: French).
From Access in Modern Languages (publication code 9051) published by Learning and Teaching Scotland, November 2001.
The following are selected examples of EC-funded projects in which ICT has played a key role and in which the UK has been an important partner:
The Language Resources Centre project (see Section 4.5).
The ICT4LT project (initiated with Socrates funding in 1999-2000) offers a substantial set of ICT training materials for language teachers. The website is regularly updated: http://www.ict4lt.org/
Off-line materials (CD-ROM and printed books) are offered for sale.
See Davies (2002) for a discussion of training needs for teachers of Modern Foreign Languages, and for an analysis of the pattern of visits to the ICT for Language Teachers website and what it implies for current and future training needs.
The TALLENT project (1998-1999) focused on the development of ICT training materials for language teachers. See Jeannette Littlemore's report on the TALLENT course delivered in Birmingham in 2001: Littlemore, J. (2002) "Setting up a course in ICT for Language Teachers: some essential considerations", CALL-EJ Online, 4 (1).
Delivery of regular face-to-face courses at different EU locations
Linguanet Europa is a project initiated in 2001 with funding by DG EAC, with the aim of providing information and access to bank of quality-assured language teaching and learning resources on the Web. It is now known (2011) as Linguanet Worldwide.
The European Language Council (ELC) is an association of HE institutions in Europe, coordinated by the Freie Universität Berlin. The ELC has generated a number of projects focusing on Modern Foreign Languages/ICT, notably:
DIALANG, a major project on diagnostic language testing
The Language Resources Centres project, which was coordinated by CILT (2001-2003), aims to improve and develop support for language teaching and learning by sharing expertise between established and emerging Language Resource Centres. It brings together a consortium of 17 partner organisations from 13 European countries. The website includes a forum where registered visitors can air their views and ask questions.
ICT is unquestionably having a major impact on people’s lives worldwide. A recent report, produced jointly by the Center for International Development at Harvard University and the World Economic Forum, attempts to assess the challenges and realities of the networked world in which we live:
Kirkman et al. (2002) Global information technology report 2001-2002: readiness for the networked world, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
An important chapter in the report is titled "The Networked Readiness Index (NRI): measuring the preparedness of nations for the networked world" (Kirkman et al. 2002). The NRI ranks 75 countries according to their capacity to take advantage of ICT networks, bearing in mind key enabling factors as well as technological factors, e.g. business and economic environment, social policy, educational system, etc. Higher ranked countries have more highly developed ICT networks and greater potential to exploit the capacity of those networks.
The UK stands at position No. 10, i.e. a significantly high position.
Over the course of the last 25 years a number of lessons have been learned concerning the use of ICT in Modern Foreign Languages learning and teaching, some of which were highlighted in an article titled "Lessons from the past, lessons for the future", which was commissioned for a Council of Europe publication (Davies 1997). The online version of this article has been revised substantially on a regular basis in order to bring it up to date with new developments, especially in the light of the extensive use that schools have made of the Internet in the last few years.
All the above initiatives have contributed in some way to the raising of awareness about ICT among language teachers. As for measuring the impact of ICT in education, concrete evidence is difficult to obtain, although a report on a research study conducted by BECTA, ImpaCT2 (2002), produced significant data. The ImpaCT2 study showed that schools using ICT in the classroom got better results than those that did not, and that there wass a significant correlation between the use of ICT in Modern Foreign Languages and good GCSE examination results.
So what conclusions can we draw from the UK’s experiences in the last 20 years?
Hardware standardisation is essential:
The UK got off to an early start compared to many other European countries, which was helped by the development of computers specially designed for education in the early 1980s by companies such as Research Machines (Oxford) and Acorn (Cambridge). By the early 1990s, however, the negative effect of relying on specialist hardware began to be felt, as it denied users access to software produced for more widely available computers. Other countries had similar experiences, notably Denmark, Sweden and Canada. The majority of UK schools now make use of standard PCs. Acorn computers are no longer produced, and Research Machines’ computers are now PC-compatible.
The teacher is central to the process of the implementation of ICT:
Angela McFarlane, Professor of Education and Director of Learning Technology, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, writes:
What we do know, whether from personal experience as teacher or learner, or as the result of 20 years of research into the question, is that ICT has an impact on learning, for some learners, under some conditions, and that it cannot replace a teacher. We know that a key factor in impact at school level is and remains the teacher, whose role in managing and integrating the ICT-based experiences learners have with the rest of the curriculum and culture is vital and probably always will be. Times Educational Supplement, ICT in Education Online, 26 April 2002, p. 17.
Wise words - which should be heeded by all policy makers who regard ICT as the panacea. The evidence that is currently available suggests that only a minority of language teachers are making effective use of ICT - and this situation is unlikely to change dramatically in the foreseeable future.
Undoubtedly, there will be an expansion of ICT-based learning of Modern Foreign Languages, but it is more likely to supplement conventional modes of learning rather than replacing them. Language learners in particular cannot acquire certain skills, for example conversational skills, without face-to-face contact with an experienced teacher, although software tools that facilitate synchronous and asynchronous oral communication are now available and are beginning to be used in distance learning environments.
Continuity is essential:
Many of the initiatives mentioned above were short-term, which lessened their impact. Even a five-year project is too short. The first year is spent in establishing the initiative – recruiting staff, equipping premises, setting up a dissemination infrastructure, etc – and the last 18 months suffer from staff applying for other jobs as they see the end of their terms of employment approaching. Centres that have enjoyed a long period of continuity, e.g. CILT and BECTA, have been more effective – but they too have also suffered from staff changes and restructuring.
Commercialisation and dissemination have to be tackled in a professional way:
Many of the outcomes of national and EC-funded projects suffer from a lack of attention to commercialisation and dissemination. A study commissioned by the EC’s Lingua Bureau (Davies, Bangs & Betts 1994) found that software products resulting from EC-funded projects often failed to reach their target audiences. Blin, Chénik & Thompson (1998) came to similar conclusions. Educational institutions often make the fundamental mistake of assuming that there is a market for a software package without undertaking any kind of needs analysis or market research. Having completed their work, they then hunt for a publisher, and are all too frequently surprised that no publisher is prepared to risk publication. Software developers in educational institutions need to contact a publisher at the earliest opportunity: v the example of the TELL Consortium, which came to a marketing arrangement (a little belatedly) with Hodder & Stoughton.
The Web is not the panacea:
While the increased use of the Internet has brought considerable benefits to education, there is a current undesirable trend to perceive the Internet as the only manifestation of ICT. Uschi Felix, an acclaimed international expert on the teaching and learning of languages online, is enthusiastic about the usefulness of the Web, but she is also realistic and does not hesitate to mention its shortcomings compared to other delivery media, e.g. the problems associated with bandwidth and plug-ins, and the lack of universal standards for accessing the Web. She also points out that CD-ROMs are still more reliable in delivering graphics, sound and video and advises the use of:
[...] hybrid approaches designed to avoid potential technical problems, such as downloading activities from the Web on to a self-contained intranet, integrating CD-ROMs and the Web, or running audio conferencing or videoconferencing with Web activities. (Felix 2001:189-190)
With the advent of broadband many of the problems associated with the Web are being overcome, but an educational institution needs an extremely fast connection. A 2 Mbps broadband connection - which is is typical of the kind of connection provided to most schools - is simply not fast enough to enable multiple users to enjoy the media-rich language learning materials that are currently available on the Web.
Local initiatives operated in conjunction with national initiatives work best:
The message contained in the OFSTED report (see Section 2.4) is worth repeating here:
In the most effective LEAs, there is a clear ICT strategy for education, led and managed by a senior officer, and developed in consultation with schools to ensure that they are clear about its purpose and committed to its delivery. (p.27)
The ICT strategy may take various forms. The Local Education Authority (LEA) may, for example, have an active Modern Foreign Languages adviser who works in liaison with a Professional Development Centre or Comenius Centre, or there may be a local school that has a commitment to outreaching activities.
High quality training is crucial and the content must be be relevant to the intended users:
High quality training has to go hand in hand with the provision of hardware and software:
Decision making on policies and programs to promote ICT-use often relies too much on absolute numbers rather than qualitative aspects of connectivity. There is a tendency to believe that more is better – more Internet users, more computers, more computer labs. However, a focus on extending ICT coverage without complementary training or content can dilute users’ experience with ICTs, leaving users with poor quality access or turning them off from the technology completely. Kirkman et al., 2002:23-24
The message that comes across loud and clear, as the NOF initiative comes to an end, is that generic training in ICT is not effective. ICT training has to be delivered by subject specialists who are ICT-literate.
Online learning requires considerable human intervention and the technology must be reliable
Distance learning and distance training are very much in vogue at present, but it is clear that many schemes already in operation have not been thought through very carefully. The OFSTED report referred to above (Section 2.4) indicates that distance learning tutees cannot be left to their own devices and that mentor support is an essential part of the distance learning process – ideally with under 30 tutees per mentor.
Felix (2001) underlines the importance of technology being reliable:
Our studies confirm strongly that the biggest hindrance to learning with technology is malfunctioning technology. (p. 352)
Davies (2003) comes to similar conclusions:
Online training is playing an increasingly important role, but practical aspects of training can be delivered better in face-to face workshops. A judicial mix of online and face-to-face training is therefore desirable. Online training works best when there is substantial peer group and tutor support. The technology for delivering online training must be robust, the user interface must be transparent, and hardware must be easily accessible to trainees. Content must be relevant and consist of a mix of theory and practical aspects. Trainees need adequate time to complete assignments set by tutors, and tutors need time to mark them. Distance training is a labour-intensive delivery medium, and this has to be carefully costed. Above all the needs of the students have to be borne in mind when setting up an online course; it is for their benefit, not for the benefit of educational administrators. Training is not cheap, but it is more expensive in the long term not to invest in training. (p. 212)
The following list is selective, including only works referred to in the text of the above report and current works published by CILT. More comprehensive bibliographies are available on the Web, e.g.
EUROCALL bibliography (EUROCALL
members only): http://www.eurocall-languages.org/resources/
This is a comprehensive bibliography of CALL publications, including other bibliographies on the Web.
ICT for Language Teachers (ICT4LT)
Resource Centre bibliography: http://www.ict4lt.org/
Select the Resource Centre at the ICT for Language Teachers website to locate this comprehensive bibliography and other Web links.
Atkinson T. (2002, 2nd edition) WWW: the Internet in the Modern Foreign Languages classroom, London: CILT.
BECTA (2002) ImpaCT2: The impact of Information and Communication Technologies on pupil learning and attainment, Coventry, BECTA.
Blin F., Chénik N. & Thompson J. (eds.) (1998) CALL courseware development: a handbook, Hull: EUROCALL.
Buckland D. (2000) Putting achievement first: managing and leading ICT in the Modern Foreign Languages department, London: CILT.
Chambers A. & Davies G. (2001) ICT and language learning: a European perspective, Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.
Davies G. & Higgins J.J. (1982) Computers, language and language learning, London: CILT.
Davies G. (1997) "Lessons from the past, lessons for the future: 20 years of CALL". In Korsvold A-K. & Rüschoff B. (eds.) New technologies in language learning and teaching, Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Also in revised version (2003) on the Web at: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/coegdd1.htm
Davies G.D (2000) "ICT and Modern Languages in the National Curriculum: some personal views", Camsoft monograph: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/ictmfl.htm
Davies G. (2002) "ICT and Modern Foreign Languages: learning opportunities and training needs". To be published in Cuadernos de Filología Inglesa 11, 1: Monograph Issue, New Trends in Computer Assisted Language Teaching/Learning, Servicio de Publicaciones Universidad de Murcia, Spain. Available on the Web at: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/needs.htm
Davies G. (2003) "Perspectives on online training initiatives". In Felix U. (ed.) (2003) Language learning online: towards best practice, Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.
Davies G., Bangs P. & Betts F. (1994) Investigation into the use of language training materials in SMEs with a special focus on those incorporating new technologies: study on Lingua Action III projects. Brussels: Lingua Bureau, Commission of the European Communities.
Department for Education and Skills (2002) Languages for All: Languages for Life - A Strategy for England.
Department for Education and Skills (2003) Framework for Teaching Modern Foreign Languages: Years 7, 8 and 9.
Felix U. (2001) Beyond Babel: language learning online, Melbourne: Language Australia, book plus CD-ROM. Reviewed at: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/FelixReview.htm
Gläsmann S. (2003) Communicating online, London: CILT.
Hewer S. (1997) Text manipulation: computer-based activities to improve knowledge and use of the target language, London: CILT.
Kirkman G., Sachs J., Schwab K. & Cornelius P. (eds.) (2002) Global information technology report 2001-2002: readiness for the networked world, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Kirkman G., Osorio C. & Sachs J. (2002) "The Networked Readiness Index (NRI): measuring the preparedness of nations for the networked world". In Kirkman G., Sachs J., Schwab K. & Cornelius P. (eds.) (2002) Global information technology report 2001-2002: readiness for the networked world, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Leech G. & Candlin C.N. (eds.) (1986) Computers in English language teaching and research, Harlow: Longman.
The Nuffield Languages Inquiry (1998-2000), Languages: the next generation (2000), London: Nuffield Foundation.
Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) (April 2002) ICT in schools: effect of government initiatives, Progress Report (Ref. No. HMI 423), London: OFSTED: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/
Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) (June 2002) ICT in schools: effect of government initiatives (secondary modern foreign languages): http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/
Slater P. & Varney-Burch S. (2001) Multimedia in language learning, London: CILT.
Townshend K. (1997) Email: using electronic communications in foreign language teaching, London: CILT.
Association for Language Learning (ALL): http://www.all-languages.org.uk/
BBC Languages: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/
The British Council
British Educational and Communications Technology Agency (BECTA). The BECTA website was closed down in January 2011.
C&IT Centre: see Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for Modern Languages (CTICML).
Centre for Information on Language Teaching (CILT): http://www.cilt.org.uk/
Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for Modern Languages (CTICML), University of Hull. The CTICML has now closed. Some of the CTICML archives are located at Fred Riley's CALL@Hull website: http://www.fredriley.org.uk/call/
Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages: http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/
Curriculum Online (COL): http://www.curriculumonline.gov.uk/. This site closed at the end of August 2008.
Department for Education and Skills (DfES): This was the name of the Department for Education (DfE) prior to June 2007. From June 2007 to May 2010 it was known as the the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF): http://www.education.gov.uk/
DIALANG: The website is under reconstruction and not accessible at present, but you can read about DIALANG in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIALANG
ICT4LT (Information and Communications Technology for Language Teachers): http://www.ict4lt.org/
Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS) Centre, University of Southampton: http://www.llas.ac.uk/
Linguanet Forum, a discussion list for language teachers and researchers, maintained by CILT. This is an extremely lively discussion list and well worth looking at. The old Linguanet site is now inactive.
CILT's Primary Languages website, the national gateway to advice, information and support for everyone interested in primary languages: http://www.primarylanguages.org.uk/
National Curriculum: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum
New Opportunities Fund (NOF): http://www.nof.org.uk/
Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED): http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/
The Teaching Agency - formerly known as the Teacher Training Agency (TTA).
Web Enhanced Language Learning (WELL) project. The website for this project at http://www.well.ac.uk/ has now closed.
Graham Davies 2004. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.