ICT Links Into Languages Conference
12-13 February 2011
The dust has barely settled from the weekend, and yet I am already feeling that I am lagging behind in the post-conference wave of reactions and blogposts, with so many surfing the energy of 130 acquaintances old, new and newly-transformed from "virtual" to "face-to-face".
I have already spent several hours ruminating on what the conference means for me, for my Head of Department, for other members of the Department, and for us all as a profession. And even wider, I guess, as a country!
As many of you will be aware, who have met me – I am a bit of a meandering, “off-at-a-tangent” kind of a guy. So apologies if this post does a bit of that!
Although there were MANY sessions which I thoroughly enjoyed, and from which I will derive huge ongoing value, I am going to start by referring to the one session which had the greatest individual impact on me personally: Chris Harte’s “Languages:Reboot” seminar, which was streamed live here. I did also record it myself on my Kodak PlaySport, but although the audio is fine, the picture is a bit jumpy for some reason. Will try to recover it and get it on here at some stage – the different perspective is quite fun.
Chris was one of the people I was most looking forward to meeting “f2f” (face-to-face, in social media parlance!), although I already felt that I kind of knew him, having shared many conversations on Twitter over the past months. Incidentally, meeting other such “old friends who I’d never met before” such as Chris Fuller, Amanda Salt, John Connor, Lisa Stephens, Alex Blagona (the other Alex B!), Jo Rhys-Jones and many, many more was, for me, the real highlight of the weekend – as well as renewing friendships I had struck up at the Oldham MFLS&T not so long ago, with such stars in the MFL Twitterati firmament as Isabelle Jones, Clare Seccombe and of course The Legendary Joe Dale ™. (Apologies to anyone I have not specifically mentioned by name!)
And the perspective offered by Chris in his talk aligns pretty much entirely with my way of thinking about MFL learning (and teaching). Whether or not this “reboot” will be allowed to take place remains to be seen: although those of us at #ililc may well represent an increasing groundswell across the UK (and beyond), the fact remains that, although it is us at the chalkface, we are not the ones dictating the educational landscape of our country – we merely navigate our way as best we can across the ever-shifting sands, which blow in ways that appear at best arbitrary and at worst downright inappropriate and ideologically-unsound…
A quick semi-rhetorical question: if the Coalition is prepared to grant the majority of power within the National Health Service to the “troops on the ground”, the GPs, and potentially to dictate the structure of the NHS for a generation in so doing – why then is it that the other great political football, the “National Education Service” is being on the one hand broken along triple-tiered lines while simultaneously 50 new centralised powers are pulled into the centralised clutches of a Secretary of State for Education who appears anything from gaffe-prone to actively destructive, depending on which papers and educational blogs one reads? And by the way – I am not in any way defending previous incumbents of that position – far from it! (Actually, my wish is that things such as Health and Education are appreciated for what they are – too important and too long-term, as projects, for mere “here-today-and-gone-tomorrow” merchants in the House of Commons to be trusted with them. Take them out of political control entirely, and instead entrust them to people who know what they are talking about…)
Phew. That was quite a long semi-rhetorical question! (My A-level teachers and university lecturers always warned me against verbosity…!)
Anyway – so back to Chris and his seminar! At the end, following witty, compelling talk of SOLO taxonomy, creativity, learning to learn rather than to jump through Exam Board hoops, I honestly did have goosebumps. And said so! The vibe in the room was a tangible sense that, if enough of us swim against the turgid flow emanating from the DfE and its adherents, we can create something genuinely exciting. And incidentally, Mr Gove – in the process, fashion an Education System of which to be truly proud, and which countries would sacrifice cartloads of PISA statistics to emulate…
The next question – as some of us have already started to debate – is how to take this message back to our Departments, Senior Managers and Head Teachers, and ensure that the impact is wide enough to achieve the “critical mass” that sees it become the norm and not the exciting exception. No problem!
Well, one way to do this would be to follow the road-map laid out in typically clear, effective style by Isabelle Jones here in her presentation on “Developing the use of ICT in the MFL Faculty”. This was one of those presentations that I did not get to see live, but have caught up with in the days following the Conference. Brilliant.
I could go on and on about the other sessions I attended – but I won’t, ‘cos Spurs are kicking off against AC Milan and my attention is drifting! Believe me when I say that every single one of you sparked ideas and renewed vigour within me which will hopefully be translated into enjoyment and excellence among my pupils. Thanks to all. So I finish with a little poem: wonder how observant you are after a long day at work…
The #ililc Effect
Usual weekend fare?
Crazy people with
Heads full of
Amazing notions about
Teaching and learning
Modern Foreign Languages
In new and exhilarating ways,
Nudging their students,
“Useless at French” or not, to
Sweep aside old-fashioned,
Crusty tenets of pedagogical pap,
Utilising vibrant new taxonomies,
Leaving govian ideologies for dead.