Language learning with the iPad..has everything changed for MFL teachers?

Week 2 of our new school year and I am ready to start posting again. The iPad pilot is over and we now have all students in Y7 and 8 bringing their own. The only support issues so far have been helping some new parents set up Apple IDs and accounts. It is such a privilege to have these powerful tools available to students whenever they need them and because of that I already feel seriously cheated when teaching my Y9 class as they don’t have them yet! One of the daily challenges now- both exciting and intimidating- is working out, with so may possibilities on hand, just how to maximize the potential of 1-1 access. An example that we discussed among language teachers today was how best to use teaching time and technology options when introducing new vocabulary to students. Traditionally, new vocab has been introduced in a teacher-dependent way, and at a speed chosen by the teacher, often with chanting or repetition, games, and almost always accompanied by visuals of the vocab either on real flash cards or more recently on Powerpoints or flipcharts. Students often then copied the vocab from the board. Teachers took in the exercise books, corrected any copying mistakes and then wrote ‘Nice, neat notes, Jemima!’ This method has ‘worked’ for years.

In my lessons this week I have abandoned this method. In both of my beginner Spanish lessons this week I have had half the class learn and play the built-in games with the new ‘what’s in my schoolbag’ vocab on quizlet, wearing headphones, listening to the new words, looking at the spelling, hearing the sounds and repeating them. Their scores are visible as they have signed up for Quizlet. After initial shyness at speaking aloud, lots of encouragement saw them lose their inhibitions and the room was soon filled with the sound of independent, intensive authentic imitation.

The other half of the class had built a dialogue in pairs last lesson with the previous simple greetings vocab, checking their pronunciation with me or with Google translate, then going outside to record themselves using Recording Lite and posting the recordings to Edmodo. After 20 minutes the two groups swapped activities. The last 20 minutes saw us having a great plenary where we were able to come together, slow down and draw out, discuss and note down some key concepts of the this case how to identify Spanish noun genders by the last letter, some of the trickier pronunciation points ie silent H, double L sound, forming negatives with No before the verb (no tengo) etc. Lots of opportunity here to reward student perceptiveness with our department languages superstar cards. We finished with a really fun, competitive and increasingly challenging Blockbusters game which resulted in a thrilling draw as the bell went..

Next lesson I will repeat the idea of split-class teaching, having half the class peer-assess the other half’s recordings while I do reinforcement speaking games with the rest, then swap again.

So, the question is, given access to the internet, is there still a place for students copying vocab from a board or a textbook or is class time better spent on speaking, listening and creating?

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