Bring your own vocab’

Hi! – Thanks for reading! Apologies for being so quiet over the past few months. This first year in my new job (well, not so new anymore) has been keeping me very busy. That’s something I should reflect on in a future blog post.

For now, I just want to talk about last Friday’s conference. I attended and presented at the “Innovative Language Teaching and Learning at University: Enhancing the Learning Experience through Student Engagement” conference, organised by the University of Manchester on Friday 28th June 2013.

First, I want to say a big thanks to my colleagues Catherine France, Annie Morton, Susana Lorenzo-Zamorano and Noelia Alcarazo for organising such a great and fruitful day. Also, I’m very happy that I was invited to present what I’ve been working on this past semester.

The conference (programme here) was a great opportunity to discover what colleagues around the country have been doing, to discuss the state of the language teaching sector under the new fee regime (and the tragedies it’s brought about) and on a lighter note to catch up with colleagues (and by the way, I re-iterate my congratulations to the great @AngloFLE for his new job!). I also got to meet, and briefly chat with, the very inspiring @jwyburd, whom I’d heard so much about here at Manchester.

My contribution to the day was a presentation reporting on how I used the vocabulary app Quizlet with 3 of my classes during this past semester. I’ve expressed my love for Quizlet in a previous post, and if you’re a language teacher, I really recommend you give it a go.

Anyway, if you’re interested, I suggest you have a look at my abstract and check the slides below.

Thanks again for reading!

Giving screencasting a thought

Following a session I gave on Friday on Using video in language teaching, I had an interesting conversation with some colleagues about screencasting.

As most of you probably know, screencasting (which I insist on writing in one word, despite my spellcheck’s best efforts) consists of recording what is happening on your computer screen into a video document. People will frequently add voice-over or captions to create tutorials and informative videos.

During Friday’s session, I mentioned a couple of screencasting solutions that may be of interest to tutors: Camtasia (Mac/PC, £73 to £220), Blueberry Flashback (PC, £59 to £132) and Quicktime X (Mac, free with OS X 10.7 or greater), although I had to admit not knowing much about other (and cheaper) solutions. So, better late then never, I went out and looked at what’s available.

I found that PC World has a very nice page summarising what’s available. If you’re looking for cheaper solutions than the ones mentioned above, try this page. Some of the software presented even allows to record your screen without software installation (provided you can get the Java applet to work).

I also realised that I had been using yet another screencasting solution myself, but hadn’t thought of including it in my session: Fraps (free to £25). Fraps is mostly popular among PC gamers due to its light CPU footprint and benchmarking ability. But on thinking about it, it is also an affordable, easy-to-use screen capture software package that can very well be used for educational purposes.

Examples

So, what would you use screencasting for in education?

I’ve given it a try myself a couple of times, to:

As you can see, I haven’t used screencasting in my language teaching practice yet. If any of you do, I’d be delighted to hear about it – feel free to comment in the box below. Thanks for reading.

LLAS e-learning symposium 2013 pt1: A sense of community

I’ve just come back from attending the LLAS’ 8th e-learning symposium at the University of Southampton. I really enjoyed the event: the talks were great, full of ideas and directions to explore (the keynotes in particular), but above all it is really the people who made it worthwhile for me.

When I presented at this event last year, I met a few fellow HE language tutors, a good number of which I got to see again this year: @AngloFLE, @CeciliaGoria, @languageforall, @nkthorne and @Citricky, to name a few. And it was great to see the ever-enthusiastic organisers @AliDickens, @johngcanning, @KBorthwick, @laurencegeorgin, @eri_llas, @37Nasher and the rest of the LLAS team.

The event was also the oportunity to meet face-to-face with a few people whom I’d been following, reading or and interacting with on Twitter. It was really great to meet @WarwickLanguage, @nikpeachey & @mikeneary!

By the end of the second day, I’d spoken to people from dozens of institutions, teaching every language you can think of and sharing an interst for technology-enhanced learning and innovative teaching practices. It really was a breath of fresh air in the middle of a busy academic year!

But the best thing about this event is that I truly began to get a sense of community. This is probably the most important thing I’ll take back with me: the feeling that I’m starting to know a few people around the country, whom I meet online or offline once in a while, and I have an idea of who they are, what they do, and we can count on one another for ideas, support, inspiration and so on. It was great speaking to you all – see you next year!

My next post (or two) will be about the content of the event. Too much to write about in just one post!