Category Archives: Teaching & Learning

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!

5 things I like about the vocab app Quizlet

For some time now we’ve been using a vocabulary-testing application on some of our French courses. It’s particularly useful for medical French courses, given the amount of terminology there is to memorise. The app we’ve been using isn’t the sexiest, but it does the job at displaying vocab pairs and then test you on them. The main downside has been that it’s a Windows-only app (sorry, “programme”) and a good number of our students now use mobile devices or Macs. Quite a shame, I should think, as learning vocab is perfect for bite-size, on-the-go learning in public transports.

Vocab testing app

The old…

So yesterday I asked around (meaning, I posted a tweet with a question mark in it) if anyone knew something a bit more modern, sexier, and that could run on a phone. Within minutes, the ever-helpful @simonjhowells suggested I had a look at Quizlet. Well, thank you, Simon, I think Quizlet will do the job just right, and here’s why in 5 short points.

Quizlet screenshot

… and the new!

  1. High performance. Quizlet lets you import your own vocab lists and is quite smart about recognising the format. I imported around 800 entries in 37 lists in a couple of hours, with tagging and assigning them to classes. Assign a language to a column and Quizlet will read out the words for you in a variety of languages. It’s generally highly customisable.
  2. Fun. You can learn and test your vocab in a number of rather fun ways. I found myself practising cardiology vocab playing Space Race!
  3. Fresh-looking. A nice design can go a long way when you’re looking for motivation to learn about infectious diseases typology.
  4. Embeddable! I was so excited about this. Students will no longer need to download an .exe file onto their computer to run it. Neither will they need to go and search for the right vocab list on the website: any individual list of exercise can be embedded right there in your VLE.
  5. Social. Quizlet has everything you would expect from a web 2.0 learning platform. You can invite your friends, compare scores, chat about a task, add to it, and of course you can share your content! There are currently 181 entires under ‘Medical French’. Our entries are available here.

Anyway, I’ll see how my students find it this coming semester. A nice bit of change to look forward to!

A fresh start

 I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. And the longer I wait, the more difficult it seems to get back into writing. My last post dates back to April so it’s more than time I resumed my blogging enterprise.

A lot has happened since then, so the purpose of this post will be to try and summarise the last five months as concisely as possible.

In May I conducted a short survey among my colleagues to try and formalise some of the observations I had made during the various e-learning sessions I had organised. I focused specifically on uses and attitudes towards three different learning technologies, namely Interactive Whiteboards, VLEs and social media (in the broadest possible sense of the word – and it is broad). The results were rather interesting, showing a (predictable) lack of engagement with IWBs and a lack of awareness of all things relating to social media. I presented my conclusions in more detail at the LLAS’ annual conference in Edinburgh in July.

In June I also presented in Paris the results of a study which I had been working on (and discussed some preliminary elements at the LLAS’ e-learning symposium 2012 in January). The presentation was well received and the feedback was very useful. I am currently working on take-awayable guidelines for fostering collaboration among students on online platforms.

Pen and paper

Then there was the job thing. After five years working at Manchester Metropolitan University as a language tutor, I accepted a job at the University of Manchester’s language centre, in a position involving some coordination as well as language teaching. It’s now been 6 weeks and although it is keeping me very busy, it’s an extremely enjoyable and refreshing experience. I’ve just volunteered to deliver a couple of e-learning sessions which will soon be made available on these pages.

Anyhow, this was my dreaded attempt at getting back into blogging. I’m thinking of following fellow blogger Eljee Javier’s advice and to undertake one of those 30-day challenges for better blogging. So, you’ve been warned – there is more where this post came from.