Monday, 8 February 2010

MYLO, the Open School for Languages

Setting up an Open School for Languages (OSfL) was one of the major recommendations of the Dearing Languages Review (2007). Dearing proposed that the OSfL should offer an innovative and exciting online learning environment to motivate pupils to learn languages and to help reverse the alarming fall in the number of young people choosing to study languages beyond the age of 14 (i.e. after Year 9) in UK schools.

In March 2009, the OSfL contract, worth £5.4 million, was awarded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to Lightbox Education, part of the RM group (Research Machines), Oxfordshire. The other key players are the University of Cambridge’s Language Centre, CILT (The National Centre for Languages), the Association for Language Learning (ALL), the University of Salford and the University of Southampton.

The working name of the Open School for Languages is now MYLO (My Languages Online). A MYLO Website and MYLO Blog have been set up.

Initial priority is to be given to those learners who might give up languages at the end of Year 9 and who therefore require more stimulation to maintain levels of interest and engagement. Year 10 and Year 11 are to be targeted in later stages of the project. In the initial phase the materials will focus on French, Spanish, German and Mandarin Chinese, with the capability of later expansion according to identified needs and allowing for the fact that different languages have different requirements. Materials will be provided for ab initio learners of particular languages as well as for learners with pre-existing knowledge. This may include the provision of intensive courses.

Activities proposed by Lightbox include producing a TV advert, working in a French fashion house, and designing a football kit. MYLO will also include a social networking element that allows learners to join a MYLO community. Students will be able create their online profile, comment on the work of their peers, get feedback from their teachers and even compete against other schools. Teachers will be able to create playlists of activities for their students to tie in with their own study requirements and personal interests.

This is a major project, with big money at stake and with high expectations. MYLO is also expected to provide:

1. Learner-focused practice materials and resources such as online dictionaries, information on grammar, functions and notions.

2. Information about and links to existing websites, services and other online learning resources.

3. A blended learning experience that reflects individual learners’ preferences and varying capabilities, including personalised evaluation routes.

4. Clear learning routes, i.e. the “core”, combined with a series of flexible modules to enrich, develop and personalise the core.

5. Maximum accessibility to all and appropriate use of interactivity, including learners at home using standard equipment,

6. Support for teachers to help them advise learners how to use the resources.

7. Support for teachers on how best they can use the materials in face-to-face classroom-based learning.

8. Support for learners directly as well as for teachers, including the provision of essential study skills materials on learning how to learn a foreign language.

9. Materials to support “languages in use”, for example how materials could be used to support languages in the new diplomas, or languages used in the context of sport or the arts.

10. Technology that clearly serves the pedagogical objectives. Access to the website, while delivering a personalised experience, will also take into account the fact that the target audience will utilise a variety of access points, for example, the young person’s home, his or her school, a local library, etc.

Consideration is also expected to be given to new developments in learning technology over the duration of the project. One idea that comes to mind is Second Life for Teens, a 3D world for learners of English as a Foreign Language, managed by The British Council.

MYLO was presented publicly for the first time at the BETT Show on 15 January 2010 and again to a group of practising language teachers at CILT, The National Centre for Languages, on 8 February 2010. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend either of these presentations.

Post your impressions here if you were one of the lucky ones who got a preview of MYLO.


Unknown said...

After a meeting at CILT today I have to say I'm feeling positive about MYLO. The materials we saw at BETT were acknowledged as being fairly basic, even superficial, as part of very much a work in progress. Today we had the opportunity to see things in far more depth and to see where Lightbox are hoping to take the project- and it looks like a good place to be!

What also really encouraged me is that the people in charge of this are keen to listen to expert practitioners and to incorporate their views in the end project. So yes, it's not a finsihed, polished product. But I'm now really, really looking to see what it will look like when it is.

Graham Davies said...

That sounds more encouraging, Chris. MYLO received quite a lot of flak after the BETT presentation. Let's hope that the MYLO Website and Blog will reveal more information too.

David said...

I agree - I was a bit nonplussed after the initial hype and then negative reaction after BETT. Encouraging to hear that the details look to be going somewhere and that those running it seem open to ideas. Looking forward to seeing these details soon. Any ideas on when exactly this might be?

Unknown said...

I think there are movements towards putting more material / detail onto the MYLO blog fairly soon. A lot of the challenges are now starting to reach the final development stages meaning that they can be made available. I'm confident that yesterday's meeting will result in some subtle but important changes being made.

However, I think there are also regulations about government-department-linked projects being launched in the run-up to elections, which could have an impact on the iming of the actual MYLO launch as a whole. Still, as this will hopefully be a tool for the long-term I'm sure we can cope!

Graham Davies said...

Chris, I can understand the sensitivity of launching a major project in the run-up to an election. I have been involved in two projects - one EC-funded and one nationally-funded - that were cut severely as a result of a change of administration.

Graham Davies said...

More about MYLO here in Chris Fuller's blog:

Graham Davies said...

More about MYLO here in Isabelle Jones's blog:

Graham Davies said...

More about MYLO here in Simon Howells' blog:

The Open School For Languages: thoughts on being a MYLO ambassador

Suzi Bewell said...

Suzi Bewell said...

I too attended the MYLO meeting and was impressed by the Lightbox Team and their desire to take a slowly slowly approach to launching this long awaited project. They are very keen for us ambassadors to give an honest view of the project and to test it out before it goes live.
On returning to school I showed the site to my pupils and explained to them, that in good time, we will be piloting some of the MYLO materials and playing around with the creative tasks and they were very excited at the prospect...and I can see why.
The feel of the site is very modern and will definitely appeal to the ks3 and ks4 market. I also sense that the competitive element (amongst their classmates, local schools and beyond) has a certain appeal too. A bit like collaborative gaming on a Wii, say.

We tested out the Design a new kit for the French football team and although we were not able to try out the games or creative task online (as intended), my pupils really likes the creativity of the task and the idea of a product at the end. All too often, us languages teachers "do" a topic and move on, whereas in other curriculum areas they have something concret to show for their time.

I will update you again as and when there is more to test out but my reaction is a wholeheartedly positive one.

Suzi Bewell
SSAT LP for Languages

Unknown said...

This is great information – its encouraging to see online education is becoming more widely accepted and the benefits are backed up by a range of studies.