Wednesday, 26 May 2010

New UK government to close BECTA

See this article in The Guardian, 24 May 2010:
Government to close BECTA

BECTA is the British Education and Communications Technology Agency, which is responsible for information and support regarding the use of ICT to schools and other educational institutions throughout the UK.

Way back in 1981 BECTA was known as the Council for Educational Technology (CET). I was invited in that year to a meeting with representatives from the CET and CILT (now known as the National Centre for Languages), which led to the first major UK conference on the use of computers in language teaching and learning - at which I gave my first public presentation on computer assisted language learning.

The CET changed its name a couple of times in the following years, first to the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET) and later to the Microelectronics in Education Support Unit (MESU). I have some good publications on my bookshelves that date back to that era, e.g.
  • Learning languages with technology (printed materials), NCET, 1988
  • Videocassette on the Granville simulation, NCET, 1988
  • Accent on IT (videocassette and printed materials), MESU, 1997
In those days representatives of BECTA’s predecessors were often in evidence at national conferences for language teachers in the UK and at the international EUROCALL conferences, but then they disappeared into their hi-tech shell. BECTA expressed an interest in becoming a partner in the ICT4LT project, which was initiated with European Commission funding in 1999, but then they withdrew, indicating they would rather just play a role in publicising and supporting the project in a more informal way – which never happened.

The name change to BECTA took place in 2000, and from this point on I think the agency began to lose the plot. It became more technology-driven, and the needs of language teachers (and other non-technical subject areas) were overlooked. The 1980s was a good period, but pedagogy faded into the background in the 1990s, and then BECTA got involved in expensive, grandiose (but short-lived) schemes such as the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) and Curriculum Online. There is very little at the BECTA site now that focuses on language teaching and learning.

Teachers do not need a costly government agency like BECTA. There are hundreds of sites on the Web where useful information about ICT can be obtained, and teachers also tend to use social networks if they are looking for information or advice. Frankly, I am happy to see BECTA disappear.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Language learning and social media

Language learning and social media is an EC-funded project that embraces a mix of activities exploring the relationship of language learning and social media in the Web 2.0 era:

Participatory debates, award-winning competitions, policy recommendations and reports, scientific publications and field studies.

The 14 partner institutions will examine six key dimensions of language learning and social media:
  1. Language learning, social media and social inclusion.
  2. Language learning, social media and development of language resources.
  3. Language learning and teaching through social media in new EU countries: Romania, Latvia and Poland.
  4. Language learning, social media and multilingualism.
  5. Language learning through social media: evolution of teaching practices.
  6. Language learning and teaching in formal and non formal contexts through ICT.
Further information at:

Friday, 14 May 2010

New book on interactive whiteboards: Thomas & Schmid

Thomas M. & Schmid E.C. (2010) (eds.) Interactive whiteboards for education: theory, research and practice, Hershey, PA (USA): IGI Global. ISBN: 978-1-61520-715-2.

Interactive whiteboards (IWBs) play an important role in language teaching, especially in the UK, where it is unusual to find a school that does not have at least one interactive whiteboard. Most schools now have several interactive whiteboards installed in their classrooms. See ICT4LT, Section 4, Module 1.4, where we take a look at the use of IWBs in whole-class teaching and where other publications on IWBs are cited.

This new publication by Thomas & Schmid (quoting the publicity) “emphasises the importance of professional development, credible educational research, and dialogue between teachers, administrators, policymakers and learners. This book intends to guide and inform the process of technology integration in education, introducing valuable case studies for educators interested in present and future IWB technology.”

On the whole IWBs have been embraced with enthusiasm by teachers of foreign languages in the UK, as shown in my small-scale investigation, How effective is the use ICT in language learning and teaching? which I conducted in the autumn of 2008.

But IWBs have not been without their critics, for example Scott Thornbury, whose provocative contribution to the IATEFL 2009 blog inspired this thread (May 2009) in the ICT4LT blog: “IWBs are useless. Discuss” (Quoting Scott Thornbury).

What do you think?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Flash forward: Language teachers using social networking sites

Flash forward is an article written by Yojana Sharma and Joe Dale, published in the TES Magazine, 9 April 2010

Many language teachers are sceptical about the use of social networking sites and other Web 2.0 applications. They question how such tools fit in with language teaching methodology and they often find that their school's network blocks wikis, blogs, YouTube, Twitter and many other Web 2.0 sites that offer potentialy exciting learning opportunities.

This article should convert some of the sceptics. It illustrates how an informal network of around 50-60 language teachers in the UK is making good use of such tools in the modern foreign languages classroom.

See also New growth from the grassroots, Joe Dale's blog, 10 May 2010.

Section 12 of Module 1.5 at the ICT4LT site focuses on social networking.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Second Life videos: Groovy Winkler tours the EUROCALL/CALICO HQs

I have recently created these three videos about Second Life. They aim to show you some of the features of the EUROCALL and CALICO HQs, which are managed jointly by myself, Graham Davies (aka Groovy Winkler) and Randall Sadler (aka Randall Renoir). All three videos were made using the Fraps screen capture software:

1. Tour of the EUROCALL HQ Building in Second Life

2. Holodecks at the CALICO/EUROCALL HQ in Second Life

3. Shared Media at the EUROCALL/CALICO HQ in Second Life

More videos are in the pipeline.