When it comes to using ICT in the classroom,
the UK is leading the way in Europe. A 2006 study showed that 60.2%
of UK teachers had access to the internet and computers in their
classrooms as well the competence and motivation to use them. This
was compared with 41% of teachers in Germany and 19% in France and
a EU average of 38% (Empirica, 2006 in Becta, 2008:
What can ICT bring to language learning?
With technology evolving ever more quickly,
sometimes it can seem like new developments flash past in an
instant. So can ICT have a real impact on learning, or is it just a
Increasing motivation and confidence,
expanding learning possibilities, creating opportunities for
interaction and supporting differentiation – just some of the ways
successful use of ICT has been shown to enhance language teaching
and learning (Becta,
Indeed, ICT has a significant role to play in
supporting learning across the curriculum. A recent Ofsted report
found that in primary schools, the ‘effective use of ICT in other
subjects enabled pupils to develop their independence as learners
and improve their thinking skills, creativity and problem-solving’
2009: 9). And the contribution to raising standards in
languages was particularly noted.
Examples of such good practice included using
talking books in Key Stage 1 English and drawing on software to
create cartoons which pupils with English as an Additional Language
(EAL) used in constructing sentences. Digital sound recording and
play-back functions were also shown to provide opportunities for
children with EAL to monitor their pronunciation and identify ways
in which it could be improved.
Animation, digital stills and video imagery
were all reported to be ‘allowing pupils to express themselves
visually, in ways that were not previously possible’ (Ofsted,
2009: 8). With all these new approaches to communication being
opened up, technology clearly holds great potential for those
interacting in a new language.
Videconferencing - in focus
Of all the new ways to interact with
others, videoconferencing has to be among the most exciting.
MustLearnIT was one project that
focused on the videoconferencing in primary languages. As part of a
wider European initiative, the UK-based component was coordinated
by a team of researchers and specialists in primary, ICT and
languages from Warwick Institute of Education.
2007 conference paper, the UK team report that setting up
videoconferencing links between 3 primary schools and a specialist
language college in Coventry had ‘clear benefits for pupil learning
and staff development’ (Pritchard, Barnes and Hunt, 2007 pro4:
The aim was to facilitate access to French
teaching from language specialists in cases where the primary class
teacher may not have sufficient language competence or confidence
to deliver language lessons alone. In this respect, the specialist
secondary teacher was able to offer language expertise and
experience of language teaching that many of the primary class
teachers felt they were lacking, which had advantages especially in
providing children with an accurate model for pronunciation.
Enhancing the role of the class teacher
Even so, one of the major findings was how
crucial the involvement of the primary class teacher was to the
success of the lessons. Through the videoconferencing work, the
class teacher gained a new dual role in the primary classroom, that
of ‘facilitator’ and ‘learner’. By preparing the lessons and the
class, reviewing previous work, encouraging recall and repetition,
asking questions, monitoring learning, giving one-to-one help and
nominating individuals to participate, the class teacher
facilitated the progress of the lessons. At the same time, the
teacher was learning the new language alongside the children and
was able to ‘act as a role model for the class’, adding to the
motivating effect that videoconferencing had on the pupils
(Pritchard, Barnes and Hunt 2007 pro4: 8).
There were also positive effects on learning.
During the course of the project, some of the initial cohort of
primary pupils moved up to secondary school, where secondary
teachers noted their increased confidence to speak in lessons,
willingness to experiment with language, improved ability to mimic
what they hear and generally good pronunciation.
Joining up primary and secondary
And it was not just the linguistic benefits of
the videoconferencing that impacted on transition.
Videoconferencing gave primary pupils the opportunity to build a
relationship with the secondary teacher before starting at
secondary school. In turn, regular contact with the primary pupils
enabled secondary teachers to gain a greater insight into the
primary classroom, the children’s capabilities and approaches to
teaching younger learners.
As a result, joint planning between the
primary and secondary teacher emerged as the key to good practice,
with teachers sharing resources for use in the lesson, such as
flashcards, as well as follow up worksheets so that the class
teacher can reinforce the language throughout the week.
Keeping up with the future
These are just some examples of the multiple
benefits ICT can bring to languages in the primary classroom. Of
course, the number of ways in which technology can contribute is
Thankfully there are some helpful sources of
information to help you stay ahead of the field…
- Becta –
develop and disseminate research evidence on the impact of ICT on
all aspects of teaching and learning.
- BETT blog -
provides information on the latest developments, industry updates
Futurelab - Reviews commissioned from academic researchers to
offer a route map through the vast body of research into education
and technology. The potential role of ICT in modern
foreign languages learning 5-19 may be of particular
Techwatch - published reports and information
resources on specific technologies and standards, plus links
to technology resources elsewhere on the web.
And if you really want to know about the
technology of the future, why not ask the people who will be
responsible for creating it – well, they are right there in your
class after all.
Ruth Churchill, CILT Primary Languages Information