Virtual Space Odyssey is the latest article on the subject of ICT in languages in this week’s TES Teacher supplement. It describes two collaborative projects which show the benefits of using ICT to get pupils to work together in their own school or across different schools.
The MFL department at Aldersley High School in Wolverhampton are seeing how a virtual reality environment (VRE) can motivate their pupils and encourage them to continue studying languages into KS4. The VRE is a type of online community which allows pupils to work collaboratively with each other by:
• creating e-portfolios of their work
• sending text messages
• peer assessment
Using a personal digital assistant (PDA) or PC, groups of language learners can log on to the VRE and work together in their virtual space. The 3-D environment is visually appealing and allows members to listen to, read and watch files in each others’ areas. MFL teacher Sam Fenton points out that working together in the VRE can boost the confidence of more reserved pupils and enable mutually beneficial peer assessment. She also believes that pupils are motivated by creating work for a real purpose and audience.
The project is funded by the Midlands Curriculum Centre for Languages (formerly known as The Black Country Pathfinder). Buoyed by the success of the VRE at Aldersley, director, Dr Henriette Harnisch now wants to use it to bring together groups of AS students from the same cohort in different schools in the North East. Using the VRE in this way is a practical solution for managing dispersed groups and ensuring courses run.
The second project is designed to facilitate eTwinning. St Julie’s Language College in Liverpool is seeing how the free website Writely.com can strengthen links with their partner school in France. The site allows users to create password-protected web pages which can be accessed by any approved subscriber anywhere in the world. The Liverpudlian pupils collaborate with their French peers by sharing pictures and text over the net.
John Hopwood, former MFL teacher supports both projects at Aldersley High School and St Julie’s. He likes the way they allow pupils to collaborate with each other at home as well as at school in a safe environment moderated invisibly by their teachers. He sees them as practical examples to facilitate eTwinning.
The article also mentions the website www.think.com which allows pupils to share audio and video files with each other. Virtual Space Odyssey is now available to read in full from The TES website in its archives section.