http: is anyone out there?;Modern Languages

9th October 1998 at 01:00
Stephen Glover has been busy with his mouse in an attempt to transform French teaching, but so far he's heard not a squeak. Despite the disappointing response, he's not ready to give up yet.

Call me an old romantic, but the idea of leaving a bit of myself for posterity is attractive. They say everyone has a book inside them, but most computer-literate teachers could probably manage to leave at least a Web site for succeeding generations. Working on this premise, earlier this year I opened the Microsoft Front Page program for Web designs and set about putting together some online material for the French GCSE syllabus.

This involved devising exercises in French and making links to other relevant sites. Ten days later I had covered only about a fifth of the syllabus but had uncovered several useful sites. One featured a list of lyrics of French songs plus film reviews written by French children.

This was the breakthrough, I thought, and posted an advertisement encouraging other teachers to send me their suggestions. Using Front Page's simple built-in publisher, I launched my site on my own free BT Web space.

I've had some favourable comments (many from Canadian teachers of French) but so far no offers to share the workload.

With the World Cup coming up, I produced some cartoon stories with accompanying comprehensions and crosswords, which I scanned and uploaded to my site, urging people to contact me if they were using the work. Silence.

Undeterred, I converted a range of materials I had produced on my Acorn into PC format, including a 26-page booklet of oral questions, suggested answers and home-made exercises to accompany the Clementine BBC TV programme. I received a few positive comments.

I found it was possible to produce "streaming audio" (quickly downloading sound from the Web) cheaply using Real Publisher. So I got a young French visitor to record 25 short listening texts relating to photos she had brought along and uploaded to the Web. Students can listen to the sound, read the questions, check the script, look up vocabulary and then check the answers. The Real Player window allows the user to replay the sound as often as he or she likes. Unfortunately it's been the same story of zero feedback.

It's not as if I'm hard to get hold of. There's a message board (six messages left, two of them by me), e-mail buttons, a chat page and a form for comments.

I have just set up a page relating to the season of the year and added exercises and links for Christmas, Easter, and the Tour de France. We've decided to advertise the site via snail mail to every school in Lancashire, including dates for chats, starting with a discussion on how the first group of students to complete compulsory GCSE modern languages got on.

Although I have spent a lot of time sending my URL (website address) to search engines as well as to university teaching departments and virtual teachers' centres, few practising teachers regard the Web as a serious resource. But I'm confident my site will take off, that it is what teachers want and that it will save many of them time. If you share my ideas and have material already in word-processed form, getting it on to a Web site is simple. And, thanks to modern technology, it will also look better than any book you might have inside you.

Steve Glover intends to keep his site going until he drops and goes up to the great Web site in the sky. He welcomes contributions. You can contact him on: www.btinternet.coms.glover S.GloverlanguagesiteDefault.htmIf you get lost e-mail him on: S.Glover@BTInternet.com

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