16th April 1999 at 01:00
"Most modern languages teachers don't read Online." A contentious, but arguably realistic reflection of national attitudes towards the use of ICT in language classrooms. There is little doubt that many schools have expert and enthusiastic ICT linguists. However a sizeable number of modern languages techno-phobes and sceptics still need to be convinced of the advantages of their computers and reassured about their motivating value in the classroom.

While training courses in recent months have been by and large oversubscribed, many teachers arrive with a reportedly tepid approach. Martin Jack, at the Scottish Council for Educational Technology says:

"About 30 per cent of language teachers on courses are happy to have the software installed for them and work on their ownI but about 70 per cent are reluctant to examine the software and need to be closely monitored."

Teaching the ultimate communication subject, language teachers about to embark on ICT training must first accept their changing role in the classroom. Until now, unlike many other subjects, language teaching has retained a large degree of teacher focus in day-to-day lessons. While the use of computers necessarily and literally turns pupils' backs on the teacher, it also creates a completely new enthusiasm for languages among pupils of all ages and abilities.

Start with word processing and make sure you can do it all: key in, delete, insert, underline, use different fonts and, importantly for languages, be confident about adding accents. With a new challenge in French in particular, pupils, anxious to create an accurate final copy, are determined to insert correct accents. Worksheets, differentiated homework materials and mini grammar courses can be painlessly borne of your experimental work with different word processing packages and basic desktop publishing.

Moving on with new confidence, teachers should explore the endless possibilities of text manipulation. Using either an authoring package or simple text input, pupils can be re-introduced to user-friendly grammar practice: ordering jumbled conversations, gap filling, establishing correct word order. Even without a package, these exercises are painless to make up. Teachers can also learn new tricks from their pupils by encouraging them to create their own material.

In integrating ICT into language teaching, familiarity breeds confidence and curiosity leads to instant materials which used to be called "realia" and weighed down many a full suitcase on cross-channel ferries.


1 Book a regular practice session preferably with your ICT co-ordinator on call 2 Learn the basics of touch typing and practice - it saves a lot of time 3 Work with a text manipulation package, then make up your own exercises 4 Find out if your current course book offers CD-Roms andor websites 5 Consider the most effective use of ICT in all your classes. Incorporate as wide a range of ideas as possible 6 Identify pupils who are ICT buffs and tap their brains for technical support and new ideas.

7 Identify key topic areas, eg for A LevelHigher study, and explore the Net to find materials 8 Learn to email and start to correspond with teachers in partnerComenius link schools 9 Familiarise yourself with the software which is currently available.

10 Clearly identify your ICT training needs and particular interests

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