Tripping the light fantastic;Modern languages;Cover feature

10th September 1999 at 01:00
3Schools are connecting to the National Grid for Learning and teachers are being trained, but what software, materials and support will be out there for them? George Cole investigates the role of good content for the cyberschool generation, followed by a subject-by-subject stock-check

ICT resources in modern language departments, like most resource materials, vary from barely imaginable top-rate hardware and software provision to trial and error home-baked word processing packages. In the 61 language colleges in England, for example, in addition to ICT rooms, audio labs are linked to satellite television. Downloading text from satellite takes up-to-the-minute European news, weather forecasts etc directly to printers. Video on demand also provides scope for interactive work.

Language teachers are testing the waters by building up a store of home-grown word processing exercises. Derived from many of the current authoring packages, these could be construed as "just blackboard work" transferred on to screen. However, their new-found on-screen effectiveness and even popularity is impressive.

Software packages are becoming slicker and taking an increasingly focused approach. Grammar CD-Roms with emphasis on multiple-choice techniques give on-screen help, explanations and contextual dictionaries as well as a new level of pupil autonomy to grammar learning. Small-scale DTP packages can produce individual or class Euro-publications. Fine tuning of word processing skills and the acquisition of a new language develop naturally together since instructions are most frequently given in the target language.

Publishers are producing CD-Roms which link directly to major courses. These strongly mirror the course content but have the advantage of pulling skill areas together into an integrated whole. Course-based websites similarly bring the locations and culture of books to life and offer opportunities for pupil to pupil e-mail communication.

With video link, e-mail, on-screen grammar and contemporary European materials at the touch of a button and instant pronunciation practice, surely we'll eventually develop a nation of competent linguists.

10 websites

Lingu@NET

majordomo@www.vector.org.uk

Lingu@NET Forum

http:www.becta.org.uklinguanet

Centre For Language Teaching and Research

http:www.cilt.org.uk

Modern Foreign Languages using IT

http:vtc.ngfl.gov.ukresourcecitsmflindex.html

British Educational Communications and Technology Agency

http:www.becta.org.ukpublicationssoftwaremfl.html

Central Bureau

http:www.wotw.org.uk

French Embassy

http:www.francealacarte.org.uk

Goethe Institute

http:www.goethe.degrlon

Spanish Embassies

http:www.docuweb.caSiSpain

Scottish Council for Educational Technology

http:www.scet.com

10 resources

Fun with Texts 3.0, authoring program by Camsoft Unlimited,. pound;300 from AVP. Tel: 01291 625439 www.avp.co.uk

Fun with Texts Resource Pack by Camsoft, pound;35 from AVP (details as above)

French Grammar Studio by Granada Learning,pound;199 from AVP (details as above)

GapKit 2.0 for Windows, authoring program by Camsoft, pound;250 from AVP (details as above)

Pendown Etoiles word processing pack by Logotron, pound;200 from AVP

(details as above)

French Project Maker Word Process, pound;55 from AVP (details as above)

Zehn Deutsche Spiele pound;99 from AVP (details as above)

Tele con Textos CD-Rom with video, by Oxford University Press, pound;75 from AVP (details as above)

Perspectives Francaises Topic, picture based CD-Rom, pound;69 from AVP (details as above)

Talk to Me, new version of speech recognition by Auralog, pound;65 from

AVP (details as above)

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