Cat Bisland delivers a virtual language programme for Hillingdon Adult and Community Learning. She makes use of three tools:
The course, Spanish Culture and Conversation, blends together the three tools to provide a fully online course that utilises flipped learning. Each week learners access Moodle for study instructions, resources and activities. Here’s an example of what learners might be asked to do on Moodle:
I’d like you to take an aspect of Spanish/South American culture and prepare a written piece on it but also prepare a mini presentation for our Skype lesson.
The students are provided with links to websites so that they can find out more about Spanish Culture. Cat provides a choice of websites; English and Spanish. This provides a way of encouraging learners to use Spanish sites and to practise their reading skills.
As well as the self-study activity, Cat makes use of the theme of the week for the grammar activities. This week she highlighted a Spanish festival, La Tomatina, a food fight festival held in the last week of August. The students find out about the festival by watching a Spanish news clip and whilst watching they are tasked with listening for specific information and they are asked to specific questions to make them really think about differences and similarities between our cultures. A gap-fill activity requiring them to turn the news report from present into past tense completes the grammar tasks. Cat also includes an activity each week which get the learners to really consider their opinion on the highlighted topic, in this case the food fight festival, ready for discussion during the Skype session.
As with Flipped Learning it is essential that learners complete the self-study element in order to fully participate in the Skype session. The learner’s play an important part in contributing to the learning within the session, their research into Spanish culture helps to broaden their peers’ knowledge too. Having undertaken the grammar exercises in advance, Cat can focus on the areas where her learners feel they needed more support and learners come prepared for the conversational element of the course having already formed opinions on certain aspects of La Tomatina.
During the course the students are asked to consider a topic and produce a audio/video presentation on the subject which they do as homework and share with their teacher and/or peers using a tool called mailVU. This provides a means of capturing her learners progress throughout the course.
“Children in Spain have many duties and should play more.”
For mailVU next week, can you present your views on this topic? Do you think the situation is the same in the UK? Are our children any better off starting school at such a young age? What is the political view here on it? Can you see if you can add an imperfect subjunctive or a present subjunctive in this mailVU?
mailVU is an online tool that allows you to record short video clips, up to 10 minutes which you then email a link to. It can be used without signing up for an account but there are benefits of signing up for the free account, as you can then download videos, upload videos and delete them after a set period of time. mailVU works from an App on a mobile device too.
These three tools have been used in an imaginative and engaging way by Cat to develop her virtual Spanish course. Many of her ideas could be adopted n face-to-face courses and across different subject areas.