Wednesday, 10 March 2010

MYLO - looking forward

It was with some curiosity that I arrived at CILT in February, not knowing quite what was waiting for us at an initial meeting - still, imagine, what a treat! A whole day out in the big smoke to join other interested ICT-minded teachers to discuss a new project - cool!

You try to do your homework, don't you, but as a product still in development it had been quite hard to get a feel for MYLO in advance. I therefore found myself taken aback by the enormity of the project and really excited by the scale of the assistance that it appears will be on offer to us. As a recommendation of the Dearing review, there is no doubt that the MYLO team's intention is to provide exciting resources for instant appeal in the classroom. This package is being designed to give MFL teachers resources in 4 languages for use at Breakthrough and Preliminary level but with an really modern , relevant feel.
After some more background about the product we were given a chance to play with some of the "challenges" already on offer and then to inspect some further materials and to feed back our initial reactions.
You can read the description of the Challenges designed by the team here. It involves introduction, practice, input and then production but cunningly disguised in interesting scenarios, set in a context with cultural relevance for the language. The pupils are then ready for a challenge, where they will also be led through training materials, but will be able to compete against the computer or friends in a group or against another registered school!

I found it heartening to see the thoughtfulness and care taken by the two guys representing Lightbox Education - they were incredibly open to feedback and criticisms in a way which I think is rare to find.

I couldn't start to write in full about the scope of the project and others have already done it far better than me - see Isabelle Jones, Simon Howells and Chris Fuller for example. However, as a Head of Languages in a good comprehensive school, not a Languages College, I felt able to say whatever I liked to the designers and I felt we were listened to. It looks good - trendy materials, excellent writers, lovely ideas to allow pupils to compete against each other and other schools and I won't be sniffing at this quality of stuff being offered free to us as a result of the Dearing review. We need all the support we can get.

My only reservation - and I told them this - is that life at the whiteboard is now so complex, there is a real danger that the average teacher will sigh from overload, even when presented with superb free materials, because no-one can work out how to pay for or provide training time. We are desperate for time and peace and quiet (in my case) to get to grips with all the new stuff.

That being said, I am going to enjoy trialling the materials - we have only one slot in 3 different computer rooms once every few weeks for all our lower school classes - that is life in an ordinary comprehensive i.e. I will be able to give the MYLO site a very "normal" user try-out - nothing fancy, just the usual range of Year9s becoming more difficult to motivate at this time of year! But I am looking forward to giving it a go and will be writing about it again.

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