How does the Olympics make you feel?

News reaches me that the authorities plan to use the London Eye to project a Twitter snapshot of how the nation feels about the Olympics every night the games are on.

What colour the wheel changes to and how much of it is lit up will reflect an analysis of millions of UK tweets for whether they are broadly positive or broadly negative.

Which strikes me as a bit of a gamble. Presumably the object is to show that people are enjoying the endeavour, but my own sense is that most aren’t. There are two people in particular in my Facebook timeline who are enthusiastic about the Olympics, but then they both have jobs at the games and so Mandy Rice Davies applies. Everyone else is spectacularly Eeyorish about it, as this wonderful New York Times piece explains:

LONDON — While the world’s athletes limber up at the Olympic Park, Londoners are practicing some of their own favorite sports: complaining, expecting the worst and cursing the authorities.

Asked “What do you feel about the Olympics?” the other day, a random sampling of people here gave answers that included bitter laughter; the words “fiasco,” “disaster” and “police state”; and detailed explanations of how they usually get to work, how that is no longer possible and how very unhappy that makes them.

The piece goes on to describe the Daily Mail as having the unofficial motto “What Fresh Hell is This?”

One of the main reasons for emulating the anhedonic donkey is there are just so many reasons why the Olympics might make you feel grumpy: the London focus; the cost to the taxpayer; the militarisation; the sponsors (“some of the worst corporations in the world“; the stuff about brand protection – whether or not true; and the exhortation only to write nice things about the Olympic website.

I am hardly the person to be objective on the issue of the Olympics as I don’t actually like sport of any kind at all – and yet even I have been a little tempted to try and get tickets to something to see what all the fuss is about. Far less to actually watch any sport happening – I really don’t give a rat’s ass – but I am quite keen to see what all the fuss is and see the Olympic Park from a urban planning perspective. It featured on Gardener’s Question Time and sounded interesting. I’ve visited, for example, Munich’s Olympic Park, mainly to climb the Olympiaturm, and that piqued my interest. How long will it be – if ever – before London’s Olympic Park is opened to a wider public? Will anyone ever be able to climb the crumpled rollercoaster without an event ticket, or will the whole thing be dismantled and boarded up as soon as the Paralympics wheel out of town? (Loads of tickets left for the Paralympics, if you wanted to get to see the site and/or experience the Arabfly Dangleway.)

When the torch came to town, I did sort of go and see what all the fuss was about – by being a bellringer for the occasion as the torch came past one of the churches I ring at regularly anyway. I was grudgingly impressed by the huge number of people who turned out to see it, and the city was incredibly fortunate with the weather – just hours before, rain had beaten the torch back into the van in Mansfield, soaking dozens of the kids I taught a few months ago, and yet in Nottingham the glorified cigarette lighter got blazing sunshine.

It’s just my abiding thought about all of the trappings of the Olympics – the torch parade, the park, the building projects, the precision of the planning, which has taken hundreds of people to do, the faffing in the regions – is that this is all something of a huge waste of human endeavour. What could be achieved if all this money and good will could be put to use for something more worthwhile?

But then that is what I think about sport more generally, so perhaps I’m not the best placed person to judge. And it’s not as if I have any actual suggestions as to what that more productive thing might be, so perhaps I should just shut up and let the enthusiasts get on with it all.

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MFL and ICT

Today on our University Based Day (UBD) we are having a session on how to use computers in learning foreign languages.

The session is lead by Mr Picardo from Nottingham High School, who has an MA in Information Technology in Education.

You can see from the school’s MFL website, linked above, that they practice what they preach – there are lots of examples of the ICT stuff they have created. They can use a blog post to highlight the work done, and then ask their own children to leave comments peer assessing. They also attract lovely praising comments from the senior staff at the school, and for one memorable activity, from the author of one of the widely used Spanish textbooks.

His personal blog is here – click “Resources” for many things you can use.
To get us in the right frame of mind, he showed us this video.

(And then said… now you know you what heads of department meetings are like.)

The session included voki.com which allows you to put a voice track on a cartoon avatar. This can be used for students to record their speaking assessments in a fun way, which means you can hear speaking, you can upload the results onto a blog and you can peer assess for homework.

We looked at Storybird.com which allows students to make e-books from a text, and lets you search for beautiful pictures to illustrate the word. This can be incorporated into making a perfect draft – students write text in languages; text can be corrected by staff and then turned into a pretty final draft.

Next up was Glogster, which lets you create a multimedia poster, and embed sound and videos into things that look like posters.

Wordle.net – a tool I have already used right here on this blog! In a modern language context, you can use it to make a long text less scary in introduction – by introducing this way, and ensuring they do understand some of the key words, you can help comprehension. You can also run students’ work through it see if they are using some words too often and others too few – if you are saying “my family” every other sentence, could you instead use “my brother, my sister, my dad”? Also wonderful for classroom displays.

The final one we considered was Go Animate which allows students to make their own cartoons – which, new this year, includes the facility to record speech and make an actual production.

I’m big into ICT myself, so in addition to the sites we learned about today, I would suggest the following:

Joe Dale, a national leader in modern languages and ICT, who has a blog.

In particular, he pointed me at a group of language teacher users of twitter who call themselves the MFL Twitterati, who arrange regular meetups and generally share good and interesting stuff.

The Twitterati sent me to Triptico, a lovely set of pretty tools for use in the classroom including timers, name pickers, ordering tool, hourglass, and a really fast word magnet tool that lets you work on word order – magnificent for MFL. Perhaps the tool I have used the most often is the “Find 10” tool, which makes a lovely simple starter. It does, however, need you to install software on your computer, which not all schools will let you do. There is a facility for MFL teachers to share their resources with each other, but I haven’t figured this out yet.

Dom’s MFL Blog is helpful and has lots of challenging suggestions to improve MFL teaching.

Over to you – do you have anything useful to share about using computers in modern language teaching?