June = Conference Month, Part 2. #innoconf19

Last week I went to Southampton, for the annual conference on Innovative Language Teaching and Learning at University. It was another inspiring day, with a lot to learn and explore. I tweeted throughout the day, and here are some of my notes:

Opening keynote – European responses to the challenge of language learning; Professor Mike Kelly

  • EU is all about “unity in diversity”, as core value
  • language enables freedom of movement
  • less than half of Europeans can hold a conversation in a 2nd language (Eurobarometer 2012 – any idea of more recent stats?) and in limited number of languages (Eurydice 2017 – usual suspects: English, French, German, Spanish)
  • intercultural communication competence is sometimes seen cheaper than learning languages
  • Language as transversal skill – connect language learning to literacy, support mobility, validate non-formal language competence

Valuing language skills – enabling students to articulate their value in an ever-changing work environment; Caroline Campbell

  • Interesting to see what employers want, e.g. students going outside their comfort zone, reflective skills and ability to articulate their passions
  • The story the student can tell matters! Can they link knowledge and what they are studying to their passions and interests?
  • Employers undervalue language skills. Work to be done!
  • Need to make students (and staff) aware of their skills – building their brand
  • Full report available.

Engaging Educators as participants on an Online MOOC: Reflections on (co-)construction of knowledge and directions of communication; Mary Page

  • MOOC: English as a Medium of Instruction for Academics
  • Using a language for teaching means to treasure it – emphasis on use not teaching the language
  • How do you transmit confidence to someone online/ at a distance? How to appear authentic at a distance?
  • Issues with technical ability, retention, providing variety (vs. one size fits all), learner autonomy
  • Social presence in online learning

Head in the clouds – innovating classroom practice using online file sharing for collaboration and feedback; Laura Richards

  • Academic hospitality – support for everyone
  • using online file sharing for collaboration and feedback – most people have access to technology

Repurposing VR Assets: from Health Sciences to Italian Language Learning; Billy Brick, Tiziana Cervi, Alessia Plutino

  • mixed reality approach
  • using something that was designed for Alzheimer’s research, training to build empathy through simulation
  • makes sense to not start from scratch but re-use existing resources
  • all that was needed: a new audio track

My presentation slides on providing opportunities for “internationalisation” on campus can be found on SlideShare:

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June = Conference Month, Part 1

The AULC Special Interest Group “Teaching and Learning” met at the University of Bath on 19 June 2019. It was a really inspiring day with a focus on how to use technology to enhance learning and teaching. I took away ideas on how to use e-portfolios, how to integrate Rosetta Stone resources into teaching, and how to hide most of the internet from students during exams. Here are some of my notes:

Transitioning from paper to online assessment – Pilar Carlos Gray

  • need to be aware of workload, for both students and staff; time for learning and familiarisation with the system needs to planned in
  • additional resources needed: IT technicians on call during exams, IT rooms booked
  • need to disable internet access during exams
  • need to review what students found easy (or not) after exams – need to reflect on which questions may need changing
  • task design needs time that is saved by less marking
  • online assessment makes it easier to generate statistics and reports – less time-consuming
  • not all skills are tested using technology – need for a holistic approach

VEO- assessment tool for language performance – Andrew Grenfell

Moving to on-line assessment through e-portfolio – John Hankinson, Elizabeth Jervis, Kinue Snookes

  • portfolio approach instead of exams; part assessed work and part reflection
  • weekly class with tutor, plus 3 hours of independent learning activities per week
  • students upload a weekly reflective journal; tutor feedback through the VLE – timeliness important
  • Rosetta Stone is used as additional resource for independent study
  • portfolio can be reviewed by someone who doesn’t speak the language the student is learning; plus tutor-assessed work
  • self-marking saves tutor time
  • sustainability: this approach cuts printing costs
  • technical support available if needed
  • templates are saved to be used with new groups – share with other tutors
  • students can be tracked, nothing can get lost
  • some questions to think about: can a language learner reflect well if learning a language through their 2nd/3rd language, e.g. a Mandarin speaker learning French through the medium of English, reflecting in English?

Peer-assisted learning –open forum discussion – Innes Alonso Garcia, Helen Mayer

  • good idea: Bite-sized speaking sessions: conversation practice, from beginner’s level – staffed by student volunteers
  • some institutions pay their students volunteers, others don’t but may issue acceditation, e.g. HEAR
  • A new tool for audience interaction: https://www.sli.do

Digital Language Exchange

Prosumer – Service Block for examinations – Sibylle Nalezinski

I also visited the Language Learning Zone, a space for independent language learning now based in the university library. It was a good opportunity for exchanging ideas as well as common concerns, and to see other learning spaces. (And I might have to review the board games collection of the Language Zone to add some of the exciting things I’ve seen at Bath!)

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Innovations in Internationalisation at Home #IIH2019

This week I went to Canterbury to attend a brand new conference, Innovations in Internationalisation at Home. And it was a really good day, with interesting conversations, insights and ideas! I didn’t really take notes, so there isn’t loads to share – but I took lots of photos of slides, and tweeted throughout the day:

And here’s a link to my presentation: Providing opportunities for “internationalisation” on campus

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When is a door not a door?*

Everyday independent language learning

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to prepare a short talk about how I learn languages independently, concentrating on how I improve my English in everyday life. Due to other commitments I was not able not deliver the talk in the end, but as I had already made notes, here are some scribbles on this…


Preparing over coffee

You may know that I am a native German speaker, and that I have learned English for nearly 30 years now. (Wow, that makes me sound old!)

What I do regularly to improve my English language skills:

  • Listen! Pay attention to everything and be curious. Ask questions and be willing to receive feedback.
  • Watch TV, especially programmes that I know will challenge me. For example, this is the case for First Dates Abroad: Ireland, as I know that I will have to listen carefully to follow the programme. (See, it doesn’t have to be highbrow…) Also, sometimes I have to ring offices in Cardiff, so that is always a challenge that needs prime levels of concentration (no facial clues to help decipher words and phrases).
  • Read materials outside my immediate comfort or knowledge zone, which means that I am likely to come across new vocabulary.

What sometimes happens by chance:

  • Someone uses a word or phrase that I don’t know or understand. Here’s an opportunity to notice new words or phrases, ask for clarification or look the new word up online or in a dictionary. (My latest one: efficacious) Listen to the pronunciation, so that you can use the word yourself in future, if you like.
  • Someone notices that I use a word wrong or don’t pronounce it correctly. It’s nice when they point this out (depending on your relationship this may be best done in private), so I can correct myself and use it correctly in the future.
  • I notice words that have different meanings but sound (or are even spelled) the same. Examples:
    • The crane flew above the construction crane.
    • The builder brought her a beautiful flower and a bag of flour for no sensible reason at all.

Three tips for learners/improvers of English:

  • Watch Gogglebox for listening practice – many different accents (pronunciation), dialects (vocabulary, grammar) and topics. Similar programmes: First Dates, Coast, The Secret Life of the Zoo.
  • You don’t have to translate everything into your first language. I now have a whole range of vocabulary that I cannot translate into German (because I don’t need to) but have mainly used in an English speaking context.
  • Some jokes are just not funny, and that’s okay. *(When is a door not a door? When it’s a jar.)
Posted in languages, learning | Tagged , , ,


I have decided to try and re-engage with my blog again this year. After closing it for a few weeks while considering what to do, I actually started to miss it when I wanted to share some information with colleagues!!

So, since the New Year I have attended SEC 2019, a conference about Student Education. This year’s focus was on learning spaces, which is especially relevant as my library is going through another refurbishment (you might remember – the last one was in 2014). I didn’t take many notes, but here are the pictures I took:

I hope these make sense by themselves…

I have also visited another Language Centre that uses some of the software we use. This was not only interesting because I found out more about how they get the most out of that software but also because I got to see their spaces, both for student and staff uses, their marketing materials, their location on campus. If you get chance, visit a workplace that is similar to your own, and you’ll see your own spaces in a new light!

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Rosetta Stone and brains

I have posted the following question on other platforms and am still looking for an answer. Any ideas welcome!

I’d like to know how the brain copes with learning words in different languages that are connected to the same picture.

Imagine: you meet someone and they tell you that they are called Helen. Your brain stores that information. Puts a name to the face for you to remember. The next time you meet that person they say that they are called Megan. It’s difficult to change that information in your brain and remember that the person is called Megan and not Helen, right?

I think it’s the same with pictures. So if you see a picture of a blonde girl and are told that means “flicka”, your brain (hopefully,  if your memory works well) recalls “flicka” when you see that picture again. How will your brain cope if next time you see that picture it means “ragazzina”? Will you be able to memorise both words, flicka and ragazzina? (Both words mean “girl”, the first one in Swedish, the second one in Italian.)

I’m sure there is research out there about how the brain copes with connecting words to pictures, but I am stuck on how to find relevant research and could do with someone pointing me in the right direction. Help?


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#LUBSENHANCE2018: exploring the impact of non-traditional learning spaces on student education

On Monday I attended a conference on teaching spaces, Enhance 2018. I have tweeted during the day, but here are my other notes…

Keynote: Alejandro Armellini, University of Northampton

  • Ask: How can we make x work for students?
  • New Waterside campus:
    • 24/7 learning commons
    • Flexible use of space
    • Personalisation: no lecture theatres
    • No staff offices
      • Better space use possible
      • What is good use of space?
      • No right to a desk
      • Nobody has offices – there are only hot desks in VC office
      • Private spaces for everyone to use, some bookable
  • Student teacher contact wanted
  • Formative feedback central to teaching
  • Using the Active Blended Learning (ABL) approach: face to face collaboration, student centred, changemaker attributes
  • ABL not in addition to teaching but standard approach to learning and teaching at Northampton
  • Dimensions of sound pedagogical “blend” in blended learning
    • Variety of delivery
    • Include all the best bits
    • Informal
    • Social
    • Internal-external
    • Practical, real life
  • Sense making essential, as it’s part of scaffolding
  • “content is not king, what students do with it is”
  • Challenges
    • Pedagogic
    • Workload and space,e.g. timetabling
    • Digital fluency
    • Communication

Bronwen Swinnerton, University of Leeds: collaborative lecture theatres

  • Review of the new collaborative lecture theatres at Leeds
  • A success, e.g. good relationship between use and confidence, except for the interactive whiteboards
  • More flipped learning taking place
  • Possible need for additional staff training and review of workloads
  • Need for additional timing/planning

Norma Martin Clement, University of Leeds: collaborative lecture theatres

  • Case studies of the new collaborative lecture theatres at Leeds
  • Collaborative activities take longer, e.g. set up, debrief
  • Added value by having a second member of staff in the room (“winger”) – mostly not recognised in workload model though
  • Teacher more vulnerable than in traditional lecture theatre; teacher and students learning together/from each other
  • Students’ work now (potentially) part of lecture capture record: double vulnerability
  • Groups in different pods not necessarily interacting with each other (pod to pod)
  • Accessibility issues
  • Institutional factors holding back change – e.g. relying on early adopters who are keen to invest additional time etc – resource implications
  • Timetabling concerns – uncertainty
  • Managers have to support and facilitate – advocate?
  • Need to be realistic
  • Additional training needs
  • Institutional recognition required

Damian McDonald, University of LeedsSoD TEALS

  • School of Design classroom re-design
  • TEALs = technology enhanced/enabled active learning spaces
  • Holistic approach needed, not just technology but to include furniture, accessibility, etc.
  • No student input so far – feasibility

Alice Shepherd, University of Leeds

  • using simulation in a business module, in 6th year: ProSim Advanced from Edumundo
  • Heavy on assessment on purpose
  • Some group work in set sessions, some independent study time

Richard Tunstall, University of Leeds

  • Discovery module
  • Simulations,workshops to back up simulation
  • Different spaces used for same module
  • SimVenture Evolution
  • How to add competition – use to explain concepts
  • Chance for flipped content

Staff development team, University of Leeds

  • Academic practice
  • Helping staff use learning spaces better and designing learning experiences
  • Curriculum design works best if done collaboratively
  • Learning design family tree – see slides
  • ABC approach: see creative commons materials
  • 6 learning types: acquisition, collaboration, discussion, investigation, practice, production
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Learn a language

As I am working on some ideas on how to get people more involved with language learning, here are some articles that I have come across that suggest how to get the most out of Rosetta Stone and other programmes:

Rosetta Stone: 7 tips for learning a new language

Rosetta Stone: Top Ten language learning tips

Babbel: 10 Tips To Learn Any Language From An Expert

PCMag: 5 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Language-Learning Program

I’m currently looking at Rosetta Stone for work purposes, but if course there are many other resources you can use as well/instead.

The main things to remember:

  1. Find your motivation. Remind yourself regularly why you are learning.
  2. Make time and manage your time. Create a habit.
  3. Set goals.
  4. Reflect on your learning. Is what you are doing working for you?
  5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

And if you like cooking, try the Languages Kitchen for recipe ideas.


Posted in languages, learning | Tagged , , ,

Rosetta Stone – we’re back!

Right, so I’m looking into getting the most out of Rosetta Stone again, after a few weeks off. Not necessarily for myself but for other language learners and considering pros and cons, so with a slightly different focus than before.

If you (or your institution) use it, please get in touch and tell me how/for which purposes it is used.

If you (or your institution) have use it in the past, please get in touch and tell me how it was used and why it isn’t used any longer.

I am planning to develop a full survey but will probably use this primarily for my own institution (if you work where I work – please also get in touch).

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Here are my notes from this year’s Innoconf:

Conference slides can be found here.

Welcome and first keynote

After a warm welcome to Liverpool (thanks, Open Day people!) and the University of Liverpool, the first keynote speech (From new literacies to transmedia literacies) was delivered by Carmen Herrero, who talked about fostering participatory cultures in language learning and teaching in Higher Education . She passionately introduced us to transmedia storytelling, and several projects where language practitioners come together to share their ideas, knowledge and materials, such as FILTA and FLAME. She also introduced us to the new trends of “Study Tubers“, students who share how they learn and thereby support others. Some of the channels she (and her daughter) follows are:

There will be a conference on New Approaches to Transmedia and Language Pedagogy soon, and you can apply as a research assistant right now (closing date: 2 July 2018).

Parallel sessions

Individual presentations will be made available, so I will only note down the main things I took away. The full programme and abstracts can be found on the conference website.

Learner behaviour and beliefs about giving and receiving feedback within the busuu language learning app, by Fernando Rosell-Aguilar

  • peer feedback encourages critical thinking because students need to deal with own and others’ work, being exposed to alternative approaches to a task
  • peer feedback can be unproductive, e.g. when cultural differences are not acknowledged
  • OpenLearn course: How to learn a language
  • apps can offer risk-free self-assessment but automated feedback may not alwqays be authentic

Improving feedback through computer-based language assessment, by Elena A. M. Gandini & Tania Horák (University of Central Lancashire)

  • developed own EFL exam that tests all four skills to guide pre-sessional and in-sessional offer
  • I wonder if this could be bought in instead?

First Year Undergraduates’ LInC project (Learning Independently and Collaboratively), by Géraldine D Enjelvin (University of York)

  • from autonomous learning to independent and collaborative learning
  • peer feedback is key!
  • tone of feedback is important: be clear but not blunt
  • tutor gave online feedback as well
  • developed critical thinking and employability skills
  • a module runnining over two terms can negatively impact on student motivation – emphasis needs to be on the journey/the learning (to learn) curve

Student-led grammar revision project: Empowering Level 1 Spanish beginners’ students to facilitate their own learning, by Nadezhda Bonelli (University of Sheffield)

  • start from ab initio – up to A2 by end of Year 1
  • project: students to deliver a presentation about a grammatical structure to Year 9-11 students at local schools
  • tutor feedback but not marked (assessment = pressure)
  • trust the students – you can!
  • chance to get less priviledged schools involved and show what university life can be about

Challenging, supporting and empowering students in multi-cultural, multi-lingual IWLP beginners’ classes: T&L responses to Internationalisation, by Alison Nader (University of Reading)

  • involves all four skills
  • mix of students: different year groups, backgrounds, study routes
  • this project looked at how to best support non-native English speakers learning French, and how (if) assessment can address interculturality
  • developed a new module that included workshops for listening and speaking practice, if students needed it in addition to the original module
  • original module now includes more independent study
  • new project: student involvement in curriculum development
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