AULC conference 2016 #aulcconference2016

Last week I attended the 17th annual conference organised by the Association of University Language Centres in the UK and Ireland (AULC). It took place in Cardiff, where everyone I met was really friendly, and I met quite a few colleagues from other institutions. This is my fourth year of attending, and a lot of time is now spent trying to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a year.

Here are my notes:

Day 1

Welcome and Keynote 1 (Professor Diarmait Mac giolla chriost)

  • Wales is aiming to make its population bilingual plus 1, i.e. every child is taught English, Welsh and one other language in school. This is meant to raise the profile of modern languages in the country and increase employability.
  • Welsh is to be seen as language of inclusion
  • some identities are linked to language (research into this taking place e.g. at University of Cardiff)

Session 1: Accessibility of Professional Development by Language Practitioners Investigating a Better Understanding of their classroom Practice (Dr Assia Slimani-Rolls and colleagues)

  • focus on exploratory practice (EP) as method for research and practice
  • research is essential/powerful, needs to inform practice – ‘potentially powerful transformative force’
  • why are teachers not engaging in research? lack of time/available resources/mutual respect between teachers and academic researchers
  • exploratory practice aims to empower teachers and develop professionalism
  • importance of putting ‘quality of life’ in the classroom first
  • use of normal pedagogic activities as investigative approaches
  • some teachers presented their own ‘puzzles’, reflecting on their individual contexts
  • EP helped to make informed CPD decisions, to understand what happens outside the classroom as well as inside

Session 2: Developing Digital Literacies through Observation and Reflection (Dr Ulrike Bavendielek)

  • internet use offers authentic, relevant material, greater scope for participation and autonomy
  • communication skills: different skills required for different media/platforms
  • access to help and support in target language
  • ‘real language’ communities of practice – native speakers, at a distance
  • ‘participation is learning’
  • enable students to know what’s out there and how to find/access it
  • show students how to access things, e.g. at the beginning of a lecture – don’t assume they know!
  • need for cultural background, underlyig values and ideas
  • language use on social media can be very creative, it isn’t about ‘correct’ language – students need to be made aware and they may be able to play with language, too
  • encourage students to use target language on existing networks rather than start afresh – be aware how people engage with social media generally – there may be issues

Keynote 2: Opportunities and Challenges in the Multilingual and Multicultural Learning Space: Principles and Practices (Dr Kevin Haines)

Session 3: Acquired through Languages for All / IWLP Programmes – the Certificate in Languages for Business – Chartered Institute of Linguistics Accrediting Language Skills (Matthias Postel)

  • Level 2 certificate: A1/B2
  • need for applied language content with a workplace focus
  • currently on offer: French, Spanish, German
  • two units (reading/writing and listening/speaking), plus exam

Day 2

Session 1: Use of Tablets/Smart Phones to Support Accessibility (Antonio Barriga Rubio)

Plenary Talk: Beyond Accepted Standards – The German UNIcert Language Certificate for University Students (Dr Peter Tischer)

  • “The UNIcert ® system of language education and certification is based on a policy document agreed by leading German universities.”
  • one curriculum with academic focus
  • framework and network
  • cooperation with DAAD
  • certificate for teachers: FOBIcert
  • international expansion
  • different (new) skills – new certifictae needed

AULC – Annual General Meeting (John Morley and colleagues)

  • updates

There was a Twitter hashtag as well, #aulcconference2016, which you may want to look at to access other people’s tweets, posts and thoughts.

Added on 24/02/2016: Presentations can be accessed here.


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Digital and professional identities

This weekend I have been going through previous blog posts, notes, presentations, recordings, and such, to chart the development of my digital identity. There is a lot of stuff on here that I didn’t even realise I had written down. But now it comes in useful… for a rather unexpected MA assignment that is due in January.

I am also trying to work out how my professional identity has developed in the past few years, and have found that both are closely linked, especially in regards to developing valuable relationships (and even friendships). But are there further dimensions I am missing?

If you have any memories about our past encounters, please comment below, because it’d be interesting to see how others perceive the whole question of identity.

[Added in December 2016: Here’s an essay about professional identity that I wrote for my MA module on technology, education and society]

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Apple pie

To de-stress after along week, I spent some of yesterday baking. I used apples from my own tree to make a pie, using a recipe from the Internet.



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Technology in my field

Today I was invited to be a plenary speaker at an event for English language students. Brief: to talk about the influence of technology in my field.

My initial thoughts on this evolved around social media and how these have enabled me to become a part of the wider professional community and to be able to find and share information, ideas, etc. more easily. But going further back, I realised that technology has enabled (or forced?) the profession to change throughout its existence, really: going from scrolls to codices, to computers and tablets; from card catalogue to OPAC to QR codes and RFID. So where to start and where to end? Which technologies have changed your professional life the most and why?

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Back to study

After a summer of reading novels I am now back to reading MA-type literature, and probably not much else (I already miss snuggling up and reading about Wilt‘s life…). This year I am also tackling my Masters thesis, which will probably be about supporting blogs for language learning. There’s a lot to be packed in, so I can imagine that blogging will fall a bit by the wayside. I’ll try and keep writing about events I have attended though.

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Blackberry Pie

This weekend I made a pie, using handpicked blackberries.

I used a recipe from the internet and ready-made pastry. Just mix 500g berries with 120g sugar, put in pastry case, cover, bake for approximately half an hour. Add ice cream. Happy tummies.

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Useful things

Things that have excited me today:

  • EDpuzzle: a new tool to use with videos – you can add tasks, comments, etc.
  • lingro: dictionary that can be used on any website
  • Screencastify: record your screen, including audio
  • slowing videos down in YouTube: go to ‘settings’ and use the drop-down menu ‘speed’ to change the speed of the videoUntitled

Here’s a link to Chris Harte’s webinar from this morning, which introduced more interesting and useful tools.

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Too much stuff?

After a few weeks of clearing actual paperwork in the office and at home, I have tried to get my virtual paperwork in order today, partly to start new projects with a clean slate and partly because it really needed doing! Also, I am trying to get a head start on literature searches for my MA and how to best keep on top of what I am reading or marking as ‘to read’. I still haven’t got my head around referencing tools such as EndNote or Mendeley, and because I am constantly using different PCs and storage solutions I can’t decide which solution might be best. Looking back, I should also give Evernote a go, but at the moment I am still lured in by an alphabetical Word list, which seems so simple – but once it becomes more than five pages long it will most probably start to get a bit complicated. I’ll attend a referencing workshop next week, so hopefully things will become a bit clearer.

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Digital projects

Here are some interesting links I have come across this week:

BALEAP: EAP and blended learning

CILIP: What is instructional design and technology

Digital literacy or digital competence?

Digital literacies pack

Digital skills – staff training examples

Digital skills, literacy and libraries

Jisc: Developing Digital Literacies: Institutional Audit Tool

Open University: Being digital

Social media student guidance

The 7 characteristics of a digitally competent teacher

This week I have spent quite a bit of time talking about digital projects and what we can do to improve the use of technology at work. This has of course made me think about the Critical Study I have to write as part of my masters next summer, and which direction I might go with that. At the moment I can see myself writing about digital literacy but I’m also interested in technology in relation to language learning generally – hopefully I can somehow combine the two, and, ideally, even come out with something that I can apply to my daily work.

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Lunch or dinner or what?

We are having an ongoing discussion at work about what certain meal times are called and at what time they take place… of course we realise that differences occur because of background, class, region, context, etc.  – but what do you call yours?

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