The Covid-19 pandemic imposed sudden and widespread changes in education across the globe, including the forced shift of most aspects of learning to online platforms and spaces, often for considerable periods. Modern language learning was perhaps, in theory at least, better equipped for some of these changes due to long-standing work in areas such as Computer-Assisted (or Mobile-Assisted) Language Learning (CALL or MALL) and more recent work by initiatives such as the #MFLTwitterati community or the Technology in Language Teaching (TiLT) webinars. But how has language learning fared in practice at secondary school level during the lockdown period?
On a practical level, language learning has been well provisioned with shared resources and hands-on tutorials or workshops, but how has debate about the future of language learning been transformed as a result? In the view of language education strategists and theorists, has the current horizon been transformed – by enhanced digital literacies, virtual learning environments, agile app usage, autonomous learning or greater peer-to-peer interaction, for example – or will things gradually drift back to how they were before?
In this retrospective look at a year which saw a high degree of digital mediation in language learning, we ask an expert panel what was learned about hybrid digital/face-to-face language education and what we still need to do in order to use digital media more critically and strategically, in a context which (we hope) will be less shaped by urgent and involuntary external factors.
•Helen Myers (Assistant Head, Ashcombe School, and chair of the London branch of The Association for Language Learning)
•Esmeralda Salgado (Head of MFL and Spanish, King’s Ely)
•Jane Basnett (Head of Department, Downe House School)
•Isabelle Jones (Associate Assistant Headteacher and MFL teacher, Macclesfield Academy, and member of the ALL Executive Council)
•Daren White (MFL teacher and learning technologies lead, Maltings and New Rickstones Academies)
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