Despite the fact that it took me 6 hours to get to London from North Devon early on Monday morning, Monday really was a fascinating day, well and truly worth the effort.
For those of you who haven't heard the MYLOword before it refers to a project commissioned by DCSF and made real by the collaborative efforts of Lightbox, CILT, University of Cambridge Language Centre and the University of Salford. MYLO stands for My Languages Online and is designed theoretically as a motivational, effective tool to enhance the learning of our KS3 and KS4 pupils. Having been unveiled in a very basic manner at BETT a few weeks ago, this was our opportunity to really find out what MYLO would all be about. And so when I FINALLY arrived, having spent the previous few hours angrily tweeting away about the state of my journey, I was delighted to find a whole host of language teaching luminaries, including Joe Dale (who was leading some of the sessions in his role for CILT), Wendy Adeniji, Lisa Stevens, Mark Pentleton, Jo Rhys-Jones (one of these days she'll write a blog outside of her Talkabout Primary MFL Ning!!), Louise Crossley, Lesley Welsh, Isabelle Jones, Valerie McIntyre, Helena Butterfield, Simon Howells, Suzi Bewell, Esther Hardman and Andrew Balaam. I think. A huge spectrum of language interests. And those interests would be key because our goal for the day was to proviide practical feedback on how to make MYLO usable for language teachers and learners across the country and not just for teachers with a specific interest in all things Web 2.0. THAT is not MYLO's goal.
After BETT MYLO came in for a fair bit of stick. We must remember that what we are dealing with here is not a finished product, which in a way is why Monday was so important, allowing knowledgeable individuals to have an opportunity to help polish the exercises, structures and challenges ready for a summer term launch. It's very rare to have people genuinely willing to change their hard work in response to users' opinions- for which I give full credit to Lightbox.
So, enough rambling, what did we actually find?
OK, MYLO is to be available in four languages: French, Spanish, German and Mandarin. The Mandarin ab initio exercises were absorbing enough to convert a room full of gigglers and tweeters into fascinated learners, and I'm sure that will be the case across all 4 languages. From the ab initio stage learners move on to the challenges. There are 84 of these in total, of varying complexities and divided between the languages. At BETT a short snippet was played of one of these about a fictitious, extrovert Canadian chef who needs help creating a new menu for one of his restaurants- queue the challenge.
In language groups we were also able to examine some of the challenges which are still being developed. With Mark, Isabelle (sorry for the first draft error!!) and Lisa, I got the chance to have a look at a potential superhero challenge- creating a description of the character, physically and mentally. Our suggestion here was to add a further, extension level where learners could be instructed in how to add a back story using the imperfect tense. We'll see what comes of that! In my eyes that element of structured layers of complexity will be crucial, encouraging phrase-development skills rather than the ever-risky noun-heavy approach. But with other challenges including designing a new kit for a football team, and designing and explaining a new rollercoaster in Germany I've a feeling that concern won't be an issue, especially if the extension dimension is added.
As many of you know I'm currently looking to get back into the classroom after all of my travels pre-Christmas. One of the things that I'm consciously thinking about is what tools I'd like to introduce / focus on in any department I'm lucky enough to get in. Yes, the blog would be a must, as would some podcasting, great fun yet highly effective tools such as Wallwisher, Voki and even Voicethread. And I'm now very confident indeed that MYLO is about to be added to that list. The criticism received after BETT was in some ways understandable, of something of a shame to take an immediately pessimistic view of a potentially useful tool before we really knew what it would provide. But now that we've had the opportunity to get our hands dirty... I'll admit, I'm looking forward to seeing what the end product is going to be!
So from now on, keep an eye on the MYLO blog (where we were told plenty more information will soon be available), add it to your Google Reader and let's hope that the feedback we've given takes an already good site and makes it sparkle!