SAY BONJOUR TO REMOTE FRENCH TEACHING (TESS, 18 November 2011)
Intermediate 1 French at Tiree High is a lesson like no other. The S3 pupils’ teacher, Helene Bernard, teaches them from 140 miles away, in a classroom at Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh.
When Tiree High was unable to fill the post for a French teacher last year, the school and its local authority had no choice but to use Glow Meet as a medium to connect its pupils with a French teacher elsewhere. A number of classes, including a P7/S1 and an Intermediate 2 class, are now regularly taught remotely.
“It has been very much a challenge for us. It has taken us probably about a year to get some basic technology issues sorted out,” said Maggie Irving, education support officer for ICT at Argyll and Bute Council.
There were problems with sound quality initially, and new laptops had to be bought to resolve these. Connecting a large number of laptops to the school’s wireless network also proved difficult, with the result that the computers are now hardwired through the network.
In addition, the new learning environment proved a challenge for younger children. “They have to sit down and listen very carefully and respond on a keyboard – not the best learning medium for those learners,” she explained.
Miss Bernard, a native French speaker, was one of two teachers last year to take on the challenge of teaching remotely.
Last week, she had the five girls in her Intermediate 2 class working on directions and maps, using Google Maps to work out and describe how they would get from one location in Lyon to another. They worked in teams to follow directions, and she marked the group’s homework, which they had uploaded onto the Glow Meet site.
“It was quite a learning curve, but we have been able to do so many things because of Glow,” she told TESS. “In a normal classroom, I can’t have all my children going on the internet and checking out real life in France, but I can do that online via Glow.”
In many ways, the teaching experience was not dissimilar to being there with the pupils, she said. “You have a whiteboard on the site, you have the children in front of you through the camera, and we have a jotter. Because it is a language, we have to speak a lot. The only thing that is different is that we have a chat box.”
Teaching via Glow could even be more efficient: “Each of the kids is in front of one computer, so they are very focused; it makes for a very effective class.”