Supporting primary MFL through videoconferencing (16 June 06)

Date: 16 June, 2006
Location: University of East Anglia
Event type: Subject Centre sponsored lecture

Past event summary

Guest speaker: Magda Phillips

The topic lies at the core of a cross-sector pilot initiative by the University of East Anglia and Norfolk LEA in which videoconferencing is being used to link primary school children in rural schools with "French language ambassadors" (UEA students who are native or fluent speakers of French). Magda Phillips has experience of the application of videoconferencing in primary MFL. The lecture is designed to inform the project and allow the sharing of expertise regarding technical and pedagogical issues.

This event was sponsored by the Subject Centre's guest speaker fund.


Campus map
Room A0.14 in the School of Language, Linguistics and Translation Studies (LLT)
Building: Arts I.
University of East Anglia

Event report: Supporting primary MFL through videoconferencing

by Dr Marie-Madeleine Kenning, on behalf of the School of Language, Linguistics and Translation Studies, UEA

Magda Philips reported the findings of action research, carried out in 2004/05 in a primary school in North Yorkshire as part of a PhD. The objective was to support the learning of French through links with native target-language peer speakers.

Magda Phillips set the scheme within the 2009 modern language entitlement for KS2, and the challenges encountered in providing this entitlement both because of the little curricular time available (approximately 15 minutes per class per week by the visiting specialist teacher in this particular case) and the lack of modern language confidence in class teachers. She described briefly the pilot scheme implemented in the 1970s and the theoretical framework for her approach, which involves supporting language acquisition with signing and songs.

She described the rationale for using videoconferencing with reference to the following

  • Authentic spoken exchanges with native-speakers may be motivational although a small number of pupils found it overwhelming.
  • Videoconferences provide visual clues which are very useful for early language speaking
  • Videoconferencing will be greatly facilitated by the widening of access to JANET
  • Videoconferencing may motivate in itself. Where it does not, it gives a goal to learning to speak a language.

Magda Phillips stressed that motivation in pupils from Years 2, 3 and 6 varied, with Year 6 far more aware of their self-image, particularly when the videoconferencing link was shown on the large interactive whiteboard.

While the project encountered a range of problems, including problems with the technology, videoconferencing was found to be transformational for many pupils of different aptitude. Communicating with a school in France meant that learning a language had a real purpose and prompted the pupils to want to go to France. It developed the pupils' emotional literacy by giving them an opportunity to deal with an awe-inspiring occasion with which they had to cope. Even when they could not instantly remember the required sentences, the actions, expressions or music with which they had originally learnt the language prompted them to speak successfully. These strategies were particularly helpful to less able, withdrawn children.

Magda Phillips' informative presentation was illustrated with video clips and led to a general discussion on the feasibility of videoconferencing and a comparison of her project with the pilot scheme run at UEA, in which videoconferencing has been used to link primary school children in rural schools with "French language ambassadors" (UEA students who are native or fluent speakers of French).

The School wishes to thank Magda Phillips for her inspiring presentation and the Subject Centre for its sponsorship.