Skip to main content

So what about iPads for MFL?

Ipads are being deployed in vast numbers, it seems, across the nation's schools. How useful are they to MFL learners and teachers?

The first question to ask is what do we need our technology for? In MFL we are aiming to improve the four skills. Anything which can aid us in developing pupils' comprehension, grammatical command, vocabulary knowledge and oral proficiency should be welcomed if it can be afforded.

An ICT room of PCs fulfills many needs and can even be turned into a language lab for oral practice, but in schools it is not always easy to book time when you want it and you have to move classes around. The enormous attraction of the tablet is its portability, so there are certainly advantages to having it handy for instant listening/streamed video work, interactive grammar and vocabulary work. There's no need to book a room, no need to compete with other subjects for computer time.

One issue with the iPad, of course, is that it will not display any content in Flash and will not run all Hot Potato exercises successfully. With this in mind, I wonder how many schools have opted for Android devices.

It is also the case that publishers are now bringing out subject-specific resources for the ipad, for example Nelson-Thornes have just released topic based units of work downloadable from the iTunes store. I cannot vouch for the quality of these.

Practicalities are bound to be a concern. What if a pupil's iPad has no charge? What if it doesn't work? What if they have forgotten it? Well, I guess those issues arise in a computer room and you get by with sharing. Nor do I think we should ignore the environmental issue of electricity consumption with greater use of portable devices. In this regard, at least the iPad consumes a good deal less electricity than a traditional PC.

So, in sum, do we need iPads? Probably not. Would they (do they) add something to the MFL classroom? Almost certainly.

If I were in a position to be designing a departmental policy on iPad use, I would try to focus on using them for listening (preferably with video), either using interactive sites or added worksheets (such as the ones I have been making for I would also stress their use for developing grammatical and comprehension skill via sites such as MYLO, Languagesonline, Audio Lingua the Carmen Vera Perez site and Bonjour de France. Overall I would see the tablet as a consumption tool more than a production tool. I would be a little wary of creative apps which pupils may fritter time away on.

For a more detailed assessment of iPads in the MFL classroom from someone who knows the field really well and trains people around the world, look at Joe dale's blog here.

For a list of apps for the iPad, you might find this useful, but this field will be changing rapidly.


  1. When using iPads in the classroom you need to be imaginative with NON MFL specific apps.

    For example, it's really important to stress the immediacy that the iPad affords you. The video camera beamed straight to your screen for analysing speaking (I'm NEVER together enough to book a camera in advance!), the stills camera for taking pics of written work to beam to your projector, PuppetPals app for students to create conversations in a safe environment, VideoScribe so that you never have to 'teach' the Passé Composé again(!), QR codes for treasure hunts.

    Steer clear of MFL apps. Be imaginative with non specific ones.

  2. Thanks, Neil. They all seem reasonable uses of an iPad, but I would put them at the more gimmicky end of the spectrum to be honest. I could only imagine doing those things very sparingly compared to consuming online content.

  3. When I use the ipads in my classroom, I try to create activities that I couldn't do without the ipad. I have been integrating the ipads into my classroom to help improve my students oral communication. We do use them for other things as well such as building vocabulary at the beginning, however, in my opinion, it is most important for my students to be able to communicate orally in the the target language. So how can I use the technology to improve this? We record oral conversations, we listen back to our work so we can self reflect, we give eachother feedback, they email me conversations which I can give them feedback on. My students do more talking now, more than ever because of this technology (because of the metacognitive piece as well as it holds them accountable when working in small groups or with partners) and as a result, their communication in the TL is truly improving.

  4. That sounds good to me. I am no longer teaching but can see how that would be useful. With the students I taught, who were quite able and were rarely reluctant to speak, I would still be looking at the iPad as a great portable source of input.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Tell stories


How can we make listening more enjoyable and effective for pupils? How can we turn it from a potential chore to something more memorable (and therefore more likely to stick in their long term memories)? I am of the opinion that since humans are "wired" to engage in personal listening and speaking (the expression "social brain" has been used in this context), they may be more interested and attentive when the message comes from a real person rather than a disembodied audio source. (This may or may not be relevant, but research has been carried out which demonstrates that babies pick up phonological patterns better when they listen to a caregiver rather than listen to a tape or watch a video - see here for summaries of research into this area by Patricia Kuhl.)

One easy way to make listening stimulating for pupils is to tell them easy stories in the target language. I was reminded of this while reading Penny Ur's book 100 Teaching Tips (reviewed here

New GCSE resources on frenchteacher

As well as writing resources for the new A-levels, I have in recent months been posting a good range of materials to support the new GCSEs. First exams are not until 2018, but here is what you can find on the site in addition to the many other resources (grammar exercises, texts, video listening etc).

I shall not produce vocabulary lists since the exam board specifications now offer these, with translations.

Foundation Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Role-plays
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (2)
100 translation sentences into French (with answers)
Reading exam
Reading exam (2)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a good Foundation Tier essay (Word)

Higher Tier 

AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier)
AQA-style GCSE 2016 Photo card conversations (Higher tier) (2)
20 translations into French (with answers)
Reading exam (Higher tier)
How to write a good Higher Tier essay (ppt)
How to write a…

What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

The Language Teacher Toolkit review

We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

Here is Professor Macaro's review:
The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence. So for example the ‘methodological principles’ on page 11 are supported by the research they then refer to later in the book and this approach is very similar to the one that we (Ernesto Macaro, Suzanne Graham, Robert Woore) have adopted in our ‘consortium project’( The point i…

5 great zero preparation lesson ideas

When the pressure is on and there are only so many hours on the week, you need a repertoire of zero preparation go-to activities which promote input and/or practice. Here are five you might well find useful.

1. My weekend

We know that listening is the most important yet often neglected skill for language learning. It's also something some pupils find hard to do. To develop listening skill and provide tailored comprehensible input try this:

You tell the class you are going to recount what you did last weekend and that they have to make notes in English. The amount of detail you go into and the speed you go will depend on your class. Talk for about three minutes. If you spent the whole weekend marking, you can always make stuff up!

You then make some true or false (maybe not mentioned too) statements in the target language about what you said in your account. Class gives hands up (or no hands up) answers. This can then lead into a simple pair work task where pupils make up their own tru…