Sunday, August 28, 2011

Le Retour de Mickey L'Ange...

It didn't work! Failure, total failure! How could they possibly understand so little? How might one come back after such a fiasco?

Thursday 25th August I was busy at Cyberlangues a grouping together of language teachers from all over France. I was due to 'animate' a workshop on the use of Smartphones and Tablets in the language learning classroom.

Everything was in place. The colleagues were there, in number, in the room and in other regions and other  countries following the events on Twitter and on Adobe Connect. The tests were almost conclusive. Nothing could go wrong...

Then it did.

First apparent problem was my own ambition.

 I was curious to learn how far one could go with the different spaces and tools linked to us at the same time: netbook linked up to video projector with a document camera pointed at an  iPhone and/or the people in the classroom,  microphone plugged into the netbook and speaker to transmit/exchange the sound from participants all over the world via Adobe Connect, chat enabled in Connect and Twitter stream, Adobe Connect app on iPhone to act as portable terminal for the participants to exchange with the other partipants coming from the UK, India, and France. The iPad (1) would be projected, after the netbook, with an AV adapter - excellent but limited to particular apps. Marvellous! I had just the app: Popplet. Great for presenting complicated ideas visually.

You understand  all of this with difficulty. I can almost hear the hesitation between the commas and the colons.

Well, I did try to make it simpler.

I had promised myself not to include the participants from around the world via Adobe Connect. Then I got taken up by my enthusiasm and that of the others; marvellous people from my PLN (personal learning network) on Twitter.

Frankly, I blame them!

Without them, I would have been unable to have so much to talk about, so much to share, so little fear for ridicule, so little reason to doubt that the game is never over....until it is.

Then even worse, I didn't do what had been on the advertisement for the workshop.

The lady from the Ministry apparently kindly, pointedly let me know that she was rather disappointed that we didn't actually get to touch the touchscreens and the myriad of applications behind the glass.

The teachers, after all were there, in number, to get to grips with IOS (or perhaps Android) in the classroom...

Ah yes...The teachers were apparently non-plussed by my introduction.

A snapshot of a painting attributed to Michel Ange (my spelling). What was the connection between my workshop on iPhones, iPods and this painting I asked ambitiously?

Well we tried reproducing the gestures, together, bravely, physically. I must thank the brave members of the workshop who did what I had begged: 'Get up and Move!'. Well they all did except @KedemFerre, (a rebel) who spent his time looking at my website and the lady from the Ministry who reminded me that her wheelchair dependence was an obstacle to such pedagogical innovation...

The teachers were confused.  I include myself in this category. @chrisjaeg asked @warwicklanguage, via Twitter, whether  @sensor63 was always disconcerting so? Others admitted to being elsewhere..(I didn't)  Some had clearly not been looking... carefully. Their fingers touched (on the painting there is a space between God and his Adam). Others looked at me, the ceiling, the others, anywhere anxiously. What on earth were we doing? Was it ok to stand up and be ridiculous in front of the lady from the ministry?  What about the applications?

Touch is not just tactile Mickey!

An Italian painting, it was, I was assured by Michel Ange (by an Italian teacher to be accurate).  Creation, a part of the Sixtine Chapel's ceiling. I learnt! The rest, I was obliged to find for myself, thanks to Google, Wikipedia, and Twitter.

Mickey Ange had a father. He was unhappy that his brilliant son chose to be a ceiling painter. Mickey the son rebelled. Thank God he did! Without his Genius, our world would be a worse place.

Of course this story is almost completely untrue!

He painted the ceiling with the help of his anonymous apprentices.

This article, owes much to @timbuckteeth, @warwicklanguage, @w2YAdavid, @Wagjuer the confusion of the participants present, my children and my wife and childish curiosity.

The lesson I learnt.

A tool is only useful when it is wielded with others and its product witnessed by others who might embellish its failings with their feelings, reactions, and presence.

Education is this new century with these new tools has more to do with love than with legend...


  1. Interesting post.

    There are always things that can go wrong in a digital sense, but the challenge for us educators this century is attention. When attention is spread through a number of devices and multiple audiences, it must be a real challenge to follow and animate it, both for participants and speakers.

    Like your final sentence, Simon... of course, you do know where the word legend comes from ;-) might just happen to be one of my favorite etymologies, and it gives an extra little curve to your sentence:

    Cheers, Brad

  2. Décidement. What an intricate web we weave! Just been reading and commented on one of your blog posts on assessment as you must know!

    Attention in my eyes must be in the eyes of the learner. I am very happy to let them get along with it and then go and have a cup of coffee.

    Teachers are so used to being the centre of attention that they are uneasy with changing places, roles, and skills. Exciting times...

    I love this language-geek label, haven't been practising that game too much for a while.

    Your etymological help is very stimulating, and has jogged my memory again. If only I was next to my book-case, I could tell you the reference for a book you might enjoy. I can see the cover, the Que sais-je collection but the title and author, I have forgotten...When at home will look it up and tweet :-)