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Real Learners - Real Schools - Virtual Worlds

The overall theme of my paper will be of reflection on using CALL in a normal secondary school with typical teenagers over a fifteen year period, grounded on putting pedagogical principles into practice within the 'highly accountable' UK system of education where outcomes are measured regularly and published to the world in the unforgiving and competitive world of 'school league tables' which filter down to outcomes for each teacher so there must be clear benefits to the use of CALL.

The outcomes of this reflection are perhaps surprising.
Firstly, straightforward software for drilling can be highly effective and engaging.
Secondly, some currently advocated approaches are actually unrealistic in a normal secondary school context, and pose substantial problems including considerations of e-safety and safeguarding.
Thirdly, there are some currently under-used innovative methods which in fact can be engaging and effective and whose potential has not been exploited.

There is a wealth of CALL research and experience and flourishing on-line communities regularly exchange information about ICT elements which teachers use in their practice. In the UK and on behalf of EUROCALL, Graham Davies worked tirelessly to share good practice and my work appears as a case study on the ICT4LT site (

My intellectual framework will be to use the structure of Graham Stanley's award-winning book 'Language Learning with Technology' (CUP 2013) to expand and give a wide range of examples of a principled approach to the use of CALL in a secondary school context, while still drawing on the 'tried and tested' classical pedagogy promoted in Language Teacher Training courses with the stages of presentation, practice and production.

Being a practising teacher and manager in a large school puts me in a strong position to give a wide range of examples of CALL practice which I have used or observed directly. In addition, being current branch chair and former national president of a prominent language association in the UK, holding regular practical ICT workshops and being part of many online communities, including being followed by 2500 on Twitter, managing a successful forum for 4,000 language teachers and making links to the ELT world primarily through personal experience of virtual worlds, means that I can draw on others' practice and there is a 'Darwinian' sense in which I see which methods are successful or unsuccessful.

My work is distinctive since as well as maintaining many of the so-called 'traditional' uses of ICT (e.g. vocabulary training through drilling) I have also discovered a highly effective way of 'mediating' authentic experiences with native speakers, making particular use of the virtual world 'Second Life' in lessons and within which I am running a project supported by the British Computing Society and South East Grid for Learning. In addition, my experiences as an adult learner and teacher in Second Life will enable to highlight how this may be different from working with pupils

Thus I will be presenting hard evidence as a practising teacher as to how CALL can be highly effective.


Helen Myers    
Language Department
The Ashcombe School
United Kingdom

Teacher of French and German 1982 - present day, preparing students to examination level (GCSE and Advanced level)
Assistant Head at The Ashcombe School ( a Language College since 1998 specialising in the use of ICT to enhance language learning for all. I run regular 'hands-on' workshops to share good practice. Case Study for the Management aspect features on the ICT4LT site here:
Organised video clips for school site, attracting a great deal of traffic
Chair of Association for Language Learning (ALL) London branch, responsible for organising two events a year which each attract over 100 teachers
Former national president of ALL (2008) leading to radio and TV appearances (including BBC Radio 2 and BBC Breakfast)
Regular attendee at the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) for Languages
Regular presenter at national language conferences (e.g. Languages Live, London - )
Moderator of a very popular Yahoo forum (mflresources - link) with 4,000 members
Twitter account followed by 2500 @HelenMyers
Regular contributor to a wide range of language fora, but also occasional blogger attracting significant traffic
YouTube channel with uploaded videos attracting thousands of hits
Active member of Second Life Language Teacher community (moderator in SLanguages conference). I produced a video on language learning which is widely referenced
English teacher in Second Life


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