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Bili: a great way to connect pupils safely with TL speakers.

I'm sure all language teachers like the idea of their students being able to communicate with speakers of other languages. With more obstacles being placed in the path of UK teachers wishing to organise exchanges, alternative ways of connecting (many more) pupils are very desirable.

Charlie Foot at Bili (short for bilingual) has come up with an effective, secure way for classes and individuals to connect. Charlie is a former MFL teacher who set up this free service just a few months ago and is keen to spread the word.

The Bili video explains it as well as I could. One key aspect is that you can set specific tasks for pairs of students or classes which allow them to show off their own native speaker skills as well as read and hear the target language.



Bili is currently "live" and free in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and a school in Singapore. For teachers keen on this concept, some issues may be:
  • Can I connect a whole class? (Yes)
  • Is the system secure? (Yes)
  • Will it take much time for me to monitor and set tasks? (Try it and see)
  • Do all my students have equal access?
  • Will I need to check with my school's SLT? (Yes)
  • Are there any hidden costs? (No)
  • Can parents check work being done? (Yes)
This may be a case of trying the system out with a handful of volunteer pupils to start with, see how it works, get feedback, then casting the net wider. The system has clear advantages over traditional pen-friendships which may seem outmoded to many pupils. With "gained time" coming up in English school trying out Bili might even form part of a genuinely useful performance management target - perhaps a teacher could be the "Bili leader" in their department. For more information check out the Bili blog here.

My view is that this offers enormous potential for raising motivation and increasing pupil progress. We know just how important it is to make the subject seem "real" and useful to students, most of whom never get the chance to do an exchange or overseas study trip. The Bili approach helps you structure the process for students and can get parents involved too. Having spoken to Charlie about his site I know how driven he is to provide this added opportunity to pupils.

You may be interested to see Charlie talking about how Bili came about.



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