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International House

Settembre 2010
2010 and Beyond

In our June issue we delved into the past and looked at the history of International House (IH) – one of the world’s leading language institutions. This month we continue our look at two members of the International House family – IH Milan and IH London – as we return and ask them to peer into the future. What’s next in the world of English language learning and teaching?


“To a degree,” says Sieglinde Wolkan Director of IH Milan, “the future is already here and affecting what we do now on a daily basis. Recent changes in technology have taken us to places we could have only dreamed of ten years ago.” Schools across the International House network have embraced innovations in social media. As well as its website www.ihmilano.it IH Milan has a blog for its students – http://ihmilanoblog.blogspot.com/ – a Facebook page and you can also follow them on twitter (@IHMilan).
“Technology has opened so many opportunities for us to dialogue with students,” adds Sieglinde, “and with other members of the IH family too – publishers, teachers and of course other IH schools.” Indeed IH Milan is not alone in embracing the web – the International House flagship school in Covent Garden London uses a variety of social media including its own YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/IHLondonSchool. “We are here to help people communicate – that’s our mission,” says Sieglinde. “The world of Twitter and Facebook is where our students will be communicating in the future – and so that’s why we’re there now!”


Of course there’s more to the future than technology – what of the teacher? Are we going to be faced with virtual classrooms lead by hi-tech English-teaching robots? Mike Riley, Director of Studies at IH San Donato (Milan), laughs at the suggestion. “The students would be terrified! Anyway, it’s too difficult a job for a robot!” So, does that mean teachers and teaching will remain the same? “Not at all,” says Mike. “Indeed one of the great things about working for International House is the constant emphasis on teacher development. It’s vital that teachers work on their own teaching skills and that they keep up-to-date with technology and new ways of thinking about learning.”


On Friday 24th September 2010, International House Milan is holding its 3rd annual conference for Italian state school teachers. The title of this year’s event? – “English 2010 and beyond – The future of language teaching and learning.” The event attracts teachers from all over Italy and speakers have travelled from across Europe to give presentations. “I’m always impressed,” says Mike, “with the determination state school teachers have to develop their skills. They could sit back and live in the past but they don’t. Indeed this year the main themes of our conference will be using technology and CLIL – key factors in the development of teaching English in the near future.”
International House London is also well-known for its teacher development programmes. As well as courses on developing teaching knowledge and practical skills, they now offer a certificate in using ICT. Many of the courses are COMENIUS approved, so Italian teachers can have the opportunity to develop their skills in London. Both IH Milan and IH London offer the Cambridge CELTA course – the key qualification for becoming a teacher of English as a foreign language.


Of course there’s one more final ingredient for the future – the students. “Without our students,” says Sieglinde, “There is no future!” International House puts student satisfaction at the top of its list. Across the world so many students have enjoyed their experiences of learning with International House – but what more can IH do in the future?
“Being a student at International House doesn’t begin and end in the classroom,” says Sieglinde. International House has always focused on giving students support out of the classroom and creating a real family atmosphere. “We’ve already mentioned how we are using Facebook and Twitter – that help us stay in contact with students and create a sense of community. But we also have an active social programme for our students – not just those studying English but for the hundreds of students who come to Milan every year to learn Italian.”
The International House Milan events include pub quizzes and opportunitites to mingle with other students over a few drinks at happy hour. Recently, Speak Up columnist John Peter Sloan gave a presentation to the students during one of the events. For IH London it is also vital to have a full and active social programme too – students can visit the famous galleries, museums and monuments. There are even visits to Premier League clubs and Wimbledon. Students can also attend the monthly pronunciation workshop led by IH founder Brita Haycraft. All of which add to the experience of studying in the cool capital.


So, though we started our trip to the future by looking at technology, it seems that for International House the key element for success remains the same – people. With such attention to the development of its students and teachers, the future looks bright for the International House community!


This year’s title:  “English 2010 and beyond – The future of language teaching and learning.”
When: 24th September 2010
Where: in San Donato Milanese, at Liceo Primo Levi (Omnicomprensivo)

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