Friday, February 4, 2022
Last month we took a look at the future of English teaching. So, this month we thought we’d follow that up by looking at the technology we use in the English language classroom. As we mentioned in last month’s blog, there is a wide range of technology that we can use in our classes. This technology is constantly changing and developing, making it important for us as teachers to stay on top of technological changes in order to not be left behind by our students, who are inevitably at the forefront of these technological advances.
If you teach young learners and teenagers, these so called “digital natives” have grown up with digital technology all around them. They therefore have come to expect to see some of this technology used in their English classes. Imagine the comments you would hear if you wheeled out a CD player or a TV in one of your young leaner classes. It is therefore essential that we familiarise ourselves with the technology that is available to us; making sure that we are proficient users of this. Smartboards, projectors and digital resources are only useful if the teacher knows how to use them properly and our young digital native students are unlikely to put up with teachers who are not experienced users of technology. For many of us, this means practising using the technology in our classrooms and getting to grips with the features of our digital resources before we use them in our classes.
Many of the advantages of using technology in the classroom are clear. Using a smartboard or projector allows you to create visually engaging lessons for your students and make use of video resources and interactive activities. What’s more, most teens and older students arrive to class with their own smartphones and there is an ever-increasing number of resources and activities aimed at making educational use of these devices. Coursebooks now also come with digital resources that complement the book. These often include games and videos to help engage our learners as well as instantly displaying the answers to activities – a huge time saver for the busy teacher. Used properly, classroom technology can have a very positive impact on our students’ learning.
One of the dangers of having all this technology in the classroom is that teachers can become over-dependent on it. It almost becomes a crutch and when that technology fails or isn’t available to us, we don’t know what to do. It is therefore important not to become over-reliant on the various devices that we have in our classroom and remember the skills that made us good teachers in the first place. Another danger is that using the smartboard or mobile phone in the lesson becomes a reward for good work or good behaviour. The risk here is that the technology is no longer being used as an educational tool to aid learning and is instead simply something fun to use at the end of the lesson if the students work hard. It’s important that we use the technology in our classroom to aid our students’ learning and not just as a ten-minute filler at the end of a lesson.
As previously mentioned, it’s important not to over-rely on technology. We would never give up our traditional whiteboards to be replaced solely by a smartboard. Language items are often easier to present on a traditional board and you can quickly record emergent language and clarify new language. Using technology cannot replace the skills we have that make us good teachers. Smartboards and phones won’t improve your concept checking, error correction or lesson pace. In fact, they can sometimes have a detrimental effect on these things. It’s important that we combine our use of technology with our basic English teaching skills to ensure that our students get well-rounded, stimulating and informative lessons.
So, how can we make the most of the technology in our classrooms? Below we have some ideas for ways you can use the different technology available to you.
There are an ever-increasing number of interactive quizzes you can use with your students such as Kahoot, Quizizz, Baamboozle and Quizlet. So, why not use one of these to revise grammar or vocabulary or to bring a reading or listening exercise out the coursebook. Students love competitive activities, and these really do make learning fun.
With most students now bringing smartphones into class, we can now take advantage of this and get them to do some research in class. You can prepare some questions and get your students to find the answers online. Alternatively, you can give them a topic and ask them to produce a presentation based on their findings. Doing the research in class allows you to monitor and support the research process and point students in the right direction.
Young learner coursebooks have interesting articles on places around the world from Australia to India. Why not make a visit to these places part of your lesson? Of course, it’s impossible to travel there, but you can go on a digital field trip. Using websites like Google Streetview you can take your class on a digital tour of places like the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal. When doing so you can ask your learners to describe what they see and tell you where to go next, meaning they are practising valuable language skills and getting a cultural experience at the same time.
Services such as Edmodo allow teachers to create online classrooms for their young learners. With this tool, they can set homework for the learners, lead discussions and debates and share resources with the learners. This means that learners who miss classes can be immediately brought up to date on the things they missed. Learners can share ideas they have for presentations and let their teacher know in advance what they will need for the presentation. All of this means that learning can continue once your learners have left the physical classroom.
We hope this blog has given you a few ideas for how to make the most of your learners’ technology skills and how you can use technology in your classes. If used well, it is truly a great way to engage your learners and more often than not, learners from one class can teach you something that you can then use in another class. Good luck trying out these activities!