This week I’m tutoring on an online teacher development course discussing the use of technology in the ELT classroom. To kick off we’re exchanging some information about our current or recent teaching contexts. All the participants are teaching, or have recently been teaching, in low-tech classrooms so I’ve started the first forum by sharing some of my experiences in a similar context. Through no fault of their own, the group has diminished in size over the course of the last few weeks and, in order to bring some more depth and variety to our discussions, I’m sharing my forum post here in the hope that you’ll be able to help us out and add some thoughts about your teaching context, whether it be similar or different. The more voices we have, the better!
So, here’s my contribution:
My most recent face-to-face classes were in a traditional classroom in a local high school. The desks were arranged in fixed rows. We had a blackboard and chalk and no other technology. There was no projector or smartboard. I would bring my laptop to class to share audio, videos and images. I also used my, and the students’, mobile phones which had 3G connections to the internet. Here are three ways technology figured, or was used, in our classes.
1 Talking tech
This may sound like cheating, but I think the link is strong enough to be worth including, and it extends beyond the classroom and supports the students if/when they’re accessing information in English on the internet.
So, basically I bring in articles and texts about technology, and/or taken from sites I think the students might be interested in to share and discuss in class. For example I built a jigsaw reading task based on two infographics. (You can see the originals here and here – in both cases I only used the first few sections – the ones that would fit on an A4 sheet of paper!) Both show statistics about gaming and gamers, but the statistics are different. Once the students had discovered the discrepancies we looked more closely at the two texts and why the stats were different. We looked at where they were taken from, discussed who might have briefed them and discussed how we need to be critical in evaluating information presented to us on the internet (as we would be in a newspaper or any other text).
In another lesson with the same group (this one from some time ago!) we talked about the death of Steve Jobs and his contribution to the digital revolution. We looked at some of the tributes online (including this icon and its origins). As homework I asked them to search for quotes by Steve Jobs (it was on the day after his death and the internet was flooded with them) and to choose one or two favourites to share in the next class. They all did the homework (which was a first!) but they hadn’t all given it equal thought. I asked them all to write their quotes on the board and then to explain why they’d chosen them. Some were appropriate and clear and almost needed no explaining, though the students were keen to talk about why they’d chosen them. Others were obscure, unclear or just random chunks of text. It helped me set a benchmark for future out of class internet-based homework. It worked. If they did the homework, they did it well, knowing they’d have to justify or explain their choices.
2 Google searches, photo sharing and using songs
Google searches can range from a simple image search to clarify a piece of vocabulary (e.g. a magpie when reading a text about superstitions) to reading races or simple web quests where students have a list of questions and compete to be the first to answer them all. Photo sharing is often a follow-up for a homework task. I will share a photo in class (usually on the screen of my laptop with all the class crowding around) and then the students take a similar photo as their homework in order to then share the photos on their phones in the next class. I’ve sometimes used my phone or laptop to listen to songs online in the classroom – with the students then playing songs on their own phones. I’ve also used the phones to introduce students to sites like lyrics training which some of them really get into and use at home.
3 Voice recording
This is a great add-on for my younger teen speaking classes. It may well be a gimmick, but I’ve found that asking my students to record themselves performing a role play on their own mobile phones adds an extra layer of motivation. They up their game, they focus more on the task and produce far more interesting (and accurate) language. I think the motivation factor in itself is justification enough for using the mobiles, but the fact that they can listen to their recordings, hear their own voices, and slowly be trained to assess their own speaking and work on improving it is a really plus.
If you’ve got the time to add a few thoughts (long or short!) on the use of technology in your teaching context, that would really help us! Please add them here in the comments. Thank you