Using Technology in the ESL Classroom - even if you are teaching in a hill tribe or yak tent!

Engage them or enrage them is a quote from Mark Presnsky who believes that using technology in today's primary classrooms is essential in order to engage and motivate your pupils.  

This article contains some fantastic ideas about using the internet and technology in class and for homework.  I learned these ideas at a big TEFL conference where I was also speaking.  The lecture was called something like: Technology and the 21st century ESL classroom.  The speaker was from IATEFL Hungary.  

To carry out these ideas you need to be very well equipped with computers at school and possibly at home, and children need digital cameras.  However take heart, because if your school is not kitted out like the Star Trek Enterprise you can stay abreast of developments nonetheless! 

If you look at the activities that I will describe, you'll see they are about human beings communicating with each other, and we've been doing that for a long, long time, and you don't need a computer to do it! 

The use of websites and digital cameras is just the PACKAGING for the activity so that your pupils will think it is cool. You can use all these ideas just as well by adapting them. 

So here is the latest ESL BUZZ:

The buzz in teaching today is all about the "21st century" classroom and integrating technology and producing students who are ready to go into the work place. In order to close the gap between what employers are looking for and what is being taught in school teachers, in addition to English, should teach: 

  • Professionalism
  • Work ethic
  • Critical thinking
  • Team work
  • Technology
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Cross-cultural understanding
  • Self-direction.   


You are probably thinking; "oh boy and I was having trouble with the present tense."  

So here are some of the ways to integrate technology into your classroom, which also allow for the development of other attributes on the above list:

1. Making a class blog. 

  1. Set up a social network for the classroom.
  2. Only the administrator can invite new members so that ensures that only your class is on the network.
  3. The administrator can control content to ensure the site stays clean and on purpose.
  4. There is a forum section where class members can post topic and comment on things - all in English of course.
  5. You may post homework up there so if someone misses class they can log on from home.
  6. Post class projects, stories, upload photos, videos, put birthdays up there and create a class blog.


It's straight forward to sign up and you may well be able to get help from your pupils setting this up - someone in your class might love to have that job. 

One place where you may do all of the above is www.ning.com 

2. Use a quiz site to make quizzes and play online word games and multiple choice. There are excellent vocabulary games on there and the children may work at their own pace.    One such site is www.quizlet.com - a search on the net will yield others.

3. Something we all love - Movies! 

Find a site where children can make short video clips by uploading three pictures and choosing the music. These sequences can be about anything, such as my favorite movie, family life, my ideal holiday, my best friend, my favorite band, or whatever topic engages your pupils. If you don't know then ask them! 

Such a site as this is: www.animoto.com but you have to pay for that site now. 

These clips can be uploaded onto the class blog or social network and shared. You may set homework asking the children to decide which movie gets the oscar and why and so on. Let the children make up bizarre stories based on the clips. The kids may comment on the videos in the forum.  

4. Set imaginative homework such as making a short film.  

The example shown at the conference by IATEFL Hungary was a truly funny and inspiring video that had been made by a group of four children aged about ten as a project to explain hand symbols.  They had picked hand symbols used for scuba divers.  One filmed, one narrated and two acted out the symbols, fully equipped with diving masks, snorkels and standing behind an aquarium one of them had in their home!

Now that film clearly let the children use their creativity, work together as a team, learn something new and work independently of the teacher. What an ideal way to engage your class. 

5. Use a "Wiki".  

A wiki is an interactive space for you and your pupils where people can sign in, edit, add text and links and save their contribution. The wiki space is refreshed each time someone edits it so it is constantly changing. It's not like a blog which gets longer and longer, instead you only keep the latest update to your group project.

Ideas for projects could be things like: making a list of what you need to take on a group holiday, who will bring what and then deciding where to go. Discussing and deciding which film the class would choose to go to from a list of three, with links to the trailers. Books: kids with a favourite book or comic do a review of them with a view to convincing the rest of the class to read it too. Put up several reviews and vote on the best. Then see how many of the class actually read it!  Grammar work could go up there and the pupils could mark it.  www.wikispaces.com are offering a free K-12 and adult educational space at the moment if the space is public (i.e. anyone could view it), you pay for private.

6. And now my ideas on how  you can do all of the above from your yak tent or hill tribe village!

I fully realise that many teachers are in remote areas and do not have access to cameras, the internet and so on. So of course you cannot implement these ideas in this way, but you can adapt them. Never fear, we can actually survive and be creative without internet and without techie gadgets! And, (gasp of amazement), many of us made it through school without a mobile phone. 

  • Make a big notice board instead of the blog. Kids stick up their comments and pictures on pieces of paper.
  • Use the animoto.com idea using three pictures that the children draw or cut out from old magazines or TV magazines.
  • Tell the children to prepare short plays to perform in front of the class instead of filming them and showing the class on a screen.


For those of you in countries where you do have access to the web then go ahead and give these ideas a go.  For those of you in tepees, take the spirit of these ideas and apply them creatively.

The true value in these ideas is that they lead pupils to be creative, to work in a team, to be responsible for their own learning, to work independently from the teacher, to express themselves and to feel part of the learning process by actively participating in it.

All the best
Shelley

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelley Vernon has helped 1000s of teachers be an inspiration to their pupils and achieve results 2x as fast. Teaching ESL creatively! Free classroom games and tips here:ESL Primary Creative Games

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Familiarizing students with technology is extremely beneficial and might get them interested in pursuing one or more online degrees in their future.

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