Using technology in class
Technology is all the buzz these days and it has great things to offer us. There are downsides of course but if used wisely bringing technology into your teaching can only enhance your classes further.
Technology fills some people with dread, but don't worry because even giving students an assignment on internet counts as using technology in teaching. Having an interactive whiteboard is not essential.
So here are some things you can do in class, which are especially good if you teach teens, as teens often think these things are COOL:
Free to create and use. For example Google and Word Press. Type in FREE BLOG into your search bar and you will find direct links to providers. Class blogs by theme work well, such as a homework blog, pop blog, fashion blog and so on. Students will gravitate naturally to the blogs that most interest them.
Great sites for fun research and learning opportunities are YouTube, Lyrics.com for songs, dictionary sites such as dictionary.com and Wordle, which generates word clouds. Open Dictionary by Macmillan lets you submit new words for the dictionary, such as words your students have made up...no promises they will be accepted!
3. Use a WIKI
This is an interactive area where students contribute and modify content. It is different to a blog where the blog owners can moderate comments - i.e. scrap anything they don't like. Whereas with a Wiki students can actually modify the content, not just comment on it. Type CREATE A WIKI into google and you'll find providers. No charge!
4. Create or use a VLE
This is a virtual learning environment. Second Life is a site where you create an identity and collect a bunch of objects, then travel to different places and meet other travellers with whom you can chat and interact. My idea would be to give this site to your students and tell them to create an identity for homework, then send them to different places and report back in class. If you are not a wizard online don't spend your precious evenings trying to work out how to use something like this, simply give the idea to your students and later let them show you how it works. They will likely know how to figure it out better than you! Then you can create an identity and possibly join them on the travels...or not...because frankly I have better things to do, but the students love it! A big issue with Second Life is that you cannot control conversations in the chat, and content could be vulgar or violent, potentially.
The site imvu.com is supposedly for children but it looks like teen trash to me so one could be just as likely to find bad language there. My advice, therefore, would be to be sure to have permission from your school and to inform parents of the website and your suggestion that their teens try it for language learning purposes. Ask them to check in occasionally to make sure they are happy with the goings on in the VLE.
If anyone is using this type of thing already do let me know if you would be happy to share the info with other teachers. Moodle.org is a site where you may download your own VLE platform and host it on your school computers. This would be for you if you love spending hours in front of the computer with cool technology, otherwise delegate the job!!!
5. Mobile phones
If you are in a culture where all your students have a mobile there are applications that can be downloaded for a few cents. These could be music, videos or other learning gadgets called APPs. You can download an app for learning how to ski and watch a series of videos while on the hill at the top of a steep black run. You can get anything from cooking recipes to bungee jumping...There are apps from Apple and cheaper ones from Android. If you don't know what I am talking about when reading this, ask your teen students what apps they have on their phones and take a look.
Should mobile phones be on or off in class?
Do not to automatically assume to switch these off. Students may have downloaded electronic translators or grammar applications on to their phone and want to check things... Personally, I can't stand the interruption of phone calls and find it rude, but I'm old-fashioned like that and probably need to change!
Consider the following ideas, just the tip of the iceberg with what could be done using phones in class:
a. Students are allowed to send answers to each other during a quiz in teams.
b. Students could have a short text conversation with a class member (need to pair them off) and then randomly select a group of students to read out their messages. You may get humour from incongruity in the dialogues.
c. Students take pictures with their phones of vocabulary items and the class vote for the best one.
d. Students take pictures of their pets, family, holiday etc. and present them to a partner or small group in class, English only allowed.
e. Imagine if everytime a student receives a message or call during class, he or she is obliged to share the call with the classroom. This could provide discussion opportunities. If the student does not agree to these terms, he or she can switch off his/her phone.
See also this teen post for using phones with Snapchat
A podcast is a video or audio file that is downloadable.
You can download episodes of a TV series as a podcast. You could play podcasts on your interactive whiteboard offline which means you can use them even if you don't have internet at school or have too slow a connection. Basically, a pod cast is just an audio recording, with a cool name, in a new format that appeals especially to teens.
Video your students when they answer questions or present something and play it back to class.
Have students film each other, doing interviews, role-plays and presentations.