ICT: Using technology in the classroom

Whether you like it or not, the use of IT, technology, edTech, ICT….whatever you want to call it….in the classroom is here to stay.  Many schools nowadays actively expect teachers to incorporate elements of technology in their classes on a regular basis.  Many institutions such as the British Council even assess their current and prospective teachers on their ability to use and experiment with IT.

So should this cause alarm?  Should you and your colleagues rush out and lobby your directors and principals for greater IT budgets, the latest interactive whiteboards, and iPads and laptops for every student? Hopefully you don’t feel that way.  Having said that, it is important to have some understanding of the benefits of using IT with students – not just to impress your boss, or even your students – but because it can, when used intelligently, greatly enhance the impact of your lessons and enrich the language learning environment in your classroom.

Why use IT?

Technically, IT refers to any use of communication or technological device, application or system including radio, CDs, iPhones, apps, computers etc.  Using IT in education has been commonplace for a long time: where once teachers may have got excited about using cassettes or ball point pens, today teachers get excited about using apps, collaborative web 2.0 platforms and distance learning software.

Most recently, with the arrival of the internet, teachers have access to information that can help learners relate classroom content to the real world, stimulate discussions and engage learners in new and exciting ways to the extent that when technology is used well, learners can interact with each other and create texts and projects that would otherwise have been impossible.  If you’re interested in reading more about the different ways that ICT can augment the classroom experience, you might like this explanation.

So here are a few examples of interesting ways to use ICT in your classes.  For each of these, keep in mind, specifically, what the students are doing when they are using the technology:

- How they are interacting;
- What they are saying to each other;
- The type of text/content they might be producing which you may need to collect and give feedback on.

Google docs 

We took this simple example from Joe Dale's IATEFL presentation on ways to encourage students to interact through creating collaborative written texts.  Where traditionally this can be done with pen and paper in the classroom, Googledocs allows you to create a single word document with as many collaborators as you like.  Students can also add comments to their peers’ work, and at times it can be easier to collect and mark digital documents than many pieces of paper from your students.

One idea might be to create a story template in a Googledoc, and share the link with your students via https://todaysmeet.com/ - then have your students complete the story draft in groups of 4 or 5.  When they have finished, you can ask them to swap links with each other and add comments to their peers’ work by using the ‘Add Comment’ button at the top of the document.  If you are using Chrome, you can download the Talk and Comment plugin, and leave feedback on their work, or prompt them for further information by leaving short voice recordings, instead of typed comments.

Vocaroo

Vocaroo is a web-based app that allows you the make voice recordings and save them as either an MP3 file, or a weblink.

One idea might be for you to have students record themselves completing a speaking task for you to refer to later for feedback and correction because it can be difficult to get around to every student while they’re speaking!  Alternatively, you can use this tool to make your own recordings for listening tasks for your students  for those times when you can’t find the CD from the textbook, or if you’d like to show your students an alternative model of a listening task or discussion.

Tellagami

Tellagami is a free mobile app that allows users to create a Gami, or digital character, and choose a suitable background image, before making a short, 30-second voice recording which the Gami then reads back to you.  Students can save the final video as an MP4 file.

One fun idea is for your learners to design a talking postcard, search online for a suitable image from their destination, and then record and send you the video of their talking project.  This one might be tricky if you have large classes – so think carefully of how you’ll be able to get the video files from the students – either through dropbox, or on USB’s.

Smart phones (use photos/voice recorder)

Of course the piece of technology that many of your students will have in their pockets is a smartphone. 

There are many simple ways of incorporating smartphone use into your classes. For example, you could have students take close-up abstract images of things in the room, and then have them swap, and speculate about what each item could be.  Alternatively, you can create soundscapes – a collection of short audio recordings - of your journey to work and have the students use this as a stimulus for writing a story. 

Finally, one simple but effective way of using the video feature on smartphones is to ask students to turn the camera on so they can see themselves on their phone screen so that the phone now operates like a small mirror – and use this in simple phoneme and pronunciation work when guiding students through the different mouth positions during pronunciation work.

For more ideas on using apps, visit these #eltchat summaries of using IT in the classroom:
Training students to use technology

About the Author

James Pengelley

James Pengelley contributes to the TESOL team as a CertTESOL/DipTESOL trainer as well as one of EFA's digital content managers.  He holds a Cambridge DELTA, Trinity TYLEC and is currently completing a postgraduate diploma in teaching (secondary).  He has made multiple contributions to English language teaching publications, including the English Australia Journal, The British Council and the International House Journal of Education and Development, which you can read here.

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