To celebrate the launch of Project fourth edition, teacher trainer, Gareth Davies looks at three ways to make the digital world work for you in your upper primary classroom.
Over the past few years, technology has gradually become a valuable part of my teaching armoury. My essential teaching tool kit used to be a good course book, a ball, some pictures and coloured pens but now it includes a computer and a Wi-Fi connection as well. Using digital tools in the classroom was a logical progression for me. I had used cassette players and then CD players, video and then DVD so as soon as I got a laptop computer I started to think how it could work for me in the classroom. Below I outline the three areas that technology has helped to enhance my teaching.
Digital Presentation Tools
The first area where I embraced digital in my teaching was using digital presentation tools. I started with a data projector and later started using an interactive whiteboard.
Using a data projector or an interactive whiteboard I can prepare some of my board work before the lesson, which is especially good for grammar or vocabulary presentations. My board work has became clearer and easier to follow, helping my students to make better notes. I can also save board work and revisit it later in the lesson or in a following lesson, this is really useful if the students haven’t understood a concept or need a reminder. On my computer I have all the listenings and videos I want to do in class as well as access to a range of pictures, this means I can appeal to a wide range of learning styles and bring variety to my lesson.
At first, I was worried that this pre-planning would make my lessons more structured, but I actually find having a computer and the internet in the classroom makes me more flexible. It means I can respond to students’ questions by looking things up on the internet or a dictionary CD-Rom as we go along. Also because part of my board work was ready prepared I find I have more time in my classes. This means I can be monitoring my students more and can help those in need. Also having the video on hand all the time means I can change the dynamic of the lesson quickly and easily if I feel the students need something different.
Getting students using technology
These presentation tools were really my toys but I soon found myself asking students to use technology for themselves in and out of the classroom.
I have found that my students are more than willing to look up definitions or translations using their smart phones. When doing pre-reading tasks they sometimes use their access to the Internet to find out information about the topic. This means students become more independent learners and realise that English is not just a school subject but it opens up the world of the web to them.
Computers also became tools for collaborative works such as projects. As well as doing paper projects, we use a range of web tools like blogs or fotobabble that students work on together. I think the fact that they can edit their work if they notice mistakes makes them more willing to take risks digitally and also more willing to comment on each other’s work.
Outside the class for homework or self-study I can use a range of digital tools. For example I ask students to find music videos or clips from English language films that they like and that we discuss in class. Or ask them to record themselves speaking and email it to me. Students also seem to enjoy doing things on computers that they don’t like to do on paper. For example downloading and reading a graded reader on their phone seems more appealing than turning real pages. Similarly doing controlled practice activities digitally, on the OUP website or the course book CD Rom was more enjoyable for students because it allows them to have more immediacy, they get instant feedback which means they don’t have to wait for the teacher to check their answers. The ‘try again’ function also means they can do the activities again and again.
Finally the new digital world makes professional development so much easier. As you are reading this, I can assume that you have already discovered the power of blogs. Blogs are fantastic ways to learn about teaching methods and the ideas of people who we would never get a chance to meet.
As well as reading blogs I often attend webinars which gives me a chance to listen to teachers talk about what they are passionate about and discuss those ideas with other participants. I am also a member of a Facebook group that is like a virtual classroom, a place where I can share ideas with other teachers.
Finally, I can access the OUP website to access teaching ideas and resources that help me to change the dynamics in the classroom and supplement the course book I am teaching from.
I’ve come a long way since my early attempts at using PowerPoint to present grammar and I still wouldn’t say I have fully integrated technology into my teaching. But I have found that digital tools help to engage and motivate students and have helped me to make the time I spend with my students much more profitable. How is technology affecting your teaching? What benefits has it brought to your classrooms?