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Digital Divide: What Is It And How Can You Bridge The Gap?

woman sitting on the ground and working on her laptopWe can safely say that, through the difficulties of 2020, English language teachers have grown accustomed to delivering online classes and learning to use new digital tools. Some teachers may face many weeks ahead of continuing such classes if high Covid-19 cases see a resurgence, their new academic year does not start until 2021, or they have become ‘online teachers’ on a semi-permanent basis.

As a result, some teachers have found themselves dependent on the help of parents to ensure their children are online at designated times and able to access class materials. Parent support is especially important for younger students who perhaps did not originally have the necessary computing skills to act independently.
But what about our students who cannot access the internet from home, or do not have reliable electricity supplies? Not only is infrastructure an issue, but also the lack of digital equipment, e.g. when siblings and/or parents require the use of a laptop or computer simultaneously. Similarly, adult students may have to share their bandwidth and equipment with a partner, or family, who all need to work online.

These are examples of what the ‘digital divide’ is beginning to look like in many of our societies – those with an unproblematic ability to access the internet or digital equipment, versus those with regular difficulties to reliably access either the internet or the necessary equipment.

This article focuses on the two issues of lack of connectivity and dealing with the parents who have this problem.

Helping students with connectivity issues

Many teachers have had few options but to carry on delivering online classes, while being unable to meet the needs of those students who cannot get online when they are delivering their ‘live’ (synchronous) classes. Here are some practical solutions to help address some of these problems:

  1. Upload materials to your school or institution platform that allows students to be online to download materials then work with them offline. The same can be done with a video of a lesson that you delivered. This, however, depends on your institution having a digital platform.
  2. If you use a digital platform, don’t upload pdf documents because they require a lot of memory and can take up a lot of space on a smartphone, which may be the only device a parent can use to download learning materials for their child.
  3. Use G-suite (Google Docs, Sheets and Slides) or Microsoft’s One Drive. These can be used to upload learning materials which you can save so they are available offline. For this the teacher, if using G-suite, needs to use Google Chrome and be online at the time of saving the materials. By adjusting the Settings, you can turn on Offline Setting, then send it as normal. Students do not need to be online to access it via WhatsApp, nor do they need to download it. If using Microsoft’s One Drive set up One Drive to Sync, and you simply drag it into a file that you have shared with your students (or parents).
  4. While you give an online class, simultaneously record yourself so you can send the recording to your students who could not get online at the time. The mp4 recording can then be converted to an mp3, so that it is not such a large file and it will not require a student (or parent) to be online for hours, and therefore at great expense, simply to download materials. The same thing can be done with a Zoom recording to reduce memory, before making it available to students.
  5. While doing an online class live, you can use Google Docs Voice Typing. This simultaneously types what you say and allows you to save it as a Google Doc. This way you can allow students, who could not attend synchronously, to have a transcript of what was said during the lesson. Tip: You do need to speak very clearly, which may help you be mindful about your pronunciation and clarity when you speak to your students. It is worth doing, simply to see how clear the app thinks your voice is – this is a good reflective task for any ELT teacher!

Working with parents to solve connectivity problems

Being able to help students with connectivity issues, of course, depends on the teacher setting up an understanding relationship with the parents. They are the ones who have connectivity issues. But if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that remote learning for students below the age of 18 must be in collaboration with parents. Here are some ways to help such collaboration:

  1. Establish WhatsApp (or equivalent) contact with parents of students. You could set up a special group only for you and the parents of students with connectivity issues. Then, while you deliver an online class, call the group (but only using the audio function because it needs less bandwidth) so any parent can help their child hear the class and even participate.
  2. If you are distributing worksheets or planning to use one in a live online class, send a WhatsApp message or email to the parents with connectivity issues the day before.
  3. You can also print the worksheet or materials, photograph it, and send it to the WhatsApp group for parents who do not have email accounts.
  4. Similarly, if you used Google Docs Voice Typing to use as a transcript (as described above), or any Google Doc, Sheet, or Slides, it can be saved using the Offline Setting. Similarly with Microsoft’s One Drive. Which means that the parent does not lose valuable time (and money) online accessing your teaching materials. The parent does not even require a Gmail account to be able to access any of the Google applications.
  5. If, for some reason, you do not get on well with G-suite or Microsoft’s One Drive you could convert a document to a QR code and send the code to the WhatsApp group. (Please follow this link to a YouTube video showing you how to do this).

As we were thrust into digital teaching, there was an assumption that teachers must synchronously teach the same number of times as they had been doing face-to-face. But by doing things alternatively, as outlined above, that is not necessarily the case. I propose that this would improve the lives of not only teachers but also students and parents.

What have you found to be of help?

Feel free to use the comments section below to share your own experiences with our community of teachers!

  • What have you found most difficult about moving your teaching online?
  • What are your coping strategies?
  • Has your institution found a solution for students who cannot join online?

 

Are you ready to explore digital tools for teaching and learning?

Do you need help getting started with the digital tools in your Oxford course?

Are you looking for tips and ideas for using digital in your teaching?Move forward together

 

 


Zarina Subhan is an experienced teacher and teacher trainer. She has taught and delivered teacher training at all levels and in both private and government institutions in over fifteen different countries as well as in the UK. Early on in her career, Zarina specialised in EAP combining her scientific and educational qualifications. From this developed an interest in providing tailor-made materials, which later led to materials writing that was used in health training and governance projects in developing countries. Since 2000 she has been involved in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), materials writing, training trainers and teachers in facilitation techniques and teaching methodology. Zarina is published and has delivered training courses, presentations, spoken at conferences worldwide, and continues to be a freelance consultant teacher educator.


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Digital Burnout – It’s Time To Take Back Control!

My escape and healing from digital burnout - Erika Osváth

My escape and healing from digital overload – Erika Osváth

As a teacher and teacher trainer, my life turned upside down under the pressures of Covid-19. I found myself spending most of my day sitting in front of my laptop, striving to pass on the kind of knowledge I used to do face-to-face. I would get messages from students and teacher colleagues in the afternoon and late in the evening and would feel obliged to respond as soon as I read them. I was cooking lunch, doing the washing up and all the rest during my breaks, while making sure my daughters are also “on task”, sitting in front of their devices following their teachers.

Are you experiencing digital burnout?

After a few weeks, my eyes started to get sore, I would get more and more easily irritated by minor things happening around me. It was getting more difficult to get out of bed and feel the morning start with the right kind of uplifting energy. The feeling of confinement and disconnection from people started to take over. All these feelings were a sign of digital burnout. As I have discovered after some research, these feelings may lead to a serious state of anxiety or even depression.

How can I get out of this? What is it that I do have control over, or I can regain control over? I asked myself. After some quiet, self-reflective occasions I came up with a few ideas for myself, and made a conscious effort to follow them trying to keep in mind the well-known Hungarian saying, which I personally relate to: “Help yourself and God will help you.” The kind of feedback I got from my family, my colleagues and my friends tell me that it has been a successful endeavour. If any of the above feelings resonate with you, here are some of the things I helped myself with and may work for you too.

Self-discipline

1) Create a daily schedule

Create a daily schedule with the family and for yourself. Make sure you include the following things:

  1. Regular breaks between the online times.
  2. Small pleasures such as, making yourself a nice cup of tea or doing a quick 15-minute yoga or chi kung routine, instead of looking at Facebook posts or Instagram or anything online or involving a screen.
  3. Some kind of physical exercise.
  4. Silent moments to wind down excluding anything that involves a screen, such as video games or watching TV.

Top Tip – Involve your whole family in working out the daily schedule and get your children to make a poster out of it, something you can refer to during the day. Reflect on what has been achieved on a particular day with your family and at the end of the day, say, over dinner. These conversations may help you and others realize the control you have over your thinking, and things that happen to you or around you. Here are some reflective questions you can ask to help manage digital burnout:

  • Did I/we have regular breaks? What did I do during the breaks?
  • Did I do any physical exercise?
  • What was the beauty I saw/experienced today?
  • How do I feel now? Why do I feel in this way? What are some of the things that helped me feel this way? What are some of the things I can change?

2) Set boundaries

Be strict with yourself and your students about the times when you are online and ready to answer questions, offer support, etc. I told my students that I will not answer any questions after 5:00 p.m. Turning off the internet or mobile data services on your devices is a great way to protect yourself from digital burnout.

Conscious focus

1) Redirect your focus

It is a great idea to redirect your attention from a virtual superficial surface, which is the digital world, to things through which your senses – touch, smell, taste, seeing, hearing – can be activated in other ways. Make this a conscious practise until the habit is formed. For example, in break times, water your plants, touch the leaves, examine every single change you can observe from one day to another. Or make yourself a special cup of tea with refined aroma, one that you love, say a nice cup of Tulsi chai, and enjoy every sip of it.

Top Tip: It is key that you focus only on the thing that you redirect your attention to and shut out any other impressions that may want to intrude.

2) Arts and movement

Make a conscious choice of creating beauty in the form of any art and movement every day. For example, drawing, painting, handcraft, something close to your heart. You can also dance at home on your own to the music of your choice, something that makes your cells excited or follow a 5-rhythm pattern, or if possible, join a dance club, and learn a new dance, such as argentine tango, which is what I did 😊.

Top Tip – You do not have to be an expert in the arts. Use this as a means of connecting to something you find beautiful without having expectations towards yourself.

Self-love and joy

1) Start a diary

Build a friendship with yourself, through maintaining an inner dialogue answering self-discovery questions and writing about them in a beautiful paper diary with your favourite pen. Some of these questions may be: When I wake up in the morning how do I most want to feel? What do I need to let go of? etc. If you do an online search for “journaling questions for self-reflection” you will find a great number of guiding prompts and questions to build a better connection with yourself.

2) Connect with people

Instead of sending messages on digital devices phone your friends and family members every day and have quality connections with them. Communication through short messages is extremely limiting and shallow. Human voice and attention are given to the person you are speaking to add an extra dimension and quality to your connection. Hug your loved ones whenever you can. This is both physically and emotionally healing. It is well-known from research that hugs heal feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as build trust and a sense of safety.

3) Be of service to others

Be of service to others in whatever way it fits you. Find a good deed every day, a small act of kindness that you consciously look for and do without wanting anything in return. It can also be something bigger, such as volunteering. From time to time share these moments with your students, get them to come up with small acts of kindness they can offer to be of service to people around themselves, including listening to somebody with empathy. Encourage them to give something they possess, if not something material then their time and/or their attention to each other. Shifting the focus from “I” to “we” or “you” in this way is a great way to fill your life with joy.

 

Prioritise your wellbeing with our latest book, ‘Teacher Wellbeing’!

See our Practical Guide to Teacher Wellbeing

 


Erika Osváth, MEd in Maths, DTEFLA, is a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and co-author of the European Language Award-winning 6-week eLearning programme for language exam preparation. Before becoming a freelance trainer in 2009, she worked for International House schools for 16 years in Eastern and Central Europe, where she worked as a YL co-ordinator, trainer on CELTA, LCCI,1-1, Business English, YL and VYL courses, and Director of Studies. She has extensive experience in teaching very young learners, young learners and teenagers.

Her main interests lie in these areas as well as making the best of technology in ELT. She regularly travels to different parts of Hungary and other parts of the world to teach demonstration lessons with local children, do workshops for teachers, and this is something she particularly enjoys doing as it allows her to delve into the human aspects of these experiences. Erika is co-author with Edmund Dudley of Mixed Ability Teaching (Into the Classroom series).


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What Could An English Test Do For Your Student’s Future?

Marina & NicolásMarina, a 27-year-old teacher from Zaragoza in Spain, loves learning English.

“I love English vocabulary. It’s both practical and beautiful, and it’s easier than other languages.”

For Marina, English presents the opportunity to communicate, not only with native English speakers but with people from across the globe who also have English as their second language.

“On vacation, I like to communicate with other people, go shopping, and eat in restaurants – everywhere you need to speak with other people. Last year, I went travelling and spoke in English with people from many different countries, including Italy, Portugal, and China. So languages are very important for me.”

Her English skills have also come in handy during her professional life, as well as on vacation.

“Before I worked as a teacher, I was a tour guide – a job I needed English for. When my boss asked if I had a certificate to prove my English level, I could say, “Yes, I have one for the Oxford Test of English!”

How do you choose the right English test?

One of the appeals of taking the Oxford Test of English in the first place was that it is certified by the University of Oxford. “That is important to me because it is such a famous university. I also prefer the Oxford Test of English because it is faster than other tests. You take the test in two hours, you have the results in 14 days, and the price is good.”

She enjoyed the experience so much, she recommends the test to everyone she knows.

“I always recommend the Oxford Test of English to my students, friends, and family. My brother is a marketing student at the moment, so I told him to take it. It’ll be useful for his future, too.”

Does she have any advice for her brother when he does take it?

“Don’t hurry, use all of the allocated time for each section, and you’ll do great.”

English for everyday life

Meanwhile, Nicolás, a 33-year-old teacher from Argentina, finds speaking English is an important part of his everyday life.

“I use English for nearly everything. When I teach biology in a secondary school, I have to read resources in English and understand them quickly. I also need it as a JavaScript programmer because all the programming language’s documentation is in English, and some of the team speak English, too.”

And it’s not just at work — Nicolás also uses English when he’s relaxing at home as well.

“I need English even when I watch baking tutorials or play video games because most of them are not translated into Spanish. Learning English is an important tool for me.”

Why take an English test at all?

When it came to advancing in his career, Nicolás found himself in a situation where he needed to prove his English level quickly and found himself limited by the options on the market.

“I needed to certify that my English was at a B2 level quickly so I could add it to my CV and do my master’s presentation. I researched several tests online, but they all took months to prepare for – I didn’t have that kind of time.”

Luckily he found the Oxford Test of English.

“I then called my local Approved Test Centre in Buenos Aires and was able to sit the test and get my results quickly, which meant I was able to do my master’s presentation and progress to my PhD.”

Like Marina, Nicolás would recommend this adaptive test to anyone who needs to prove their level of English; be that for work, travel, or academic pursuits.

“A test that adapts to the student and tests them to their limit? That’s a really good idea. I think the Oxford Test of English was the very best choice for me – and it’s certified by the University of Oxford, which is world-renowned!”

You can read more students’ success stories and find out how your students could benefit from taking the Oxford Test of English on our website.

Find out more

Like this? Now read: An English Test For Schools: Introducing Ana And Her Students

Don’t forget to share this link to our Learning Resources Bank with your students – where they can find additional tips and support to guide them through their English learning journey.

 


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guest blog
Our blogs help and support thousands of teachers and learners each year. It’s an important part of our mission to help the world to learn English. So far, we have featured ELT experts the world over across a huge range of topics, far too many to mention here!

Now we want to share this platform with you, giving you the chance to contribute your thoughts, perspectives, ideas, stories, and expertise.

Have something to share with this community? This is your opportunity. We’re open to all ELT related ideas that offer something unique and useful for our teaching community. Fill in the form below with as much detail as you can to register your interest.

 

Please do leave a comment below if you have any questions, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.


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12 Student-Pleasing Activities Using Graded Readers

children reading graded readersReading can be a challenge for students learning English. Therefore, starting with graded readers for extensive reading lessons can be a very good option. This way, the student will learn new vocabulary in a meaningful context and improve their language skills. Having an extensive reading program can also help students become independent readers.

A reading program may consist of three stages: pre-reading, while reading and post-reading. Here are some activities that you may find helpful in implementing graded readers in your lesson plans.

Pre-reading

1. Word Detective

Before you begin reading any of the graded readers with your class, choose a sentence that can be a message for your students. This can be as simple as ‘Reading Is Fun.’ Find these words inside the books and note down the name of the book and the page that the word is on. Show students the sentence without the words, using only lines.

For example, _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _.

Ask students to check their book(s), depending on how many graded readers you are going to read in class, and to try to find the words. You can help them by saying that ‘The second word is an auxiliary verb’, or ‘The first one starts with ‘R’.’ They can work in pairs, which will help them to work on their communication and collaboration skills. The students can also gain a general understanding of the book they are going to read. It will be even more fun when they come up with their own sentences.

2. Find the characters

Before you start reading your book, in order to generate curiosity, ask students to go through the pages of the book and search for proper names. How many can they find? Ask them to guess who these people might be. Ask them to take notes of the answers they give. When they finish reading the book, they can then see if they can guess who these characters are.

 3. Guess the title

Show the cover of the book to the students but hide the title. Ask them to guess the title of the book. Talk about the various answers they give and why they gave that answer.

 4. Match the title

Ask students how many types of book genres they know. If they are not ready to answer you can elicit. You can also ask them to search for different literary genres online before your lesson. You can say that Sherlock Holmes Short Stories belongs in the crime and mystery genre, Dracula is a horror story, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a classic fantasy story. They can add more to these examples. Talk about each genre to understand if each of them means the same to all. Write some examples of different genres on the board then write the titles of the graded readers that you are going to read and ask them to match with the genres. They need to try to guess the genre of the book just by looking at the title. After reading, you can discuss if they are right.

While reading

5. Take a selfie

When your students start reading their books, ask them to take a selfie while they are reading. They can get as creative as they want. Then, create a class, or even a school, exhibition and share the photos for everyone to see. Seeing other people’s photos in which they enjoy reading may be inspiring for those who do not find reading ‘cool enough’. You can also share these photos on a classroom blog or school website. If you are teaching online, every student can use the photo they take as their profile picture.

6. Word Clouds

Choose some words from the next chapter and add them to a word cloud tool online (there are many free online options, here is one example). Add some words that they will encounter in the next chapter and make a word cloud. Ask them to guess what might happen next. After they finish reading the chapter, they can see if they are right about the story that they come up with by only looking at the words in the word cloud.

 7. Horoscopes

Before moving on with the next chapter, students can write horoscopes for each character in the book and predict what will happen next. Since the students may not be familiar with horoscopes, you may need to clarify what a horoscope is first. You can share some examples of horoscopes that you can easily find online. They can think about what sign these characters are. You can divide the classroom into teams and give each team one character to write horoscopes for. They can then compare their tasks and, after reading the chapter, you can have a class discussion on which team is the closest to the correct answer.

 8. Tell me what you see

This activity is for the books that have illustrations in them. Ask students to work in pairs. One student will explain what they can see in the illustration for the chapter you are about to read, and the other will try to draw a picture while listening. They then try to guess what that chapter is about.

Post-reading

9. Write a play

After students finish reading the reader, in groups they can write a playscript of the book and act it for their classmates. They can revise the grammar structures you have been working on and add new characters if they want.

10. Act a scene

After you finish reading the book as a class, you can discuss what the best part was for the students and why. Ask the students to work in pairs or groups and choose a scene from the chapters and act that scene. You can differentiate this activity by asking the students to act the scene without speaking. They will only use gestures.

11. Pose the scene

For this activity, you need to describe some important scenes very briefly from the book on small pieces of paper. Divide the classroom into as many teams as the number of scenes you have written. Put the papers in a bag and ask each group to choose one. The students should decide quickly how to organize for the scene and pose like it as if somebody is taking a photo of it. The others will guess which scene it is and what happened. When everybody finishes posing, they can decide the order of the different scenes.

12. Roleplay

Ask students to write a brief description of one of the characters. You can also nominate a character to each student. The description may include age, occupation, Zodiac sign, hometown and anything that you think is relevant. Students then work in pairs and ask and answer questions according to the role-play cards. You can turn this into a kind of a gala event where all the characters meet each other and talk. There may be 2 or 3 of the same characters, which may add more fun!

Bonus! – Your students are more likely to develop a habit of reading when they see you reading. Read along with your students, carry the book that you are currently reading, talk about it with your students and you will see this will have a positive impact on them.

 


Aysu Şimşek is a passionate advocate of continuing professional development. After graduating from Istanbul University with joint honours in American Culture and Literature with Theatre Criticism and Dramaturgy, she embarked on her own teaching career. She has a distinctive experience with young learners, and now in her role with Oxford University Press, Aysu meets and supports teachers from across Turkey and is an active member of a global community of dedicated educationalists. She has delivered training sessions for different types of ELT events, and co-written articles for Modern English Teacher magazine and TEA Online Magazine.