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25 ideas for using WhatsApp with English language students

shutterstock_287594936Philip Haines is the Senior Consultant for Oxford University Press, Mexico. As well as being a teacher and teacher trainer, he is also the co-author of several series, many of which are published by OUP.  Today he joins us to provide 25 engaging and useful classroom activities for language learners using WhatsApp.

There are three main obstacles to the use of technology in ELT. First is the availability of technology and internet connection in the classroom. Second is teacher techno-phobia. The final, and perhaps the biggest problem, is knowing how to use it for language learning purposes.

WhatsApp or similar messaging services can help overcome these obstacles. If our classrooms are not well equipped, we can take advantage of the technology that students have on their phones, even if there is no internet available in class. Many activities can be set up by the teacher and extended beyond the classroom when students later link to Wi-Fi. Alternatively, students can show each other their phones at different stages of activities.

Many self-confessed, techno-phobic teachers that I know use WhatsApp on a regular basis in their private lives, so already feel quite comfortable with it. However, the trick is to set up activities that make students do all the work without the teacher needing to share contact details. Each student need to have a WhatsApp buddy in the class who they communicate with via WhatsApp and carry out the activities.

Here are 25 ideas of how to make good use of WhatsApp for language learning. WhatsApp was the starting point for these ideas, but teachers will see that other applications and messaging services will work just as well. For these activities I make use of the following five features: text, photo, video, audio and emoji.

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#IATEFL – The digital classroom: change of medium or change of methodology?

shutterstock_198926996Stacey Hughes, an Oxford teacher trainer with 20 years teaching experience, joins us to preview her upcoming talk at IATEFL, ‘The digital classroom: change in medium or change in methodology’, held on Friday 15th April at 3.30pm.

Today’s e-coursebooks and e-readers offer learners a range of tools that can enhance the learning experience, but is using an e-book really different? Does it require a different methodology? Does it have an impact on classroom management?  What are the benefits an e-book can offer?

First let’s think about a fairly standard lesson that uses a coursebook. You probably spend some time with students paying attention to you or to a listening track or video, some time with students working in pairs or groups, some time with them working alone. E-books don’t change that dynamic:

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If we are happy with the scenario in the left column above, why should we bother changing? Why introduce e-books? Firstly, e-books can add flexibility: in the above scenario, teacher could choose to allow students to listen to the audio track on their own with headphones or in pairs.  Secondly, e-books have some features that can be beneficial to students. For example, students could listen to a graded reader and read along. They can speed up or slow down the audio or pause it and rewind to listen to a section again. Some students might even replay a section again and record themselves at the same time in order to compare their intonation or pronunciation of words.

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Another reason for using e-books is that they are on tablets where students can also keep other learning resources: a learner’s dictionary, all their e-readers, and educational apps are a few good examples. Of course, with tablets and a wifi connection, students can use the internet to do webquests for projects that really open up and contextualize learning.

What about classroom management? Of all the fears that teachers say they have regarding introducing technology into the classroom, classroom management ranks highly.  However, managing a class with e-books need not be any different from managing a class with more familiar tools. The same management principles apply.

At my workshop at IATEFL, I’ll be asking teachers to think about some of the things they do in their class now before looking at some of the functionality of e-coursebooks and e-readers on Oxford Learner’s Bookshelf. We will talk about classroom management and think about how a class might look using an e-book. I hope you can join me!


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Mexico Teacher’s Day: The Role of the Teacher in the 21st Century

schoolgirl-using-laptopLysette Taplin is an experienced English language teacher, editor and author of a number of ELT materials. Ahead of this year’s Teacher’s Day in Mexico, she discusses the changing role of the teacher and the implementation of digital tools in the classroom.

Teacher’s Day, celebrated in Mexico on May 15, honors the role educators play in providing students with quality education. Ten to twenty years ago, that role was to be the primary information giver who stood at the front of the classroom “pouring knowledge into passive students who wait[ed] like empty vessels to be filled”[1]. However, now that the 21st century is well under way, our role needs to shift towards becoming a facilitator: giving students an idea, a topic to discuss and providing them with the confidence to communicate. This type of teaching is known as student-centered learning, and has been favored in recent years as it puts the students’ learning experience at the center. Our responsibility as teachers is to make sure our lessons are tailored to the individual needs of our students, understanding that each student is unique and that they come with prior knowledge and their own perceptual frameworks. I’m not saying that we need to completely relinquish the traditional role; there are certain moments in the classroom when teacher-instruction is necessary, but we must encourage learners to contribute and communicate using their own ideas. The next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates may be sat in your class, but if we spoon-feed them the information, they are never going to reach their true potential. Today, being an English language teacher is not just about teaching students the language, but teaching them how to think critically, how to communicate and collaborate, and how to be creative: the famous 4Cs.

We also need to take into account that our world and consequently our lives are becoming increasingly more digitalized. Students need to learn how to use technology and with recent advances in web tools and apps, technology-based methodologies, such as blended learning, hybrid learning, the flipped classroom and MOOCs, have attracted more interest among educators as they create learning environments which propel students into the 21st century. However, what if we don’t have access to technology at school? What if the technology we do have is slow and outdated? As teachers, we have to be creative with the technology that is available to us. Most students today have cell phones, so rather than try to eliminate them as a distraction, we should try to capitalize on the technology that students already possess. With the built-in camera tool cell phones have, we can ask students to document their work by taking photos or videos, or use the voice recording feature to create podcasts which encourage communication and collaboration. We can also turn traditional writing activities into blogs to be published online or even have students write a short book review of 140 characters to publish on Twitter.

There are also a wide range of user-friendly apps available for iOS and Android. One of my favorites is Book Creator, a free app which lets students create eBooks using photos and images from their tablet or cell phone library, from the web, or by using the device’s camera. They can also add videos and music, record their own voice, and annotate their books using the pen tool. This is a great tool to use to bring together students’ work or evidence project work.

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Another great app for iOS users is iMovie. This app allows students to drag videos and photos taken on their device into a movie clip to which they can add music and voiceovers. Depending on the task students are carrying out, they can use different movie templates, creating presentations which become more relevant to the real world. By using interactive technology, we make learning more engaging and memorable.

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It is also important to understand that when our students graduate, they will have an advantage if they can work successfully with other cultures, and as teachers, we can promote that skill by setting up email or social network exchanges between students in different schools and countries.

I believe technology in the classroom is not just a new fad, but rather a vital empowering tool that engages students and brings discovery, excitement and fun into the classroom. The dismal fact is that, as teachers we will never know all there is to know about technology. So, why not create co-learning environments where students teach you how to do something techie. As facilitators, it is important to relinquish some control of the learning to the student which reinstates student-centered learning and will give students confidence to communicate their ideas.

For me, one of the most important aspects of being a teacher is be passionate and enthusiastic. We need to be so excited about what we are teaching that every single student wants to be involved. We need to tell our students that it is OK to make mistakes, and we need to show students that we are proud of what they CAN do, and not focus on what they can’t yet do. The best satisfaction a teacher can have is to be a facilitator, engaging and motivating their students to succeed. Happy Teacher’s Day!

References

[1] Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning, Thirteen Ed Online. Date of access: 08/04/2015. http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index_sub1.html

 


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Making Your Digital Classroom More Interactive

Zuhal Aydin takes a look at some popular resources you can use in your classroom to make it more interactive for your students

In recent years ELT researchers  have  become increasingly interested in designing digital classrooms and an inter-connected web-centric world. There has been a spate of interest in cutting-edge technology. To ‘digitize’ a classroom means to implement technology into the classroom. The teaching techniques have to catch up to the new pace of learning.

There is a huge need to involve learners in communicative activities. Web technology is changing rapidly every day and the Internet has become an important part of life for people all over the world. The powers of technology are constantly improving. The implementation of technology integrated method language learning has brought some serious changes that can be benefited from. In this interactive environment we try to involve the students into the classroom and we incorporate blended learning. This is a combination of interactive digital learning. You can enhance reading, writing skills in an authentic real world context and provide opportunity for creativity. Learners can communicate easily and collaborate with other students. Unlike a teacher-led classroom, students can participate in an active way.

Teachers can use technology to enable students to meet people of different cultures, explore new worlds, do source research. In this case these materials appeals to students and motivate them. It opens up a new world for the students. It creates  flexible learning paths in learners’ minds. Teachers as  facilitators try to involve learners in the class by using Web 2.0 tools.

Here are some great tools which you can use to digitize your classroom:

  1. FutureMe – This is a website about writing letters to your future self. The student registers and writes something about their life so that they’ll practice writing in English.
  2. Penzu – Penzu is a simple online tool for creating a personal journal.
  3. Storybird – This is about digital story telling. You as teachers can create digital stories and you can read these stories in your class. You can also create one account for your class as well. The students will enjoy it!
  4. Animoto – Here you can create videos to share in your classroom. You can upload some photos for these videos and any kind of music to accompany it.
  5. Staged Project – A digital tool for creating animated comics. You can make your stories easier to read and understand.
  6. Voice Thread – Digital storytelling program that enables users to upload pictures or documents.
  7. Domo Animate – Animations to bring students more fun in their learning.
  8. Little Bird Tales – Capture your student’s voice with a creative story and share them with their family and friends.
  9. Vocaroo – Voice recording service.
  10. Soundcloud – Share your sounds!

How do you digitize your classroom? What resources do you use?

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Using multimedia in our classrooms

Students in lecture with digital gadgetsFollowing on from her posts, Why use a Teacher’s book? Part 1 and Part 2, Julietta Schoenmann, a language teacher and teacher trainer with over twenty years’ experience, considers the impact and hidden potential of using multimedia in teaching.

We know it’s out there and we know we ought to be part of it… yes, I’m talking about the digital revolution! We have observed the way it’s impacted on our work over the last decade or so and some of us have been quick to embrace the changes wholeheartedly.

However, many of us have been eased into this brave new world quite gently through the inclusion of MultiROMs with our course books and the replacement of the good old OHP with a swish new projector in our classroom. But what about that scourge of modern teaching, the interactive whiteboard? Or augmented reality which promises to transform learning through our smartphone? Or the fact that most of our students are far more techno-savvy than we are anyway?

What can we do as practitioners to not only keep up with the latest developments, but feel confident about implementing them in our classrooms? Let’s look at a few examples and consider ways in which we can make them part of our normal teaching toolkit.

Using an interactive whiteboard (IWB)

In my experience a lot of teachers are plain terrified of this piece of equipment, hence the reason why many of them have been installed in classrooms by progressive managers only to find them unused and gathering dust a few months later. Just think of it as a big computer monitor – it does all the things your PC does but BIGGER! In order to get the hang of it, it’s important to have some practice sessions without students sniggering at your bungled attempts to drag pictures across the screen or change the pen colour from red to black.

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