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Teaching English with Technology | ELTOC 2020

We know that with fast-paced change, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends. Jargon heavy instructions for unfamiliar technology can make getting started intimidating. And with so many Edtech innovations on offer, it can be difficult to know which solutions actually make a valuable difference to a student’s learning.

As a result, publishers have a duty to keep on top of trends and to experiment with technology. We challenge our own assumptions about technology and are always trying to learn how Edtech can benefit learning and help teachers to realise these benefits in their individual situations.

At Oxford University Press, some of that work is done by the Partnerships Team

The Partnerships team

The ELT Partnerships team.

We’re responsible for a lot of the English Language Teaching division’s partnerships with external companies and we work with a huge range of partners, from the start-up community all the way to the famous tech giants. In many of these relationships, we find innovative new ways to include Oxford content in the partner’s product.

This is a great way to help the quality educational material OUP produces to reach new audiences around the world, but it can also lead to deeper relationships, where we start offering a partner’s product in the packages that we offer to learners.  For example, our relationship with Lingokids has evolved from offering our content in their platform to their app being directly integrated into some of our primary courses.

This way of working helps us to learn more about technology companies can enhance our content and how their products are used by learners and teachers, before making a decision on whether we could include them directly in our courses. As a result, we can improve our technology solutions, for teachers with effective support on how to use them with their learners.

This also allows us to innovate with exciting new technologies.

We keep a close eye on the new technologies that have the potential to disrupt education, such as augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. By working with partners, we can experiment with how new developments might be applied to English language learning.

For example, we worked with VictoryXR, an award-winning virtual reality developer, to create the first language learning VR experience using Oxford materials. Designed for learners in China, the product immerses the user in real-world scenarios, such as travelling through airport security or introducing themselves to a stranger, for unrivalled authentic English practice.

We were a content partner with Google for the launch of Expeditions AR tours, providing learning content to be used in augmented reality experiences that are freely available through the Expeditions app. Since then, we have worked on a variety of pilots to investigate the pedagogical benefit that using AR can provide. We have also developed multiple experiences for use with smart speakers at home, to test how artificial intelligence can help extend meaningful, independent language learning outside the classroom.

By working with partners, we interact with the world’s leading experts in Edtech, who are constantly innovating. As a result, OUP is constantly learning about new ways technology can benefit language learning and, just as importantly, the frustrations and issues it can cause when teachers try to implement it.

So, we’re here to answer your questions at ELTOC 2020

As part of OUP’s ELTOC conference in February 2020, we’ll be running a session designed to give you an introduction to all things Edtech. We’ll explore some of the most popular technology buzzwords, such as the difference between augmented and virtual reality or what artificial intelligence actually means, all easy to understand language and with real examples of free products you can use to get started and tips for how to implement them in your lessons.

We’ll also be answering your questions about Edtech and the future of digital products. This is your chance to clarify anything you don’t understand, ask for tips with a particular technology or start a discussion on something that interests you! Sign up to our ELTOC 2020 waitlist for more information.

For the chance to have your queries featured in the presentation, please submit your ideas or questions by commenting below.


Harry Cunningham is an Innovation Manager at Oxford University Press in the ELT division. He’s focused on enhancing and bringing OUP’s English Language Teaching content to life with the latest and best technological solutions.


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Mobile Learning for Language Development | Nik Peachey

As a novice teacher in North Africa in the early 90s, I remember clearly dissecting English language newspapers and magazines and scouring the local shops for bootlegged English language audio cassettes to find interesting content to base activities on for my students.

I also remember carrying around a bag of audio cassettes which my students would use to record their learning diary entries on and which I would take home to listen to before recording my reply and taking them back for them the next lesson. I guess this is why I find it baffling when I hear about schools or classrooms where students are being asked to turn off or not bring their mobile phones and devices.

I understand that competing with the screen can be a challenge. The apps that students use on these devices have been designed by people who have researched just how to distract and grab people’s attention, but I feel that the best way to grab their attention back is to start training students how to use the devices in a ways that will enhance their learning both in and out of class. One of the first things that we could do as teachers is help students take control of their devices, by turning off notifications for example (at least during lessons). Removing screen notifications as well as noises and vibrations will help prevent unwanted distractions.

Next, we need to help them put their mobile device to good use.

We can use a backchannel to connect our students and enable us to share and exchange digital materials with students during the class. A backchannel could be a simple chatroom that all students can enter. We can paste hyperlinks to articles, videos, audios, activities and worksheets into this room and then students can instantly access the content without having to type in long URLs or search Google. I use http://backchannelchat.com/ for all of my classes. They have a browser version as well as a mobile app that students can download for free. The app has been adapted for educational use, and as a teacher, I can easily control the chatroom by moderating messages and pinning tasks to the top of the room.

At the end of a lesson, students can download notes from the backchannel and save any useful links, comments, new vocabulary or documents.

We can use apps like Mentimeter to make our lessons more interactive. This is just one of many classroom response apps that enables teachers to deliver quizzes, polls Q&A sessions and even brainstorming tasks to students’ devices during the lesson. It also gives instant feedback that teachers can display on the whiteboard. I’ve used Mentimeter to get students brainstorming vocabulary into an interactive word cloud. This is great as they can see the word cloud changing as they add their words. We can also use it to do comprehension and concept checking and know exactly how many of our students are getting the answers right.

We can also start building multimedia lessons that are rich in graphics and images and which link directly to web-based resources. https://www.genial.ly is just one of many tools that we can use to create visually engaging materials that students can access on their digital devices. This is an example of a lesson I built for a group of students to get them to plan a fictional trip to Cambridge. They have a range of resources that they need to explore and which help them to find images, locations on a map, weather information, and interesting places and events. As they explore these resources, they can use the information they gather to plan a three-day trip together. Using the QR code at the beginning of the lesson, they can scan the materials directly onto their mobile device and access all of the links and instructions directly.

These are just a few of the many ways students can use their devices in the classroom to enhance their learning. In my upcoming webinar, we will be looking at many more and also investigating some of the apps they can use outside the classroom too. We’re running multiple sessions from the 22nd to the 23rd October 2019. I hope to see you there!

Register for the webinar


Nik Peachey has worked all over the world as a language teacher, teacher trainer, technology trainer, and educational technology consultant. He is an award-winning course designer, materials writer, and author


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Does technology work? | Nicky Hockly

Teaching with technology

In todays’ wired world, technology is an integral part of our work and personal lives. As teachers, we are often expected to use a range of digital technologies in our English language classes.

These expectations come from a range of quarters: from educational technology vendors, Ministries of Education, school directors, students, parents, and often from teachers themselves who feel they ‘should’ use technologies, especially with younger students/teenagers.

But in our rush to use technology in the English language classroom, the question of whether a chosen technology ‘works’ or not is frequently ignored.

What does research say?

Let’s start with a short quiz. Are the three following statements true or false?

  • Younger students (e.g. teenagers) are naturally better users of digital technologies than older students.
  • Contributing to blogs can help language learners improve their writing.
  • Digital technologies can help students with special educational needs.

Do you feel confident about your answers? Let’s see what the research says about each of these statements.

  1. Younger students are naturally better users of digital technologies than older students.
    Many people believe this to be true, but the myth of the ‘digital native’ (Prensky, 2001) has been thoroughly debunked by research. Young people are not automatically effective users of new technologies, although they may be confident with these technologies and use them for a range of (primarily friendship-driven) purposes. Young people may appear to live on Instagram, but they are often not good at evaluating the source and veracity of information they find online. They often don’t know how to write an email with the appropriate structure and tone. In short, younger students tend to be confident but uncritical users of technology. A large-scale research study (Fraillon et al.) carried out with 60,000 13 to 14 year olds across 3,300 schools in 21 educations systems/countries found that the ICT skills of young learners and adolescents were fairly low, and depended on a wide range of factors. These factors included: the impact of students’ home and school contexts, students’ individual characteristics, parents’ educational level and profession, the number of books and access to ICT resources in the home. Whether students received ICT instruction in school was another factor that affected their digital literacy. The bottom line is that younger people are automatically digital literate.
  • Contributing to blogs can help language learners improve their writing.
    Blogs have long been considered good for helping students develop their writing skills. When writing blog entries, students write for a real audience and with a communicative purpose; students can also interact with blog readers in a blog’s comment section. These are all good things for writing. Research shows that blogs can increase students’ motivation to write in English, although the research is less clear on whether the quality of their writing improves through writing blog entries. For example, it has been found that students with a lower level of language proficiency may benefit less from writing blogs than stronger students do (Secru, 2013). Nevertheless, the research into using blogs to develop EFL and ESL students’ writing is positive overall.
  • Digital technologies can help students with special educational needs.
    So-called ‘assistive technologies’ are used in inclusive learning in different disciplines, not only in English language learning, so much of the research has taken place in a range of subject areas. Overall, the research is promising. Tablets, for example, have been enthusiastically taken up by teachers working with special educational needs (SEN) learners because of their multimodal and tactile assistive qualities, as well as the ever-growing range of educational apps available for SEN students. In the field of English language teaching, research suggests that, depending on the learning materials or apps used and task design, learners’ engagement with language learning materials can increase (e.g. Cumming & Draper Rodriguez, 2013). The research also suggests that language teachers usually have a positive attitude to the use of assistive technologies with their SEN language learners.

Whatever the technology and whoever the learners, one thing is clear: it is important to review the available research in order to take an evidence-based approach to using technology with English language learners.

To what extent do technologies support language learning, and lead to improved outcomes for students? Join me in April for my webinar where we’ll take a critical look at digital technologies research and ask: Does technology actually help English language students learn better?


Nicky Hockly is the Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E, an award-winning online training and development organisation. She has worked in the field of English Language Teaching since 1987, is an international plenary speaker, and gives workshops and training courses for teachers all over the world. Nicky writes regular columns on technology for teachers in ETP (English Teaching Professional) magazine, and in the ELTJ (English Language Teaching Journal).


References

  • Cumming, T. M., & Draper Rodriguez, C. (2013). Integrating the iPad into language arts instruction for students with disabilities: Engagement and perspectives. Journal of Special Education Technology, 28, 4, 43-52.
  • Fraillon, J., Ainley, J., Schulz, W., Friedman, T., & Gebhardt, E. (2013). Preparing for life in a digital age. The IEA International Computer and Information Literacy Study International Report. Springer Open: Springer International Publishing AG Switzerland.
  • Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon 9, 5. MCB University Press.
  • Sercu, L. (2013). Weblogs in foreign language education: Real and promised benefits. Proceedings of INTED2013, 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valencia, Spain, pp. 4355-66.


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Artificial Intelligence | ELT EdTech

AI in the classroom.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has actually been around for decades. But only recently has it become an accessible tool for day-to-day tasks on our smartphones, picking strawberries, predicting crimes, and even English Language Teaching!

What is Artificial Intelligence?

A good working definition, which applies to the general understanding of AI, is Artificial Intelligence involves machines or computers that work and react like humans do.

The AI that is prevalent in current technology is what we’d call Narrow AI. That is to say it has a narrow focus and is very good at one or two jobs. For example, Shazam is very good at letting you know what song is playing, by listening to a snippet of the music, but it can’t tell you how many tickets are left for the theatre tomorrow night, or how tall Charles de Gaulle was.

An easy mistake to make is to imagine AI as machines that can think like humans do. This is called General AI, where a program could theoretically turn its hand to a variety of problems and, after a bit of observation, take up the task itself, as a person might be able to.

This kind of multifaceted intelligence isn’t replicable in computer programs (yet.) As Dr. Hadar Shemtov, Director of Research at Google, said in response to a question from the audience at an OUP dictionaries summit, “Computers are actually a lot dumber than the average guy thinks… they still need to be told what to do in the vast majority of cases.

How does it work?

There are two basic ways AI can work. The first is rules based – the program is given a set of rules and it keeps applying these to the problem to find an answer. The second is learning based – the program observes, finds patterns and matches patterns independently.

The difference between these two is that one is taught, whilst one is learned.

This is why AI is mentioned with such frequency in recent years. Previously, AI was all rules based – meaning its capabilities were restricted by the rules that could be defined by programmers. Modern AI has shifted to learning based, making it exponentially more powerful and opening up many more exciting implications. This has become possible because the vast data sets, and the computing power to analyse them (required to help a program learn) are now available with modern technology.

So what is Machine Learning?

Machine Learning is when AI programs learn how to complete a task. Machine Learning involves a computer analysing large quantities of data, recognising patterns in the data, and drawing out conclusions or solutions from these patterns. Often, in order for patterns to become apparent, huge quantities of data need to be looked at. The more data available, the more likely the AI is going to produce an accurate answer.

The initial algorithm for how to use the data is written by a human programmer, but the computer then applies this to vast data sets. This means that AI can notice patterns and provide answers far faster than any human – and sometimes provide answers humans would have been incapable of ever producing. But, it also means that the quality of the data needs to be good. If you input a poor data set into AI, you’re only going to get poor output. If you want to see Machine Learning in action, Teachable Machine is a great free tool developed by Google.

 What can we use AI for?

Well, just about anything. Uses of AI have already done great things to make our modern and connected lives more efficient and personalised. But there are also numerous potential benefits for education, which could improve the working lives of teachers and the learning journeys of students.

To date, Oxford University Press has already built products that make use of AI to personalise learning materials, we’ve partnered with Edwin to create an English tutor chatbot, and with Mobilinga to create interactive adventure stories, delivered via Alexa. We’re excited to continue exploring how we can make use of AI in education with our partners, using it to create new learning materials and content to help the world learn English.


Harry Cunningham is a Partnerships and Innovation Manager at Oxford University Press in the ELT division. He’s focused on enhancing and bringing OUP’s English Language Teaching content to life with the latest and best technological solutions.


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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:

digital1

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.

digital2

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!