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4 easy ways to incorporate technology into ELT (for you and your students)

girl with laptop in classroomLaura Austin, an ELT Consultant for OUP, presents 5 easy ways to learn, connect, communicate and develop in ELT using technology.

Technology per se doesn’t affect the language development of students learning English. However, I think you’ll agree that these are useful tools to explore to help support both you and your students.

Infographics* (for students)

There are infographics about history, culture, business – you name it, they exist. The Coolinfographics website is a great place to start. Why not use it to start off a debate? To generate interest in a topic area? Or to pre-teach vocabulary? Even for introducing those analytical skills needed for core exams. This one from the Onlineeducation.net is particularly interesting as it relates to student views on technology; might be a useful one to kick start the use of infographics in class.

*Thanks to Ollie Bray for this idea.

Twitter (for you)

Twitter helps you to reach out to other ELT professionals all over the world. Once upon a time you’d browse through various websites to find out about new methodologies and teaching ideas. Now, all you need is a Twitter account to follow all your favourite ELT authors; put them into a list and away you go. If you haven’t quite got it; then just spend 10 minutes a day following Tweets. You’ll get there in a couple of weeks and once you do you’ll never look back.

The most popular feature for ELT teachers is #eltchat – you can follow this hashtag twice a week for updates and topical ELT debates. Great to read and even better if you can participate. You can find more information on the website

Wikis (for students)

Wikis are a way to collaborate everything you have learnt with your class, incorporate new skills (such as peer editing) and encouraging students to communicate. Most importantly it gets students excited about publishing their work online.

Each class one student could take notes and post it on the class wiki. This could be used for revision and for absent students to catch up on. For a more collaborative effort, students can do this in small groups and save it on different pages, this effectively creates a Website – so the Wiki then contains a range of pages for students to browse. There is a range of software which helps you put together your class Wiki. One of the most popular being PBworks. It is simple and straightforward to use.

Movie Makers (for you)

I love the browsing through all the home made animated movies on youtube. There are a wide range of movie makers which make this so easy for you to make for your class. How does it work? All you do is import your text and choose your characters, select a background and away you go … a movie especially made for your class.

You could use it to pre-teach vocabulary or as an end of term treat you could even create a movie based around students in the class. Try Xtranormal for starters.

Have you used any of these in your classes or in your own time? Are there others you would recommend? Share your stories in the comments below.

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5 tips for helping students to really learn vocabulary

Teacher pointing at the whiteboardLaura Austin, an ELT Consultant for Oxford University Press, presents some useful tips on how to teach vocabulary to your students so that they will really learn it.

Students need to be able to do so much more than reel off lists of vocabulary. They need to be able to manipulate the language so that it can support their communicative needs. Below are 5 ways to help students really learn vocabulary; to help them write, speak and communicate confidently and correctly.

1)    Repeat little and often

It’s alarming how quickly students can forget vocabulary. Encouraging students to focus on new vocabulary daily is the best way to make it stick. It doesn’t have to involve sitting down for hours; little and often will help get vocabulary into students long term memory. If you can get students to commit to just 15 minutes a day of focussed vocabulary practice, they’ll soon have a solid vocabulary base. Mobile apps and short online activities are great for this, as students can log on instantly and test themselves at any point of the day – it’s really not difficult to integrate learning into their daily routine this way. Encourage students to be systematic about studying and review new words at least once every couple of weeks.

Idea for your class: Ask students to create their own system for reviewing new vocabulary and trial it for a month. Students then give feedback to the class by preparing a presentation of how it worked.

2)      Learn vocabulary in chunks

We all know that learning vocabulary in chunks is useful and improves accuracy and fluency. If we can allow students to also see how much time can be saved by learning this way, they are more likely to pick this up as something they do automatically. Words used out of context can destroy the understanding of a sentence. The moment the sentence is pre-formed, a range of vocabulary can be inserted, giving students the added confidence that their structure is correct.

Idea for your class: At the end of the week, students write down three sentences (using new lexical chunks), two of which are true for themselves and one which is false. They practice using this language by reading the sentences to their classmates, who need to guess which is the false sentence.

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The changing immigration laws in the UK

UK Border signLaura Austin, an ELT Consultant for Oxford University Press, looks at how the changing immigration laws in the UK will affect foreign students hoping to live and work in the UK.

What’s happening?

Immigration laws are changing in the UK, making it more difficult for foreign students to get general student visas (GSVs). The government are aiming to cut visa numbers by 80,000.

Certain schools have ‘highly trusted sponsorship status’ (HTS) which means that they comply with tough criteria based on absences, drop outs etc. Having HTS gives schools a quota of places to fill in the school and the ability to issue a CAS. (A CAS is a unique reference number given to students on successfully signing up for a course – it allows students to apply for GSVs).

Previously schools could issue a CAS for a GSV without having HTS. This is no longer the case.

The system is toughening up and students are now required to hold a B2 level of English proficiency across all four skills.

This is a huge threat to the ELT industry in the UK. It is estimated that 40% of the ELT admissions in the UK come from GSVs.

Is it important?

Well, yes. Britain’s international and higher education sector is worth £10bn a year. If overseas agents can’t offer students the right package (i.e. combination of study and work options for all language levels) then we will become less competitive in the market and lose business to other countries.

Who will be affected?

Students, teachers, accommodation providers, shop keepers, the whole infrastructure of places like Brighton and Bournemouth which house large numbers of students. Private language schools who don’t achieve their HTS and also universities where students aren’t at a B2 level for all four skills.

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Working as an ELT Consultant

Smart smiling woman talking with manHave you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the country visiting schools and speaking to teachers? Laura Austin, an ELT Consultant for Oxford University Press in the United Kingdom and Ireland, gives an insight into her daily life.

Are you passionate about ELT and everything digital? Like meeting new people? Love to travel? If you’re not averse to hotel rooms, service stations, book bags, waiting rooms, sales reports… then this might be the role for you…

ELT Consultants are employed to visit schools on behalf of a publishing house. Directors of Studies are busy – there is a lot of ‘fire-fighting’ which takes place in a school environment  – there’s a whole whirlwind of events which results in materials being left to the end of the agenda in the busiest of schools. Which is where we come in!

When a Consultant visits a school it gives staff the opportunity to sit back and analyse material. To think about what works and why; to give suggestions for the publisher and to explore various other opportunities. Now, how useful is that?

It’s a really exciting time to be meeting up with schools in the UK as many are on the digital bandwagon and are keen to explore new ways of exploiting new technology. It gives us, as Consultants, a double-edged role. Not only are we providing a service of promoting to customers on their very own doorsteps, but we are also helping to train teachers to feel at ease with new teaching tools.

I cover schools on the South Coast of England, as well as in Wales and Ireland. On average I visit between 12 and 15 schools a week. A visit can range from a ‘meeting’ with an academic board, to running a book display in a staff room or providing a teacher training event to groups. It’s extremely varied and most customers are more than happy to meet up and discuss resources.

Then there are a number of regional conferences where we run a stand, and often provide a well-known speaker. We have the opportunity to meet regular customers as well as to get to know new ones. These conferences become more enjoyable as time passes, as people become more familiar, and it’s a great opportunity to meet your entire customer base on one occasion – away from the all too familiar routine of the workplace.

The people you meet are generally really welcoming and interested in what’s new in the ‘book bag’. In fact, at a school in Hastings recently, I was given hot chocolate and an array of delicious chocolate biscuits, whilst we looked at the books in question. A great counterbalance to the hotel rooms, service stations, book bags, waiting rooms, sales reports…

Have you been visited by an ELT Consultant? How was it? Are there other services that we could provide to keep you up-to-date with new resources?

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