Shaun Wilden, a freelance teacher trainer and expert in teaching with tablets, shares his advice for teachers on making the most of the interactivity of digital coursebooks from Oxford Learner’s Bookshelf.
Part 2 – How interactivity in e-books supports independent learning, pair work and whole class learning
Welcome back. How did your first lesson go? Did the students get to grips with their new digital coursebooks? Are you finding the right balance of use and non-use? I trust that by now the routine of using a different form of book is kicking in and it’s beginning to feel a little bit more normal. You’ve also realised that the digital aspects of your book can augment your usual teaching practice.
With that in mind let’s look at a lesson. We’ll use the e-book version of Headway Beginner, but you can apply the ideas to any coursebook you are using. If you’re not using e-books at the moment, and you’d like to try out the ideas in this post, just download the app for iPad or Android tablets, or go to www.oxfordlearnersbookshelf.com and try the free samples.
Let’s jump into the book and look at page 36, which is a vocabulary and pronunciation lesson based on the topic of languages and nationalities. In doing this lesson you are focusing the students on developing their knowledge of how to refer to different nationalities and language in English. By the end of the lesson, the students will have been introduced to a lexical set of nationalities and languages and had the opportunity to practice the pronunciation of each. The lesson also revises question forms which appeared earlier in the unit.
Here’s a quick question for you, how many ways are there of getting to page 36? One would be to swipe through the pages (albeit that would take some time). Before you read on, stop and as I said in part one, have a play.
Answer alert! You can use the tool bar on the left of the page, and the page thumbnails and numbers at the bottom. Add swipe, bookmarks, and search and there is a navigation method to suit pretty much everyone.
Getting started with my lesson, I project my iPad onto a bigger screen and pinch zoom the photos so that they fill the screen and remove the text. I don’t want them distracted by the text at the moment. Getting the students to look at the picture, I elicit which country they think it is (they did countries in a previous lesson so this is revision). Using the pen tool, I can write some of their answers on the page as in the picture below.
Once the students have the idea, I ask them to work in pairs and with one of their tablets look at the photos and write which country they think it is. We then get answers by again looking at my projected tablet. As the students are looking up I use the first picture to move from country to nationality leading into exercise 1, in which students have to match the countries and nationality. To complete this exercise students can use the pen tool.
Whether the course book is paper or digital it is important for the teacher to mix up how the students are working. This helps meet the differing learning needs of the students. Since we began with the students working as a class, heads-up with me, I ask them to do exercise 1 working on their own tablet. However since I don’t want it be a test-like atmosphere I encourage the students to support each other. I think this is important, as I want the students to learn to be independent and not always rely on their teacher for answers. If you remember from the first post I like my students working in islands. I think this helps them work with each other. In this lesson, since the answers are in an audio script, the students don’t need me to formally check the answers. I can promote learner independence while at the same time having the space to help those students who need it, by getting them to play the audio on their tablet.
However, there is a danger when encouraging them to work like this that students might take a long time to complete the exercise. As I don’t want them to take forever I change the projection on my tablet from the coursebook to a traffic light timer (for example Stop go or Traffic Light). The students then know that while the light is green they can work on the task, as the time expires the light will change to red signaling the end of the task. Being freed up like this I find I can give students more individual attention.
Since one of my favourite classroom techniques is drilling, once we’re all ready students put their tablets aside and we do some choral drilling. To add a fun element to this, I open the ‘too noisy’ app (iOS and Android). This is an app often used to show a class that it’s making too much noise. However since I want the students to be confident when they drill I turn this on the head and get them to make as much noise as possible so that the app goes off the scale.
Digital coursebooks have the ability for students to record themselves so rather than having to put individual students on the spot, once I am satisfied with the group drilling, it’s back to the ‘listen and repeat’ part of exercise 1 on page 36.
Here’s another quick question for you. There are two ways the students can record themselves in the digital coursebook. Do you know both? Answer alert! Student can record themselves using the audio note or by using the recorder that comes up when a student listens to audio.
More confident students, who do not need to refer back to a model, can practise the pronunciation into the audio note. Alternatively students can listen to the audio, tap record and say the word after each one is said by the coursebook. They can then play it back along side the audio to check their pronunciation.
One additional feature of digital coursebook audio is that the pace can be changed. If you look at the image above, you can see the plus and minus button on the audio toolbar. Students who have difficulty in listening can slow the listening down and those who want a bit of extra challenge can speed it up. If you were running a listening lesson from the front of the class you wouldn’t be able to allow so much flexibility to the students. Additionally this slow and fast can help a student with pronunciation. Slowing down highlights how the word is said, speeding up helps students reach a natural rhythm.
A similar approach can be taken with exercise 3, which this time asks the students to match country and language in order to make true sentences. However given the students have been working in their books for a while now if you are looking for a bit of variety, it could be done in a more traditional way such as using cut up paper prepared in advance. Either way after doing exercise 3 as preparation, it’s time for my students to ‘test’ themselves. Books off, they make sentences (orally) for their group as per the model. However rather than always making true sentences, students can make them true or false for their classmates to decide.
Finally we finish the page by doing the pairwork in exercise 4. Rather than asking them to reopen their tablets, you can use your projected coursebook to orientate and instruct the students. Students then do the task to get the idea and practice. However this first run through is also a rehearsal for recording.
Once the students are ready, going back to the audio note they record themselves doing exercise 4. They can then listen back and assess their own performance. You can help, guide and point them in the right direction before asking them to do the task for a third time (again recording) to note improvements.
There you go, a lesson using a digital coursebook. Not too dissimilar to what you’ve done before the digitalization is it? But before the naysayers pipe up, look at what the digital coursebook added. First of all the material was in one place so no need for extra audio equipment or finding a way to project large images to work in plenary. We added the ability for the students to record themselves, we didn’t have to control audio so they could work at their own pace. As a teacher I could work specifically with those that needed extra help while others could get on with a task. We still did group and pair work and we still got to do some good old-fashioned drilling.
Hopefully by now you’re getting into the swing of using the tablet. There are some obvious digital follow ups. By that I mean activities we can give the students as extension activities, just as you would do when using a paper-based coursebook. Obviously you can choose the ones that best suit your class but here are a couple of things to get you started.
As a class follow up for vocabulary I use the Socrative app to create a nationality or language quiz. The students can then play the team game. (When you download the app look through what it can do). You will see a game called space race. This makes for a fun way to end the lesson and review the lexis of the lesson. By connecting to Socrative through their tablets they are automatically playing in teams which provides a different interaction to those already used in the lesson. If you are new to Socrative, note that there are two apps: one for the teacher and one for students. After creating an account, you log in to the teacher version to create and run the game. The students join in on the student version of the app.
Homework will be getting the students to use an app such as fotobabble to create their own photo as per the examples on page thirty-six. They take a selfie and then use the language of the lesson to talk about themselves. Here that task not only uses the coursebook as the impetus but also because students have to record their audio (for other students) it gives a communicative focus to the language revision. If students cannot take their tablet home, they can do this on their mobile phones or computer. Alternatively, another task is to get the students to take photos of things of different origins e.g. An English dictionary, Italian food. If you set this for homework, students come to the next lesson with photos that not only revise the language of the lesson but sets up the next lesson perfectly!
Right, there’s a lot for you to get trying out. Feel free to leave me a comment saying what worked or didn’t.