Dr Priyamvada Agarwal works for Oxford University Press India as a Deputy Product Manager. Here she talks about using e-books for digital natives.
What are you most in need of to teach effectively in the digital age? Everybody would agree that interactive content which can engage students and hold their attention motivates students and enhances learning.
Teaching language skills through the coursebook to students who are digital natives and not digital immigrants can be both boring and time-consuming. Given that, what if the same coursebook could be used in such a manner that the printed exercises could become interactive and thus make existing material more lively, interesting and meaningful? What if something could help the teacher to bring challenge and purpose to the way the coursebook exercises are explored? What if the teacher didn’t have to invest money to make photocopies or to procure resources?
E-books, the digital version of the students’ coursebook, enables the teacher to play with the material in the coursebook, to develop interactive exercises, to add a personalized touch to make the lessons more context-oriented, and to add resources to help students connect instantly with things which aren’t often brought into the classroom. Incredibly easy to use, students’ coursebooks have beautiful illustrations and graphic stories which can be used to prompt discussions, develop predicting skills, etc. Simple features like zoom, hide and reveal, spotlight, etc. can do wonders to make interactive exercises and engage students in their language learning lessons.
Learners (and especially young ones) are able to retain information more easily if pictures, audio and videos are integrated into the lesson. Integrating videos into lessons creates enticing visuals and an interactive environment in the EFL/ESL classroom. Teaching English through videos also allows teachers to be creative when designing language lessons. As Cundell (2008, 17) notes, “One of the most powerful ways that video can be integrated into courses is for the visual representation they provide for learners on otherwise abstract concepts.”
It’s not often you use the Internet at the same time as reading a book. With e-book technology this is commonplace. The teacher can’t get much more interactive and visual than using the audio-video clips in the e-book. Adding hyperlinks enhances the pedagogical value of the coursebook, and finding appropriate teaching materials online is not difficult.
An effective lesson does not necessarily require expensive and high-tech materials – relevant and contextual audio and videos available on the Internet linked with the lesson enable the student to easily relate to what’s being taught. At the click of a button, the web links direct you to the video to be shown. Moreover, it is a one-time exercise for the teacher because the web link can be easily annotated and saved on a sticky note.
When teaching about places like the Arctic/Antarctic oceans, the moon, or if teaching about some abstract concepts or about wild animals, which may be difficult for some to visualise and imagine, showing a video on the subject adds an additional layer of context and comprehension.
The multitude of enhancements that can be made to the digital version of a coursebook is a compelling reason to explore the potential of e-books in classroom instruction even at the primary and middle level.
If you are using e-books in the classroom, share your experiences and some of the interesting activities that engage students in the comments below.