Meeting Challenges in the EFL Classroom/ Part 2: Using technology (by Christina Markoulaki)
You can read the first part of this posthere.
The outline of the presentation with all the links can be found here.
Moving on to the second challenge all teachers around the world need to face at some point, I am going to refer to the constant use of books or anything that comes in paper. Yes, all printed material is extremely useful and informative, but hasn’t it become too predictable these days? Students invariably expect that photocopies will be handed to them, that they will play some kind of board or card game at the end of the unit and that they will have to submit their homework on a piece of paper. This will come as a surprising statement from a fanatic book lover and proponent of using coursebooks in the classroom, but I have finally realized that if we want to truly attract students’ interest, then we need to think of unique ways to spice up the learning procedure.
Therefore, why not use the Internet along with all the paper games and books? I am not the first one to say this, but it is really easy to use and find a tremendous array of free activities that will make all learners look forward to the next lesson. The online activities can fit the ones currently being done in class or be entirely different, presenting topics to the learners that have never been dealt before. Inspiration for such ventures can be found anywhere: please look at the links in the resources column of the presentation outline, which lead to wikipages where I have listed inspiring teachers‘ blogs and numerous web resources for all levels. I also suggest joining in the two most famous social networking sites in order to discover all kinds of interesting links provided by other members.
The examples section includes two samples of the online work I have done with two different groups so as to provide them with more information as well as enrich the images in the young minds regarding the topics dealt in their coursebooks. For instance, Geocaching was mentioned and discussed in class, but only when students saw the actual site and got to know the procedure of participating in this global treasure hunt, did they realize what Geocaching is all about.
The same thing happened after exploring sites that clearly illustrated the plight our planet is in and the need to change our daily lifestyle to save our home. Some environment games were also included, such as paying attention to how the player, named Eco-Ego, and his actions affected his surroundings, thus ending the lesson on a positive note and giving food for thought to the developing minds.
What is also of interest is the wiki my new adult ECPE group has been maintaining, where they write their homework instead of handing it in on a piece of paper. Gradually but steadily, they have shared word groups, book summaries and opinions on different topics, enabling one to benefit from the knowledge of others.
The third challenge teachers are faced with is the vast array of information available on the Internet. It is true that the Net seems like an endless maze of articles, blogs, websites, links, images and files, especially to people who are not used to surfing it or browsing it effectively.
Planning is the key to deal with the multitude of online content. Teachers should always prepare before a lesson, visiting sites and choosing the most appropriate ones. They do not necessarily have to visit every site that appears in a Google search. By trusting specific EFL sites or teachers who blog about their experience (see the resources mentioned regarding the second challenge), a ‘newbie‘ can save a considerable amount of time when preparing the lesson plan. Having decided upon the websites that fulfil their criteria, it is now time to structure the activities in the most pedagogically appropriate way.
To acquaint the students with all the basic vocabulary or grammar needed to complete the activities, teachers can use some of the free online dictionaries, encyclopedias or even videos (the list on my wiki may be of help). Subsequently, they could number the steps to be taken on their blog or on the class blog so that the students immediately grasp the procedure and what is expected of them. Finally, on completion of the web quest and consolidation of new words, students can gather their findings on the class blog or wiki or even on a wallwisher, all of which could function as a future point of reference and would, of course, give a sense of achievement to the young Internet users.
As far as my classes are concerned, here are a couple of samples of work. C2-level students have created wallwishers visualizing hunger as an unprecedented scourge, after having been presented all the relevant vocabulary and taken notes of it by using the links I provided them under the wall. Moreover, they have gathered information about foreign customs, like the American Independence Day, thus broadening their horizons and learning to be tolerant. See also the activities about Teachers’ Day, dictating the steps to be taken and linking to students’ online work.
One more of the questions that may haunt a teacher’s mind is whether he/she will manage to incorporate all this new technology in their classes. The computer screen seems like the entrance to unknown, while all these sites and programmes can be really intimidating at times. The solution is simpler than we think: take one step at a time. When teachers try to interconnect through social networking or by email and read edtech gurus’ blogs, they have already made progress in globalizing classroom learning. Employing social profiles one already has, like the Facebook one, will ultimately help to engage in a wider conversation and benefit from links suggested by colleagues all around the world.
Creating a blog can also be said to be vital, as all other online work can be embedded in it. Once again, maintaining a blog may be thought to be a job destined for computer experts, but this is not the case. If you click on the ‘posts intended for teachers’ link, you will find two articles I have written as guest posts on the present blog about integrating blogging into teaching as well as creating your own video activities on a blog.
One quick look at the links listed in the examples column will convince you that there are numerous, yet quite easy, ways to create new learning experiences for your students through the use of technology. As a final remark, the embedded glogs, quizzes, wallwisher, PDF files, slides, photos and videos on my Students’ page can prove that blogs are the most useful teaching tool with great potential ahead and that, if determined, anyone can do it.
To sum up, these were several of my thoughts concerning teaching in its best of senses. I hope what I have said will be of help to those now embarking on the use of a variety of media in their lessons or even to those who are somehow experienced in this. To give you some food for thought, I will quote the globally renowned speaker and author, Zig Ziglar, once more:
You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.
Note: This article by Christina Markoulaki originally appeared on Teaching Village, and is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non Commercial, No Derivatives 3.0 License. If you wish to share it you must re-publish it “as is”, and retain any credits, acknowledgements, and hyperlinks within it.