The iPad in the ESL/EFL Classroom (By Kevin Cozma)
Are you an EFL/ESL teacher? Have an iPad? Want an iPad? Have 10 minutes to kill? Read on.
The iPad can be a great tool both in and out of class. I use the iPad or an iPhone in class at least a few times a week, and often I use it more. I usually teach groups of no more than 8 students at a time, and the iPad suits this type of class very well. In larger classes, it isn’t quite as useful, but there are ways to work around this which I will get to later. I also use it to help prepare for classes and work on various teaching-related projects. In fact, I am using it to write this blog post. Speaking of which, thanks a million Barbara for letting me be part of this great blog.
So why the iPad? Well, it is just the right size, being smaller than a laptop, yet larger than a smartphone. Also, I think there are more software options than current Android tablets have. Who know what the future holds, but for now, I am sticking with my iPad. The interface is simple to understand, and using it is a fun and unique experience for the students.
Well, the way I use my iPad most in class is to show videos. It works great with a group of 8 or less students. For bigger groups than this, you can connect it to a TV using an accessory cable. You can use videos you have purchased from iTunes, videos you have made and put into the iTunes library, and videos from YouTube. If you have a YouTube account, you can access it through the iPad, too. This way, you can view all of your YouTube playlists that you made on other devices. The iPhone also hooks up to your TV easily using an AV cable. Unfortunately though, you can ONLY watch videos using this cable, no apps.
Photos are also great on the iPad. For photos, I don’t usually hook it up to the TV. The iPad is a great size for using pictures in class, and if need be, you could always use the pinch and zoom techniques to change the size. There are tons of ways to use pictures in class, and the iPad is a great way to show them.
I play a lot of games in class, and I love this party game timer app. You can use the same app on your iPhone. It has some great options like minimum and maximum times (so that the time changes every round), looping, show countdown, and lots of buzzer and tick sounds. Yes, this works great on the iPhone, too.
One of the best uses of an iPad is as an electronic dictionary. I teach in Japan and use an English/Japanese, Japanese/English dictionary called Wisdom. It is very easy to use. It has a history function, so you can look up words before class, and have them ready to show students during class, without wasting class time looking for them. It is a great size for showing to students in a small class. The pinch and zoom function works great with it. If you are teaching a large class and the students can’t see the screen, you can ask a student to write the words on the board, or just say them. There are also many English-English dictionaries out there to choose from, including the free Merriam-Webster English dictionary. I use the unabridged version.
Dictionaries offer lots of information, but nothing compared to the web. A 3G or wifi connected iPad is great for showing stuff off from the web in class. Your 70 year old student doesn’t know who Lady Gaga is? Show her a video or a picture and then discuss it. I also use the iPad to show or explain some things from my website, or blog.
There are also lots of apps out there for young learners which are great for ESL/EFL classes. One example is Elmo Loves ABCs. Another is Toddler Counting. Games with talking characters are a lot of fun, too. In Talking Tom Cat, the cat mimics what you have said into the iPad microphone. The mouth of the character moves at the same time and the playback voice is altered. It is fun for students to hear their own voices in English. It is even more fun for them to hear it filtered and being spoken by an animated cat. Other similar apps are also available.
Use a lot of audio in class? Well, you can put all of your audio on your iPad so that you always have your CDs with you. This saves you from having to change CDs all of the time. The iPads speakers are OK for a small group, and if you need more power, you can connect it to computer speakers, portable speakers, and most CD players using a simple audio cord.
The final ways I use the iPad in class are Google Maps and street view. I don’t use them often, but they have come in handy a few times while discussing different places both around the world and around town.
Outside of the Classroom
This will be a shorter section, because much of the content creation that I do is on my PC. For now, it is much easier to edit videos and photos, make handouts, and do administrative work on the computer. Part of the reason is that I am more used to using a computer, and part of it is that for now, the iPad excels at content consumption as opposed to content creation. Still, the iPad is quite a young product, and I believe that I will use it more for content creation in the future.
That being said, I would like to mention a few apps that I do use outside of class that are directly related to teaching. The first of which is Pages, Apple’s word processor for the Mac and iPad. If you are going to use this app (or any other keyboard intensive apps), I highly recommend you pick up a blue tooth keyboard. It is thin, lightweight and stylish. If you are going to type a lot on the iPad, this keyboard is a must. Clicking on the picture below will take you to the Apple Store.
I use two other iPad apps outside of the classroom to keep my busy personal and professional life somewhat in order. On is the excellent task management app, OmniFocus. It is a little expensive, but well worth the money. The other is a mindmapping app titled iThoughts. I mind mapped this entire blog post in this program before I even started writing it in Pages. For more information on mind mapping, you can check out Hobie Swan’s mind mapping series on this very blog.
Thanks, Mr. Swan. I really enjoyed your series.
So there are some of the reasons why and how I use the iPad in class. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Also, if you would like to mention any other ways you use the iPad, or think that it could be used in an EFL/ESL class, please let us know. I am excited to learn how others are using this technology in their own classes.
Note: This article by Kevin Cozma 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.