Technophobe or Technophile? Are you already using technology in the classroom?
On our CELTA courses it has often fallen to me to deliver our session on using technology in the classroom. Not that I am in any way an expert on this subject but perhaps my love of a good gadget has swayed my colleagues into thinking I know what I’m talking about. Often, however, I find myself talking about a topic on which the trainees know more than me. This is of course not a problem, as good teaching practice suggests, I draw on their knowledge and use it to my (our) advantage.
In order to try and get one step ahead, or at least in line with the target audience, I picked up a copy of Bringing Technology into the Classroom by Gordon Lewis, published by Oxford University Press.
Lewis starts off by getting the reader to consider their “technology profile”, apparently I am a “digital immigrant” (grew up without technology but have adopted it as an adult) and a “casual user” ………… I use a computer for the standard stuff like writing lesson plans and creating worksheets but, although there is a computer in my classroom, I only occasionally use it in my lessons.
Now that we have established this, what does it mean for me? Is there hope or will I continue to be a “casual user”? This depends on how well equipped my school is. Well, I must be on to a winner here mustn’t I? Based in Munich, one of the richest cities in Germany my classrooms are surely technology rich? Well, unfortunately not as “rich” as one might think. Most classrooms in my building have a laptop and a projector and a visualiser but there is no guarantee that these are going to be working on the day that I want them to, therefore I still need a back-up plan -just in case. Furthermore, most of our English classes take place in school buildings around Munich where it is not unusual to only have a blackboard (yes black, not white) available. Of course, you can almost guarantee that I will have forgotten to pack my chalk but that’s another story….
So, OK – we now know that I do have some equipment available – what can I do with it?
Lewis provides some nice ideas for using offline tools such as word processing and presentation software, sometimes, however, these ideas rely on there being more than one computer in the room which is rarely the case for me and if I wanted to do this I would have to book the computer room which is almost impossible to access and has to be booked 6 months in advance! Although I haven’t had time to read all of his ideas, many that I have looked at could also be done without a computer. For example:
“In this activity your students act as city planners, with power to change anything they want about their city. You can do this by brainstorming with your class the things they like and dislike about their home city and the services provided such as recreation, power, transportation, schools etc. The students work in small groups and make a PowerPoint presentation of their plans for an ideal city, creating their own drawings or using images they find on the web to illustrate their slides. They should map out their ideas on paper before using the computers. When they have finished, you can either save the slides on a USB stick or ask students to upload them onto a class website or wiki”
I like the idea and I think getting students to collaborate, creating a presentation together gives them real world experience and by doing it on the computer the end result will look professional but good old paper, pens and some pictures cut out of a magazine would lead to the same result.
One thing Lewis mentions as a good use of PowerPoint in the classroom and something that I have already used in one of my CELTA input sessions is a Jeopardy style trivia game – it took me ages to create and there were a few teething problems on its debut but my trainee teachers enjoyed it and I will now use it on every course so it was worth the effort. Lewis provides a list of useful websites which will help even the novice to create such a game.
Another chapter in “Bringing Technology into the Classroom” covers the interactive whiteboard (IWB), I didn’t read this chapter as we only have one in my building and it is rarely in full working order! Bloody technology will be the death of me!
Part 3 of the book focuses on using online tools, so I skipped to this part with excitement.
Chapter 5 – Emails, chats and text messaging
Oh dear, the first few ideas suggested in this chapter didn’t grab me – I have found better ways to brainstorm using technology than via “text chat”. www.answergarden.ch is great for brainstorming……
I flicked on to the next chapter:
Chapter 6 – Searching the Web
I came across a nice idea
“Electronic field trips”
“Not everybody has the time or money to take a trip to some exotic part of the world, but the world wide web can provide the opportunity to take a virtual tour, even if you are not physically there. In fact, the process of exploring a city or museum online appeals to the same physical mode of learning, even if the movement is only virtual.”
Yes, this chapter threw out a few ideas I would like to try out in my EFL classroom and most of them would be possible to do with smartphones so no need for me to plan such a lesson six months in advance because I need the computer room 🙂
Part 4 of the book looks at “using advanced online tools..” The word “advanced” scares me a bit but apart from Chapter 7 – Web 2.0, which was completely beyond me I was pleased to find some nice ideas for how to use Blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks etc. One suggestion which I may well be looking into sooner rather than later is to have my students create their own podcast. I am forever telling them to listen to other people’s podcasts but had never considered that they could become the podcast makers.
To sum up, this book will definitely fit in to our CELTA library, it has a few nice ideas that I will be using myself but I have to admit, I was hoping for more. Having said that, I am not sure exactly what I wanted.
How do you use technology in the classroom?