Thursday 19 June 2014

ELTchat summary 18th June 2014. What tech do you think is particularly effective in a classroom. With few resources which would you choose?

I caught the dying moments of this ELTchat, but again it was my topic which had been chosen for discussion,
so I don't  begrudge the time taken to write the summary :-)

What technology do you think is particularly effective in a classroom?

@Shaunwilden threw out the question to start the chat off. This resulted in a quick list of tech which people felt fulfilled the brief
  • visual tech @mary28sou
  • IWBs @HadaLitim, but this started a discussion about their merits 
  • WiFi, computer and projector @AmadeuMarin
  • Google @teflgeek
  • Mobile phones @joannacre and @anasainzc
What did @mary28sou mean by visual tech? She explained that she was thinking about students creating photo collages on their smartphones, or teachers being able to use their Ipads to find visuals for a lesson.

So, IWBs......

@mary28sou wanted to hear about the advantages or otherwise of using them in class. This divided the chatters.
@Shaun was firmly of the belief that they are not effective. @HadaLitim warned that they could easily turn the lesson into a teacher-fronted session.@joannacre thought that without training in their benefits, they were just  fancy whiteboards, but could bring variety.@teflgeek was of the opinion that there were limited opportunities for interaction, and that a projector was better value. @HadaLitim thought that they could vary the lesson, and that having an electronic version of a book on display was often helpful. She said that she used her IWB mostly for audio and visual reasons and that she used the revealer (a black cover which can cover the text until it is needed,) a lot for prediction and discussion amongst the students. She also mentioned a ticker at the top of the IWB containing vocabulary to be used while doing speaking tasks.

Do we mean engaging, economical, practical, easy to use, relevant?

This was @adi_rajan's question, which gave a wide ranging definition.
@patrickelt believed that the most important part of the definition was to have a positive effect on learning, although he agreed that it is difficult to generalise as purposes and contexts are different. He suggested that how the tool helped with tasks was where the focus should be, rather than the teacher being too enthused with the tool itself.
@mary28sou suggested that knowing where to access resources online could be of greater benefit to the teacher and an effective way of using tech for the classroom.

One Viewpoint....

@bealer81 felt that the constant search for, and application of ,technology in class often gets in the way of teaching.  He believes that tech can be very time consuming and distracting. He was steadfast in his belief that technology is better used to maintain contact outside the classroom in such roles as student projects, feedback, and  the sharing of resources. He did mention that he made use of tech if it was good and simple, but often had recourse to the whiteboard, which  he used as a record or as a canvas containing anything which aided his students.@adi_rajan agreed with him and mentioned that he had wasted a lot of time getting apps to work in class.
@bealer81 blamed the lack of understanding of technology tools, and their relevance or otherwise, on the training of new ELT teachers. On a 4-week course the time is spent on other topics which may have greater relevance in the time available.  @davidboydon agreed that the time was an issue, but he thought that fear of the tech was also a factor.
 @patrickelt thought that, as tech was becoming part of everyday life, time needs to be found to train teachers to use it effectively in class.
@Hada suggested that technology should only be used to enhance the learning experience and not as a fad, which @bealer81 and others agreed with. @teflgeek wondered whether the use of technology in class and assessment might increase the economic marginalisation of people in resource-poor countries. This would mean that in poor regions the students might be disadvantaged by not having access to tech.

Mobile phones...

@HadaLitim thought that mobile phones were ideal for being good and simple technology.
@adi_rajan felt that mobiles were good, but, if they become the centre of attention the lesson is not always productive. @joannacre also worried that there was the possibility that students might be distracted by Facebook or other such sites. She joked that her students were more tech-savvy than she was, but @patrickelt suggested that they were perhaps just less aware of pitfalls.@joannacre said that if she didn't feel 100% comfortable with the technology she stopped using it.

There is documented evidence of a high take up rate of some technology, such as phones, in very poor countries, even if they are not high tech smart phones and it was pointed out that even simply texting in English was beneficial, particularly if the students can become familiar with a different alphabet. It is, after all, a real life-skill and an excellent task to develop meaningful contextualised writing. @bealer81 thought it would be useful to take the conversations into class to look at mistakes, and how to upgrade the language. 

And a different point of view......

@patrickelt believed that being aware of what the tech can do and how it reflects today's world might be a good direction to move in.
@Shaunwilden thought that as it can be brought into the classroom it ought to be utilised. He suggested that many of the negative statements could actually substitute the word 'coursebook' in their comments, and that technology was often unfairly blamed for bad lessons.
@joannacre asks her students to use their mobile phones as dictionaries, having downloaded the app to their phone, as does @anasainzc. She also likes doing online dictation, as her students can hear the pronunciation too. @AmadeuMarin also reminded us that phones can record audio and video as well as taking photos. @patrickelt thought that we should develop an awareness of multi modality with any technology that we use. @joannacre likes to use programs like turnitin  to test for plagiarism. This makes her marking easier to manage and it appears that she is in tune with many universities who do their marking online, changing the old educational model.  @davidboydon thought that technology use in class is still context dependent.

With few resources which tech would you choose?

@mary28sou and @HadaLitim thought that the best thing to do was to make use of the students' own technology. This way they will be able to continue  the work they have started when they go home. 
@teflgeek provided a checklist: 
  • Does it add to the lesson?
  • Do all students have access to it?
  • Does it do something better?
  • Is it free? If not, how much is it?
  • Is it necessary?
He added that technology is a tool like any other.Use it if there is a good reason for it, if not-don't! It is about the teacher knowing what, and when to harness, technology.
@cherrymp pointed out that many teachers don't really consider whether the tool enriches learning before deciding to use it and felt that it was sometimes used more out of obsession than need.
@patrickelt reminded us that lots of people learnt languages just as effectively with 'old' tech :-)
In fact @NewbieCELTA had already suggested poster paper as a great low-tech way of working.

@bealer81 offered Whatsapp as a way to foster class community.
@cherrymp knew people who complained that it was too intrusive because of all the notifications.
@HadaLitim saw an improvement  in study skills, motivation and group cohesion when she used it with her students. She thought it made sense to use what was already popular with students.
@LahiffP used viber, a similar app.
@lahiffP asked about Snapchat. We are waiting for some more information about how useful this might be in class.
@bealer81 suggested using online corpora. So much information is available and it is easy to access.  
@michaelgriffin said that there were many corpora to choose from to suit different types of class. He mentioned BNC as a simple, although limited, corpus, and his own preference was for the COCA, although he warned that there was a learning curve to be mastered first.
@idc thought that access to the website, and corpus-informed material, wasn't enough of a guide for students, and that it would require more work on the part of the teacher. Also, do students have the motivation for self access?
But both @patrickelt  and @michaelgriffin thought that it would be useful for them to check combinations to inform and improve their writing skills. Of course, they would first have to be taught about how to use the corpus.
@michaelgriffin offered an old post of his to explain how to check intuitions 

We finished on a couple of points. @Shaunwilden advised everyone that next week will be the final week for this term, and #ELTChat will be taking a break for July and August as usual.

The other was that we would discuss the possibility of doing a slow-burn session sometimes, in contrast to the super fast 1-hour #eltchat. Watch this space...........

My thanks to everyone who took part and gave their valuable opinions.

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