classroom technology

Integrating technology in the classroom

A few weeks ago I blogged about my recent experience of using edtech in class. Claudia Andrade shared an interesting response to the post:

This got me thinking about my practice and my reliance on certain forms of evaluation. Looking back at most of my reflections on this blog, it’s clear that I judge the success of new approaches or activities on two things – either self-reflection or student feedback. At best I use both.

I’ve done enough training courses that have drummed that ‘plan-do-review’ cycle into me…

A nice diagram from Youth Work Essentials

Plus, as I’ve become a more experienced practitioner I’ve improved my ability to reflect critically and (somewhat) objectively on my approach and how it works for my students. I’ve involved students far more in this reflection/evaluation process as time has gone on. Looking back, it makes me cringe a bit when I realise how little I appreciated student feedback in my early teaching days…

However, I can see there are weakness in the way I evaluate the impact of an approach or a particular resource. I don’t think I use enough tools to help guide my reflections – I could make far more use of pedagogical frameworks as a guide when evaluating my practice.

This is particularly true of my approach to edtech at times. Although I’m looking for ways to integrate technology, more often than not it seems that I trial a piece of edtech in an unprincipled or isolated way. This normally results in me using a tech tool merely as an alternative to my established approach rather than as an enhancement. (more…)

Advertisements

Edtech exploration

I’ve come across loads of edtech sites/tools recently. I’ll forget them all if I don’t start writing them down. Here’s a random mix of stuff I’ve come across or have been using.

Things I tried in class last term…

Quizlet

I had to do a fairly long piece of action research into edtech for my MA. I chose to focus on Quizlet, you can read about my initial thoughts here. Overall, despite plenty of encouragement, I found that Quizlet lacked longevity. The wow factor died down after a while and the students rarely used the app for self-study towards the end of term. Verdict: Meh… (more…)

Digital Breaks – James Styring

I attended a useful webinar by James Styring the other week, entitled ‘Easy and motivating ways to use digital technology in the classroom. Click here to watch a recording of the webinar.

Overall, it was a very good presentation. There were lots of useful and straightforward tips for utilising the tech that students have at their disposal. I liked the fact that James made use of classic ELT activities (like ‘Find someone who’) and tweaked them to make use of tech in some way:

  • Find someone who has 7 of the same apps on their phone’s homepage
  • Find someone who has 2 of the same games as you
  • Find someone who has taken a picture on their phone in the same location as you
  • Etc

This is just one example, but it highlighted that things don’t have to be complicated. You can use existing activities, just personalise them using a tech element that’s ‘Generation Z’ friendly.

On a side note, that’s what I liked about Text Chat Activities by Mark Oliver (which I reviewed here). Familiar activities give the teacher more confidence to make minor changes…

Anyway. James’ best tip was to use ‘Digital Breaks’. He said the tip was from a British Council teacher from another webinar so, whoever you are, good suggestion!

According to James, ‘Generation Z’ get the urge to check social media apps on their phone every 7 minutes. Don’t fight against it – you want their attention, so schedule some digital breaks. I’ve started doing it. I allow students a timed break (2 minutes) every half an hour or so. Honestly, I’ve noticed that my teen classes focus more during activities. I was surprised, but they really do! Give it a go, let me know what you think.

Feature image from marketcloud.com

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

Interactive whiteboards – some pros and cons

At my current school we have interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in every classroom. These are a luxury, but I do think they have their drawbacks.

In ‘400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards’, Sharma et al (2011:10-11) list these benefits of using an IWB:whiteboard3

  • Teachers and students can use a wide range of multimedia in the classroom
  • They can make lesson lead-ins memorable (using videos, photos, etc)
  • Reviewing language has never been easier’, especially as you can save the flipcharts you create
  • They help with creating personalised content
  • It encourages ‘heads-up’ learning. Teachers can keep learners working at a similar pace, and focused by controlling what’s on the whiteboard. Feedback can be instant too.
  • Audio transcripts can be displayed easily.

This is a fairly loose list of benefits – there are plenty more. However, they don’t mention many problems with using IWBs. They highlight that…

  • technology is never 100% reliable
  • there’s a temptation to use the IWB merely as a presentation tool (teacher-centred)
  • there’s a tendency to overuse IWBs at first

Perhaps most importantly, they stress that IWBs are just another classroom tool – they should enrich the learning experience, but not take over.

Their book is a useful resource for IWB users, but it lacks discussion. Here are a few more pros and cons with IWBs that I’ve been thinking about recently. (more…)