classroom technology

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…)

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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…)