These days, using information and computer technology (ICT) really motivates students. This article looks at practical examples that encourage students to develop independent learning strategies, principally in the study of vocabulary, but also for presentations and report writing. 

ICT, vocabulary and motivation - resources article

These real examples demonstrate the quality of work that can be achieved through the use of the internet and other technology in the language classroom.

  • The memory problem
  • Preparation for ICT vocabulary work
  • Autonomous ICT vocabulary work - the great motivator
  • Uses of ICT in language teaching
  • Conclusion


The memory problem
As any teacher knows, any new topic starts with a large or small number of new words, which students are supposed to learn, to be able to understand the theme and to talk or/and write about it themselves. Any teacher also knows that it is next to impossible to make students learn all the necessary words: at best, they will learn them by heart mechanically, parrot them back at us or write some test, and then probably forget the new vocabulary.

 

If you have tried checking the new words, say, two or three weeks later, you know what I mean. To activate the new vocabulary, to recycle the words and expressions, we need some new techniques which will be suitable and satisfying for the new generation which is living in the era of ICT, or maybe even post-ICT.

Preparation for ICT vocabulary work
What I am offering here is just one way of doing it. Our first step is practically always our regular student textbook. In September, our course book presented us with the theme of Education. When my students, aged 15, level intermediate - upper intermediate, saw the long texts and the complicated exercises, they groaned. I suggested that we begin our work by scanning the texts for the new words and compiling the required vocabulary along the following lines.

  • Group 1: Topical Words
    These are the words which are used solely or mostly in this theme. I encouraged my students by saying some simple things, e.g. "OK, guys, now we have this word, which we learn ONCE, it stays with us, and we can use it each time we talk about Education'. It is March now. I asked at a lesson, "How do you say 'school programme' in English?" The class chorused, "Curriculum!" When they had it firmly in place, that is in their heads, I introduced CV (Curriculum Vitae) as an expression which they may need later in life.
  • Group 2
    These are the words which are used in this theme and in some other themes, though probably not too often. The most typical examples in this group are, naturally, 'teacher' and 'student' and their derivatives, such as 'study', 'studious'
  • Group 3
    These are the words which can be used in the theme Education, in many other themes and in everyday life, because they have various meanings and the dictionary entries for them are numerous. The most characteristic word from this group is probably 'class'.

 

Autonomous ICT vocabulary work - the great motivator
Two very bright students were so fascinated by this type of work that they asked me how to continue it. I suggested that they do some more research using textbooks, dictionaries, ICT, and try to write up their findings in the form of a report. One of those students began her work with the word 'curriculum'. She found a wonderful article about its history on the internet. When she made a short presentation in the classroom, everybody was happy to learn that this word used to mean 'chariot'. Some of the other teachers were present at that same lesson, they told me this was all news to them too, and they were going to use our findings at their lessons.

The same girl continued her research, browsing the Web for different sites where one can easily find electronic dictionaries. I helped her by bringing in various related quotations from literature and the media. She finally composed her findings into a report which she presented at the annual district school students conference, in English; her report was recommended for the bigger city conference.

The teachers who listened to this report called 'Topical Vocabulary: Education' asked me to show them how this kind of work can be done with students in the regular classroom, and with the use of ICT, so I delivered a lecture at the teacher training course which I am conducting this year. I also told them the main usage of ICT at our lessons of English that I use, which have already become a standard part of our school curriculum.

Uses of ICT in language teaching

  • The regular lesson
    It is possible to hold a regular lesson in a computer class with internet access. A teacher may download the necessary material beforehand, and have students work through it, helping out when needed. There are many sites that provide learning materials on the internet.
  • Using the net as a research resource
    We decide to search the Web for some data. Every student gets an address, or a name, or some words, which they find through a search engine. They take notes while working, so that next day, we can have feedback.

    Such lessons are extremely motivational, since the students enjoy using the Web, and they have an additional motivation because they know that they have to report to their peers during the next lesson.
  • Web site projects
    We are engaged in a project which is related to one of our topics. Students may write their essays in class, then the teacher checks them, then we have a lesson in the computer lab where they type their works and e-mail them to a project site, or post them if possible. We are currently doing Laws of Life - Life Values www.sch130.nsc.ru/~eva/lol/, and The Local History websib.ru/local/. As I managed to get funding for Laws of Life, we also compile a booklet at the end of every school year, publishing a booklet in which about 150 essays of students from various countries are included. Health Matters is an ever-popular project which we started several years ago with the help of Science Across the World www.scienceacross.org. Our demonstration site http://websib.ru/health/ is now used by many teachers worldwide.
  • Real communication
    Students love to e-mail what they call their 'keypals'. Instead of the former 'write a letter to your imaginary friend in another country and tell them about your country', they have real virtual friends, to use a funny modern word combination, with whom they exchange information, photos etc.

 

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Conclusion
There are a few students who wish to do more, they are the ones who choose a theme and make a report, get published in various student publications around the world, take part in competitions and conferences. While doing all these kinds of work within the framework of the school curriculum, they learn many more new words, they also acquire inter-cultural and interactive skills. Needless to say, among those who benefit from all the new activities combined with all the traditional ones, we can list, last but not least, the teacher.

If you have any suggestions or tips for using the internet in the class you would like to share on this site, contact us.

Nina M. Koptyug, Ph.D., associate professor of English, Novosibirsk, Russia.

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