There is a lot to say when it comes to technology in ELT and we all know that the discussion will never end as to whether use technology in the classroom or leave it and stick to our own traditional methods. (Keep in mind that 20 years later, what we have now as ‘high tech’ will be considered ‘traditional’ and the discussion will still be there!)
If we agree that technology is an undeniable part of everyone’s life and we can’t prevent our learners from having frequent looks at mobile/smart devices they carry and even if there is no technology where we teach, we still have to teach and train people with our own devices for the simple reason that it brings innovation to our teaching and attracts more attention so learning will happen better, and that fear of unknown is not a good reason to abandon tech. devices in our classes and ‘digital natives’ do not necessarily know better than ‘digital immigrants’ when it comes to integrating technology into learning and Jeremy Harmer’s blog post on Marc Prensky’s coinage is absolutely valid, then we will have to find solutions to this dilemma: ‘What if there is no reliable internet connection where I am?’
The solution is as easy as ‘we still have a lot of easy-to-use, internet-free tools and resources, don’t we?’
Here is a list of the main things I have been using for the last year while training Malaysian language teachers with the British Council where we have had to deal with poor connectivity:
1. Microsoft Office Suite Tools
1.1 Microsoft Word
When we have access to a computer lab, writing, commenting, editing and completing exercises happens in a simple word document. The Word’s ‘track changes’ and ‘compare documents’ features are fantastic tools for language teachers when it comes to error correction. ‘Track changes’ has several customisable features including colour-coding. Click on the ‘review’ tab in a Word document and you will see this in the middle. ‘Compare documents’ gives the learners the opportunity to compare the text they have written with a model text in a writing lesson or to compare their answers to an activity with the answer key. This feature can also be found in the ‘review’ tab in a Word document. These are usually very interesting for everyone (especially teachers in my case) and will also help the environment and you will be saving a lot of trees if you use word documents instead of the traditional paper versions.
1.2 Microsoft Powerpoint
A lot can be done with Powerpoint from creating basic presentations to photo albums, timed presentations with recordings, hyperlinked games and fascinating Pecha Kuchas- here is one by my favourite ELT person, Scott Thornbury. Just make sure you don’t make one of those boring presentations with full sentences that you read out from each slide as you move on!
2. Mobile phone photo albums
Most people have mobile phones with cameras these days which basically means they have photo albums in their pockets! So why not personalise the activity in the course book and add a bit of spice to it by first showing a photo from your own photo album instead of the not-sometimes-very-interesting photo or picture in the course book and asking the participants to find relevant photos from their mobile phones? Just make sure you take cultural issues into account not to upset anyone.
Your own mobile phone camera can help you snap photos to use in the warm-up the next day or you can encourage your learners to take photos of the board and save some paper!
3. QR Codes
This fabulous little invention can be a lot of fun in the classroom. You can create QR Codes on http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ or http://www.qrstuff.com/ and you can put URLs, short texts and even long paragraphs into these mysterious boxes. Answers to the activity can be put into these codes and be hidden in different parts of the room to encourage a bit of detective activity when everyone is bored in a mechanical grammar lesson! Alternatively, send them to the participants to save paper and go green again! Most mobile phones come with QR or barcode readers these days but to avoid problems check if they have this app: IOS Android.
4. Voice recorders
Most mobile phones have a voice recorder by default. These can be used for self-correction purposes where learners can listen to their own voice or share audio files with their partners for peer correction. Timed recordings are usually very valuable to exam preparation course participants and can help them keep calmer under exam conditions. If you have access to smart phones, my favourite voice recording apps are: iTalk (IOS / Android) and AudioCopy (IOS). You can even take one step further and use VoiceThread (IOS / Android)or Fotobabble (IOS / Audio Photo for Android) to add your voice to your photos.
There are a lot of mobile map apps which work offline and these can be simply used in ‘directions’ lessons!
6. Mobile offline game apps
If you have a couple of tech-savvy learners you can add this fun to your classes as well. My favourite offline game apps to recycle vocabulary are: Scrabble (IOS / Android), Letterpress (IOS / Android) and Hangman (IOS / Android).
7. Teacher Tools
How about combining your mobile phone ring tones with the timer for activities? You can also use the Activity Timer feature of the onestopenglish app. What do you think of a pronunciation app in your pocket? Or using a digital dice (IOS / Android) if you have forgotten to bring one?
The list is certainly not exhaustive but proves that a lot of technology can be integrated into our courses without an Internet connection, to make sure learning is facilitated using what people have in their pockets and can’t live a second without!
What are your favourite internet-free tools?