For teachers who either must or wish to begin integrating technology in their classrooms, the fundamental question is often: Where to begin? There are many great tools, platforms and apps to use but which are the easiest for language teachers to begin with? Not meaning to be the ultimate road-map of technology integration, here are some possible ideas for those starting to use digital tools in the language classroom.
- Begin by signing up to Edmodo which offers a safe learning environment for learners. Many learners may recognize how Edmodo’s layout is similar to Facebook, it is simple to use and provides valuable opportunities for language practice. For example, you can review vocabulary with images, ask students to complete a sentence using a particular verb form, divide students into smaller groups and ask them to complete a story. Then use a Google Doc for them to edit their writing. There are also professional support groups for educators, so no teacher is without a “net” if they have questions about the different features that Edmodo offers.
- Google Docs is an invaluable aid for any teacher and student – teachers can share documents easily with students without them even having to sign up or signing in, (teachers need to set the editing permits accordingly for students). Students can carry out error analysis together, complete forms, add images, create surveys and especially for language classrooms, Google Docs is a great way for students to draft their writing and receive peer/teacher feedback.
- Vocabulary plays a big part when learning a language and Spelling City makes vocabulary learning fun! Teachers have the option to either make use of a free account or sign up for a premium account which offers more activities for students. Either way, creating a word list does not take much time and students can always return to the list for revisions.
- Speaking of revisions, FlipQuiz is another free tool which is simple for teachers to use. After creating an account, you only need to decide what you would like to revise, for example, vocabulary or grammar items? FlipQuiz works well on most devices and is a fun approach to revisions, either in the classroom with competing teams, or for self-study (as long as the link is shared with the students). Again, a FlipQuiz doesn’t take long to create nor does it demand specific tech skills on behalf of the teacher.
- Writing in the ELT classroom can become a fun activity when cartoons are added to the mix. Among the several cartoon makers that are available, ToonDoo is free, intuitive with its drag and drop features and students can share their cartoons with others (for example, in Edmodo). It’s definitely a creative way to integrate technology in language learning and an activity suitable for all levels.
- Fotobabble is another tool which is very simple to use in the language classroom. Students need to sign up for an account, then upload an image, record themselves saying something about the image and then after saving, it may be shared. It’s an interesting way for learners to present their neighbourhood or home town, what they did on the weekend, a famous person in their country or even their favourite colour!
With the exception of ToonDoo, all the tools mentioned here are accessible on iPads as well, and after the task is completed, it can be shared on Edmodo. They are suitable for all language levels and give students both practice in digital literacy skills as well as language practice. Integrating technology in the language classroom does not need to be all about the latest or most complicated tool. By slowly adding activities which add to language learning and development, teachers too are developing their own and their students’ digital skills.
Which one will you be introducing first?
Ana Cristina Pratas has been teaching EAP/ESP for over 20 years, in a variety of settings, from Universities and Colleges, to Financial companies and Industry. She currently teaches in the Middle East and one of her main interests is to encourage learner autonomy, creativity and critical thinking skills through the use of technology. Ana Cristina blogs at http://cristinaskybox.blogspot.com.es/