I am a self-confessed techie teacher. My tablet can serve as my worksheets, my whiteboard and my DVD player. It can be my stereo, my flashcards and even my test paper. For me, this handy device is a facilitator of fun, innovative English lessons. On my blog I frequently sing the praises of the connected classroom.
Just last month I urged teachers to ditch their paper-based exercises in favour of interactive PowerPoint activities and quizzes. No internet connection at your school? No problem; you don’t need one to teach with tech. I give lessons in businesses where, as a visitor, I do not often have access to the company Wi-Fi. This does not stop me from using technology with my students. Videos and songs can be downloaded in advance and my favourite tool, PowerPoint, is available offline.
Despite my enthusiasm for computerised content, I know that in order for a lesson to be successful, I.T must be employed in moderation. Overusing technology tools can prove just as dull as working through a text book from cover to cover. If you’re going to do absolutely everything on the computer, why does the student need you at all? The key to a well-balanced, engaging lesson is not technology, but relevance, structure and variation.
For example, if you have already worked through a grammar sheet to study the first conditional, imagine a different way to approach the second conditional. Why not demonstrate the grammar structure by listening to a song, such as Katie Melua’s If You Were a Sailboat. Perhaps you could watch a movie trailer and ask what the students would do if they were in the same situation as the main character. If you prefer the unplugged approach, try leading in to the grammar point with an anecdote: “My neighbour asked me to look after her goldfish while she’s on holiday but when I got up this morning it had died. What would you do if you were in my situation?”
To follow on, give up the banal question sheet for a more dynamic activity using "what would you do if…?" cue cards.
You don’t need technology to deliver a captivating English lesson. However, I believe that teachers who dismiss I.T completely are really missing out on a world of valuable resources. Technology allows me to take a well-worn grammar structure and find a dozen new ways to introduce and practise it. The same goes for teaching vocabulary and idiomatic expressions. Tech helps to keep my lessons fresh and my students motivated.
As a teacher and keen materials designer, it boosts my creativity and keeps me enthusiastic about my profession.