Webinar Feb 10: Getting your learners to use technology

15 Years of OneStopEnglish

Join me February 10 for a free webinar celebrating 15 years (!!) of OneStopEnglish, one of my favourite sites for English teachers.

I’m going to be talking about how we can (and should!) be getting our learners to use technology, indeed one of my tips is this:

Don't touch the technology yourself, ever !!!

I mean that literally: put one of your learners on the keyboard and mouse (the best edtech purchase you can make: a wireless mouse and keyboard!) and literally don't ever touch it yourself in the classroom.

At the IH Barcelona ELT Conference this weekend, Rachel Appleby (@rapple18) tweeted this from the excellent plenary given by Lindsay Clandfield (@lclandfield):

But are there really that many English language teachers left who aren’t using technology nowadays? Are there really language teachers who aren’t turning on their projectors and exploiting some of the amazing things you can find on YouTube or (even better) Vimeo or VideoJug or (another of my favourites), Film English?

IH Barcelona (OK, in that case, me 😉 !) replied to the above tweet with this comment:

That's more or less what I'm going to be talking about in the webinar.

On OneStopEnglish, there are a series of articles I’ve written suggesting easy ways you can get your learners to use tools like Edmodo and G+ Communities, Google Drive and Instagram (and their mobile phones) for some language-rich, learner-centered tasks.

From a learner's point of view, they are so much more interesting than watching you, the teacher, plough through a PowerPoint it took you an hour and a half to prepare!

Join me Wednesday…

NOTE Full access (recommended) to OneStopEnglish is by subscription (see prices) but you can also obtain a free 30-day trial). There is also institutional subscription, which I recommend you recommended to your Director of Studies 😉 !

Fun activity with cats and dogs and a biro

In my session this coming weekend at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference (February 5 and 6), I'm going to be talking about how both teachers and learners can use simple drawings in some fun, language-rich activities.

Here's one that requires both you and your learners to be able to draw cats and/or dogs. If you don't think you could do that, here's a simple cat that you can quickly teach yourself to copy; you'll then find a simple dog at the foot of this post.

What you're really doing is not so much draw as represent

How to draw a simple cat
Below, you have a step-by-step for an easy cat. Key to lots of classroom drawings is to pick the right starting point: here, start with the face, and after that it should all fall into place.

Classroom cat

As with all classroom drawings (which used to be called "blackboard drawings" when I started out as a teacher), what you're really doing is not so much draw as represent. And, as Andrew Wright, suggested in his wonderful book, you're copying, not drawing.

The activity, step-by-step
Colleagues and I have tried the following at various time (some going back a long time!) from roughly A2 level up to and including C2 and it's one that has worked well with both teens and adults.

  1. Make sure everyone knows how to draw a cat and a dog, teaching them if necessary. Draw my examples for them, with appropriate explanations and running commentary and you've got a live listening comprehension activity.
  2. Get the class to divide themselves into 4 roughly equal groups, of dog-lovers, dog-haters, cat-lovers and cat-haters. Anyone who says they have no feelings one way or the other must be persuaded and recruited into one of the four groups. If the groups are not of approximately equal size, have the smaller groups try to persuade others to join them. (It doesn't actually really matter what size the groups are, or how disproportionate they are, but what we want as language teachers is discussion and use of language!)
  3. On a square piece of paper (square so that it can be easily Instagrammed afterwards, you understand 😉 !), each learner should draw a cat or a dog, depending on which group they now find themselves in. I like to limit drawing time to 60 seconds maximum. This is not an art class!
  4. They should then pair up, pick the "best" cat / dog and collaborate to add to the piece of paper everything which they know or think about cats or dogs — cat lovers and cat haters writing about cats, dog lovers and dog haters about dogs, for example:

    What's wrong with dogs
    I'm not a big fan of dogs, as you can see 😉 !

  5. Share the work produced — either by just showing it to other people (great for a "mingle" activity!), or by posting the pictures on a wall or by photographing them and sharing them via Instagram or an Edmodo or WhatsApp group etc.
  6. Comment on the drawings and on the ideas included, either orally or digitally (the latter possibly outside class time, not necessarily in real time)
  7. Discuss the topic of which make better pets, cats or dogs.
  8. Optionally, get the learners to produce a piece of discursive writing on the subject, of appropriate length.
  9. Optionally, have the learners make a very brief, collaborative, formal presentation to the class of their conclusions

What does drawing add?

The sharing makes your classroom a creative space in
which we generate things we then share together, which is terrific for group dynamics

You could of course do the activity without anyone drawing anything but requiring the drawing adds a lot:

  • it makes the activity way more fun
  • it seems to generate a whole lot more language ("What's that supposed to be?! / It's supposed to be…" often prove to be useful expressions!)
  • its seems to generate more ideas
  • it generate more creative, more original ideas
  • it leads to the creation of artwork
  • the artwork can then be shared and commented on afterwards, if you have some kind of shared, digital space where that can happen

It isn't artwork for the sake of artwork, and doesn't have to be of a standard to really merit the term "art" but the creating and the sharing makes your classroom a creative space in which we generate things we then share together, which is terrific for generating good group dynamics. I belong to this community because we drew cats and stuff together…

How to draw a simple dog
Here's simple dog step-by-step. It's fun because people inevitably have lots of scope for adding (often unintended) "personality" to their dog when they draw the face and/or proportion the body.

Classroom dog

As I'll be suggesting in my Conference session, what you need is not talent but practice. You're not really drawing, as I've suggested above, merely copying, and by copying the steps a few times your practice gives you the other vital ingredient to classroom drawing — namely, confidence.

As the title of my session ("Yes, we can: not drawing, merely representing") suggests, "Yes, YOU can!"

 

ELT Conference session: Not drawing, just representing

No matter how you teach, learn to draw!

No matter who you teach, learn to do simple drawings: if you can draw a circle, you draw a face!

For my talk at IH Barcelona's ELT Conference this year (February 5-6), I'm not going to be talking about technology, but about what used to be called "blackboard drawing".

It's my belief that all of us can draw and that, no matter who we teach, it's well worth devoting the time and effort to a little practice, as it can be useful to us in class in so many ways. Key is probably not to see it as drawing at all (I'm guessing that you're already thinking "But I can't draw!"): what we're aiming for is the ability to "adequately represent" things.

The workshop isn't designed to teach you how to draw, but is intended to show you that you can, or at least that you could, with a little practice.

Things your learners can draw, too
As well as the teacher (or teacher trainer) "drawing" things, you can also usefully get learners to draw: it's fun and can produce lots of language.

There isn't going to be time in 50-minute session to look at a lot of practical activities, so let me advance some now, from previous posts here on this blog, with some fun activities that get your learners drawing simple things:

Further links and tips and ideas coming up between now and the session (and possibly afterwards!).

10 ways in which your language learners could be using their smartphones

Mobile phones in class
So much technology… Shouldn't we be finding ways to exploit it?

Check this next time you're in class: how many smart devices are there in the classroom? I suppose it's kind of sad, but most times when I ask that there are more smart devices than people.

That being the case, rather than turning all that amazing technology off and putting it away, and turning on a single computer and the projector, could we find ways in which we could exploit smart devices — ways which would lead to more language learning?

In our Friday workshop series, we have one this week (10.00-12.00, November 27th) which will look at 10 ways in which your language learners could be using their smartphones, some in class, some out of class.

Bring your phone!

Books and links of interest
For lots of ideas on practical tips, I can highly recommend two excellent books from DELTA Publishing. And here's a couple of useful links on the subject:

Mobile pedagogy for English language teaching: a guide for teachers

Tables and apps in your school

If you have a subscription to OneStopEnglish, you'll also find an article of mine there on using mobile phones for images, audio and video.

Previous posts on using mobile phones with learners

7 super simple things I do on an interactive whiteboard

IWB page

The results of an "interactive dictation" (see below) done on an IWB page, exported from there as an image file, then imported here

Last week I posted 10 good, productive uses of an interactive whiteboard (IWB), which included some of my all-time favourite activities with an IWB.

Here are seven more things I do regularly, shown above in the image, captured while I was demonstrating the IWB in a workshop, with further explanation below.

They are all things which you should learn to do fairly immediately if you have an IWB and are starting out learning to use it.

  • Interactive dictation (example in the image, above). For language classes, I love dictation — even old school ! — but by "interactive" dictation I mean that I dictate and my learners interact with me and vice versa. I have a short text, sometimes a list (as you can see in the image), which I dictate and get them to jot down. You didn't hear that? I repeat. You can't spell it? Here's how… Then they check with each other that they got the same thing, etc. It's not a test, I don't mark it: instead, it's not so much an interactive whiteboard as interactive listening and writing — and it works great on an IWB.
  • Dictogloss (which was also included last week) is such a great activity for language classes.  Dictogloss on an IWB works really well as it gives you interactive students and an inactive whiteboard, which as I suggested last week probably really ought to always be your objective
  • I display images on the IWB, often not more than one, and use them for a variety of different tasks. A favourite is hiding the image with the coversheet or spotlight tool (see below) and getting the learners to guess what (or who) is in the image. Another is to show the image for 3 seconds, turn off the projector and get the learners to talk to each other about what they think they saw (no, you don't really need an IWB to be able to do that!)
  • Download and import YouTube clips (I use KeepVid, and realise that strictly speaking I may be contravening YouTube's terms of service — for the purposes of education, you understand 😉 !). Here's a couple of YouTube clips that always work well used in conjunction with the IWB.
  • Have the learners create things on the IWB and then export them (to a class blog, Edmodo group, etc…), such as the results of brainstorming activities. Brainstorming (i.e. beginning with a single, totally blank IWB page) can then lead on to a ranking activity, both great for language classes. Here's an example of a brainstorming task that always seems to go down well in Barcelona 😉 ! And below, another example from way back, possibly the first use ever made of an IWB at IH Barcelona, to create an "A-Z of Love" (!!!) in a beginners Spanish class:

A-to-Z of Love

  • Import and go over a limited number of things, including errors, from students' work, possibly from blogs, etc. Your IWB has a "camera" tool which allows you to capture and import text from wherever in a question of seconds
  • Use some of the tools (camera, coversheet, spotlight, timer and stopwatch…). The coversheet and spotlight allow you to focus on things, such as a single paragraph of a longer text, or a grammar or lexical point in a text. You remember OHPs and how you could cover part of a slide with a sheet of paper? Well, your IWB has more sophisticated tools to do that. See below for an explanation of the timer.

Fun with your IWB timer
Here's a fun speaking activity for practically any sort of class, but perhaps especially for exam classes where you have to prepare learners to "speak for a minute" on a given topic in an oral exam. Your timer probably resides in the "gallery" of things you can pull in on to an IWB page.

You need to set up the activity as in the diagram below, with two speakers  with their backs to the board, unable to see the seconds counting down. When one runs out of something to say, they have 1 second to tag in the partner, like in tag wrestling:

Fun with the IWB timer

It makes a pretty boring task fun and gets people to really listen. Stop the clock when anyone "objects" to a possible repetition or hestitation and people get really into the game. It almost makes me wish I still taught First Certificate 😉 !

Note that you could do exactly the same thing with a browser timer (I use e.ggtimer.com), free. Do you really need an IWB…?

Two other important things I don't do:

  • I don't use the IWB very much (don't have it on and in use for an hour, in other words)
  • I don't actually touch it myself, but get my learners to operate it

And one further "don't" I would add to that list: I don't spend hours creating material for IWBs.

If I did have something that was going to take me more than 10 minutes to prepare, I'd much rather have it in a shareable, cloud-stored Google Drive document — one I can access again from outside the classroom, one I know I'll be able to re-edit from any computer outside the classroom, which you won't find is the case with IWB software.

See also
Lisa Nielsen's Ten No Nos of Teaching with a Projector or Interactive Whiteboard

How to make your Interactive Whiteboard interactive

How not to see or use your IWB

What do you do (or not do) on your IWB?
Tell us, in the comments…