Hand over the tools: technology for learners, not teachers

My presentation for OneStopEnglish at IATEFL 2016, in Birmingham last Saturday.

For OneStopEnglish, I have written a series of articles on tasks which involve the learners, not the teachers, using technology either inside or outside the classroom.

The articles, for a wide variety of levels and ages, include around 70 different tasks learners can do and share these three characteristics:

  • They have the learners not the teacher using the technology
  • They involve using only a minimum amount of technology
  • They are designed to produce a maximum amount of interaction and use of language

In his plenary session the previous day, Andrew Wright was talking about learners creating their own stories and said this:

They're not doing it for you, they're doing it with you, for themselves.

21st century technology allows people to do precisely that — or at least it does if you the teacher take your hands off the mouse and keyboard, and hand over the technology to your learners.

Subscription is required for full access to OneStopEnglish. but you can also have a free 30-day trial, and school access is another possibility- As there are over 9,000 resources there, it's a site I highly recommend.

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 😉 !

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

10 technological do's and don'ts for a DoS

On the wall of my office: Enabled

On the wall of my office (detail in the image above), along with the photos of my children and bits and bobs that seem to have grown there, there's a very old photocopy of an ad that used to hang on the wall of an office I had in another lifetime, when I was Director of Studies (DoS) in another language school.

It's an ad for what was once called Cheshire Homes, a charity which "enables" the disabled. There's a sign on the table you can see above which says simply that: "Enabled".

I believe that's the job of a DoS — to "enable" all of his/her staff to do their jobs better and I think that also ought to be the role of technology, to enable us to do things better, quicker, more efficiently, with "things" in a school including (but not limited to) teaching and learning.

Do's and don'ts for a DoS
In July at IH Barcelona, we have a Director of Studies course on which I give a session on technology. The following is an edited version of the round-up from that session.

  1. Keep up with how technology is developing. It's bringing lots of opportunities with it — mobile devices and mobile learning, social media and social media marketing, and cloud computing, to give just three examples. Places like Edudemic, Edutopia, Mindshift and TeachThought (and following them on social media) will also keep you up-to-date.
  2. DON'T buy into technological gimmicks. Don't spend a fortune on installing interactive whiteboards (IWBs) or providing every learner with an iPad, just because you think doing so will give you an advantage over your competitors: it won't unless (a) you provide proper training for your staff and (b) the "gimmicks" then get used for better, more engaging learning.
  3. Provide the best possible technology you can afford for all staff (and not just teachers but for your reception and admin people too) and learners; what is in offices and staffrooms and the bar is just as important as what's in classrooms. As far as the learners are concerned, especially if you have lots from abroad, "technology" includes high speed, ubiquitous wifi, which doesn't grind to a halt when everyone who wants to use it attempts to log on.
  4. Enable your staff. Through technology, and through virtually everything else you do as DoS, enable your staff to do their jobs better, faster.

Training and technical support are more important than technology, which really has no place in a school if the training and support are not in place to back it up

  1. Training. Provide ongoing, just-in-time training for both teaching and non-teaching staff. With things like IWBs, it has to be ongoing, not a single session before the year begins. And with technology, just-in-time works far better than just-in-case.
  2. Technical support. Ensure that you have technical support, preferably in-house, who deal with problems fast; training and technical support are more important than the technology itself, which really has no place in any school if the training and support are not in place to back it up.
  3. Ensure that technology is used well in classrooms. "Well" means that it leads to lots of language learning, that it leads to engagement rather than merely entertainment. You will best achieve that through both training and observation and/or peer teaching, as well as having some way of sharing of ideas that work (or don't!) and gathering feedback from all (Google Drive forms are amazing for that!), including the learners.
  4. Encourage and contribute to the sharing of ideas. You probably want to provide a digital platform on which that can take place (Edmodo or a blog — the latter private or otherwise — would be my platforms of choice, though a Google+ Community or Moodle, if you are already using the latter, would be alternatives)
  5. Give cyberspace the attention, time, effort and resources it now requires. Cyberspace includes your website (its design and mobile-friendliness; its updating; and its search engine results (aka SEO); your social media presence and social media marketing. Your school probably needs to be on Facebook and Google+ and Instagram and Twitter and YouTube but you don't really want to be there if you aren't going to have someone devote time and energy to it. While you're at it, as DoS, you and your school should also probably be on LinkedIn.
  6. Encourage, appreciate and reward everything your staff do — with (and without!) technology, at every opportunity.

See also