Don't waste your time on the Internet!

You have to teach the difference between the present perfect and the present perfect progressive.

Which of the following would you turn to, in what approximate order?

  • A good grammar reference book
  • Google
  • Your "Favourites" (aka "Bookmarks")
  • A second grammar reference book
  • CeltaStars (our email support group)
  • The notes in your Teacher's Book
  • A second search engine (eg. Yahoo or MSN…)
  • A colleague or tutor
  • Something that might be in your mailbox
  • A directory or portal
  • A news aggregator (which uses RSS)
  • Something else…

In the hand-out for the session, I provided further notes on the above, and in the "comments" (see below), I've suggested my own answer.

Is technology going to lead to more, better learning?

Before you begin to use technology — either on your own (for your classes) or with your classes — I think there are at least two key things you should ask yourselves:

  1. How much time is it going to take — before, during and after class?
  2. Is that going to be time well spent — ie will it lead to more, better learning than would have been possible without technology?

Will using technology lead to better learning? "It depends," you are probably thinking. But it depends on what?

Is a particular website suitable for use?

Suggested criteria for whether or not you want to use a website with students Do you actually want to take your learners to a site that you have found?

Considerations include:

1. Is it going to be of interest to your learners?

2. Is the content suitable? Is there any possibility that it might break taboos?

3. Is the language of a suitable level of difficulty? (And is it actually correct English?)

4. Is it time-saving or time-consuming?

5. What interaction is it – and the tasks you set – going to produce? Is it going to get people to talk to each other?

6. How much English is the task you are setting going to produce?

7. What useful language are they going to learn from it?

8. How are you going to organise the task you set – with students working individually, in pairs, in groups…?

9. Could you do exactly the same without making any use of the Internet?

10. Could you do the same more easily without the Internet?

11. Is it attractive to look at?

12. Is it easy (intuitive) to navigate?

13. Is the URL (address) you have for the page current (when was the last time you checked it)?

14. Do all the links work?

15. When was the page last updated?

16. What is your "Plan B" if something goes wrong and you can't access the page – or the Internet at all?

Can you think of any others? Add them, via the "Comment this post" link below.

Classroom management in the computer room

You are about to take your class to a computer lab….

Apart from taking with you a good lesson plan, plus your "Plan B" in case it turns out that there's no Internet access at all, or that the site you were going to use doesn't seem to be there any more, there are a number of classroom management issues that you might consider.

How would you answer the following questions:

  1. You get to the room first (before your students) and turn all the chairs round to face away from the PC screens — why?
  2. Which is best, and why: 1 student per PC; 2 students to a PC; 3 students to a PC; or more than 3?
  3. Your students are busily engaged on doing their "task" — and you want their attention. How do you obtain it (not easy, when you're competing with the Web!)
  4. What percentage of the lesson do you think your learners should spend looking at their computer screens?
  5. What other classroom management issues do you think might arise?

Finding texts for use in class

Where can you find texts to use in class? The following are places that I look…

  • The BBC, where you will find texts on virtually anything under the sun…
  • Among other things, you have an "on this day" section, with historical events of the past for every day of the year
  • A good newspaper site, like The Guardian, particularly if you want something topical (but do you need to edit the text to bring down the level of vocabulary difficulty?)
  • The Guardian also has a "Historic events as The Guardian saw them" section, where you will also find links to similar "Today is…" sites
  • The wacky news items to be found on eg. Yahoo (look for the "Oddly enough" section) make fun texts
  • Ananova has a similar section (look for the "Quirkies" section). The bizarre crime stories make good texts for class…
  • On Netscape you will find any number of "pop culture" items (some of it, note, perhaps a little risqué for use in class)
  • Songs are also "texts", don't forget… AllMusic is an excellent site, but type the name of just about any song, together with the word "lyrics" into any search engine, and you'll find it

Don't forget that you can change the default start page on your browser, so that it opens on a page like one of these. "Don't search, have things come to you," I always say — and, if you look for them out of the corner of your eye when you log on, that's one way in which you can do just that.