Monday, October 01, 2007

Why You Should Use More Technology in Your English Language Teaching

The Situation

Think about your English as a foreign language learners for a moment. After school, what do they do? What occupies them evenings, weekends and holidays? Where do they go? What activities do they enjoy? How? Are they in a traditional classroom or receiving home schooling?

Do they have a TV at home? Of course they do. If they’re part of the world's population that doesn’t, they’ll surely have access to one somewhere. At a friend’s or neighbor’s, a local store or shop – somewhere they can watch TV at least on regular occasions.

How about movies? Do your learners like and watch movies with any regularity? In most of the developing world that’s another big time YES. While the kinds of movies different learners may watch and like can vary widely, surely they’ll have preferences that stir their emotions and get their “juices” flowing.

Then there’s the telephone. Can you even imagine how much time your daily charges spend yakking away about this or that to their friends, classmates and whoever else? Perhaps where you are your learners even have their own cellular phones. Even if not, whether it’s their family landline or a community telephone, you can just bet that they’re on it every chance they get.

Now there’s music. Do they use cassette players, CD players, MP3 / MP4 devices, DVD’s or even a phonograph? Almost certainly they do. One or more of these devices are likely a regular fixture in the daily lives of your learners. They often live and breathe music whether it’s a genre you like, one you can at least “tolerate” or one of those “oh my god, you listen to that!”

Your learners (and you too for that matter) are constantly bombarded by visuals and graphics in the form of signs, logos, billboards, notices, photos, pictures and images of virtually every description. From scratchings in the sand to chalkboard talk to the slickest of online and televised video “infomercials”, visuals too are an integral of your learners everyday life.

And oh yes, there’s the culture-pervading PC computer. Where would you have to be to get away from them? At the high end of the spectrum, there are video games, ipods, e-mail, RSS feeds, blogs, vlogs and the multiple facets of the internet. Lower tech applications might include using word processing software, spreadsheets or databases for routine applications. Although typewriters still exist, countless minions use computers to do homework and prepare basic letters, writing and reports.

Some Considerations

So where am I going with all of this? Simply to remind you that if your classes aren’t regularly enhanced by more aspects the learners are used to, use and experience in their everyday lives outside of the classroom, how do you think they feel about your classes where they might just sit and do “exercises” or listen to you talk and / or explain? The answer is simple. They’ll think, “This class is B-O-R-I-N-G”. Their capable young minds will drift and their attention will be lost. In a worst-case-classroom scenario, pandemonium could ensue. And it’s all YOUR fault.

Some Suggestions

But hold on there. What might be done to circumvent such a dire scenario?

There’s plenty, that’s what. And, NO – it won’t cost a fortune to upgrade your skills, activities, equipment and teaching. Adapt your class tools to include some of the following high and low tech aids to help boost the attention, participation and learning that takes place in your hallowed classroom. You’ll likely note a dramatic difference in the learners’ attitude and class participation almost immediately. Here are some tools you might want to consider.

Twenty-First Century Tools

TV / VCR / DVD Player

You can use these for showing documentaries and relevant video clips either in the classroom or other common area reserved for this purpose.

Audio-cassette / DVD Player

Here you’ll have recorded materials from radio, TV and / or cable as well as commercially available materials from ELT or educational publishing houses. These can include stories, fairy tales, narratives, news, reviews, commentary and even commercials.

Video Beam

Prepared Power Point presentations of your own, from colleagues or from commercial sources can be incorporated into your lesson planning and classroom repertoire using this now more commonly available resource in an auditorium or other common area.

Over Head Projector (OHP)

As far as I’m concerned, this is one piece of equipment that is a mainstay of the language classroom. It’s often available, but grossly under-utilized. Acetate sheet transparencies are quick and inexpensive to produce, often costing mere pennies a piece. Shadow figures and freely available materials from teacher download sites like make using this resource almost “child’s play” as Chucky would say.

PC Computers

If your school facilities include a computer room, you’re virtually “home free”. An expanding list of teacher / ELT websites can provide you with more lesson plans, handouts, games, puzzles, quizzes, graphics and ideas than you could ever use. Learners can play free, online educational games or take surveys or challenging quizzes on sites like:

There’s a host of others to boot. Teachers too can boost their skills, develop new ones and expand their horizons at sites including:

So for the next school sessions, don’t have the learners say, “This class is B-O-R-I-N-G”, get the jump on them with some twenty-first century tools you can start using almost right away If all else fails, or you just need a little extra guidance; e-mail me at the address below. I’ll be happy to help.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Now YOU too can live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on entering or advancing in the fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, by sending an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail:

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