Crowdsourcing ideas on using technology

Posted: August 22, 2016 in ELT methodology
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Hey all,

I’m preparing a session on using technology in ELT and I wanted to ask my fellow English teachers what technology you use on a daily basis. The variety of tools and services out there is absolutely daunting, and I wonder which ones you find useful across a broad range of topics, levels, groups and learners, and which resources you often recommend to your learners.

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Here’s my current list of top tools:

  • A file sharing  service (I use dropbox) to share all kinds of files with the learners. I have a dedicated folder for every group and basically upload everything that we’ve used (audios, videos, presentations, the documents that were created in class and so on) to that folder for them to access at home or on the go (all documents are automatically synchronized and accessible from any device anywhere). The learners occasionally upload there their homework, e.g. audio recordings.
  • A way to share links and get in touch with the learners out of class. I teach in company, so I use instant messaging, since all my learners have Skype accounts. So I create a Skype chat for every group – it’s used to remind the learners of the homework, share useful links related to the topic of the lesson, and so on. The learners use it to ask occasional questions, post their writing homework there before class, so I can print it out and come to the next class with marked assignments. As an alternative with teens, I used social media (when I was teaching groups in which all learners had an account) – this did wonders to their motivation to do writing assignments. Not sure what I’d use with learners who don’t all have accounts on the same service.
  • Microsoft Excel to maintain a log of learners’ emerging language / language feedback and to generate revision cards.
  • Google image search to look for pictures. Occasionally, Windows Snipping tool to instantly copy those images. Microsoft Power Point to show those images in class.
  • Youtube videos. My own tool Hydra to look for youtube videos with target topics / grammar / lexis (unfortunately, it’s not working properlyl at the moment) and as a corpus of spoken English when questions about usage arise in class.
  • Online dictionaries, especially Oxford Learners’ Dictionaries to help write definitions for worksheets. A collocations dictionary to check my own writing and to show the learners how their word choices could be improved.
  • A laptop to have access to all of that in class.
  • My wordpress and twitter feeds and especially Teaching English – British Council web page to get new teaching ideas.

When I was teaching teens, I also used to use

(This is all that came to mind, but if I think of more, I’ll update the post.)

So, could you possibly share your favourite tools that you would recommend to teachers who are starting out?

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Comments
  1. 1. http://corpus.byu.edu/bnc/ – British National Corpus, I use it with B2-C2 learners who find it especially helpful for home written assignments
    2. https://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/ – Image Search
    3. https://www.vocabulary.com/ – a good online dictionary with some useful tools for learning vocabulary
    4. http://www.thesaurus.com/ – a nice web tool to look for synonyms/antonyms
    5. https://en.islcollective.com/ – lots of ready-made worksheets, but some need proof-reading
    6. http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/ – lots of interactive exercises for extra grammar practice (my students love it!)

    The list might be quite long but these resources first came to mind.

    By the way, you might want to look at Zhenya Bakin’s list here: http://preteach.ru/teacherlinks

    • olyasergeeva says:

      Thank you very much, Viacheslav! http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/ sure does look like a treasure trove a quizzes!

      May I ask you how you use BNC with your learners? Do they research collocations using the corpus, or just look at example to get a better feel for lexis?

    • olyasergeeva says:

      Also, thanks for the link to Zhenya’s list (it’s a bit different from what I’m looking for, though – not a list of key tools that he uses, but rather a pretty comprehensive reference).

  2. ven_vve says:

    Hi Olya,

    I teach online (via Moodle), and have been for a couple of years now, so I can’t be absolutely sure that I’d use these on a daily basis if I were teaching offline. But I do find Padlet really intuitive and useful (we share writing samples and some semesters we had a selfie wall, which was particularly convenient for me when the exam was coming up – it’s always on campus and you want to remember what the students look like!).
    Recently I’ve also liked the SpeakPipe voice recorder for adding voice comments to Google Docs when the students are working on longer pieces of writing.
    Hope this helps and good luck with the session!

  3. As for BNC – exactly, they find it very helpful to have an opportunity to look at how a lexical item works in different contexts 🙂

  4. eilyantares says:

    Hi Olya – we’re planning to make the move to OneNote ClassNotebook for all student notes this September. Fingers crossed, it’ll work well with Office Lens for whiteboard snaps and Skype for Business for online classes.
    A few other tools I like to have to hand as the need arises in class are (connection-permitting):
    http://www.just-the-word.com/main.pl?word=&mode=combinations
    http://playphrase.me/en/search?a=1&q=I%20knew%20that
    http://www.apps4esl.com/ (up for overhaul in September)
    http://phave-dictionary.englishup.me/
    https://www.beamium.com/ (for sharing pdfs on students phones with simple code, no download, useful if no projector is available)
    And on my desktop for prepping worksheets, good ol’ Teacher’s Pet http://www.teachers-pet.org/index.php
    Having a decent connection can be tough though,when working in company, so I like to keep a few articles ready in https://getpocket.com/login?e=4 – articles, but not videos, are available offline.This is also what I use for curating my own resources.
    Hope you and family had a great Summer 🙂

    • olyasergeeva says:

      Hi Eily,
      Thanks for another treasure trove (and special thanks for Beamium – I’ve never heard of it, and it seems that it has great potential!)
      Do you also use any specific activities with Just the word and Playphrase.me, or do you simply display/play them for reference?

  5. annazernova says:

    Hi Olya, I´d mention http://www.kahoot.it for creating interactive activities with smartphones. It´s always a lot of fun with my students, but I find it a bit time-consuming (at a preparation stage), though the whole idea is worthwhile and surely is worth a try.
    Among other things I’ve tried out so far is google tables for vocabulary lists and error correction.

    • olyasergeeva says:

      Hey Anna,
      Thanks a lot! Do you find that you can re-use kahoot games, or is it generally a one-off material, in your experience? Also, a bit of a reservation that I wanted to ask you about: what if one of the students doesn’t have a smart phone? I guess this worry is why I haven’t tried this service out yet.

      • annazernova says:

        Hello Olya, thanks for your comment. Well, to tell the truth, it´s never been a problem with lack of smartphones. I can give them mine, or I simply ask to work in pairs or in groups (every group has one) and I usually ask to bring smartphones to the lesson in advance.
        As for re-using kahoot games, it really depends. Last year I was preparing a game for Halloween Party and this year it surely can be re-used with one of the new groups who hasn’t had a chance to participate. In addition, if we’re talking about Business English course material, I feel free to use games I’ve created with new students.

  6. Polina says:

    Thanks Olga for sharing. I use all the mentioned tools in my practice. I like speadsheets on google drive where I put organizational tips on a lesson: dates aims homework resources.

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