Using Technology In The ESL/TESOL Classroom
As teachers in the modern classroom, we have the most advanced means of instruction through technology the world has ever seen. The options available to us are constantly evolving, which makes them both increasingly useful and difficult to master.
Luckily, with a strong community of adventurous teachers willing to put in the effort, the ESL classroom is benefitting from the incorporation of new technologies and insightful course design. Students report increased engagement through classes that incorporate technology in holistic ways. Technology prepares students to be successful and independent learners outside the classroom.
Here are some of the ways ESL teachers are making technology work for them and their students:
Virtual Environments & Game-Based Learning
Students in the ESL classroom often struggle to embrace the target culture while maintaining a low affective filter. Creating environments where students feel safe to make mistakes is crucial when engaging learners with production anxiety. One way that technology can help is through the use of virtual environments via online platforms and game-based learning.
According to Leach (2012), students who learn through online platforms are able to produce authentically when virtually removed from the standard classroom environment. Across all age groups, students can engage with gameplay via applications and group online platforms to construct avatars, interact in fictional settings, and explore cultural topics.
When it comes to free resources, podcasts are at the top of my list of teaching hacks. They provide content from native speakers across a variety of topics. Students can also use classroom technology such as computers, tablets, and even their own smartphones to create podcasts themselves. In my own classroom, I sometimes have students work in groups to record a podcast.
The students must research their talking points and present the material in a logical format. We listen to sample podcasts to learn standard formatting and pronunciation. Classmates are required to listen and review each other’s podcasts and write review papers of what they learned. This promotes peer editing techniques, teamwork, and creativity.
Video & Film
Another creative technology used by successful teachers is video and film. The use of film has long been part of the ESL classroom. Watching clips to discuss dialogue or specialty subjects can be useful. Using smartphones, students can create their own video content, or steam directly into the classroom. Smartboards, tablets, and other screen devices make video one of the most accessible technologies for teachers.
In an article by Warschauer and Meskill (2000), video is used in the classroom to enhance cultural knowledge as well as production skills. Students were asked to join social media discussion on target culture websites to assess public opinion of the stories. This access to authentic sources across video provides a multi-level approach to
A more modern trend emerging is the use of outside experts and venues to provide engaging material that would otherwise be inaccessible in the ESL classroom via virtual field trips. One such example is the “Skype A Ranger” program from the National Parks Service.
This program allows teachers to connect students with trained professionals located in America’s national parks. In this video, we see a blended classroom of 4th grade learners engaging with a ranger from Yellowstone National Park. The students are able to see live images from the parks and listen to a presentation that fits their current content focus. Virtual field trips can provide an immersive experience for students limited in their exposure to the target culture.
If you’re looking for something more personalized than classroom wide events like virtual lectures, apps are a great choice. To engage students both inside and outside the classroom, there are a number of application styles I recommend. Recorders, timers, and note makers can help keep students on task and motivated.
I once had a colleague that had her students create short skits at the end of class. The students all had access to smartphones and would film the skit being performed. Then, after class, they would play the skit on their own time and transcribe the skit to submit as homework. Students were free to create and perform short skits that dealt with the topics the class was discussing. Other apps such as dictionaries, speech recognition, and flash cards can help students memorize grammar rules, practice oral production, and answer questions when the teacher is unavailable.
Technology and the Future Of Education
All of these methods and more are continually evolving as both technology and the ESL classroom develop with the times. A successful and devoted teacher must stay on top of the latest advancement and be constantly thinking of new ways to incorporate technology. Start with these suggestions and let your own creativity run wild in planning unique ways technology can benefit your students.
Lúcia is part of lingholic’s team and loves learning languages. At the moment, she is taking a Master degree in ESL for young learners.