Setting foot in a classroom today where students don’t have at least one piece of technology on them is nearly impossible. Accepting that our devices are here to stay, the question is no longer how to get rid of technology, but how best to utilize it. Blended learning is a classroom practice that combines technology and “face to face” time. There are many ways to experiment with blended learning—and happily, incorporating technology in the classroom using your students’ devices (also called “Bring Your Own Device,” or BYOD) is quite easy—and can become your class’s favorite part of the day. Here are some top applications with brief overviews to consider using in the ESL classroom.
Quizlet offers a modern, technical take on flashcards, and is great for vocabulary, phrases, and idioms. Students download the Quizlet app on their phones, and can study, play games, and take tests whenever they want. The class fun begins when the teacher starts a Quizlet Live session. Randomly placed in teams, students have to find each other and put their phones together to work out the answers. This promotes group work and using English together. Further, quizzes can be printed and used for testing and assessment.
In addition to offering teachers the opportunity to create their own games, there are hundreds that have been made by others and publicly shared. Once the teacher’s computer page is projected and the students log on, they play individually and compete with each other for high scores. Learning grammar and vocabulary is suddenly a competitive game! If students download the free app, the games can even be assigned as homework.
3. Google Voice
First, obtain a Google telephone number and then place it on “do not forward” and “do not disturb” so calls automatically go to voicemail. Instead of the usual greeting, record question. The students then call the number, hear the message, and answer the question in 45 seconds. The next day, project the teacher computer screen and open the voicemail. Here is the beauty of Google Voice: it converts voice to text. From here, many things can be tackled. Was the question answered appropriately? Could Google understand them or does their pronunciation need some work in some areas? How was their grammar overall? How was their intonation? Did Google know where to put the punctuation?
4. QR Codes
Wanted to try “flipping” part of a class? This could help. There are many free QR code generators on the web and students justbneed to download a QR code reader app on their phones if they don’t already have one. QR codes can instantly link students to reading assignments on the web, answers to homework, or videos or articles they need to watch to discuss in class or use in an assignment.
5. Quizzes on Office 365 Forms
Making a short quiz on Office 365 Forms is extremely fast and user-friendly. These quizzes can be very short, about 5 or 10 questions. Then, share via QR code or link. It’s a great way to see if students really understood that new grammar point. And, as an added bonus, the quiz self-grades.
6. Google Documents
Sharing Google Documents helps save time and puts great resources at students’ disposal. Make a list of websites with additional exercises or readings that students could benefit from doing. Instead of writing it on the board, share the document with them (on the “view only” setting) and then they can just click on the link and go straight to the exercise whenever they want. One document, divided for each chapter of a book or points of a syllabus, means that students can revise or move forward at their own pace. It’s also a living document, meaning the teacher can make changes without reprinting.
Have students who are nervous about speaking in front of the class and won’t do presentations? VoiceThread could offer a possible solution. On VoiceThread, students can copy their slides over and then record themselves giving their presentation. The students share it with the teacher, and it can then be watched instead of having them present.
Another great collaborative application is Padlet. Once the teacher has made a projected wall, students join via QR code or link and then write a sentence which will show up on the board. Padlet is an excellent way to practice sentence structure or a particular grammar point. It’s very time-consuming getting 15 students to come to the board and write a sentence in present perfect continuous, but all students can write one on Padlet at the same time and see it on the board in under 5 minutes. Editing can be done by the teacher, students coming to “wall” and pointing out errors and students can correct on their devices.
If using technology in the classroom seems at little daunting at first, try one application, and see how well the students respond. Don’t be surprised if the number one rule for class changes from “no mobile phones” to “don’t come without a fully charged device.” Mobile phones will soon go from a distraction to a tool you can’t imagine not having!