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How to Integrate Technology in an ESL Classroom

By Dinah E., Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid 19/20-20/21.

Teaching in the classroom started with two basic tools: a blackboard, and chalk. Learning in the classroom started with three basic tools: a pen or a pencil, a notebook, and books. It was that simple, but we live in an evolving world where creative minds meet. We didn’t want costly products to complicate our lives, but we also thirst for a faster and easier way of coping with the demands of times. The emergence of technology in our lives has been a huge help in making things possible. Who would have ever thought that one day we would be able to see the people we are talking to on the phone with just a mere click of a button that says “video”?

In Education, Technology Started to Penetrate the System Slowly

ESL teacher in Spain

Computers were introduced in schools in the 1980s, where students learned Wordstar, the first-word processing program invented by Seymour Rubenstein and Rob Barnaby. This was followed by the Microsoft Powerpoint Presentation software in the early 1990s, which was widely used until now by both companies and schools. Indeed, technology has gone a long way in developing tools that would promote collaboration with the students in learning English in the classroom.

It is interesting to know that there are many applications that we can use to adapt to the students’ learning needs, but how do we integrate these into our lessons? Teachers should have the willingness to venture into this path and an adventurous spirit to explore this course of action. Lessons are introduced through technology with activities and games, and comprehension is checked through worksheets. For example, we present the lesson through the Prezi Powerpoint tool, and to make it even more interesting and fun, we play the Kahoot video game and give them worksheets after.

Here are other ways where we can integrate technology in an ESL classroom:

Films and Videos

These are visual learning tools that young learners truly enjoy. It trains and practices their listening skills in English while associating the dialogues with the actions. Some music videos have fill-gaps where the students provide the correct form of grammar, encouraging them to think of previous lessons, and not forgetting them. There are also plenty of videos available on YouTube for the lower primary that comes with English subtitles that the kids can sing along with.

Gamification

We can’t deny the fact that children love to play games. It’s hard to get their 100% attention in a 45-minute class when their minds are drifting off elsewhere. We’ve all been there before, so we know the thrill of having fun with our friends, and playing with our toys. Albert Einstein said that “Playing is the highest form of research.” Children go out there and explore a lot using their five senses. It’s how they discover things and learn through the process. Today’s children, in particular, are addicted to videogames!

There’s a sense of competition within them when they see their progress on the board. This is where the concept of gamification comes in. To keep the children’s spark of interest burning, and make the lessons more appealing to them, it would be a good idea if we teach English using technology in the form of games. What’s great about this is we can design the game board ourselves by creating the avatar*, badges*, leaderboard*, and choosing the options of an individual or team play.

*Avatar is how they represent themselves.

*Badges are like rewards. They earn a badge when they have accomplished something.

*Leaderboard is like the honor roll where they see who’s on the top and challenge themselves to do better.

Examples of these are the following:

Kahoot

An educational technology where both a teacher and a student can log in through the web or the mobile phone. The teacher shares the game she prepared, which is a set of multiple questions, with the remote players (students). For the very young learners, a teacher can use the projector for the entire class participation with an assistant logging in on her mobile to represent the class.

Playbrighter

A teacher sets a mission for the class to learn. The app has over 15,000 questions, from spelling to French vocabulary. Teachers can also create their own sets of questions in line with their mission. The most challenging part of this app is that students receive rewards in the form of currencies to improve their avatar when they complete their mission, and this feature makes them beg for more home works! Another thing that works perfectly well with teachers is that they can keep track of their students’ progress since Playbrighter records all the students’ results in a chart.

Digital Stories

Storytelling is a wonderful way of developing a child’s skills in reading, writing, and speaking. Children have this innocent curiosity about things around them. Their five senses are instantly activated when they want to know about something within their midst. The technology found its way to making this possible through digital books. A good example of this is bookcreator.com, which is available on the web and the app store for free.

It is beneficial for both the teachers and the students. The students can listen to their teacher while they are in their homes through a published link. It’s a fantastic way of learning the correct pronunciation and improving their reading comprehension. Teachers can ask questions in the class or prepare an activity after the students have read the stories at home. On another note, teachers can also ask the students to create their own storybooks as a project, using the grammar lessons they had in the class. Other examples are Little Story Maker, Tell About This, and Little Bird Tales.

Podcasts

These are patterned after radio programming. It’s a recording of news or certain topics or stories that could be of interest to the general public. Teachers can choose a topic for the students to listen to in the classroom and ask them follow-up questions after. As podcasts are produced by both professionals and amateurs, students will have the opportunity to listen to a variety of accents that will prepare them for their future studies. Teachers can also ask the students to make their podcasts where they can practice their speaking skills and do a self – evaluation. In that way, they are made aware of their mistakes and be able to fix their grammatical error or pronunciation.

Presentations

A very popular form of presentation in companies or organizations worldwide is the PowerPoint presentation. This tool has been around for many years. It was only recently that it had become an important tool for teachers in the ESL classroom. It puts into visual learning the topics a teacher wants to discuss to the students in an organized manner. To add life to the presentations, teachers can combine PPT with Prezi. These programs are totally different from each other but serve the same purpose. Others, however, prefer, PPT for its user-friendliness since Prezi is still new. To combine both would mean making the slides through PPT and uploading it on the Prezi platform.

Blogs

Social media is part of our daily routine. It’s the first thing we do when we get up in the morning, and the last thing we do before we go to sleep. As bloggers express themselves through articles for personal or business purposes, teachers and students alike can do the same thing. Teachers can write a blog and ask the students to comment, or the students can write the blog themselves and the teacher leaves a comment. The teachers can also refer the students to a blog site where they are allowed to post comments as guests. The students will be able to put into practice what they have learned in class. There are blog sites especially for both teachers and students that would respond to this form of learning such as MondosWorld.

Those are the technology resources that I used to implement during my ESL classroom, they are a good tool to make the class more fun and keep the kids engage in the lesson. Do you have any other recommendations?

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