How should we use technology in the classroom?
If these past few years have taught us anything, it’s that the question should never be whether to use technology in our classrooms, but rather how we should use it. Forced by extreme circumstances, the digital transformation has boosted the role EdTech plays in our schools and multiplied the number (and quality) of digital resources we have within reach.
We have already experienced the transformative power of these tools and the positive impact they have in our classrooms. However, there is such an overabundance of possibilities, and we have so little time. This means that many teachers feel overwhelmed and end up using the same handful of increasingly outdated apps they have been using for years.
The selection you’ll find below features suggestions that you can easily add to your lesson plans and that I hope will make your lives a little easier.
What are the advantages of technology?
It may be a good idea to quickly remember why it is such a good idea to include technology in our lessons. After all, is it actually that important now that we’re leaving the pandemic behind? If the answer is not obvious, maybe the following reasons will help you make up your mind:
- Digital resources have the potential to make our lessons fun and engaging. When technology becomes part of our teaching, and students make supervised use of cellphones, tablets, or computers in the classroom, we can easily see how it helps us increase their motivation and engagement. It facilitates a better understanding of the material that’s being covered and has the advantage of accommodating a wide range of learning methods.
- Technology empowers students and teaches them to access information on their own, to become self-sufficient and more capable of working independently. With the guidance of a teacher, they can use them to strengthen their language skills and become more fluent and proficient in the target language.
- It facilitates teaching differentiation. There are so many apps available that we, as teachers, can even use multiple ones simultaneously. We can break down a large group into smaller ones and use this or that tool depending on their own individual learning needs. We can ask some learners to use a digital resource to work on their grammar, while others turn to a different one to review vocabulary with online flashcards or listen to an audiobook to hone their listening skills.
Some ideas you may want to consider
As mentioned before, these are only a few good ideas to help you improve the quality of your lessons. There are many others, and I want to encourage you to keep looking for more resources whenever you have some time.
By now, you’ve probably heard of Google Classroom, which is somewhat of an “all in one” tool with plenty of useful features. On this platform, students can access materials, complete and submit assignments and communicate with the teacher and other classmates. Educators can easily give feedback, make announcements for the whole class and post anything relevant: a class diary, dates to remember, deadlines, homework, or videos. Some useful reference tools are Power Thesaurus, for advanced students; Forvo, a pronunciation dictionary; and Ozdic, for English collocations.
One of the main focuses in today’s education is to foster competences such as critical thinking, teamwork and creativity, and the language classroom is no exception. There are plenty of incredible resources out there that will help them improve their communication skills, while engaging in meaningful discussions and activities that will foster their creativity. Edpuzzle, for example, allows teachers to create very interesting interactive videos on a wide range of topics that will get them talking and debating; whereas TED-Ed is also a great collection of short animated videos. YouTube can be an easy source to find content created by other colleagues that could be used to introduce a new topic in a flipped lesson. Newsela and News in Levels, on the other hand, bring carefully curated content that can easily be used to promote engaging conversations. Fablement is an amazing tool where students can read and create their own adventure stories, which makes it ideal for anything from reading practice to writing assignments.
Of course, there are many more. Some resources allow us to review previously explained material, test how well our students have assimilated that content and know whether we need to revisit a certain topic. Kahoot!, Quizziz or Quizlet Live, for instance, use gamification to engage students in a fun competition where they will try to find the correct answer before anyone else. ESL-Lab allows teachers and students to work on their listening comprehension skills, while with Vocaroo students can record themselves. Mentimeter is a popular platform where teachers can create interactive presentations, word clouds to visualize the students’ input on any given topic or use quizzes and live polls. Give any of these a chance: you won’t regret it.