Blah blah blah web 2.0
September 20, 2010 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Teaching English to a class of university-aged students. There will be one laptop and one projector in the classroom. I've never used technology in the classroom before. Help!

I'll be teaching English to a class of 30 university-aged students at a university in Turkey.

The school has recently bought laptops, so there is a laptop in every room.

What are some activities we can do? They want me to use the following in the classroom:
- blogs
- wikis
- twitter
- facebook

The administration also says they want us to enter discussions with other classrooms around the world, using facebook, twitter, etc. In general, they want us to supplement the coursework with occasionaly use of the laptop in class.

Finally, they want us to use a word processor in class. What are some sorts of activities we could do using Word, for example? As I mentioned, there is only one computer in the room - the students don't have computers.

In general, what are some good resources for using technology in the classroom to teach English as a second language?

Any help would be greatly appreciated - thanks!
posted by mammary16 to Education (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I worked in an office where our job was figuring these things out. The hard truth is that there's no good use of those technologies in the classroom, and every time you use them you will be distracting from the real work of education— every Tweet, every blog post, every Facebook activity symbolizes in a final sense an injustice against people who have come there to actually learn things, not be distracted by gizmos. (Obviously, I got fired)
posted by Electrius at 7:23 AM on September 20, 2010

Gimmickry is definitely a danger when you're working with tech in the classroom, but I do think we're doing a disservice to students if we pretend these things don't exist.

I was a high school English teacher in the US for seven years. What projection can be really magical for is working on writing. Put up a kid's intro paragraph on the screen and have a discussion with the class about how to revise it, editing in real time.

I've never thought about how that technique might be used with social media, but it could be interesting.
posted by HeroZero at 7:32 AM on September 20, 2010

I'm teaching a University English class of freshmen in the U.S. Send me a note on memail and I'd be happy to discuss some kind of collaboration.
posted by Buffaload at 7:38 AM on September 20, 2010

I'm pretty firmly in the "this is gimmicky crap" camp (gawd especially wikis, I see no practical application of those in the classroom).

I teach freshman comp. My colleagues often use a message board system called Blackboard to make students participate in discussions with each other outside of the classroom; I think this could easily transpose to using a blog instead (this is assuming that all of your students have easy access to the internet).

Perhaps try keeping a daily blog of classroom activities? Have your students form questions to ask other classrooms around the world. (THIS is of course assuming that you have a way to contact other classrooms via social your school giving you resources for this or just telling you to use technology in the classroom and tossing you into the water?)

Also seconding HeroZero's suggestion for using the projector.
posted by LokiBear at 7:48 AM on September 20, 2010

Blackboard seems to be the way to go.

Facebook and Wikis are probably a good idea, Twitter... not so much.

As a parent, I find it frustrating that my son's elementary school still relies on a paper-based information management system. While we have e-newsletters and the website is update frequently, individual teacher almost never explain what is happening in class until after the fact, and most communication occurs via printed handouts that get lost easily.

You could make a Facebook page that you encourage students to join, and you could post test dates on it, or assignment due dates, discussion topics, etc. You could also post links that you find interesting, or reference what happened in class that day - maybe make a funny story as a status update.

For the Wiki, use it as the site where you post reading lists, exam prep, assignment explanations, etc., although you could probably host the same material in the "Notes" section of Facebook.

Personally, I would use a Wordpress blog where students can sign in with a FB or Google Open ID, and host different documents on Dropbox or Google Docs.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:18 AM on September 20, 2010

Please do not use Facebook. Though I agree with KokuRyu about posting exam dates and assignment due dates, etc. somewhere online, I am not a fan of Facebook's security or privacy policies, and I really wouldn't want my kids to be compelled to join a Facebook page through their school.
posted by misha at 8:29 AM on September 20, 2010

You guys do understand that this in an ENGLISH, ie, a foreign language class, and that some facility with social media IN ENGLISH would provide valuable lessons for Turkish students learning 21st-century English?

And there's your answer. Use FB and twitter as LESSONS.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:45 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite] well, OP says there is ONE laptop w/ projector in the room. Not that every student is given a laptop and then forced to go on FB during her lessons.

Repeat: FB and wiki etc are resources for you to teach them English. You can connect the dots yourself.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:47 AM on September 20, 2010

Best answer: First, disregard some of the assertions presented here that a given piece of technology is gimmicky/superfluous/distracting. These same arguments were made about the teaching of writing (it's distracting! it's dumbing down our students! orality is the true form of teaching English!) 150 years ago. There will always be naysayers, and they're not helpful here, as it sounds like this is a mandate from administration.

Now I should note that the application of classroom technologies frequently goes awry because of those admin mandates. So, before thinking about the technology first (which your admin seems to be doing), think about your course outcomes first. What should the students walk away with? What are your four or five major goals? Then, from those major outcomes, generate day-to-day or week-to-week outcomes. In short, plan the course as if the technology wouldn't be there.

Once you have your outcomes in line, explore the ways in which the technologies might facilitate class goals. Of course, you're going to have to learn something about the technologies as well, so explore the uses of wikis, twitter, etc in the "real world." How are companies using wikis? How do scholars use twitter? What opportunities do these technologies--especially in terms of public discourse (which is prob part of the admin motivation here)--afford? I've seen great applications of a wiki, for example, as a space for the collective creation of class notes. Each week a different student records what happened in class. The other students can then append to or revise those notes--creating something more interesting (and messy) than individual class notes while also documenting class activities and discussions. These notes, and the conversations that prompted them, can then fuel additional discussions.

Again, this is all going to be limited by your curriculum, outcomes, and your students' familiarity with language and technology. Think about what you want them to learn first. Apply the technology second.
posted by rockstar at 9:10 AM on September 20, 2010

One danger of Twitter and brief internet writing in general is being misunderstood. Maybe you could do exercises with homophones, homonyms, ambiguities, that sort of thing -- "here is an example of a tweet that could be misinterpreted! can you see how?" "now let's make up our own examples"

Also could work on tone, politeness/appropriateness expectations of English speakers (eg, how do friends talk to each other vs how would you talk to your boss vs coworker), that sort of thing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:13 AM on September 20, 2010

Wow, I'm really surprised at how many negative responses this is getting! I'm a former English teacher, and now work to help educators use tech tools effectively to teach content (keep the tail from wagging the dog). I used to have to pull teeth to get kids to write one paragraph in their class journal, but the same kids would happily churn out multiple paragraphs on a blog.

Blogs and social networking are GREAT ways to engage students and get them to practice their language skills. For those who have access to tech outside of the classroom, online resources help them develop fluency and interact with native speakers whenever they want. There are a ton of different free blogging resources out there to choose from. Blogger is a great old standby, very simple to get started with. If you want something a bit more technically sophisticated, there's WordPress. Tumblr is very media & link friendly, and could be a novel way to document research online. Having only one computer in the classroom isn't ideal, but you could rotate who gets to add to the class blog.

If you're feeling brave, I highly recommend putting together a class Google Site, which will allow you to have a group blog, file hosting, wikis, etc in one place.

Good luck!
posted by smirkette at 10:42 AM on September 20, 2010

Given that you just have the one laptop, it seems that you might want to have individual (written) assignments, which the class would then either rotate or somehow select certain ones to be posted online. That way you're encouraging each student, pushing for a better product, with some reward of having that end involvement. I think you'd definitely want to go for a group facebook page or blog vs. anything on the individual level -- it'd end up being more content-rich and you would have more control over it.
posted by bizzyb at 12:47 PM on September 20, 2010

Best answer: Rockstar is right.

As someone who has made a career out of using technology in EFL, I know of plenty of worthwhile activities you can do with these tools. However, I'm sympathetic to those who see them as gimmicks, since that's far too often how they are used.

What's glaring for me is that your question contained lots of information about how the lessons will run (the hardware and software) and nothing about the students and their needs - not even their level! You're an experienced teacher, don't let the technology blind you to what you already know.

Back to basics. Gather information about the class, figure out some course aims, plan a syllabus, pick out some lesson aims and then think about how which of those aims can be achieved using online tools / social media and how. I'll be happy to make some more specific suggestions when there are some more specific details.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:10 PM on September 20, 2010

Not an answer, but maybe some ideas. Facebook and twitter could be used for focusing students on precise short form writing - ie individual sentences and very short paragraphs.

You might use a blog, or number of blogs, to get them comfortable transitioning from that into longer paragraphs and expressing more complicated ideas. The self-reflective nature of blogging might also be something to have them look at. It could also provide a wonderful opportunity for them to compare and contrast with other English students elsewhere.

Perhaps a wiki might extend that bloggy self reflectiveness into an arena where they actively review and revise the coursework as it progresses via the class creating a wiki record of the course. If that was of fairly high quality, and stayed up on the net after the course, it could provide a great future resource for them, and some brownie points for you with the admin.
posted by Ahab at 6:53 AM on September 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm sympathetic for those with a negative view, but the university really wants to give it a go with this web 2.0 stuff. Agreed, Facebook is no good for this!
posted by mammary16 at 6:18 AM on September 22, 2010

I've found that Google Earth and Street View are great in the classroom for my 7th-10th graders. While my classes aren't advanced enough to do any of these things, I've been dreaming of trying these two activities.

1) Either alone or in groups the students can give virtual tours of various cities as a presentation exercise.

2) As a class the students could edit articles in Wikipedia about their hometowns or something of local interest.
posted by sleepytako at 6:45 AM on October 17, 2010

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