(Since this post is full of links which may change/move at a later date, please let me know if any of them are broken. Thanks!)
“IF YOU COULD RECOMMEND ONE PARTICULAR WEBTOOL FOR THE CLASSROOM, WHAT WOULD IT BE, AND WHY?”
THE TOOLS (OVER 40 OF THEM!)
The famous ones
- Skype – phone calls through the internet, including video. Simple, effective, reliable, and it works all over the world. It can be used to bring experts or other teachers into your classrooms. You can use the ‘chat’ feature to share files and write in vocabulary. You could use Skype instead of traditional listening tracks to Skype friends in the UK/US (or other countries!) For example: “With my [Shelly Terrell’s] 4 to 6 yr-old German students they learned how to do origami from @EHerrod‘s son in the UK via Skype”.
- YouTube – even those who hate tech will still try it! It’s easy to forget how helpful thousands of the clips can be, although some schools block it.
- Facebook – the groups function is useful for educators
- TED – hundreds of inspiring videos by thinkers and leaders in every field imaginable
- Vocaroo – voice recorder. Easy to use (single click), no need for registration.
- Soundcloud – voice recorder with the added facility of voice commenting. SImple to upload to the internet and share. James Taylor wrote a post about it.Audioboo is useful for this too.
- Fotobabble – upload a photo and record yourself talking about it for one minute. Some fotobabbles on this old blog (see November/December archives)
- Voicethread – comment collaboratively on slides/pictures/whatever you want
- Voxopop – create talk groups to get your students discussing things together
- Voki – create avatars to do your speaking for you. Shelly Terrell created this guide to using vokis
- Audacity – downloadable software which can be used to record students and put together podcasts
- You can also record voices on a smart phone
- Videoant – video annotation which is easy to email to students/observed teachers
- Jing – create video annotation to provide feedback to students or show them how to do something. Students can also create their own files. You can make screenshots with it too. Great for essay feedback, and useful extra listening practice. Teacher Training Videos guide to Jing
- Evernote – online notetaking and bookmarking
- Dropbox – cloud-based file storage, useful for sharing files with students
- Pinterest – an online noticeboard to organise and share things you like. Shelly Terrell has Pinterest boards on various ELT topics. There have been recent worries about copyright issues related to the site though.
- Scoop.it – a way of bookmarking links in a magazine-type layout
- Lino-it / Wallwisher – online noticeboards where you can post notes, videos, pictures and more. Here is an example of a lino-it created by @clivesir about bringing fun into the classroom. He likes to use lino-it for feedback. Both are great for letting students weigh in on a topic, no matter their location.
- Movie segments to assess grammar goals – activities based on films, through which teachers can present grammar points
- EFL smart blog – a blog for students with complete mini lessons, including authentic listening and accompanying activities
- Knoword – a vocabulary guessing game based on randomly generated dictionary definitions
- Speakout video podcasts – the link takes to the pre-intermediate video podcasts. Each unit of the book is accompanied by one podcast.
- Triptico – a single software download providing loads of free tools; especially good for classrooms with interactive whiteboards (IWBs). Word magnets are good for colour-coding grammar explanations. The card game is good for randomly choosing speaking topics. It’s really easy to use and @David_Triptico is constantly adding new resources to it.
- Quizlet – a great tool for vocabulary where students (and teachers) can create flashcards and immediately play games with them. Students really enjoy using it.
- Hot Potatoes – freeware including “six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web”
- Socrative – “a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets” and it’s free [this was my personal favourite discovery of the chat]
- Puzzle Maker – a site which allows you to create printable wordsearches, crosswords and other puzzles. Crossword Maker just lets you create crosswords. Wordsearch Maker creates wordsearches. Nik Peachey describes how to use the latter here.
- Wordle / Tagxedo – word cloud generators. Could be used for simple ‘word find’ activities such as ‘Spot the word with a prefix’
- Language Garden – language plants make sentences, poems and grammar look beautiful, as well as providing visual prompts for students.
- SP-studio – create cartoon characters based on the style of South Park cartoons. Kids can then create profiles for their cartoon characters.
- Survey monkey – helps students to practise question forms by creating online questionnaires, as well as finding out more about their fellow students. Very easy to use.
- GoAnimate – online video creator
- iMovie – kids can create “movie trailers” about books they like
- Google Docs – word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software available online for collaboration, sharing or private use. Can be used for essay writing and other writing assignments as well as for individual vocabulary banks for students.
- Edmodo – a closed social network for education (my post about Edmodo) – I use it to share resources with my students.
- Wikis – but you need lots of tools to put in them. Some wiki providers include pbworks and wikispaces. They allow embedding of other tools.
- Blogs – spaces to provide information, links and create online texts. Some providers include wordpress, edublogs and Posterous (see below). They allow embedding of other tools.
- Posterous – it focuses on all four skills; it’s easy to use; there are free apps on various platforms. Intuitive, and great for introducing blogging to students.
- Moodle – a tool for creating complete virtual learning environments (VLEs). It allows embedding of other tools. Safe for kids too.
- Glogster – good for project work. It allows embedding of other tools too.
WHEN YOU IMPLEMENT A WEB TOOL IN THE CLASSROOM, WHAT IS THE CRITERIA FOR USING IT WITH LEARNERS? WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A WEB TOOL?
- Accessible for free on many platforms
- No (or at least very easy) registration
- User-friendly for both teachers and students
- Supports various skills
- A way to make English a tool, rather than concentrating on the language aspect
- Easy to use
- Offer various activities
- Allow students to practise their English in a meaningful way
- Justified from a pedagogical point of view, not just because it’s a cool new toy
- Ease of integration with other tools
HOW DO WE GET NON-TECH-SAVVY TEACHERS EXCITED ABOUT WEB TOOLS?
- Show the real pedagogical value
- Through their students – if you get the students enthused, they will tell their other teachers
- Start with showing them examples of why they can get excited, not how to use web tools
- Show them how much time it can save them, although at the beginning it feels like they take more time
- Lead by example
- Introduce things in small doses
- Give them a task that must use a web tool / taster sessions
- Present them with simple, quick and practical classroom uses of these tools
- Go back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and help them see why they need a tool
- Encourage them to play with tools for personal use first, for example by making birthday greetings
- Visit their lessons and suggest alternatives
- Do workshops which teachers bring their own laptops to – doing IT is better than watching
- BUT: We shouldn’t feel we have to. Some teachers don’t have this option, and others are really not interested. Gareth Davies wrote a blog post expanding on this after the chat.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS
- Be consistent – don’t flit from one tool to another.
- Don’t get swept away with new tools.
- Don’t try to do too much too soon.
- Play around with tools to help you become more confident.
- Test things out throughly before you introduce them. OR Experiment together with the students. (a language learning task in itself)
- Introduce them in small doses
- Make sure you have a plan B, just in case the tech fails. Don’t freak out! You could teach the 3rd conditional – If they program had worked you would have seen…
- Ask students to share their favourites too – they might know about tools you don’t
- If students know that the tech exists, they can decide whether to use it or not.
- Prepare for excitement from kids! Never be afraid to learn with them.
- Some tools may seem too childish for adults.
- If something doesn’t work the first time, try to analyse why and work out what you could do differently. Don’t just assume the tech was wrong. It might work with one group of students but not with another.
- Make sure that the pedagogy comes first – don’t just use tech for the sake of it.
- Remember that you can often do the same things without tech – do you really need it? If you can’t justify why the tech version is better, there’s no reason to use it.
Some of these tools are not available in every country or at every school. Technology is still far off for a lot of teachers. You also need to make sure all of the students have access to the technology outside the classroom.
Remember that some teachers are limited to time – they have to finish a coursebook and tools take time and have to be appropriate. Ideally, you need to use a tool that will allow students to USE what they studied in the coursebook.
- Independent English – my new blog to share technology tools with learners and help them work out how to use them
- A post from my blog about ’Teaching 2.0 in the one computer classroom‘ featuring Triptico, wordclouds and powerpoint
- Ideas for using word clouds and voicethread from Marisa Constantinides
- Resources for English and Spanish second-language learners. The home page is in Swedish, so click on English/Español to find the links.
- Ozge Karaoglu‘s A-Z of web tools
- Russell Stannard‘s Teacher Training Videos – step-by-step guides to many tech tools
- Steve Fulton‘s experience of having trouble with technology in the classroom.
- Arizona K12 Centre Technology Integration Matrix
About the Author
Sandy Millin – alias @sandymillin is an English teacher, currently living and working in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north-east England. She is a frequent contributor to #ELTchat and also works as a member of our podcast team with @theteacherjames. With @fionamau, she maintains #eltpics, a free resource for ELT teachers.