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October article

Lunes, 30 de Setiembre de 2019

'Technology and teaching' by Emma Hearle

Technology is everywhere —entwined in almost every part of our culture. It affects how we live, work, play, and most importantly learn. With mobile and other wireless devices becoming an increasing requirement across every industry today, it only makes sense that schools are also effectively deploying mobile technology in the classroom.

Many students today are digital natives. They’ve grown up with technology; it’s woven into their lives. In fact, it’s one of the basic 21st century skills that they’ll need after school and in the workplace. Integrating technology in language teaching helps students stay engaged. If they’ve been using mobile devices like tablets and smartphones to play and learn since they could crawl, it only seems logical to align the foreign language classroom with the way they are used to learning. Teachers at Cambridge School are trained in how to integrate technology into their classes, bringing material taught to life and getting children and adults clicking, swiping and double tapping their way to better English.

From apps and e-textbooks to organizational platforms, there’s no shortage of tools that are transforming the classroom. Some teachers are turning toward classroom ‘gamification’, the use of competitive scenarios, and the distribution of points and rewards to make the classroom more fun and engaging. The competitive element of it and team work involved in answering questions together can be an extremely effective way of both learning and revising English grammar and vocabulary. Who hasn’t played a class quiz from their mobile phone, for example? As much fun for teachers in training as it can be in a class of teenagers or young (and older!) adults, quizzes from a mobile device can be an effective way to connect with students of all learning styles as the passive education model is on its way out. The points system can also allow teachers to track weaker students in a non-traditional way and helps engage the more shy students who wouldn’t normally raise their hand in class but know the answer and can show off their knowledge from behind a screen. At Cambridge, students love Kahoot, a game-based learning platform that has both timed, multiple-choice quizzes and “jumble” games where students have to correctly order sentences in Enlgish and avoids participants answering too quickly and getting the answers wrong. Quizlet live is another favourite which randomly groups students together to answer questions - only one person on the team having the answer on their device means students have no choice but to work together, encouraging peer teaching.

When mobile technology is readily available and used correctly, students are able to access the most up-to-date information quicker and easier than ever before. Teachers can share games, links to interesting content or simply interact with their students outside of class. For example, Cambridge School uses Moodle, a course-management platform, to communicate with students between classes and it’s a great way to share games, links to interactive presentations or YouTube videos used in class. 

Many of us likely remember that feeling of excitement when the school television was rolled into their classroom. These days, it couldn’t be easier to get video in the classroom to make it easier for students to learn. YouTube is full of creative videos that help visual learners grasp concepts including maths, coding, and of course English! It also means teachers can add value to traditional textbooks by finding up-to-date, appropriate videos to go alongside a text or audio track about just about anything. For example, in seconds students are now able to see an interactive 360 degree video of London after having read about the city in their English class. Or they can listen to the latest track by an artist who’s mentioned in a listening exercise, the day it’s released! 

APPS
We all know you need a certain amount of exposure and practice to fully master a foreign language. Duolingo, the world's most popular English language learning app is a really good way to consolidate English, learnt in class, at home. The fun, game-like lessons keep students motivated and excited about language. Many teachers use Duolingo as a blended learning companion for their classrooms too. The lessons give each student personalized feedback and practice, and teachers can track students’ performance. It’s also highly addictive and you can compete with friends and classmates too!

The future
Even if you thought you’d heard it all, there are some even more innovative platforms and devices that might be coming to an educational space near you soon!

American company, BrainCo, says its (rather futuristic sounding) headsets called Focus 1, can help teachers to identify pupils who need extra help, with data presented on a dashboard that shows the “average” brain activity of the whole class.The headsets, which measure the electrical activity of pupils’ brains using hydrogel sensors set against the skin, were recently trialled on 10,000 pupils aged between 10 and 17 in China. 

The headsets show a blue light for pupils whose brain activity is lower than average, yellow for those at the average and red for those with above-average brain activity. It could be a powerful means of testing which students need more attention and avoids anyone getting left behind.

Just like in gaming, VR (virtual reality) could be in the English language classroom one day too. VR can transform the way educational content is delivered; it works on the premise of creating a virtual world — real or imagined — and allows users to interact with it. Being immersed in what you’re learning motivates you to fully understand it. When students read about something, they often want to experience it. With VR, they wouldn’t be limited to word descriptions or book illustrations; they can explore the topic and see how things are put together.

Thanks to the feeling of presence VR provides, students can learn about a subject by living it. Imagine practicing for your mid-course English speaking exam by going out into a virtual world, as yourself, to talk to people walking down the “street” or in your local “coffee shop”! This could change the way students engage with languages, seeing for themselves how powerful they are as tools of communication in the every-growing global world we live in.

 

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