When I started in the TEFL industry the listening exercises were on cassette tapes which were a real pain. We then moved to CDs but the players were huge and heavy to carry around. The latest technologies in terms of MP3 players, netbooks and interactive white boards have really revolutionized the technology you can use in the classroom. Here are some ways that TEFL and technology go hand in hand.
These are a great way to introduce up to date and interesting topics in the classroom that you can download to your MP3 or smart phone. It also helps with getting a diverse range of accents from around the world. Remember however to ensure you prepare what you are actually going to do with the podcast – mix and match, comprehension questions etc. These are good sites to download podcasts suitable for the TEFL classroom like BBC’s 6 Minute English.
We had our Promethean Interactive whiteboard installed about 6 months ago. Initially it was hard to make the transition from a regular board to this all bells and whistles. Over time we have been getting to know how it works and introducing more technology focused classes. The students love it and are very enthusiastic about getting up and using it. It has revolutionized using video clips and we have the new active voting gadgets which allow the students to interact throughout the class. We can keep their scores and it helps us to identify any students who are falling behind or struggling with particular areas. We decided to go with Promethean as their support and website means we are able to constantly download templates that we can adapt and use for our classes.
If you have access to a board, get creative with it. The templates can be adapted to suit any topic and any level. For our TEFL course we have just adapted the who wants to be a millionaire template to who wants to be a grammanaire to help our trainees with their grammar classes. It’s very professional looking and very interactive.
Be careful, however, to ensure your classes remain very student focused as it is easy to get stuck at the board with lots of whizzbang stuff going on and end up with a very teacher focused class. Relinquish the pen and get the students involved with the board.
YouTube is another resource you cannot ignore in the classroom. Whether it is a song, a meeting, negotiating skills, humour etc. there are thousands of perfect clips to suit what you are doing. With the amount of clips available to use in the TEFL classroom, it can be a little overwhelming so ensure you have a clear idea about what you are looking for before you start your search.
A fun activity in a group is to split the class in half. The first half leave the room and the remaining group watch the video clip without sound. They then leave the room and the second group listen to the clip but do not watch it.
As always, remember to have a pre, during and post activity. The pre-activity could be a discussion on the importance of body language with communication. The during activity could be a set of questions for example for the listening only group:
Where are the people?
How many people are there?
What emotions are they feeling?
For the post activity group 1 have to write down their ideas about what is being said and group 2 write down what the scene looks like. They then all watch the film together. The activity normally takes around an hour but can easily go over if they really get into it.
Technology should never take the place of well planned classes but it really has the potential to spice up your classes.