I’ve just gotten back from the TESOL Convention and I learned quite a bit and met quite a few interesting people. One topic that kept coming up again and again was the question of technology in the ESL Classroom. Every year, it seems like there’s a new app or website for teaching English. And there’s always a new online tutoring company-the newest one this year had some kind of rabbit mascot that I only saw when they were filming promotional videos. In fact, with TESOL down and IATEFL still to go, there’s been quite a bit of chatter about how technology can change teacher conferences! Perhaps the conference of the future will be all online using chat and video phone and doc sharing sites.
Curbing the Techno Joy Instinct!
In my personal life, I’m a technophile. I love new gadgets and toys and I used to customize my WordPress themes through code. But in my teaching life, I feel the need to be a bit cautious and reflective. Before using some new tech in my classroom, I ask myself:
- Will this help my students learn?
- What problem is the tech solving or what possibilities does it give me or my students?
- Are there other ways to get the same effect? What are the costs and benefits of each?
- How much time and effort will it take to get the tech working?
- What if the tech breaks? What’s the plan B?
- What else do I need to get this working?
I find these questions help me understand why I’m using this tech tool, keeping my “Look, Class! A Shiny Thing!” instincts at bay. Often it helps me use the tech more effectively because I can get at the heart of what I want to do, and why I want to do it. It’s important to always keep the most important thing in sight: teaching students.
Keeping the Learning in Sight
And that’s why I absolutely adore Sharon Hartle‘s book, Keeping the Essence in Sight, which contains reflections on a number of important questions English teachers ask themselves about teaching, learning, the nature of language, and assessing. The chapter on teaching with technology is particularly popular. It covers some of the most useful tools for teaching, as well as a plan for helping students get started learning online.
I was surprised that she found that students are not always prepared to learn through technology. They need to learn the classroom tools. They also need to adjust their online habits to facilitate learning better. I also really appreciated the list of bookmarking sites and some ideas on ways to use them. In fact, this chapter is so useful that I’ve decided to share it online. So check out what an experienced teacher has to say about technology in the classroom.