Technology is advancing rapidly. And if your students are younger than you are, which they probably are, most of them will use it as much if not more than you do. There are good and bad points to this. But one of the benefits is that you can use it to accelerate their learning.
Using technology in the classroom makes students’ English learning more relevant to their lives. And it can be a fun way for them to learn as well! Immersion in English is key to learning it. So, if you aren’t using technology in your ESL classroom then you’re not doing all you can to help them learn.
Here are some easy and effective ways to use technology in your classroom, no matter where you teach or what level your students are.
Listen to Podcasts
If you don’t listen to podcasts yourself, then you’re missing out. They’re a great free source of information, entertainment, and stories. And there are even some podcasts aimed directly at English learners.
Podcasts come in a huge range of genres and forms. You can listen to ongoing mysteries or horror stories, learn about history or fashion, or laugh along with your favourite comedians. This variety is great for your students as well. They can listen to their favourite subjects, in English, at any time. This will improve their comprehension and entertain them at the same time.
It can also go the other way. Your students can create their own podcasts with nothing more than a microphone and a computer. This will encourage them to listen to how they speak and pick up their own errors. And learning to self-correct is incredibly important to better, faster learning.
You might think that Instagram is only for pictures, but it’s actually really great for English learning too. There are accounts that your students can follow that will teach them about idioms, uncommon sayings, and other parts of English that are sometimes too extensive to learn in class. Get them to follow some of the accounts and check it every day. And then during your lesson, bring up one or more of the weekly entries, see who saw it, and turn it into a discussion.
Some of the more useful Instagram accounts are:
Or, you can explore and find some Instagram accounts that better suit your students’ needs.
Instead of making your students write boring essays to practice their writing skills, why not have them set up a blog? There are lots of platforms that can be used to create a free blogsite where all your students can log in and put up their writing. Chances are, they’ll love the chance to get their writing out in the public. And they may even try harder if they know that strangers could be reading it.
This form of writing is a more authentic experience than trying to scribble down an essay. It’s a form they’re already familiar with and may even have to use in the future depending on what field they go into. So, not only are you teaching them how to write better, you’re also giving them marketable job skills.
You can have your students blog about almost anything, from their learning to a topic they’re interested in. To ensure they’re getting the most from the experience, just make sure they do it weekly, if not more often.
Virtual Field Trips
If you can’t take your students out to explore the world, then bring the world to them. Technology really is a marvel these days, which is how you can take your students on virtual field trips. There are lots of famous sites that offer virtual field trips, which are an interactive experience that usually includes images of the site, audio facts, and tours.
Some popular virtual field trips are:
- The National Zoo in Washington D.C. for students who are learning about animals in English.
- The White House, for anyone who wants to see the seat of America’s power.
- Global Trek, for students who want to explore the world.
- Mount Everest for adrenalin junkies.
- The Pyramids of Egypt for lovers of history.
- Or tours of the Louvre for art lovers.
If your students are a little older then they might not appreciate games as much as your younger students. A good alternative is current events or news sites. Reading or listening to the news in a language you want to learn is always a good idea. Words and phrases used in reporting tend to be fairly simple, straight forward, and limited. And it can be very helpful for lower level students to hear how the same words can apply in different contexts and grammar structures.
If your students struggle to follow the news, then there are sites that can help. For listening, try News ELA, where current event articles are read at 5 different levels. So, no matter how low their listening skills are, they’ll probably be able to understand one of the levels. This will support them as they build their skills.
News in Levels focuses more on reading skills, with current event articles on a variety of subject at a variety of levels. There are also videos with each article and a forum where your students can talk about the articles in English.
Games can be a great way to engage your students and get them excited about learning. And as long as games aren’t the only activity in your classroom, a lighter activity now and then can be good for everyone. This can be as simple as getting your students to play online hangman, or as complex as getting to know Game Zone. On this site, your students will find a huge range of games where they can learn vocabulary and grammar through play.
There are lots of ways you can use technology to bring English into your students’ every day lives. Whether it’s on their phones, their computers, or tablets, in class or at home, encourage them to try a few of these options and see what works best for their learning.
About the Author
Gayle Aggiss is an ESL teacher and a dedicated traveller. She’s taught in Fuzhou, China, and Hanoi and much prefers smaller cities to the larger options. When not on the road, she lives in Perth, Australia. She writes about education, ESL teaching specifically, and you can view more examples of my work at www.gayleaggiss.com.
With schools around the world, Shane English School always has exciting new opportunities to offer.