Integrating technology in the classroom is not an easy task for language teachers. We might think that growing up in a digital world means that everyone gains digital competence. It does mean, that learners are familiarised with the new technology, but it is also possible that they do not know how to use it for educational purposes. It is the teacher’s task to blend technology with teaching methods that make learning successful. Internet applications can be accessed either from a laptop/ personal computer or smartphone/ smartboard. The author only focuses on applications that have been previously used in classroom. Nonetheless, other applications are available online and can be consulted.
Google offers many innovative tools to empower teachers and learners. These apps are free, students and teachers can download and access them on Android or Apple supported gadgets.
Google Classroom is similar to an umbrella, it links Google’s services that help educational institutions to work online. Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, Calendar and Gmail help students do their assignments, receive feedback, arrange their classroom activities. Documents are stored on Google Drive, students and teachers can access them any time. Assignments are graded, students can work on templates to edit, make copies, track sources, and send them back to get grades. There is a class stream to share information or make announcements.
Surveys and quizzes become more attractive, instant feedback is possible.
Online quizzes give instant feedback and analyses at the end of the quiz. They engage and motivate students due to their friendly layout and feedback system. I have already tested Kahoot and Quiz your English, which are free learning platform. Teachers can create quizzes and send the access link to students, who can solve the quiz using a laptop or a telephone with internet connection. Teachers can create quizzes and games for individual learners or for teams. Once the student starts the quiz, he can follow his peers’ points as well as class ranking. It is very motivating, as students try to do their best and concentrate to win. Moreover, it provides teachers with assessment analytics by class, and question, saving a lot of time for teachers.
Google Forms is another application that teachers can use to create quizzes and surveys. Students access them on their phone or laptop and the teacher receives the results in a spreadsheet.
Phone audio recorders or recorders inside other applications usually amuse students and engages them into trying out and record their own voice. Voice recorders can be of great use when teaching pronunciation and speaking. Teachers record their voice and play it in class or send it on the internet. Students can play and listen to their recording in order to correct their pronunciation, grammar mistakes, and other faults. We can also play with video recorders to make humorous recordings, which can lighten up the class, when the teacher or the students feel they need to rest towards the end of the class or as an ice breaker at the beginning of the class.
Advantages of recording your own voice are plentiful. It is worth using it in teaching foreign languages, as it improves pronunciation and fluency. Moreover, instead of taking notes, ask students to record their ideas, and listen to it later, when necessary. This is helpful in writing activities.
Students often forget to write down the homework, so they can record the teacher’s voice and replay it at home, when they are preparing to do their homework.
Social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram) enables users to share their opinion, comment on various topics, read news feeds, watch videos and photos, upload videos and photos, create and join already established groups. Nevertheless, social media is versatile, and users are flooded with great amount of comprehensible input. People use social media on various electronic devices: laptop, smartphone, tablets. It requires internet connection and installation of the social media application.
Can Facebook be used efficiently in the classroom? People usually focus on its social use, less on its academic use. From an academic point of view, I have identified two roles of Facebook: communicative – outside the classroom, and information provider -in the classroom. Facebook offers global connectivity, and instant chat possibility with its Facebook Messenger application. Classes can create private groups, share information and data useful for school, teachers can send, receive and help with home assignments, give feedback. Facebook offers students the freedom to independently plan and organise their learning.
In addition, Facebook is also valuable in the classroom. News feeds of reliable media sources such as the BBC News or National Geographic are great for task-based learning or discussions. It encourages learners to have critical thinking, to recognise fake news (deliberate misinformation through news media), and get information from reliable sources. Pictures and videos posted on Facebook may help start a discussion or introduce the topic of the lesson. It is also a great choice for ice breaking or follow up activities. Furthermore, teachers can create the opportunity to teach about safety and privacy of social media. The safety of our students is important in both virtual and real life. It is important for teachers and students likewise to use the Internet safely and responsibly.
YouTube is a social network, that provides a platform for video sharing. It allows users to upload, view, rate, share create playlists, and comment on videos. Most videos are uploaded by individual users, but some media channels, like BBC, are in partnership with YouTube and people can watch some of their materials.
Teachers and students can access thousands of educational videos on YouTube. TED talks is a tool within YouTube, which offers lectures by experts in their field. TED-Ed was developed to suit educational needs. Teachers can include the videos in various ways:
- send the link of the chosen video to students to watch it prior to class, in order to introduce them the topic of their next class
- use short videos to break the ice or to present the new topic in class
- watch video news reports and motivate students to discuss the issues presented
- use BBC documentaries to bring the real world into your classroom
- use videos instead of textbooks or dictionaries to explain a new concept
- set up projects and create videos, which can be later uploaded on YouTube and shared with others
- use videos to set the topic for a writing assignment
- take notes while watching a video and share information, ideas with the others
- YouTube is also a source of entertainment, so teachers can reward students with carefully selected humorous videos.
Unlike traditional classes, where teachers offer explanations, videos are more efficient and engaging, provided that the right videos are selected and accessed. Carefully selected topics and length of the video may lead to success in the classroom.
Teachers may want their students to watch videos on a certain topic, but creating videos is also engaging. Applications such as Magisto, Filmora, Viva Video or iMovie (Apple’s own video editing app) offer a clean and user-friendly interface to make personal videos either by editing template videos or turning photos into videos. Students can upload their videos on YouTube and set up their own channel, which others can follow.
Making and editing videos can be an excellent project work in or outside the classroom. Students can choose the topic individually, in groups or as a whole-class activity. They can use their smartphones or cameras, cut several short videos into one long video. They can be creative, manage their own learning, practice working in groups, share their work with others. Students can share their work on a platform or an online class group, the teacher and other students can add comments, recommendations. It can also become part of a classroom activity. Students usually have fun watching each other in short movies, edited videos. However, teachers must be careful and reasonable, manage the class in order not to offend any student and his or her work. Good quality videos can be used in other classes, but only with the permission of its creator.
Similar to video makers and editors, photo editors can also add value to a teacher’s classroom work as a group project or individual assignment. Free online photo editors, such as PicCollage or Pixlr enable users to create collages, edit photos, add emoticons or other creative features. Editing, cropping, filtering photos is a creative work and it can engage even those students who are usually hard to engage. Students can make a pic collage on a specific topic, present it in front of the class or share it online on a platform that the class has access to. This can be an assignment to introduce a new topic or the teacher can include it at the end of a unit as a follow-up work. Teachers can award the best works, upload them on the school’s website (only with the permission of its author) or share them in the community.
Blogs are examples of social websites which allow users to communicate and post entries regularly. Blogs are essentially private web pages and allow the user to have full control of his/her page. Changes, comments can only be made with the acceptance of the blog owner.
Blogs can be of many types. Teacher blogs are usually created as a resource for learners. Teachers provide information, homework, helpful links for extra reading, etc. The teacher decides about the content of the blog, maintains it, updates it and sets privacy options. Learners can have limited or no access to modify content on the teacher’s blog, but in most cases, they can add comments that everyone who accesses the blog can read.
Learners can also set up blogs. It can be a class project or an individual decision. Blogs can have specific topics; they can work similarly to a diary and they usually develop a community around the blog.
Class blogs are also a good example for foreign language teaching. Everything that is relevant for the class is posted/uploaded on the blog, learners add comments, feedback and the teacher can follow the class’s work. Creating and maintaining a blog takes a lot of effort, it is time consuming not only for the students but also for the teacher, but they are also beneficial because of the visual nature of the electronic online medium. Students and teachers can effectively use visuals, add audio, video documents.