Anyways, I was thinking about a nice topic for my blog (I want to put up a post per week, arduous work indeed) and I’ve come up with quite a controversial issue – mobiles and smartphones in the classroom… and my amazement when I learnt that a lot of teachers actually forbid the students to use them. Now, I’m a teacher who does that only during the tests and I rather encourage my students to use their phones in the classroom on a regular basis. And teach them how to use their phones to help them learn.
You see, the generation of 14-16 year old people is called digital natives, as opposed to us, digital immigrants, people who lived without the Internet. They are claimed to feel as comfortable in the virtual world as in the real one – but I find it quite hard to agree. I think being born in a particular environment makes you a native – but doesn’t necessarily make you feel comfortable about it.
I’ve played computer games ever since I remember and find common background with some of my students – but a huge difference is, when I was their age I played far more games than they do, while now they have a far greater variety of choice! The girls usually play the Sims, boys – MMORPG, CS or Minecraft (and now GTA V, I believe), and what about many beautiful games they don’t pay attention to? See, they are played by the people of my generation (30+), by digital immigrants who are still playing new games. Ask people in the game industry – the best target in the game market are not children, not even young adults. It’s us, digital immigrants. Fancy that, children 🙂
It’s the same with a smartphone/mobile phone/anything with Internet access and the classroom. They’ve had those devices ever since they remember but it doesn’t mean they know how to use them efficiently. I believe we – the teachers – shouldn’t forbid but we should teach them how to use their devices in a classroom and in a learning process. Let me present a couple of ideas focused on using mobiles/smartphones in the classroom – I’m not going to advertise any apps, just give general ideas.
The easiest thing is – they have access to their own dictionaries. That’s pretty good, especially that more and more children have problems with traditional dictionaries due to their lack of knowledge of the alphabet (it’s not funny, it’s the ugly truth). The more advanced the group, however, the more I recommend using English-English dictionaries (my favourite is thefreedictionary.com) and since from a +intermediate group I require explaining vocabulary in English, the students simply have to use them 🙂
My absolutely favourite tool. Sometimes I happen to make a quite well-known cultural reference and some students don’t get it. ‘Ohh, just google it, please‘ – is all I say. Or when we have a nice debate but we get puzzled over a fact-or-hoax issue. Let’s google the answer instead of stopping the discussion 🙂
Now, that’s a great tool! Making and recording roleplays, creating commercials and weather forecasts, etc. and any interview is better when recorded! Not to mention a delightful homework: ask a stranger how to get somewhere + record it.
Sometimes a nice award for a good student is to let him play a song he loves most so that we can all listen to it (and then say what’s the song about). Sometimes it’s just a nice idea for a break – to listen to a song. Or sing something, especially around Christmas (just not Last Christmas…).
The role of films – and youtube in general – may be a blessing in a classroom without an interactive whiteboard/ projector. It’s quite easy to tell the students to watch a short film focusing on a lesson’s topic. But we may also show them some lovely presentations on slideshare or some inspiring videos on TED.
Apart from ‘you’ve got a new pet? show me, show me!‘ – we can use pictures students take in a classroom, especially in the exam-preparation courses, where the students will have to describe a picture on their oral part. A nice idea is also to take a picture of an everyday object but in such a weird way the rest of the class would have to guess what object it is.
Well, you don’t need a smashing new iWhatever to have fun in the classroom. This a nice step to bring the language to their everyday life and have both extreme fun (will never forget some films my students made!) and real learning – because when using their devices it’s THEM who do the job. And that’s the proper way of teaching, isn’t it? 🙂