The next of my IATEFL recaps is Nik Peachey's fantastic tech-integrated talk on evaluating web-based tools for language instruction.
Nik's talk was a real technology showcase, and used the website todaysmeet.com to allow everyone to get involved in the discussion using their web-enabled devices. This is a really great way of engaging any group of people; whether they're students, colleagues or people attending a training session. It's simple to set up and people don't need to sign up to contribute, they just join the discussion and can post to the message board. Very simple and very effective. Throughout the session and in order to get responses from the audience, Nik kept on referring back to the discussion board and what people had posted there. The todaysmeet from Nik's session has expired, but to give an idea, I set one up (it took 3 seconds!) at www.todaysmeet.com/eltplustech so feel free to go and see how it works.
What Technology to Use
A range of web-based tools are available to us these days, from the increasingly dated-sounding CALL (see this post for some more info), to websites and apps that may or may not be dedicated to ELT. Below are some links to sites and apps that were discussed during the talk and how they can be used.
Dedicated ELT Tools
- Listen and Write - A great resource that provides dictation activities for learners. There are a number of different settings (whole word, first letter etc.) and students can even record themselves and share with others in order to do peer dictations. Site is free but requires a sign up.
- Lyrics Training - A popular online resource which allows learners to listen to songs and type the lyrics into gaps, or in full as the song plays.
- ESL Video - Video based quizzes at all levels, created by teachers for students and free to access.
- Tellagami - A free app that allows learners to mix images, animations and audio recordings to tell their stories, make invitations, send messages etc. Making these with learners (or even just on your own) is great fun and easy to do and allows for lots of personalisation.
- Mailvu - Allows you to make videos and then easily share via email. This service isn't free, although they do offer a free trial.
- Blipfoto - Upload a photo a day to create a photo journal and add comments on your own and other photos. Good for a longer term project with students.
- Keek - Allows users to share quick video messages. Available on web and as an app.
- Draw.io - Allows users to draw infographics and images using photos, shapes, colours etc. I wasn't sure exactly how I'd use this in a lesson, so please let me know if you've had success and what you did.
Criteria For Evaluation
With all these apps and sites, it's important to have some criteria by which to decide which ones to use. For this Nik started a tricider page, which allows people to make suggestions and then vote for the ones they like.
Nik's tricider page is here and still has all his ideas, so go and take a look. Some of the ideas with the most votes are:
- Will your students be able to use the app/site?
- Does it help the student to develop a useful digital literacy?
- Is it free or affordable?
- Is there an obvious (or less obvious) learning outcome that can emerge from using the tool?
You'd be hard pushed to use all of these sites and apps with your students, but I'm sure there isn't a class that wouldn't benefit and enjoy at least a few of them. Some are incredibly easy to use, and if set up right, I feel that all have positive contributions to make in terms of digital literacy and linguistic proficiency.
You can contact Nik on Twitter @NikPeachey and visit his blog at http://nikpeachey.blogspot.co.uk/