- Scaffolding Tips for Teachers. The classroom experience can be a daunting place of learning for gifted and exceptional students. For students who may process information at a quicker learning pace and for those who may have difficulty processing the learning at all, teachers must differentiate content instruction to increase learning capacity for all students.
- Smartphones have great cameras, and I want my students integrating pictures in the lessons. Many times, I use the camera as a bridge between hands-on learning and technology, which makes the.
Below are the best internet safety lesson plans for students in grades K–12. See the full Common Sense K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum for lesson plans on additional digital citizenship topics. Kindergarten Internet Safety Lesson Plans Safety in My Online Neighborhood. How do you go places safely online? 34 Ways Ideas For Smartphones In The Classroom By Category by John Hardison first appeared on gettingsmart.com. In continuation of last week’s article, Part 1: 44 Better Ways to Use Smartphones in Class, here is a new list of thirty-six additional ideas to help leverage the power of these tech gadgets in the learning environment. Wonder Workshop’s comprehensive curricular resources enable teachers to help students practice computational thinking and 21st-century skills with Dash, Dot, and Cue robots.
If you ask educators about cellphones in their classrooms, they will all have a passionate response and a story (good or bad) about their presence.
Most will express frustration at their problematic nature: they’re a distraction; they make noise; they can be used for cyber-bullying or cheating. That said, I think that more and more educators are recognizing that cellphones, and especially smartphones, can be a useful learning tool. But how do teachers make that happen?
As an early adopter of smartphone technology, I immediately recognized the incredible computing power they possess. Many students now have pocket technology that’s much more powerful and innovative than the equipment used in early manned space flights.
Still, like my colleagues, I imagined cellphones as a huge classroom management struggle.
So I set out to test a theory, with this basic premise: If teachers actually direct how students will use their cellphones in class as learning tools, we can minimize their role as a distractive presence.
I am the first to acknowledge that my teaching situation is not the same as many other educators. I teach in a small, independent school. My students generally come from a financially stable background and I teach fairly small classes (15-22). All of my students have some type of smartphone device. I understand this is not the case for all teachers. But most classrooms will include some students who have internet-capable devices, and many of the activities I will discuss here can be done in groups with just one device per group.
Supporting lessons & activities
A good rule of thumb for any classroom use of cellphones: the lesson/activity must be engaging as well as productive. You don’t want technology for the sake of technology (and students aren’t going to be intrinsically fascinated with a device they use routinely when they’re outside of school). If the students don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they will be more tempted to use their phones inappropriately.
In Class Polling/Quizzing – One of my favorite tools to use in class is a program called Poll Everywhere. I wrote about this service in an article at my personal blog: “Poll Everywhere – A Free/Cheap Alternative to Polling Hardware.”
This is a great piece of software to use in the classroom (and it’s free for audiences up to 40). You can create quiz questions for which students text in their answers. No expensive clicker systems to buy, set up, and maintain! If students register their cellphone numbers (a requirement in my class) you can even track their answers for impromptu quizzes or review!
In-class Backchanneling: Backchanneling refers to the use of networks & social media to maintain an online, real-time conversation alongside spoken remarks.
For example, if you attend a keynote presentation at a conference these days, you’ll often find that some listeners in the audience are using their mobile devices to comment to other audience members about things the speaker is saying, while the speaker is saying them.
Backchanneling can be a great way to give quiet students a voice, to introduce additional facts and insights during a lesson, or simply to encourage “conversation” during lecture or group readings when you don’t want to actually interrupt the presentation.
While Twitter is probably the most popular medium for backchanneling news and entertainment events (using #hashtags to create an instant network), teachers will probably want a more controllable platform than Twitter provides.
Educators can readily set up a private backchannel using free webtools. One popular program is Today’s Meet, which allows individuals to create temporary rooms to host backchannel discussions.
Poll Everywhere can also be used for this purpose. How to write killer copy for your website. Plus, it allows you to moderate comments and prohibits any anonymous contributions.
In-class Readings & Handouts: Smartphones can also be used productively in the classroom as eReaders for books and handouts. I place all student handouts into DropBox folders (see my previous Voices article: “DropBox – a Superb Classroom Tool“). If we are reading or doing work in class, they can access our Dropbox space via the internet and open reference material without printing it up or asking for a new copy. It’s literally right in the palm of their hand.
Of course, for traditional reading materials (textbooks and paperbacks), you can use mobile apps like Kindle eReader, Nook App, iBooks, or Google’s Play Books (just to name a few). Many of them host free content and some allow you to load content of your own. This is a great way to save money on book purchases and photocopies. Using these apps, students can even highlight and annotate.
One of the greatest active uses I have found for smartphones is in the area of research. I remember the days when I made photocopies, took meticulous notes, and tried to employ a series of notecards in a vain attempt at some semblance of a coherent organized system. Smartphones do a much better job. In this case, the power is in the apps!
My favorite research tools on the smartphone are “camera scanners” (which capture information using the phone’s built-in camera). One of the best apps I have found is a program called Genius Scan+ — available for iOS, Android, and Windows based phones. This app allows you to take pictures of documents (even books with those bendy pages), crop them, and then enhance them for ready viewing. You can create notebooks of documents (if you are copying sections of a book or article) and then store them on the device or export them (as a photo image or PDF) to Google Docs, DropBox, Evernote, and more. It’s a great tool for you or your students to organize research materials.
Evernote is another great application that students can use to organize their notes and images, take voice notes, write notes by hand, gather web clippings, sort emails, and more. You can put them into pre-categorized folders (class, project, theme, etc) as well as give them “tags” which makes them easy to search and sort later.
Google Search on the Go!
Most people can grasp the power of having Google in their pocket, but few recognize that the mobile version of Google is much more than a web browser. The Google Search App can be used not only for traditional searches, but has a voice search feature as well. You talk — it searches.
My favorite feature of the Google Search is its ability to perform searches using images! This feature, called Google Goggles, is a creative way to search the internet for image based content (watch the video). I employed it last year in a creative field trip experiment at the local museum.
These mobile Google capabilities offer a great way for students to explore material on the fly, using a variety of media. Any content, images, etc. that they find can be sent to a Google Drive account.
Stepping out with smartphones
I hope these ideas will be enough to stir the interest of fellow educators and encourage you to begin experiments of your own. And if you’re already using smartphones in your classroom and you’re doing something you don’t see here, please share in the comments!
When we combine the modern smartphone with wireless internet access and the remarkable number of cheap and free mobile apps now available, we find that they are truly amazing pocket-sized learning devices. Whether educators like them or hate them, the reality is that cellphones are going to become pervasive in our classrooms, if they aren’t already.
We can choose to be proactive — to employ and direct the use of these powerful tools — or we can continue to exert our energy in combating them.
If we are truly preparing our students for the future, then I believe it is our obligation to incorporate these ever-present devices into our daily teaching practice.
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A Smarter Way to Learn: Seven Ideas for Using Smartphones for ESOL Learning
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what the following things have in common: newspapers, books, grammar reference information and exercises, dictaphones, cameras, camcorders, pictures, videos, games, calendars, dictionaries, MP3 players, radios, maps, satellite navigation systems, vocabulary books, notepads, phone calls, text messaging, emails, blogging and, last but not least, all the rest of the Internet! And the common link? As well the fact that they are all potentially useful language learning tools, they can all be carried out or accessed through modern smartphones (and some are also available on certain feature phones). As you can see, these phones can potentially offer our learners a whole host of multi-sensory learning opportunities and a chance to become more autonomous in their learning. What’s more, the portability of smartphones means that, not only can these learning opportunities be exploited in the classroom and at home; they can also be used during snippets of free time on public transport, in a queue, in a cafe … wherever and whenever an opportunity arises.
Despite the fact that growing numbers of our learners own smartphones, is still the case in many ESOL classrooms that mobile technologies are being under-used as learning tools. These missed opportunities are particularly significant in instances where there is no or limited computer access for the learners in class or at home. Our learners with smartphones may be sitting on a potential gold-mine … so let’s get digging!
The first stage of the excavation involves finding out what kinds of phones your learners own. If only a couple of learners own smartphones or feature phones, this will limit the kinds of activities that can be conducted in class (though these learners can still be given ideas about how to make the most of their phones for learning out of class time), but if more than half of your learners own these phones and are happy to use them in class, you could comfortably set activities for them with one phone between two learners. Another issue to consider is whether your learners are on a pay-as-you-go scheme or a contract, as we wouldn’t want our learners to incur vast data charges. Again, options for learners on pay-as-you-go schemes include not using their own phone but instead working in a pair with a learner who has a contract phone, or using free Wi-Fi rather than the internet service from their network provider, where this is available in the teaching setting.
So where can we begin in using smartphones with learners? The next section of this article outlines seven practical ways in which smartphones can be used to enhance ESOL learning:
- Camera – The camera function of a smartphone or function phone can be used in a variety of ways. For example, to save time, learners could take photographs of information that they may otherwise have had to copy down in their books, such as the teacher’s explanation on the board or a completed matching card task. Learners could also use the camera function to take photographs out of class time which can then be used in class activities. These could include photos of public signs and symbols, a room in their house or a family member. These kinds of photos lend themselves to communicative information-gap pair activities and are inherently motivating as the learners will have taken the photos themselves.2
- Camcorder – Learners can use this to record (and later analyse) class-work such as discussions, role plays, interviews and presentations. Furthermore, learners who have pronunciation difficulties can video their teacher saying certain words and then video themselves saying the same words to analyse and correct their mistakes using both audio and visual cues.
- E-Books / newspapers / magazines – Learners can download and read a variety of different types of text on their phones, many of which are free or inexpensive. A useful application for accessing and reading these texts is Kindle, which allows readers to highlight words, look up word definitions and make their own annotations. Particularly useful for ESOL learners are the Quick Reads and Oxford Bookworms ranges of short, accessible texts. In addition to being used to encourage learners to read more extensively in their free time, such books can be used effectively in class to develop both reading and digital literacy skills. For example, learners could scan for key words or certain grammatical forms in the traditional way, or could use Kindle’s search facility to find the desired information, which can then be highlighted and annotated as required.
- Podcasts and videos – Learners can download language learning podcasts or videos onto their smartphones to listen to at their leisure. Such media (often accompanied by transcripts and comprehension exercises) can be downloaded directly from websites such as www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish or can be accessed through apps such as the British Council’s LearnEnglish Podcasts. In class, learners could listen to podcasts and complete the corresponding activities, after which they could consolidate their learning by downloading the podcast to listen to again in their own time. Alternatively, learners could be set the task of listening to the podcast and completing comprehension exercises before the lesson, and come to the class prepared to discuss it.
- Grammar and vocabulary-building tools – Apps such as the British Council’s LearnEnglish Grammar and websites such as OUP’s http://elt.oup.com/student/headway are available for learners to access from their phones in their own time or in class (as an alternative to using a worksheet). There are also a number of online dictionary websites accessible from smartphones, such as http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/learner-english, and also free dictionary apps, such as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which can be downloaded to smartphones and used offline. In addition to being more portable than paper dictionaries, apps such the Merriam-Webster include perks such as the audio of a word, and ‘add to favourites’ and voice search facilities. Other useful vocabulary-building tools are multi-sensory flashcard-based vocabulary learning apps such as the British Council’s My Word Book. Such an application could be introduced in class alongside other vocabulary-learning strategies (such as paper-based alphabetical vocabulary notebooks), and learners can be set the task of recording and learning five words using two different methods and then discussing in small groups which method they found to be most successful and why.
- Research – Learners can use a search engine on their phone to find information for an essay or project, pictures for a poster, flight prices, maps, instructions, etc. The teacher could ask learners a question such as ‘How high is St. Paul’s Cathedral?’ and give the learners a time-limit to find the answer. Learners could also access a web-based concordancer such as http://corpus.byu.edu/bnc from their phones to research the usage of a particular word and words with which it normally collocates.
- Micro-Blogging – And finally, let’s not forget the productive skill of writing. The Internet offers many opportunities for authentic written communication with real people, such as through the micro-blogging features of social networking websites like Facebook or FriendFeed. Learners can create profiles to communicate with each other using their phones as part of class activities or in their own time. An example micro-blogging activity is that each learner on can post a ‘status’ on FriendFeed stating a problem (real or fictional) that they are facing and asking for advice. The other learners will see these statuses on their homepage and can then comment on other learners’ statuses, offering advice, using language for referring back to others’ comments, and agreeing and disagreeing as they see fit.
- A related article outlining ways in which the more basic functions of mobile phones can be used is Switch Your Mobile Phones … ON! Seven Ideas for Using Basic Mobile Phones for ESOL Learning
- An interesting video demonstrating how smartphones’ photos, audio recording facilities and apps can be used with learners can be found at www.teachingenglish.org.uk/tips/mobile-learning
 For a definition of ‘smartphone’, see http://cellphones.about.com/od/coveringthebasics/qt/cellphonesvssmartphones.htm
 For a definition of ‘feature phone’, see http://mobiledevices.about.com/od/glossary/g/What-Is-A-Feature-Phone.htm
 In a 2010 survey of over 500 English language teachers asked whether they ever use mobile devices in their teaching, only 34.5% replied ‘yes’ and 65.5% ‘no’ - Peachey, N. (2010) Survey: Mobile Learning for English Language Teachers http://tinyurl.com/3ayxh8o (accessed May 2012)
 This technique may be of particular benefit to learners with dyslexia, many of whom have trouble copying large chunks of information from the board – British Dyslexia Association (no date) Dyslexia Friendly Schools Packhttp://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/files/DFS%20pack%20English.pdf (accessed May 2012)
 Digital literacy relates a person’s ability to use different forms of ICT competently, confidently and critically in different domains of their lives, such as for work, study, leisure and communication - European Commission https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Glossary:Digital_literacy (accessed Jan 2020)
 While social networking websites such as these are often blocked by educational institutions’ web filters, learners using the internet connection provided by their mobile network (as opposed to Wi-Fi) will be able to bypass this obstacle.
This article has been written by Aleks Palanac who works as an ESOL Resources Specialist for the British Council in addition to having teaching commitments with the Workers' Educational Association and the University of Leicester. Her main interest lies in how to marry new technologies with language teaching in order to enhance the digital literacy of ESOL learners.
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