TEFL teaching materials

teaching professional people english

Take your mobile to class

However annoying a ringing telephone (my own or students’) may be during the course of a lesson the mobile isn’t going to stay away.  Everywhere we go, it goes and if it’s going to sit in on my class it can jolly well pull its weight!

Even an old-fashioned mobile like mine which doesn’t take photos or connect to the internet can perform a variety of useful tasks…  and then there are the smart phones which students bring along, which take us to a whole new level.  So… here are my suggestions for things you can do with your, or even better, your students’ phones.

  • Audio note function  phones are the new dictaphones, which gives you a new toy to play with.  Ideally, this would be a perfect tool for learners to overcome their worst jitters about speaking english in the privacy of their own homes … record yourself, listen, cringe, get over it …. been there!  Like anything else, your students are far more likely to take advantage of this great gadget if they’ve had occasion to try it in class.  Especially good for working on that ghastly habit people have of raising their intonation at the end of every sentence as if asking a question…. just remember that the aim here is not to traumatise people in public!
  • Audio note take-out  If there are language items which your students really cannot get their heads – or their tongues – round you can always speak them into their phone.  Want to hear the corect prononciation of ‘laboratory’  or  ‘vital’  next time you take this class?  This may be the secret weapon you’ve been searching for.
  • Stopwatch  Almost every mobile has a stopwatch function.  If you haven’t found yours yet, take a minute to locate it.  The stopwatch is perfect for exercises such a ‘elevator pitches’ or for coaching upwardly mobile job applicants – if you haven’t done this, some extremely qualified youngsters just talk and don’t answer questions.  Anything to concentrate the mind on the task at hand …
  • Timer  Not quite the same thing but it can be useful to encourage a bit of rivalry in a classroom situation, or to allow students to measure some sort of progress in their ability to tackle routine tasks when they have hit the pesky intermediate plateau.

Tricks from more sophisticated technology ..

  • Online dictionaries  Love them or loath them they are out there – or in here in your classroom.  Rather than feeling threatened by some students’ access to on-line services I recommend embracing them (the services!!).  This will allow you to ask the chap with the i-phone to grace the class with his superior know-how, and allow you to insist he turn it off when you really are working on something the device might sabotage.
  • Visual capture  Clever mobiles can take a photo of the board and save it on the device or  ‘in the cloud’.  Why not identify those students who use this function and allow it on condition that they share with other members of the group, and perhaps with you??  People do use these gadgets, so they must be useful ..  you the teacher can also benefit from the ability to not only save your own lesson (students will probably be far better than you at identifying what’s really helpful to them) but you’ll also be able to view your boardwork in the cold light of day and self-evaluate..
  • Video capture  Personally, I don’t want this in my class.  If it rears its ugly head I would recomend banning it with a vengenace … audio capture doesn’t bother me particularly since nothing I’m teaching is confidential.  Folks waving their phone around filming the rest of us however, will be only too obvious!
  • Internet access  I recently had a young man in a class checking my explanation with ‘l’anglais-facile.com’ on his i-phone.  To be fair he wasn’t trying to give me a breakdown; the phone was new.  Bless.  This was a true ‘teachable moment’, opening up an interesting discussion about which online tools are helpful and which not.  Why not take advantage of the presence of such access in the classroom and ask the owner of it to serve the group by checking exact url adresses when you recommend web-based resources for homework and follow-up?

Well, these are my suggestions for the time being.  What is your experience of mobile technology in your classroom, and how do you deal with it?


About Catherine Kennedy

Second year undergrad (super-mature) at Sheffield Uni doing single honours Religion, Theology, and the Bible. (Formerly TEFL teacher in France)

3 comments on “Take your mobile to class

  1. Mum

    Another useful one. Keep it up I’m saving all your posts in my tesol document file.

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February 2012
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