Teaching ESL

Using the PC in the ESL classroom
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Author:  besteikaiwa [ Sat Sep 27, 2008 8:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Using the PC in the ESL classroom

Hi all,

I'm a school owner and esl teacher in Western Japan who's been teaching with the internet for six years.

I’d like to share my ‘Top 5’ tips with you here.

Tip Number 1
Check out your target site(s) carefully before the lesson

Besides ‘spur of the moment’ image searches, never visit a site without checking it out thoroughly on your own first.

-Learn how the site works.
-If you need to register for membership to use the features you want to showcase, make sure that’s done.
-Record the links for the exact page(s) you intend to visit during class before your lesson.

Tip Number 2
Set up your tabs

Every major browser now offers tabbed browsing. This is really, really useful for teachers in the classroom. A typical ‘teaching tab set’ might include the following;

-Google search window (I’m experimenting with iGoogle – and it’s own built in tab and tool options – at the moment. I’ll keep you posted)
-Google Advanced Image Search - must be the advanced image search. This gives you more control and it allows you to set the ‘strict filter’ option (I once did an image search for ‘nurse’ for a class of three junior high girls… This was a lesson learned the embarrassing way)
-Bilingual Dictionary – As I teach in Japan, I use http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~jwb/cgi- ... dic.cgi?1C

(if you are in Japan – www.JDIC’s Example Search is also useful enough to have in the tab set – you can easily give students a feel for the usage of a word)

Any other sites you use regularly… (e.g. http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/ for getting quick answers for common errors, etc)

Tip Number 3
Set up your teaching space properly.

This image is the Best Eikaiwa school in Miyazu, Japan.


-The monitor is on the table and set in such a way that it’s visible for all students.
-There is a wireless keyboard and mouse (which means that the teacher doesn’t need to turn away from the students to use the PC and that students can also use it easily.
-The cables have been nicely tied up the table leg and the PC tower is within reach, but out of immediate sight (and away from the potential of coffee spills, etc)

The conversation area here is set up for a small group. This will work for up to six people, with groups over that size, you will either need additional monitors or invest in a small screen projector setup (I have one for corporate classes offsite)

Tip Number 4

Social bookmarking is a powerful tool. The problem is not usually that what you need isn’t on the Web, the problem is finding it in amongst millions of pages of varying relevance.

It’s easy for your own bookmarks to get almost as confusing, so I suggest setting up a delicious account and carefully tagging and annotating everything in such a manner that you can easily find it again.

**TIP** You can bookmark your own bookmark sets – This allows you to create categories within delicious for particular purposes.

http://delicious.com/besteikaiwa/levels is an example of this (feel free to use mine if you can’t be bothered re-inventing the wheel...)

Tip Number 5
Keyboard Shortcuts

Working smart is a big key to success here…

I’m not going to give you a big list of shortcuts (although there are a lot and you might want to look them up and learn them if you want to make life easier for yourself)

I will deal below with what I consider to be the ‘essential shortcuts’ for teaching with the WWW.

Never just left click a link in the classroom (you have to wait – in class time – for the page to load, then, if it’s not what you needed, you have to go wait again for the first page to reload…)
-Scrollbar Click (or CTRL-click – COMMAND-click for mac users) to open in a new tab. If it’s not what you needed, scrollbar click the tab again to close it.

Visibility (these may have slightly different effects in various browsers…)
-CTRL (Command) + increases everything in size (in FireFox, it only affects text size)
-CTRL (Command) – decreases size
-CTRL (Command) 0 brings you back to default

-CTRL (Command) and the scroll wheel also do this (handy to know as JP keyboards can’t perform CTRL +…)

Backspace and arrows (home, page up/down, etc)
The mouse is not always the best option in class (it’s good to break that habit)

Navigating through the back button requires you to break eye contact and concentrate on the screen while you move to and click the browser’s ‘back’ button. Use BACKSPACE
Similarly, using the scroll bars at the side of the page will break your ‘lesson flow’ Use the UP/DOWN arrows (and/or page up, page down and home to get right to the top again)

TIP – Want to print the whole page? CTRL (Command) prt scr and then paste it into an email/Word doc, etc…

Author:  jonmarks [ Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:37 am ]
Post subject: 

I respect teachers who use computers in the classroom, but I never would. Why? it seems to me that students are capable of benefiting from the learning opportunities of computers on their own time, so it's not necessary for me to devote lesson time to using them. And what about students who don't have computers eaily available? Well, in that case, I'd say that "live teaching" (ie, just me and the students) is a better use of lesson time than computer-based activities.

Back in the nineties when computers were becoming big news, we were conjecturing a future in which computers were involved in every aspect of life, everything was done in "virtual reality", and artificial intelligences would be our friends.

It also became immensely fashionable to suggest that ESL would transfer to the remit of Information Technology, and ESL teachers would be working in a kind of professional symbiosis computer equipment.

But guess what, it didn't really happen like that. Teaching is a complex human interaction, and computers are plastic boxes with glowing screens. We just don't need them to teach or learn languages.

So, the tips in the above post are very useful, and I'm not knocking the occasional bit of computer-based teaching if that works for you and your students. But I'm also glad that the age of "Robo-teacher" never came to pass.

OK, I'm done now...

Author:  besteikaiwa [ Mon Oct 06, 2008 7:03 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi jonmarks,

Using the PC or not is largely a matter of preference.

I actually take it a degree beyond what's above with my own custom ESL system with the aim of joining school and home learning in my schools.

One thing I've discovered is that the success or failure of these type of endeavors depends totally upon the teacher.

If the teacher uses the tools to record 'custom content' during the lessons, puts up an occasional bit of audio and/or a video, posts homework on site and encourages users to access it (and helps in class as necessary - that's the strong point of a class/home system) you end up with a 90% take up rate and students being exposed to a lot more English and enjoying it (we're talking small-class adult conversation school here - demographics: 65% female, average age 48 yrs)

I'm of the opinion that teachers have stopped the 'revolution' from occurring as we are uncomfortable with change at that level. I don't hire super experienced teachers because they find the change too difficult...

My hope is that, as new 'class-home integration' software comes out (and is simplified to the point where a novice can manage it - Moodle is too steep a learning curve) that much of this resistance will begin to melt away as we are replaced by the Facebook Generation and we will finally see some of the potential these incredible tools could bring when they are focused on the curriculum instead of viewed as optional extras.

(I'm a 38 year old guy who never owned a 'real' computer before I came to Japan, btw - No-one can preach like a 'later life convert' :D )

Author:  mesmark [ Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:38 pm ]
Post subject: 

I have a computer and internet in my classroom but almost never use it with my students. I used to have a projector in the classroom and I projected some websites (Starfall) on the wall. Then I let the students touch the wall while I ran the mouse.

Anyway, while it's cool and the students enjoy it, what makes me turn away from the computer for classes is how restricted it is. You just don't have the freedom to alter the course other than turn it off and do something else. Students can't change the plan either. Every class does something unique with games and flashcards. Also, using the internet is not really communicative, which is what I'm teaching.

Much like adding in any extra materials you may have to teach to the material. So, to be able to use this computer activity (designed for some other students) you need to use the whole period to do a ten minute activity.

But I believe you're right, it's really up to the teacher. One that likes using the computer and believes in it will come up with a great lesson/course based around them.

I really love flashcards and they suit me, my teaching style and my objectives. The computer doesn't really work within my classes, and yes, even my adult classes.

I think the barrier for me is the time that it takes to prepare a class and keep class pages updated when you're doing it on the computer. I'm fast, but it still takes twice as long to do anything on the computer. It really needs to be something I'll do over and over and it needs to have more value than something I can do without the computer to make it worth the time investment.

Can someone give me an idea of what a one hour lesson plan using the internet might look like? Also how long that would take to prepare and follow up?

Author:  patrick [ Fri Oct 10, 2008 3:37 pm ]
Post subject: 

I would think an hour long session could involve using the following site where you directing the students around the internet looking for information and such...


Author:  besteikaiwa [ Sat Oct 11, 2008 5:46 am ]
Post subject: 

mesmark wrote:
what makes me turn away from the computer for classes is how restricted it is. You just don't have the freedom to alter the course other than turn it off and do something else... Also, using the internet is not really communicative, which is what I'm teaching.

Computers for kid's classes is another thing entirely (and not what I was talking about - I do use the PC with kid's classes sometimes, but I think it would be profitable to split the two areas into different posts as it's used in a completely different manner)

http://quizlet.com is am example of a tool I might use for vocabulary (I used to use it a lot, but now have my own tools which fulfill a lot of the same functions) It's a free tool which allows you to create your own flashcard sets and has a couple of games - Scatter and Space Race - as well as a very good testing facility and remembers the student's mistakes.

We explore language, create example sentences and get some words/definitions into a document as a 'class project' - the next week I turn up with that as a Quizlet set... (if you create your original doc in the right manner, it only takes a few seconds to turn it into a flashcard set)

http://quizlet.com/set/382685/ is a set I created (you could just as easily use L1 only and match the word to the definition or the sentence with the blank...) We start with familiarize and then play the scatter game, then go back and make sentences with the cards (Space Race and Test wouldn't work with this particular set)

Another big thing is Google Image Search (advanced so you can set the strict filter) - when a word - e.g. 'heavy-duty' comes up, you can used tabbed browsing techniques, quickly find a few good images and start a discussion about what the word means before allowing them to use their dictionaries...

The internet is such a great conversation lesson aid - you can show them your hometown and even look up someone's old mate - or an ex teacher - on Facebook...

I agree with Mark that other people's content is not geared to my curriculum (no matter how nifty it is) The trick is to use Web2.0 to make content.

Having said that, though - more and more publishers are producing online supplements - http://www2.cambridge.org/connectarcade/home.jsp fpr Cambridge's Connect series is an example...

Author:  Emstacks [ Sat Oct 18, 2008 3:50 pm ]
Post subject: 

i teach in Australia and it is mandatory to have ICT integrated into your lessons ... and the kids really enjoy it when they can.

i make a lot of interactive powerpoints and also i get them to publish their work - which means that they work through the drafting process and come out with a final product.

this content as well is good to update parents etc.

I have also integrated blogs in a classroom - which means that students are reflecting on their learning each week and then this can be shared with the parents and the community.

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