When we picture what type of teacher we will be when we start teaching we typically picture ourselves standing in front of a black/whiteboard, the students with books and pens in their hands. However, technology has not passed the classroom by, and contemporary classes feature a range of devices and resources that didn’t exist when we were going to school. In this article we will look at some of the most common resources that can now be found in TEFL classrooms.
Electronic Whiteboards- The digital era has brought about many twists on standard technology. It was not very long ago that schools began switching from the traditional blackboard, toward whiteboards. Blackboards created chalk dust and were sometimes difficult to read, and whiteboards were easy to clean and proved to be much more popular among students.
These days, more and more schools are investing in Electronic Whiteboards. But among this new technology, there are several different types that you might encounter. Some work like giant touchscreen computer monitors. These typically come with a stylus and a program which converts the big screen into a whiteboard. You can draw and write on it in the exact same way as a normal whiteboard, and can click an icon to quickly switch pages (meaning no more wiping the board down between presentations). Just make sure you write on it with the stylus and not your markers by accident. There are also projector type electronic whiteboards which project images and videos onto the whiteboard that is already there. These also rely on a stylus and teachers may need some training in how to use this and practice not blocking the projection.
The biggest upside to electronic whiteboards is their connection to a computer (allowing for computer created presentations), and the internet.
The Internet- In the last couple of decades, the internet has become a valuable resource in our everyday lives, so it is only natural that teachers want to incorporate its use in the EFL classroom. There are countless ways of doing this, as the internet is a limitless resource.
Teachers use it to find other teachers’ lesson plans. Within the TEFL/ESL community, teachers love to share their tips tricks and lessons. If you are struggling to find that extra activity, or are unsure about how to approach a lesson, you can almost certainly find someone else’s example and be able to modify it for your own class.
Teachers also turn to the internet for real world examples and authentic materials. What better way to show students the meaning of a new vocabulary word than by showing them pictures, or video clips? There are websites dedicated to teachers’ resources, however there are plenty of other places to find English in use. By including the internet in class, you can even have students search for the information they need, practicing another important skill that is becoming more and more relevant.
Smartphones- While this can be a contentious issue for teachers, it is one that we have to embrace in order to move forward. There are teachers who need to confiscate their students’ phones at the beginning of each lesson because they feel like it is too big a distraction. This definitely happens, as our phones have become a powerful social tool and students are not immune from losing interest. While the negatives to including phones in class are obvious, the benefits of including smartphone activities can be harder to realize. The thing that we need to remember is that now we have reached this level of technology, each student has the answers to their language questions at their fingertips. By giving students the strategies for using the internet and their phones to learn English we are greatly increasing learner autonomy. Of course, students still need the guidance of a teacher, as there will still be misunderstandings and problems. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life.”
Blended Learning- This approach to study is becoming more and more popular as it begins to replace the old ‘book’ method. In the past, the majority of study was conducted in the classroom with the aid of a text book. In many cases, students were given several different books (a course book, grammar guide, homework task book…etc.). Blended learning aims to take away from these extra books and allow students to work from home on their computers. They register their study in an online database, and every time they do some homework it is uploaded to the system. Teachers can easily compare student progress and the program even highlights areas that students need to work on. There are also progress tests.
Most blended learning systems allow for comments from the teacher which give students (and, in some cases, their parents) clear, written advice they can follow that can never be lost. These systems can require some training and may be confusing at first, but teachers generally find they cut down on paperwork overall and are more efficient for monitoring a class.
Paperless Schools- With this move into the digital age, more and more schools are attempting to become “paperless”. This is essentially what it sounds like; all records and material is stored on school computers or online. Students are encouraged to use their phones, and the internet to expand their language knowledge and teachers present the material through the electronic whiteboard. The biggest problem with doing this is that the schools’ main reason may be to cut costs. A paperless office is significantly cheaper to run, as there are less photocopies, and the cost of replacing materials is negated. This can lead to schools “cutting” resources before they are properly replaced. Remember that there is no substitution for realia, and classroom games that involve students interacting with real world items. As a teacher, you should do your best to work with what the school has available, but don’t forget that you are the best resource they have and it is always a good idea to keep all of your old material on file for use again in the future.