Tools

Using mobiles in class to enhance student learning

Raquel Ribeiro

Raquel Ribeiro from Brazil is an English teacher, EdTech blogger, lecturer, and contributing author for Evolve, a new course by Cambridge University Press. The decision to use mobile devices as part of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy can enable us to go deeper into a theme or provide a reliable source to check the pronunciation of words, among other possibilities. In this blog Raquel shares her findings for how teachers can promote the productive usage of mobile devices in class.

Let’s start off with some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years when teaching large mixed-age and adolescent groups.

1. Communicate your purpose

The choice of app must always be connected with the learning objective and promote students’ participation during class time.

Before you begin, let your students know what you have in mind and how using that digital tool is going to benefit them in their learning. Students tend to get on board once they feel the teacher takes their opinion into account.

2. Be patient with first attempts

First, we teachers need to test the app on our own. This is crucial to give us the necessary confidence to introduce it to our students, plan the next steps, and evaluate its benefits to the learning process.

The first time you attempt to use a mobile phone in class, the element of novelty is usually followed by disruption, especially if there’s a no-mobile policy at the school.

Keep an open mind. As the students get to understand how to navigate through the app, the process will be faster and more effective.

3. Keep students focused on the task

This is a real challenge in a world where the majority of people navigate very frequently through multiple screens and apps!

Assigning tasks with a purpose, making sure instructions are clear and that students can collaborate in pairs or trios within a time constraint are usually a winning combination.

Something I usually do is have trios of students working in a shared area such as a Google Docs or Google Classroom. We agree on a reasonable time duration for the task proposed and set the timer.

As they are working in collaboration within the same space, each one is in charge of one aspect, for instance researching, typing, or adding links or photos. Meanwhile, I walk around monitoring their work and offering assistance.

4. Showcase students’ production

It’s important to share what the students have produced during such tasks. This generates accountability for their participation during class and it’s also good training for real world digital interaction through social media – fostering a sense of digital citizenship.

I showcase students’ contribution in two ways: Google Classroom and my Instagram feed/stories. When shared on Instagram, work can be seen and interacted with by other people besides students’ classmates and teachers. There are some examples below!

5. Consistency

Experience has shown me that students, regardless of their age, do pick up on teachers’ routines and habits when teaching.

If one of your goals as an EFL teacher is to give your students the opportunity to enhance their learning by making use of technology, I strongly recommend that you base your efforts around one or two tools and insert them in to your class routine, always connected with a task that requires students’ immediate contribution during class.

In order to avoid repetition, use your creativity to add some sort of new challenge each time.

Take a look at these real scenes from my classes:

Google Cardboard (Virtual reality activity to prompt descriptions of places)

Role play (To prompt a dialogue)

Infographics (Conversation/problem solving)

Board games (Guided conversation)

Instagram (Students shared opinions in a real social media environment)

To summarize:

✔ Choose one or two tools and share the language development purpose with your group of students.

✔ Use the tool(s) consistently so that students get the maximum benefit.

✔ Keep in mind that, especially for the first encounter, you’ll need to allocate a longer time for the activity.

✔ Make instructions clear and encourage peer collaboration.

✔ If possible, showcase students’ production on social media.

What do you think of these ideas for how to integrate tech in to the teaching and learning routine? Share your feedback in the comments below!   

Find out more about Raquel, her interest in educational technology and how language learning and teaching has changed over the past couple of years in this interview.


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