All things EdTech – #eltchinwag – 24/02/2014

Well here we are. After a slightly arduous journey through our first round of hashtags, we have arrived at our summary.

Our aims for this chat: To discuss the use of technology in the classroom, its benefits and drawbacks, teacher fears, training and investment.

#eltchinwag’s first chat got off to a good start with ELT Ireland posting a few questions in the days leading up to the event to get thoughts flowing…

  • Do you use classroom video tools? How useful do you find them?
  • Should we use and teach students how to use Facebook?
  • IWBs: friend or foe?
  • How do you use technology in the classroom?

6:45 came and fingers started twitching with @cellointensive eager to begin. @AoifeCondit opened with a comment on when tech goes wrong:

“Ss end up teaching teachers what to do.”

McLauglinLou queried whether the experience had resulted in any good language acquisition while ELTIreland questioned how much time was wasted and how learners felt and reacted to the situation. Everyone agreed that, although awkward, situations like this often foster a sense of comradery.

Next up came an interesting to-and-fro on BYOD;

“…distraction or not…,” asked CelticVegan.

As teachers, we are none too aware of social networking, the constant barrage of ‘WhatsApps’ and ‘Facebooks’ coming our students’ way and the 21st Century need to answer immediately.

When it came to Facebook, AoifeCondit voiced issues with monitoring, “learning use vs personal use”.

“Facebook happens anyway,” aptly put by @EdLaur.

If we plan extra activities for fast finishers, as we would under normal circumstances, it helps keep the focus. @AoifeCondit does this, but still finds monitoring tricky. Perhaps “having Ss working in pairs or small groups off one device would cut distraction down,” offered LahiffP.

On tech investment without good broadband…

…there were a number of opinions. At some stage or other, I’m sure you’ll agree, every one of us has experienced the dreaded wifi malfunction and cursed the very platform the Internet was ever built on. It was no different for our #eltchinwag participants.

It all kicked off with a topical link to The Guardian’s strong views on investment in technology, posted by CelticVegan. The writer was of the opinion that many schools these days are over-investing in tech and under-investing in reliable broadband connections. This prompted some heated responses…

  • “these days tech without good broadband is useless.” (AoifeCondit)
  • “fear of bad tech/wifi failure can limit its use. A good back up plan is necessary.” (shellfish1234)
  • “have experienced schools with IWB but no stable net – making investment in technology a waste in these cases.” (shaycoyne)

On the other side of the coin:

  • “makes me angry – it’s not a waste if students already use it in their life. tech must be seen as another way to communicate with Ss” (@eilymurphy)
  • “Tech is part of language just like writing is.” (@whippler)

No one would disagree, I think, that investment in good wifi is a must. On the edtech grapevine where I am though, a lot of schools still seem to be struggling with providing what is increasingly seen as a fundamental need.

On technology in the classroom…

It was a fast moving chat interlacing a number of thoughts, many of which centred around, as @MaeBVee perfectly put it,

“tech is an amazing tool in the classroom as long as you don’t use it as a crutch.”

This was swiftly followed by accordance from all.

  • “need to be able to find the right balance keeping lessons learner not tech centred.” (@annamalikmorris)
  • “a tool for enhancement, not replacement.” (@McLaughlinLou)
  • “tech is a tool. It should promote language learning, not be an end in itself.” (@LahiffP)
  • “learner focus and autonomy are key when using tech.” (@SwanDos)

Our tweeters also voiced experiences and concerns over tech being used to mask bad teaching, and in some cases, no teaching at all.

Many of #eltchinwag’s Monday night tweeters were all for using technology in the classroom and fed each other great insights into some of the things they do. Take @cellointensive for instance:

“I use my computer/speakers to do student audio. More realiable than CD players… Also use YouTube for songs/film scenes…You can use a film scene to set up a good grammar point: ‘what’s going to happen, what would you do if you were them…’ endless, instant engagement. Same set up time and rate of engagement as list/read.”

MartinB832 and AoifeCondit interacted about the use of tablets with one querying the potential loss of handwriting skills, the other, quite rightly for me, proffering that they are

“A brilliant alternative to colourless photocopies where visual impact is needed.”

Moving on to sites which allow Ss to interact both in and outside the classroom, chinwaggers were mostly between Facebook and Edmodo.

  • “decided on FB as Ss already used the site – more likely to engage.” (@EdLaur)
  • “Ss are posting class realted content, fostering relationships on FB group” (@CelticVegan)
  • “Edmodo great to encourage out of class learning. e.g. photo competitions.” (@ShayCoyne)
  • “Edmodo a great alternative when working with levels which block FB.” (@ELSTA)

@eilymurphy mentioned using or for simple presentations next.

“20 pic slides – 3 mins a slide, Ss keep talking as slides change. Ss pic own slides.”

As a relative newbie to this whole Twitter gig, I hadn’t ever thought about its potential for use in the classroom. How naive I was when I heard this:

  • “Heard about a class where Ss dissected celebs’ badly spelled tweets” (@AoifeCondit)
  • “Tweeting would be great for revision/consolidation esp speaking or writing activities – different tasks for different groups of Ss.” (@MihaelaOlariu)

This prompted a little search by yours truly, which uncovered a little ‘getting started’ nugget from OUP. Further sites mentioned were:

On IWBs: ‘Friend or Foe?’

#eltchinwag’s final major discussion point centred around IWBs, the relationships schools and teachers have with them and the role of training and development.

@McLaughlinLou has had:

“very positive experience of using IWBs in c/room especially with young learners” and after having had training.

@CelticVegan wanted more here, asking what the specific benefits were for yls. Areas such as ‘movement, new activities, Ss in charge of learning, visual and engaging were returned.

@MaeBVee loves the reaction she gets from students old and young when using IWBs and believes engagement is evident when it comes to yls.

To this LahiffP queried the ‘novelty wearing off’ and whether engagement remained. McLaughlinLou was quick to offer that it’s the,

“same as other tools. Have a variety no matter what’s involved and engagement doesn’t wane.”

The conversation move seamlessly into a query about the length of time it can take to become comfortable using tech and IWBs in the classroom. Across the chatting board it was decided that baby steps and good training were key. A mentor / buddy system was mentioned:

“find a mentor who loves tech, loves to share, explain and convert. (Worked for me)!” (@EdLaur)

A worthy comment came from @shellfish1234,

“it can be intimidating, esp when everyone is expected to be tech savvy.”

@SwanDos returned that Ts often feel they need extra support.

“Make it clear to ‘start small’ then build with step by step training.”

@McLaughlinLou rightly added that this can often depend on Tt relationships and how open they are.

@shaycoyne offered an overall view to round up the tweeters saying,

“the key is in the training – optimise learning potential for tech.”

Coming from a school of IWBs, this summary writer couldn’t agree more. Ongoing tech PD, a strong, open support system and the immediate understanding that building a relationship with tech in small doses really lightens the often strong obligation a teacher can feel, works wonders on encouraging its use in the classroom.

Well ELTers, that about brings us to the end of our oh so topical and stimulating ideas bounce on education technology and the joys, wonders and worries it brings. I’ve added a few more links below that didn’t get into the summary above. Enjoy over a nice cup of tea on whatever piece of technology you use to get your kicks.

Before I sign off, I am obliged to comment on the irony of our ‘Tt, yls, Ss, ELT’ abbreviations. With my being a self-confessed opponent of all things ‘text talk,’ my mother finds it highly amusing that I have filled my blog post with such shortened terms of phrase. I do hope you forgive me colleagues and understand the need to stick to the 140 character rule!

We’ll be back on Monday March 10th at 8 p.m. Irish time with another #eltchinwag. Until then, slán go fóill!

Christine Mullaney, ELTIreland

Tips for teachers who struggle with tech here

Technology use in Ireland here

Teachers as presenters here


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