Going Tech-y

Contexts are demanding. They push changes on us. After spending several years working in a not that tech-friendly environment, I moved on to teaching Business English in an IT-company, which is all about technologies.

My students are not good at writing by hand. Typing is what they do every day all day long. Smartphones, apps, iPads, screens in each room, unlimited Wi-Fi access… After resisting this change I came to the conclusion that the more you resist, the more painful the process is. After all, I was just trying to put off the inevitable.

Changes do not come easily, but they do come. Here I am, writing a post about tech tools I am using in my classroom right now.

1. Flipgrid: So much more than just a video-recording platform

So yes, this is a platform where you create your virtual classroom (aka grid). Each grid can have an unlimited number of tasks (aka topics). Students then record and upload a video of how they do the task. They can respond to each other’s videos by leaving video-comments.

Teachers can do the same, but on top of it, there is an opportunity to leave customised feedback: just set the criteria and type in a personal message to a student. One click, and your feedback is sent directly to their email.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What’s hidden below the surface is a chance to remove the physical limitations of your classroom and extend it much further than the room you usually meet in. Involve students from other classes, invite interesting speakers to your grid, open your classroom to the world!

Another thing you could do with Flipgrid is to create student portfolios. The function called MixTapes helps you create a sequence of any videos you have recorded, a video-portfolio.
You could also use it for sharing semester highlights (having a tangible result never harms, right?). Why not have a look and recalling all those sweet memories we had on the way?

2. Speech Recognition Technology (SRT) & Co

This is a must-have for anyone who teaches pronunciation or at least focuses on it from time to time.
I usually leave it up to my students to decide which SRT app they want to use. So far, we have tested:

– Google Translate app/webpage;
– various inbuilt note-taking apps (e.g. Evernote, Notes, etc.);
– a keyboard with a voice input function + any typing space (e.g. Google Search, online dictionary, etc.)
– Google Docs (PC / tablet);

The awesome thing about SRT is that it is extremely sensitive to the sounds you pronounce, especially vowels. As a result, I can easily identify my students’ weak points by just looking at what appears on their screens. This allows for on-spot pronunciation correction. It has already helped us deal with /e/-/æ/, final /n/-/m/ (a big problem for Chinese learners), /n/-/ŋ/, long vowels vs short vowels, /w/-/r/ (again, an issue for Korean and Chinese students) and many other things.

I also encourage students to practise by themselves. Some of them liked using ELSA, an app for working on American pronunciation. It creates a customised learning plan based on the diagnostic test you take at the beginning. After each word/sentence you pronounce, you get a score saying how close it was to a standard American pronunciation.

Finally, an excellent app to learn and practise IPA is Sounds by Macmillan.

3. Pear Deck: An add-on to your slides

This website allows you to make your presentations way more interactive and engaging, so it is perfect for online courses, webinars, etc.

Link your Pear Deck account to your Google or Microsoft account, and it will automatically upload your slides. For each slide, you can choose what type of question you want to ask, e.g. an open question, a multiple-choice question, etc.

To answer your questions, students have to go to joinpd.com and enter an access code you gave them.

Apart from interactive presentations, Pear Deck has a vocab list feature. You can create your own lists by typing in words and their definitions. You can then play Flashcard Factory where students get words from the list and have to either write a definition or come up with examples for each word. This is an engaging and meaningful way to revise vocabulary before the test.
Also recommended for Delta M1 tutors – imagine playing with your trainees before they sit their M1 exam!


I hope you found this useful.
I am going to post more about various tech tools I am using in the future so stay tuned!