Technological Innovation for English Teachers in Chile

Technological Innovation for English Teachers in Chile

Globalízate – EF Seminar of technological innovation for English teachers introduces methods to animate Chilean students to absorb what is being taught and enhance their learning via digital means.

SANTIAGO — November 23, EF (Education First) an organization that deals with various sectors such as cultural student exchanges, English language schools and undergraduate and masters programs abroad, focused on the methods and techniques English teachers could use in their classroom to create a more appealing learning environment for students.

A vibrant and passionate orator, David Bish, Director of Academic Management EF, brought to light the importance of technological tools in class to aid in English language acquisition; demonstrating the simple yet effective methods the incorporation of a cell phone or tablet can give students. Having worked for more than 20 years in this field as a teacher, principal and teacher trainer, his ideas on maximizing student learning were sound and captivating for the audience of eager Chilean English teachers.

Chile currently has a low level of English and the students in schools seem to be bored with the English curriculum – this is where the adaptation of the classroom setting should emerge with the use of technology in the class environment. The need to animate students in these classes is essential in the progression of language acquisition and Bish highlighted the fact that this does not mean that books should be thrown away with the introduction of technology, but rather “we blend them” for the best result.

Perhaps students do not own a tablet, but most do own a cell phone that has internet access. “BYOD – bring your own device, ” stated Bish. This is all that is needed to partake in the various technological “apps” which will encourage students to persevere with the language and as an added bonus, they are cheaper than computers, therefore the school does not have to financially support these devices.

“Language emerges from conversation,” commented Bish. He continued by asking the audience to simply show an image on their cell phone to the person beside them. Suddenly the room was filled with conversation between strangers pointing out family members and holiday destinations. “You see how it gets you talking,” Bish commented, the social situation escalates and language production becomes the focus. Another simple method Bish introduced is the use of text messaging saying that teachers could “get students to make a deliberate error and their partner then has to correct it.” Essentially it is more interesting than plain writing for students, especially if they are permitted to use their cell phone in class. Perhaps this could introduce a distraction, but according to Bish, ”I know technology can work very well in a classroom space when the teacher has control.”

With each method of language learning demonstrated to the audience, the more the need for technology in class became clear. According to Bish, a statement written by an institute in California that looked at the future of language learning commented, ”there is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities and training institutions.” Cell phones may be perceived as an informal way of learning, however, the benefits that students can reap from a tool such as this are endless – not only does it engross students in their learning but ”it gives them tools to explore language” states Bish.

To improve student results Bish commented that the need to video them whilst they are completing activities is necessary. This essentially shows them what they have done and allows them to improve the task for the next time. Audio or video recordings in class help raise students awareness of what they are actually learning and a slight change to the generic book fill-the-gap exercises.

To name a few different activities for students, Bish mentioned the “Information Gap Concept” using Google street view, “What is it” and the “Crazy English” method.

Using Google street view, students can choose any destination they wish and simply move to another. At the end they must describe the surroundings they see to their partner. Or as a variation the student can” walk home” from school or to a friend´s house using the same method and describe what is seen at the destination. This basic game brings outside context into the classroom that could not be achieved with printed materials and adds that little bit of extra spice to the English lesson.

“What is it” involves the videoing of an object close up, showing it to another group which is then followed by a discussion in English as to what it could be.

In teaching, it is all about giving the students the ownership and “about getting them to think about language,” stated Bish. The idea is to always include activities that excite them about learning English and drive them to continue with their learning. Homework is another point that needs to be included as outside of the class, students do not have the desire to practice language. Bish commented, “you need to have it work for you – something authentic. I get students to watch videos and then comment because other students can then join the comments, and they are talking about things that interest them.”

Towards the end, the “Crazy English” method, the most basic of them all, adds yet another dimension to language acquisition. First brought into action in Chinese classes to encourage the quiet and structured students to get over the fear of speaking, the idea introduced was to shout out the last sentence they had learned in English regardless of where they were. Perhaps in an environment such as China it was acceptable to follow this method, but as one teacher of the audience joked in response to this activity, ” In Chile this would not be such a good idea – in a mall you could get arrested.”

Perhaps this method should be reconsidered on some occasions as mentioned, but one thing is certain, that there is a necessity for students in Chile to take hold of English and learn it via methods of their own interest and those which are out of the ordinary.

A boost in the development of English language classes in Chile is just on the horizon, and with a more student focused class environment, the use of technological methods could be just the way to kick-start these changes.

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