India Wirt, 128 TCCS
Many of you may see this title and instantly decide that it’s not for you. Maybe your school is lacking in resources, maybe you don’t see yourself as “tech savvy”, or maybe your counterpart is as “good at” computers as your great aunt. Well, I’m here to tell you that although all of these things may be true, you can still do it!
But India, why?!
Oh, I’ll tell you why! The other day I read an article about the sad state of Thailand’s education due, for the most part, to the rote memorization techniques used in schools. This is impacting Thailand’s growth and place as a leader in South East Asia. In today’s economy, technological literacy is about as important as education in becoming a leader, but again Thailand is falling behind. As education and youth development volunteers, we are in a position to directly affect both of these problems. Integrating technology into your classroom can help your students learn English, and give them the introduction to technology they might not otherwise have. By encouraging their technological skills students might even find something new that they are good at. This could open new doors for students who might not have many doors to choose from in the first place.
Are you still not convinced? Well here’s my favorite reason: your school might not have many resources, but what better way to save money and time than use technology? Using a computer, phone or tablet cuts down on time and money by removing the necessity of physical materials. There are so many digital materials already out there for your use, and I am here to guide you through them.
I REALLY don’t have much to work with here!
That’s okay! You don’t need a lot. Sometimes less is even better. Many of my fellow teachers back in the states have so much technology in their classrooms that they have gone completely paperless. While this might sound great for the environment, we get so caught up in the technology that we start losing some of those tried and true teaching methods. All you really need is one computer, a TV, a cord to hook them together, and preferably WIFI. If you have these few things, you have the entire digital world to use as a resource in your classroom.
Okay, where are these tips?
Let’s say that you really do only have those few things mentioned above. How do you make it beneficial to your students? POWERPOINTS. Ha, just kidding.
In order for the technology to be beneficial to your students, they should be the ones using it. There is a surplus of websites out there dedicated to helping students learn to read, write, speak, and listen. Many of those websites have interactive games that your students can play. While you might not have a laptop cart for each student to play individually, you can play the game as a class and let students come up and take turns playing as the other students watch on the TV screen. This allows those confident students to take a risk and play while the others watch and gain confidence.
While many websites have pre-made interactive games, there are some that require you to make the game yourself using the information you are teaching (think jeopardy). While that might sound intimidating, I have provided a few gems that are extremely easy to use. On many occasions, I prefer these types of activities because I can modify them to exactly what my students need to learn. They also work extremely well as assessments for your students. While these activities could easily be run by the teacher, I encourage you to let students take turns running the games so that they still have the opportunity to use the technology themselves. At the end of the article, I have provided a list of some of my favorite websites to use in the classroom.
Having students come up and take turns playing a game is obviously not the only way to make this work. Those who use centers in their classroom have found it extremely helpful to use whatever technology resources they may have as a center. If you only have one computer (phone/tablet) you can have students do these activities as a group or in pairs. Technology in centers can be a way for students to hear a native speaker without actually having you there, which speaks to sustainability.
Remember, technology is not always dependable, so make sure you have a backup!
Man, I wish I had more tech resources!
Who’s to say you don’t? I found out just a few months ago that we had a computer lab that’s been locked up for the last year. This only came to light when I announced we were to have a coding camp using only 10 laptops. All of the sudden we had 30 computers! There are similar stories of volunteers who found Smart Boards or document cameras hidden away and not being used. Schools might have the resources, but when people don’t know how to use them and don’t try to learn, they aren’t put to use. So ASK QUESTIONS. I can’t say it enough!
Apparently, there are schools out there with tablets for the students and computer teachers who have computer labs. We live in the age of technology, many of your students may have smart phones. Figure out if they are allowed to bring them to school. If they are, have them use them for educational purposes. At the beginning of the school year, my director met with the students’ parents and asked them to let their children bring their phones to school so that teachers could use them for in class activities. To me, this is a perfect example of schools catering to the changes and demands of today.
I get it! BUT is it sustainable?
Would I be preaching about it if it weren’t? You are the only one who knows your counterpart. You know what might work for them and what probably won’t. But you can still try! I’m not saying force technology on them because not everyone is going to like it, but you can make it easy for them!
Start using it now. The longer they see it and use it with you there as a guide, the more comfortable they will be once you leave. This goes for what online resources you are using as well as how you are using it. If you are only using it as a group activity, that is how your counterpart will see it. So mix it up!
Make it easy to understand! Below I have attached a list and description of a few educational websites. The ones I picked, were picked for a reason. The websites are clean and easy to navigate. There are many ESL websites, but for some reason, they are cluttered and not easy to use. Those will be more trouble than they are worth.
Don’t leave your counterpart empty-handed. You might remember the websites you use, but your counterpart might not. Make sure that they have a way to access these sites after you leave. Give them a list, bookmark them on their laptop, or send them an email with the links. Just make sure they have them.
While it might not seem easy to integrate technology into your classroom, all it takes is a little creativity and a few good resources. Take some time to reflect on what methods would work for your students and counterparts best. In the meantime, here is a list of my favorite educational websites to use in the classroom!
Premade Activity Websites
ABCYA.com – My students love this site because the games are kid friendly and easy to use. Last week, we spent a day with P3 just playing phonics games on here because they were having such a blast!
Starfall.com – A staple learning to read website. This website teaches students to sound out words and recognize sight words with interactive books.
Cookie.com – Great educational website with a killer ESL section for beginner to intermediate levels.
ESL.Brainpop.com – BrainPOP is a popular educational site in America. I recently discovered that it is a dedicated ESL site. This is definitely more advanced so I would recommend its use for working with older students or adult learners.
Getepic.com – As long as you have an .edu email, you can sign up as a teacher for free. This is a FABULOUS site for books. There are so many ways to use it. Whether you read them to your class, students read them alone, or they read along with the computer, they’ll love it!
Create Your Own Activities
Factile.com – With a super sleek and ridiculously easy to use interface, this jeopardy game is the best I’ve ever used. Make your own game in under 10 minutes and students will have a blast.
Kahoot.it – Just like the game above, Kahoot is easy to use, very clean, and fun! The difference is that students can use their phones or another computer to answer alone or in a group. If these are not available, you can play with a digital phone as pictured.
Quizlet.com – Again, easy to make, easy to use, and the kids love it! A shameless Curriculum Team shout out, we’ve made Quizlet sets for phonics, and are working on finishing up all the levels. My students love playing the study games! I even used the “test” activity on here as their midterm assessment!