Christopher Pinkos, TCCS 129 & PCT T4D Committee Member
“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” – Bill Gates
During these last few years we’ve seen some substantial changes with technology, especially with the creation of new APPs that can help with teaching and communication. Some of these changes are good and relevant to improving students’ learning and experience in the classroom. When used correctly, technology can be a really good tool. In order to help teachers get more familiar with these tools, there have been a number of conferences and trainings to help interested teachers be more creative in the classroom. These types of conferences and trainings are essential to improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teaching and creativity, because they are a good place to network and share ideas of what works and what doesn’t. Participants can then take what they like and apply it themselves somewhere like a classroom or community center. Teachers like these tools, because students can learn in different, previously unimagined ways while being more resourceful. Some of the information that was presented in these conferences and trainings can be relevant in the English classroom, as well.
I was able to attend one such conference last November with Valerie Albicker and Romil Pineda, and the tool the hosts of the conference recommended was the Professional Learning Community (PLC). A PLC is where teachers – usually from the same area – come together to form working groups to do practice-based professional development by sharing ideas of what works or what needs to be improved upon. From PLCs you get better teachers because of this exchanging of ideas. Teachers that attend PLCs can take what they like and apply it in their own schools, thus providing a better learning environment for the students. Other teachers know it works, because it has been used in a previous classroom before. At the conference, several of the speakers emphasized what Bill Gates said above, as well. (A good APP that can help with building a PLC is Teach Learn Lead.)
At the conference I also learned that there are many APPs that can make your classroom more interactive. One of these APPs is Kahoot. Kahoot helps you develop a game: all you have to do is put in your questions from your lesson, and Kahoot will do the rest. This saves teachers a lot of time and effort. There are several other APPs that teachers can use. Some of these APPs include Remind, Classtree, and Epic. Since these APPs are mostly in English, it is a good way for our counterparts and students to get more exposure to English. The best thing to do is just play around with what’s out on the App Store or Google Play Store, because you never know what could be useful. These APPs can help make being a teacher easier.
Even my counterpart, Arnupaap (Paap) Pichetchaiyakul finds technology to be a good tool. When Paap uses technology for his P6 class he likes to use an APP called EchoEnglish, which can only be found on the Google Play store (because it’s only compatible with Android devices).
The APP is free and is specifically designed for beginner and immediate learners of English, so it is good for Paap’s students, because he teaches grades P4 to P6. He uses EchoEnglish as a tool to get the kids working together and to motivate them. In order to use this APP in the classroom, Paap has to pair his phone to the TV. After he pairs his phone, he is able to use the APP as a tool by having the students follow what’s on the screen. With EchoEnglish and Paap’s good understanding of technology, he is a good addition to any PLC.
Whenever you want to use an APP, you need to check if it’s compatible for iOS, Andriod, or both. Most APPs nowadays are compatible for both iOS and Andriod, but sometimes an APP comes out, and it’s only compatible on iOS or Android. When this happens, only a certain number of people can use the APP. Sometimes this can make your work complicated, because you’ll need to rely on another person if you want to use a specific APP. (If you formed a working relationship with that person, then you can get away with working together.)
It is not difficult to include technology in the classroom, but the technology you are thinking to use has to be relevant to what you want to do. You can successfully do this by networking with other teachers and an excellent place to do this is at a PLC.