A Classroom for the Digital Age

By Donna Hutchinson
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

A Classroom for the Digital Age

By svonog (http://flickr.com/photos/svonog/432774995/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is no doubt about it, the digital age is well and truly upon us. Everything is turning electronic and I’m very much a part of it. I love my Blackberry, my Mac Book and of course Google and Facebook are a big part of my life. So, what does this mean for the classroom? From my experience it means students with at least one phone and a laptop and/or tablet.  Yet, the thing that I find more important than relentlessly telling students to put their phones away, is the place of digital media for teachers and the classroom.

On my CELTA course at International House all the classrooms had IWBs (Interactive Whiteboards) and we had to learn how to use them. We didn’t have to use them for all our lessons, but for the most part, we did, especially for lead-ins. The simple ability of being able to display images on a screen can really get a lesson going. Of course, this can also be done with a projector so nothing spectacular there. The same goes for Power Points; there’s no actual interaction so are they really necessary?

However, so far, I have found IWBs to be most helpful for two things. First, for closed exercises such as gap-fills or matching task. To be able to display the exercise on screen and use the interactive markers to fill in the blanks or, even better, have the students fill in the blanks, I have found to be very effective and functional. With this in mind, I hope to see textbook teams take this into account and provide accompanying CDs with the books to be used on IWBs. At the moment, I scan in or re-type exercises, which can take up a lot of time. Of course, the CD could go much further than that which, pleasingly, links us to my second point. There is a web page provided by the British Council (though others are available), which displays an interactive phonemic chart keyboard. By pressing the different symbols, it plays each phoneme and provides and example of this sound within different words. Using this on an IWB is incredibly practical and from my point of view, could be taken much further in terms of use within textbooks. Double-clicking on a word within a text to show a definition and pronunciation for the whole class would be something that I would love to see, and perhaps would bring students’ eyes up from their personal translators. It would show what that word or phrase meant in context, something that online translators fail to do.

These are just two ideas off the top of my head based on my current experience, but I’ve no doubt that it could be taken to much greater possibilities. Students today live in a digital world, surely it’s time the classroom caught up?

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