by Donna Hutchinson
London based TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara
It drives me CRAZY when students use their phone in class. My blood boils at the sight of a student using their phone when I’m talking or giving instructions. Don’t even get me started on how I feel if I have to repeat said instructions. I mean, I usually don’t mind them using dictionary apps to translate though I’d rather they use a real-life dictionary. Other issues I have confronted with phones are having to stop students taking photographs of running dictations; Googling the answers to a general knowledge quiz; or just plain answering a phone call in the middle of a lesson. I honestly feel that I am not exaggerating when I say that it is the bane of my existence. …Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit but let me have this one.
Can phones be useful in class?
However, most recently, I encountered a moment when phones were most useful in the classroom and my allowing students to actually use their phones for a task proved rather successful. Our topic for the week has been ‘The Past’ and this particular task required students to reminisce about their past. Despite being provided with examples in the previous listening task, I still felt that they needed some extra guidance so I did the unthinkable; I willingly brought in the phones. It was as if night was day and day was night; a teacher asking students to use their phones! I assumed that all my students had camera phones and so asked them to choose a photo on their phone which means something to them with regards to happy memories and in groups they were to show each other these photos and talk about them.
It worked like a dream! As I monitored, I could hear them using the target language and asking each other all sorts of questions. As an extra bonus, they are a relatively new class who have only known each other for a few days so it was a great way for everyone to get to know a little bit more about each other. And rather than looking like scared lambs as I monitored their groups, they invited me in to look at their pictures.
Then it linked gloriously into a writing task. I asked them to write about the photo they had been describing; when and where it was taken, how they felt at the time and how they feel about it now. I’ll tell you now, for those last 15 minutes when they were writing, there wasn’t a phone in sight. Hallelujah!
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