Is Technology a Must in ESL Classes Nowadays?

I have seen it, I have lived it. Being a student since 1999, I lived the more traditional and paper-axed teaching, but I also had the chance to live the technologies immersion into classroom when I was older. I also had the chance to see students using iPads in class, as well as smartboards during my practicum. More than ever, technology is a self-standing part in teaching. However, is it essential and worth the investment, or are they as good as more traditional teaching?

While most parents are struggling to get their children off the screens where they spend most of their time offs, students are subject to stare at screens for entire days in their classrooms. However, we have to admit that childrens’ reality is not the one of their parents; and technology defines many of the changes. As classrooms had barely evolved in ages, it is now tending to change with the arrival of all the interactive tools related to technologies teachers can get access to. Well used technology can, indeed, be a great way to catch the attention of students. They are more likely to listen when there is an interactive visual support than to a simple teacher lecture. Children nowadays were born with technologies in their hands, and adapting to their lifestyles in classroom is just a good way to keep them attentive on school benches. I have seen it, and I can say that a classroom with great usage of technology is far more interesting for students. If students can access some contents online on a platform and can interact with the content, the technology will then have a positive impact. Some people, like Cindy Matthews, thinks technology is a must in today’s classes. She supports that technology is a great tool for learning and is more than only computers. It is all the environment suitable for learning it creates. For instance, it is much more interesting for a student to listen to a teacher while he uses PowerPoint slides. She also thinks that it is interesting for students to be able to print notes before writing them down rather than having to focus on writing them instead of actually acquiring knowledge.

Technology, however, has to be used properly. If the only way it is used in the classroom is by writing on a smartboard, there may not be many difference to a regular classroom. But, if the teacher gives interesting tools and immerses the students into a new kind of experience, which does not feel like teaching, students may feel more cooperative. I strongly believe that English is learned by getting involved into it rather than listening to a lecture. The more you speak it, the more you feel at ease. On the downside, sometimes, technology is seen as a solitary tool. Everyone staring at their screen, with not much interaction. This is where all the importance of using well technology comes in. There are plenty of activities that can be fun and interactive, but there is also place for students discussions as much as possible. Keep their eyes off the screens sometimes, and please do not only evaluate their communicative competence recorded on a software, where the student speaks only to a machine. Samantha Cleaver says that in order to incorporate technology, it requires a double innovation from the teacher. It sometimes take more time to set up workshops or lessons, but she says that it is worth it. It makes the students much more involved and makes the learning process a lot faster. That way, students can spend more time on learning more stuff. On the other hand, teachers have to be more aware because of the possible distractions related to technology.
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The debate of the essentiality of technology in classrooms also brings another important debate: Does the student has to adapt himself to the teaching system rather than the teaching system that has to adapt to students. In my opinion, in order for students to get better results and get higher grades, teaching systems have to fit their lifestyles. Of course, it would be aberrant to say it is essential, as it had never been before. However, implanting it really does give a new life to school and enhances the students’ interest.

As an ESL teacher, technology can be a great way to enhance the participation and interest of students in the classroom. The more interacting the class is, the more students will be eager to participate. I would definitely use applications such as ChallengeU to post my homework and make students work on the computer. As a student, I already felt very demotivated to work on paper and I feel like it is very encouraging to work on the computer. On the other hand, it can be somehow distracting; but at this point, students need to build a discipline and resist the desire of doing something else while they are doing their homework. Moreover, I think that building some interactive activities on the smartboard really give the desire to participate to some students. In addition, I feel like short or long-term project should be oriented toward technology. For example, I think it would be interesting for them to record themselves on applications like Audacity to gauge their speaking. I would make my students record themselves in group conversations. In the end, many apps are good for supporting learning, especially for ESL learning.

If you choose to take advantage of technology, don’t forget the importance of the social aspect when it comes to language learning; use it as much as you can, but use it well. Try to get your students speaking as much as possible!

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Class Dojo: Tested and Reviewed!

Looking for a way to get children into English? Class Dojo guarantees to build a strong ClassDojo-Iconrelationship and to facilitates communication between students, parents and teachers. Being used by more than 35 million people throughout the world, Class Dojo has already had a tremendous impact on many school systems. Still wondering about all the good sides, and maybe some of the bad sides of this free classroom management website? Step right this way!

Historical background

There really are few Information about Class Dojo on their website. The only Information about the application available is that it was created in San Francisco few years ago.

Class Dojo, basically

As I mentioned earlier, the goal of the application is to facilitate the communication between students, parents and teachers; as well as creating a new and interesting learning environment for the students. The way it works is fairly simple. The teacher creates an account on Class Dojo, and then can create a class with a unique password, which students and parents are allowed to join when they get the password. Students, parents and teachers are three different account types, and the students’ accounts are linked to those of their parents.

Once the accounts are created and all linked together in the classroom, students are invited to create a funny, personal monster avatar which are going to be associated with them through all the year. Usually, Class Dojo is constantly displayed on a projector in the classroom, and the teacher can make several interactions with the characters during the class, which are seen by the students. For example, if a student is working well, the teacher can give him a point for good work. Class Dojo works with a point system, students having +1 for any good behaviors, and -1 for any bad ones. These points can be seen by their parents as well, which allow them to be constantly aware of how are their children behaving in class. Also, Class Dojo is available on computers, as well as on smartphones and tablets.

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Why use Class Dojo as an ESL teacher?

People are constantly looking for a way to get children interested to school. While it is mostly a problem in high school, some children already feel bored with school in elementary. With Class Dojo, children get a different feeling of what can be a classroom, and even if they don’t necessarily adopt it at first sights, they surely are going to find a little bit of enjoyment as days go by. Moreover, it really helps children and parents having constant feedbacks. Therefore, it is easier to fix a troublesome behavior. If you want to have some debriefings by teachers around the world who have been using it for several years, simply click here. In an ESL classroom, it is very interesting to use Class Dojo because it encourages students to participate. In addition, it allows to give children responsibilities like taking attendances or verifying homework on the computer. It also encourages output since they will want participation points. It is also a very good tool for those who believe in positive classroom management. Students who have bad behaviour because they need attention will now have attention for doing good things rather than disturbing the class.

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Pros about Class Dojo

  • Allows students to see their marks and homework online
  • Students can receive positive feedback at any time, and their parents can see it
  • Students really do behave better!
  • Teachers can text the parents through the Class Dojo platform
  • Teachers can post Homework online and it is easy for the students to check them
  • Students tend to really enjoy creating their avatars
  • It is free
  • There is a ton of tutorials on their websites
  • There is a demo class if you want to try it out
  • Plenty of useful tools like a timer, a multiple awards function, possibility to write reports, post videos, send instant messages.
  • Plenty of customization possible when it comes to classroom management
  • It is possible to take attendances
  • Plenty of clear tutorials for teachers, parents and students.

Cons about Class Dojo

  • It is only available in English (Except for some basic features, which can be translated)
  • Only fits an elementary classroom. If you really want to use it at high school level, you may end up the year with severe headaches
  • Works poorly when offline

Reviews

On gettingsmart, a mother reviewed Class Dojo pretty positively. She can see the many advantages it offers; principally the feedback loop or communication between the parents, teachers and students. She also think that it allows teachers to gather more information on each individual student; instead of taking mind-notes, teachers can give or take away points right away on Class Dojo. On the same line, instead of stopping the instructions, teachers can take away points to students and it does not penalise other students’ learning. However, she does have a few concerns about Class Dojo. She first criticizes their privacy policy, which are in her opinion a little too vague. Also, she would like to make sure that Class Dojo remains only a tool in the classroom. Yet it offers some powerful features, she would not want her childrens’ teachers to only have Class Dojo as a one and only resort; she would still want to see the praising words and gentle smiles that are sometimes stronger tools than any other ones. On the bottom line, she would definitely see the value of using Class Dojo in her childrens’ classrooms if it was used in a careful and sensitive way that encourages learning.

Ray Schleck, a mathematic teacher, also reviewed Class Dojo. He gave it a rating of 8 out of 10. After trying it, he asked 10 students if it helped them behaving better. 5 of them told that yes, it helped them, and 5 said that it did not change much. However, none told that it encouraged them to misbehave. He tried to use it as a sub teacher and said it was unbelievably easy to record merits and demerits; he gave more in three days than he would give in a month. Schleck also said it was easy to show kids what they earned and that it was a great cold calling tool. He said it is important to use ALL of the features if you want the app to be beneficial. For instance, he forgot to use the attendance feature on the first day; he sometimes called out names of people who were not there. Moreover, little monsters avatar are a little too childish for older students; make sure you don’t use those with them. He also found unfortunate that all “merits” and “demerits” points were worth one point and were not customizable. He would have liked to be able to put, for example, +2 for reading or -2 for being bugging. Also, he would have liked to have the opportunity to share his page management page to sub-teachers instead of having to give away his password. Other than those few points, he had a very positive opinion of Class Dojo.

Conclusion

To conclude, Class Dojo is a wonderful tool to use in elementary school to control behaviour problems as well as to help students with special needs. I highly suggest it to most teachers, since it allows to create a unique link with their students, and mostly with parents. Maybe some day they can adapt the app for an older public and for other foreign languages!

Try it out by clicking here!

Raphaël Beaumont