In an interview for a post with the British Council, I was asked about how I used technology in the classroom. My response was quite simple: I don’t. Or rather, I didn’t. At the time I had believed technology did nothing but present difficulties for a teacher. Since then, my opinion has moved 180 degrees in the opposite direction – I’ve embraced the technological ELT classroom.
First of all, let me explain why I was so against technology, initially. During my CELTA course, a number of my fellow trainee teachers made use of projectors for their PowerPoints when presenting language. I never did. I stuck to the paper-heavy version of language presenting. The main reason for that was the perceived additional effort to produce PowerPoints. However, a couple of days into the course an additional reason cropped up: unreliability. I had to bear witness to one teacher’s lesson fall completely apart as the power failed on the projector half way through his lesson. Being so inexperienced and quite nervous, as he was being assessed, he didn’t know how to go on and the lesson came to quite a messy end. And he failed that assessment.
At IH Torun (Poland) we have a number of Mimio interactive whiteboard systems. You can find out more details about this system and other Mimio products by watching this YouTube video:
However, in short Mimio is a tool which you attach to your regular whiteboard to turn it into an interactive whiteboard. Earlier this week with my teens, I delivered my first lesson designed completely around the Mimio technology and software.
For homework, I asked my teens to do a bit go self-discovery: to find out the meaning and use of ‘used to’ and ‘get used to’.
To begin the lesson, we revised the vocabulary from the previous lesson. All the lexical items consisted of at least two parts: start over, get on, maintain a connection. In the past, I would have either produced a worksheet or put the parts of the words on the whiteboard and got the learners to connect them. This time, I placed them, electronically, in two columns in my Mimio presentation and used the Mimio pen to drag the parts together as the learners instructed me.
This sort of thing is very simple and nothing too special technologically speaking, yet it brings a whole new dimension to the visuality of teaching.
After that, I showed a number of pictures (again, through Mimio) to my learners to elicit key phrases of the first part of the song “Somebody I used to know” by Gotye. Using this vocabulary and a built-in link in my Mimio lesson, I got my teens to listen to the first part of the song a couple of times and slowly build it up – something between a dictation and a dictogloss.
They really struggled to get down some of the lyrics of the song which I hadn’t already provided. Gotye articulates in a very natural way and because of that some sounds in words are removed, altered slightly or sounds are even added.
This sort of listening is called “bottom-up” and it’s less concerned with the meaning of what is being said, rather more with the sounds being produced.
So, the next part of the Mimio lesson saw me bring up the chorus of the song with some gapped parts. Unlike in top-down listening, the gapped parts weren’t any new lexical items but rather simple words and phrases they already knew. The main aim of the lesson was to introduce the schwa sound and show where it across in very common phrases my learners use on a daily basis, for example: needn’t, have to, etc
What came next is the bit I particularly cherished thanks to technology: I used the Mimio pen to fill in the gaps, without it having any effect on the presentation itself, i.e. if I reuse the presentation again in the future, my filling in the gaps won’t have been saved, unlike on a regular whiteboard or paper: