Friday, 25 April 2014

Digital literacies for EAP students: who's responsible?

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc
As a middle-aged man teaching EAP (English for Academic Purposes) and technology (sometimes) to students half my age I do wonder about the term ‘digital native’ and how it absolves me of a lot of responsibility. My students seem so at ease with computers, smartphones and tablets, it’s difficult to imagine that I could possibly pass on anything useful about technology that they don’t already know. Compare their seeming comfort with my own painful introduction to computers in my mid-twenties and ongoing struggles with them and I feel it would be the most incredible impertinence to try to teach them anything. 

But I know this is an intellectual dodge, and one that most EAP teachers do. Spend a few hours teaching EAP students and it soon becomes clear that they are digital natives only in a very restricted sense of the term. Comfortable does not mean competent. Social Media or Instant Messaging smarts are not digital skills (at least not yet) that will help them with their studies at university. There are definitely digital literacies they possess but very few of them are academic digital literacies.

photo credit: rosefirerising via photopin cc
My students need digital skills such as how to search effectively using Google Scholar or academic databases. The ability to evaluate digital resources for credibility and trustworthiness. How to write effective emails to communicate clearly and unambiguously with their professors and tutors. Use referencing and plagiarism software properly to ensure that the writing is suitably sourced and referenced. Organise Powerpoint slides so that they support but don’t overwhelm the spoken aspects of their presentation.

And yet most of my students struggle to do these things. I know this as I see it every day with mine and other teachers’ students at our centre, and many of my former students who’ve gone on to study at university in the UK often contact me asking for help with them.

Is it just a language issue? They have the skill but just can’t do it in English. Possibly, but they’re perfectly able to navigate technology in English in other contexts such as smartphones and websites when they want to send messages or book tickets. It’s rarely the case that they are linguistically deficient. Or is it an access issue? Maybe they just haven’t had access to technology and lack practical experience. Again, possible but unlikely. I’ve never got the sense from speaking to students that they haven’t had access to computers/internet in their own country.

Again it comes back to that term ‘digital native’ and how it allows institutions and teachers to pass the buck and offload responsibility at every stage of the students’ career. Most of the students coming to our school are planning to start a Masters at university here in the UK and when they go to their departments, their professors assume that we - the English Language Centre - have passed on these key digital skills to them. We on the other hand naturally assume that they learnt many of these digital skills in their home country or doing their undergraduate degree. And I imagine when they were in their home university doing their undergraduate degree, the teachers thought that these digital skills were taught to them when they were at high school. And students just muddle through as best they can, lucky if they have a teacher who knows these things, unlucky if they don’t.

And the painful truth is that it is convenient for us to pass the buck because most of us ourselves don’t possess the digital literacies that students need to acquire. How many of us can really search effectively on Google? Find our way around academic databases? Create a kick-ass Powerpoint presentation? Based on the teachers I’ve talked to and judging by the quality of presentations I’ve seen at a few conferences lately, not very many.

And it’s not something that we should necessarily be embarrassed about - ok, maybe a little, but not as much as we actually are. Think of it in terms of the health professions. Just as GPs have a grasp of a range of illnesses/ailments but not in depth, EAP teachers are expected to have a good working knowledge of a range of subjects: linguistic skills (speaking/writing/listening/reading), academic skills (note-taking, giving presentations), digital skills (search skills, presentation software). But unlike GPs, EAP teachers can’t refer students to someone with more expertise if they reach the limits of their knowledge. They either just admit ignorance or wing it.

But we really should be able to refer them to someone else. Most professions have become more and more specialised with new job titles and roles being created as new skills are needed by people. EAP seems to be the opposite, as new skills are needed by students, teachers are simply expected to take them on board and add them to their current ones. No wonder they feel swamped at times.

photo credit: Gates Foundation via photopin cc
Our centre has taken strides in this area, we have a Director of Technology-Enhanced Learning and there will soon be a Technology Coordinator to assist him in training students AND teachers in using technology. Over the last year, students have had a limited number of digital skills lessons but with the new roles created, that will allow us to increase it to a mandatory five hours per term. Hopefully, this will lift some of the burden off teachers and let them focus on what they are good at, teaching English for Academic Purposes.

I’d be fascinated to hear what other EAP teachers think about this and what the situation is in their place of work. Do you think it’s our responsibility to provide this kind of digital training? Should there be specialist teachers to do this or should EAP teachers learn how to do it themselves? Comments are welcome below.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Critical Thinking Activities for Academic Success: A review of Helen Huntley’s IATEFL workshop

Is there any creature on this earth quite as fearful as a TEFL teacher trying to get one of the few remaining seats at a conference workshop? The answer to that, as I found out recently, is a resounding no.

As a first timer at the IATEFL conference this year, I have realised the great importance of:

1. Choosing your sessions in advance and arriving early

2. Getting enough sustenance (coffee, food…) to last through the day

3. Elbowing your way through a horde of bespectacled savages in order to get one of the last hand-outs at a particularly good workshop.

Not only this, but I also learned a few interesting approaches to the teaching of Critical Thinking Skills thanks to Helen Huntley (Vietnam Director for International Extension Programs, California State University, San Bernardino).

The workshop next to ours had been cancelled, so we were a bit squashed in that little room, with standing room only by the end of it. Despite this, the workshop itself was animated and hands-on, as Helen guided us through some of her activities.

To be honest, I have previously struggled with getting the idea of Critical Thinking across to students from the summer sessions; it seemed that they didn’t always grasp what I meant by evaluating and analysing and using a questioning approach. Helen’s workshop showed me a few ways I might initiate the discussion about Critical Thinking in a different way, by using seemingly simple tasks and examples.

Her hand-out included a number of tasks that demonstrate what Critical Thinking involves on a very basic level. For example, in one task you were given a list of word pairs and you had to explain to a partner which one best describes you: (i.e. Rock or Feather? The present or the future?). As I was doing this with a colleague, we were trying to unravel the meanings behind the words. Did “rock” mean, for example: strong, grounded and dependable, and “feather” mean gentle, etc.? Or did “rock” mean hard-headed and stubborn?

The result was a discussion on what the different words could represent, if you’re describing yourself.

We were also asked to think of as many different uses as possible for an umbrella. Aside from the obvious ones of keeping rain off and using it as a weapon, participants in the workshop came up with more than a dozen uses, many of them quite creative. The point is that it wasn’t a boring activity.

Next, Helen had us look at the different categories from Bloom’s taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation. There were brief explanations of each one, followed by a list of questions and activities, as well as the task of discussing: What critical thinking skills are being targeted in each of the following questions/activities?

Finally, this section of the hand-out was followed by several different activities and instructions to say which of the Critical Thinking Skills were being promoted by the different activities.

I like how she presented us with the activities first, made us think about why we were doing these seemingly too-simple activities, and then had us think more carefully about what skills were actually being activated or targeted.

After discussions with other colleagues at the workshop, we talked about how these activities could be a good starting point with students to help them clearly visualise what we mean when we say “critical thinking skills,” get them to talk about what each of those skills entails, and then scaffold that to more complex activities so that they can also apply these skills to more difficult texts.

It is far easier to show what you mean by analysis and synthesis when you’re talking about concrete objects like light bulbs, feathers, and umbrellas (not to mention a bit more visual and fun).

Claire Basarich

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Final Thoughts on IATEFL 2014

Here are my final impressions of the IATEFL conference in  Harrogate. For me, it was more enjoyable than the one in Liverpool last year, the plenary speakers were more interesting and more engaging, and the programme of sessions more focussed and varied ( at least for me, your mileage may vary).

As a round up, I wanted to highlight a couple of sessions in the last few days that I think deserved wider recognition. I generally find that the big names in ELT deliver quite unadventurous presentations and it’s the lesser known presenters who can really fire the imagination.

As part of the Learning Technologies SIG event on Friday, Nick Turner gave a great session on his attempt to run a language MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). With a suitably laconic style and spartan use of slides (quick rant: teachers really need to learn how to use Powerpoint better) he talked about the process of setting up and running a MOOC for a hundred language students all across the globe. It seemed that the response was similar in terms of uptake and completion rates to MOOCs around the world, where normally only under 10% generally complete the course. I’m not convinced that a MOOC is something that will be massively disruptive to either ELT or education in general. I think the kinds of people who complete them are the kinds of people who are going to learn by themselves anyhow and the kinds of people who drop out of them - and it’s the vast majority - are the kind of people who need teachers to guide and help them. Our jobs are safe for a little longer at least.

The next hidden gem was the session called Write Here,Write Now by Fiona Johnston . This was tucked away on Saturday morning when most people were packing their bags or saying their goodbyes, which is a shame as it deserved a bigger and wider audience. It was a fantastic session focusing on the skills students need to be able to write for social media and instant messaging, particularly the ability to write quickly and in a more relaxed, abbreviated form. . There was a little bit of focussed theory, but then Fiona gave some excellent examples of activities you can do with students to develop these fast writing skills. I particularly liked the idea of the shrinking question where students have to create a question of exactly 12 words and then they have to do answer it in increasingly small numbers of words - twelve, eleven, ten - or as an alternative in increasingly shrinking amount of time. These are exactly the kinds of genre writing skills we need to be addressing with our students as it’s likely that a lot of their interaction in English will be via messaging apps, social networks or online forums/discussions.

I was going to say a few thoughts on Sugata Mitra’s plenary on Saturday morning, but it seems that Hugh Dellar has gone ahead and summed it up far better than I can. I’m not sure I would be quite as scathing as Hugh, but I’m equally sceptical about this idea of Self Organising Learning Environments (SOLEs). It’s a very slick narrative but there are so many questions left unanswered and so read Hugh’s post or this one by Donald Clark raising some objections to Mitra’s experiments.

Just some random thoughts at the end about the conference. Tech support could have been better, I was in several sessions where presenters were having problems with the sound or the network connection and there didn’t seem to be anyone there to help them.

Oh, and fewer workshops and more talks. As a communicative language teacher, I suppose I should be advocating it the other way round, but the time allotted is short and there isn’t enough time to get comfortable with your fellow audience members to make the discussions worthwhile.

I just wanted to say thanks to all the staff at the centre and at IATEFL who made the four days a wonderful experience.

David Read

Friday, 4 April 2014

IATEFL Day Two Reflections: The Spelunky Revolution in ELT EdTech

Do you know the game Spelunky? No? That's okay, it’s quite a popular platform game (think Super Mario) on computers and consoles. I love Spelunky but I'm very, very bad at it. And Spelunky doesn't care. It doesn't reward me with badges when I die, it doesn’t keep saving my progress every few seconds so I can keep getting that bit further, it doesn’t give me gold stars or give me the chance to buy extra powers to progress. I just keep dying and it just keeps dumping me back to the beginning of the game. It’s awesome

Spelunky is part of a new indie scene in gaming that want games to be less about fancy graphics and spurious progression and more about clever gameplay, innovation and real skill. Games like Minecraft and Fez are part of that revolution

I was thinking about this after a couple of sessions yesterday and on Wednesday at IATEFL discussing the future of Edtech in ELT. In the ELTJam presentation, they urged teachers to get involved to avoid these huge companies such as News Corp and Disney appropriating language learning. And there have been rumblings about MOOCs and SOLEs and other acronymised boogeyman doing us all out of a job.

I don't think they will, ultimately. it comes back to Spelunky. Deep down, students and teachers know that language learning is hard, you have to die a lot (well, metaphorically speaking) in ordinary to progress and no amount of badges and whizzy sound effects are going to cover that up. But the tech companies will never be able to admit that, they will never let language learning be as difficult as it actually is when they produce their educational programs. It will soothe and stroke the ego of the learner, let them believe that they are progressing when they are not really….and they when they actually have to use the language, they are going to find out that all those badges and gold stars are worth bupkiss.

By the way, I’m not saying the learning a language should be an unpleasant experience, but it should be a realistic one.

Another reason I don't think these websites and apps will ever replace teachers is that fundamentally they don't understand what language learners want. I've shown my students a lot of these wonderful websites and apps (Voxy, Duolingo, Newsmart etc), we look at them in class, we discuss the pros and cons, and students are normally positive about them. But they almost always end up abandoning them after a couple of days or weeks. Why is that? they're incredibly slick, fun, motivating, yet they are not very ‘sticky’ (a word I’ve heard a few times this week and really like).

I think the reason is that they are - at best - only interactive in the most superficial sense.

And this is what heartens me for the future of teachers in ELT. A few weeks ago in class with my students I did a silly little activity using mobile phones where they had to take close-up pictures of objects around the school and then show them to each other to guess what they were. I thought it would take a few minutes in the end went on for over half an hour. Students was laughing and arguing with each other about what the objects were, huge numbers of words and expressions were coming out as this was happening and I threw them on the board, corrected and shaped them. We looked at speculative language (it might be, it could be) and students were furiously coping it all down. It was one of those glorious moments in class that remind us why we bother teaching in the first place.

Why does this kind of activity using technology engage students in a way that the language learning apps and the language learning websites don't? Because of the interaction. The interaction with each other, and the interaction with a teacher. And the teacher was a crucial component, the teacher managed all the new language that was coming out, reshaping it on the board, making corrections, clarifying, explaining nuance. And then my students go back to Duolingo or Voxy and do a multiple choice activity where they had to choose which of four pictures was a giraffe. How can that compete with the rich, textured engagement and interaction we had during our activity?

It seems that so much of the talk around technology in ELT is about content. How to create content, how to deliver content, how to present content on computers and mobile devices, how to make it adaptive. There’s almost no talk about how to make it interactive.

So don’t worry, we are not about to be unemployed because News Corp and Disney have decided to get into the language learning game. These companies don't get it really. Now, don’t misunderstand me, technology will continue to be an integral part of the classroom and will increasingly become so and teachers really do need to get on board with this stuff,. But there is no Angry Birds for language learning and I’m not really sure there ever will be.

There is no app that will take a sentence a student has produced, put it on the board, correct it, discuss it, explain the nuances of the meaning, shape the pronunciation, and then link it to something personal in the students’ lives.

So let's have our Spelunky revolution in ELT Edtech. Let's make it fun, engaging, but let's not forget that language learning is hard. Language learning involves friction. Let's not let technology sugarcoat the process and let’s think of ways that technology can be integrated which is consistent with these principles about languages and the way they are learned.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

IATEFL 2014: Day One Report

Okay these are my first day thoughts on IATEFL conference. Please note that I got up very early to come yesterday and while I have made some notes on the day the quality of them deteriorated quite badly as we got towards the close of play. So my reflections are a little more focused at the beginning of the day and somewhat less towards the end.

Random thoughts on arrival well, Harrogate - in the words of a friend of mine who I asked about the place - is ‘near Leeds and damn posh’, very accurate description (especially the bit about being near Leeds).

they really love their circular motif at the centre

The conference centre? Confusing. I like the circular walkways down the centre, reminds me a little bit of Minority Report, sadly the technology hasn't quite caught up to that famous film, as usual being able to provide wireless internet to reasonably large group of people seems impossible for conference organisers. And it’s tricky to find session rooms, the conference map seem to be a design of an extraterrestrial ship from Alien 4, very pretty but not massively helpful in locating anything.

David Graddol on English and Economic Development was a risky choice for an opening plenary presentation but a good one. Graddol discussed his research into the future of English particularly focusing on the economic development and how that affects different countries around the world. Lots of intriguing insights. For me the one that blew my mind was this idea that in a lot of countries employers have little or no use for students at roughly intermediate level of English. They generally want employees to have the most basic English to be able to to conduct most basic service interactions, or they need to have a much higher proficient level of English to do high-level jobs. 

Graddol bottom right, graph centre, he did like his graphs

My first real session was on English for Academic Purposes on Short Courses. Richard Hillman showed a variety of ways to make it less tedious and more engaging. He gave lots of practical classroom tips about how to make things like linking phrases and relative clauses the more interesting to students by getting them to relate them to their own situation and their own lives. To me as an EAP teacher there perhaps wasn't huge amounts here but some of the activities I would definitely take back and try my classroom.

Fun consequences activity from Richard Hillman

Loved the next presentation, which was about Project-Based Learning in the ESL classroom by Aysen Gilroy. She is based at a University in the United Arab Emirates and the idea was give students both the academic, linguistic and digital skills they need to cope at university. they have implemented project-based learning by getting students engage in multistage projects using a variety of tools, for example getting them to create commercials through a short movie on a topic of their choosing. It doesn’t sound massively academic, but these projects were heavily guided and the assessment was clear and there was plenty of support for both students and teachers at each stage of the project. At the end the presenter showed uss one example of a students project, this wonderful advert that the students had created for a product they designed. You can see the potential here and this is something I'm going to take back to my own teaching context because I think this is something we need to be doing with our students. It's not enough to just equip them with language skills, they need to know how to integrate both language, digital and academic skills to make it possible to cope at university.

Details of one of the projects on Aysen's course

I went to see How to Publish High-Quality Apps by Jonathan Bygrave, though this is something of a misnomer as the conclusion at the end was that he didn't manage to publish any high-quality apps! Still, it was an entertaining romp through the procedure and the peaks and troughs and the pitfalls of trying to do this.

I was wilting a bit at this stage but still went along to see Nicky Hockly on Mobile Learning. Not much new I hadn’t seen before but as always she gives lots of practical tips for helping integrate mobile learning into the classroom the particular this idea that mobile learning’s not just about ESL/EFL apps, it's about repurposing generic apps to use them in the classroom for example getting students to use their phone’s camera to take pictures and share with each other to personalise their learning and share personal information about each other.

Last session, went to see Chris Baldwin giving a Whirlwind Tour of Technology, notes are pretty sketchy for this one, only ‘no internet’ (for him), ‘tired’ (for me) ‘good ideas’ (for him, I’m assuming, I rarely have any of those). 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Five ways to exploit the classroom as a learning environment

5 way to exploit the classroom as a learning environment

Here at the ELTC, we are fortunate enough to have lessons scheduled in the same classroom each week (or often every day). This gives teachers the opportunity to use the physical space of the classroom as a learning environment to complement the lessons that happen inside. Below are 5 ways teachers at the ELTC exploit their classroom space to maximise learning.

An dull classroom like this is unlikely to inspire students or teachers!

Step 1. Make it an appealing place to be

Making a space where learners want to spend time is the first step to creating a learning conducive classroom.

Tidy up after each class - clear away rubbish, old worksheets and other bits and bobs that get left behind.

  • Store stationery in drawers or in attractive containers to keep the room streamlined.
  • Open the blinds and let in the sunlight.
  • Bring in personal things from home - plants, throws, pictures, etc. to show that effort has been put into making the space attractive.

2. Make it relevant
When learners feel that the classroom is ‘their space’, they are much more likely to invest energy and commitment in what happens there.  If last month’s announcements and posters made by last year’s students are all that learners see on the walls, they are likely to feel that they are simply viewed as visitors to the space, not agents of what happens there. With this in mind:
  • put useful meta-language up on the wall for the day's lesson. This will depend on the level and the topic, but can be useful for guiding learners to practise target language and everyday phrases.
e.g.  How do you say ................ in English?
e.g.  What did you put for number 3?
e.g.  How do you spell .....?

  • If using a coursebook, extra vocabulary and stimulus on that week's topic may provoke conversation between learners, consolidate vocabulary and generate ideas. News stories, realia, photos and key words work well.

We teachers are always reminding our learners that English learning is not confined to  their lesson and that they need to find opportunities to practice outside the classroom. One way to encourage this is to have a place on the wall for notices about social activities that they can attend, e.g. conversation clubs, volunteering opportunities, local cultural events, etc. Here at the University of Sheffield we are spoilt with the wealth of activities on offer at the Students' Union, so information about that is invaluable to our learners.

3. Make it personal

Encouraging learners to bring in photos of their hometowns / families / hobbies, etc. can be a great way of sparking conversation, finding common ground among classmates and contextualising lessons. They can help teachers to get to know their learners better and can be used for context in lessons.
  • Find out what learners are into and source information on local activities that they might be interested in going along to. On a Monday morning, learners can go around the classroom and plan their social calendar for the week.
  • From the very start of term, invite learners to bring in things for the classroom that they think the group will like - events flyers, poems, song lyrics, newspaper articles, expressions overheard on the bus, etc. Having responsibility for finding things to bring along to class encourages learner-autonomy and makes for a more pro-active group.

4. Make it memorable

Classroom walls are a great place to put things that need to be remembered.

  • Exploit visual memory by putting flashcards for the week's vocabulary on the walls. Learners can be reminded to spend a few minutes walking round the room reminding themselves of words and phrases before the lesson begins. This approach can also be used for inductive learning - "There are 15 words on the wall" (in or out of context). "We will need them for next week's speaking activity / test / reading exercise, so make it your business to find out or work out what they mean". Old -school lesson activities such as running dictations, running information gaps and matching activities can be used to good effect using text and pictures on walls.

  • For learners with smartphones, QR codes can be an exciting way for a class to access texts, research a topic or play a game. They can be made easily on QR generating websites and create a buzz in the classroom with their intriguing mystery!
  • Often, my students will say, "I had something to ask you but I can't remember what it was!" Similarly, I often have things that I think of mid-lesson, during a speaking activity, for example, that I want to speak to my learners about but they completely slip my mind by the end of the task. Having a lesson-jotter on the wall is a way of avoiding losing these ideas. Learners can come and note up questions or things they'd like to review, and everything can be dealt with at the end of the lesson.

5. Make it contextual

  • The classroom can complement the content of a lesson - a phonemic chart to demonstrate tongue position for pronunciation; a map of the world to point out a place mentioned in the coursebook; a map of Sheffield to show where the bus station is - all make learning and communication integrated and contextual.

  • Reference sheets for the week / month's language points can encourage learners both to prepare for future lessons and review past items covered, making for more autonomous learners and better retained content.

I hope this blog post has been useful in sparking your imagination for your own classroom. If you have any thoughts on ways of exploiting the classroom space, or ideas within any of the five categories that have worked for you, I'd love to read your comments.

Five warm-up activities for EFL students using technology

Here are a few ideas for warm-up activities using technology. 

1) QR Codes vocabulary quiz

A fun activity you can do with your students is using QR codes to revise vocabulary. If you are not sure what QR codes are, they are those strange barcode like things you see sometimes on adverts or in shop windows which you have to scan with your phone to take you to a website or to give you information about an offer or discount. They are surprisingly easy to create and there are many websites you can visit to create them. 
Here's a QR code. Can you scan it?

What I do with my students is create QR codes that link to particular text and this text can be either words that the students would then have to define or alternatively definitions that the students would then have to think of the word for. These are then scattered around the class for the students to find. It's really no different from from a traditional vocabulary activity but the act of embedding it into QR codes and adding movement makes it so much more motivating.

To create the QR codes you can go to a website like this one. You just click the tab that says 'text', type in the text you want to create a QR code for, click the generate button and the QR code is created. If you then want to download that QR code so you can print it out by clicking on it and choose 'save image as' and it will download to your computer. You are then free to print that out as a picture. My advice would be to insert them into a Word document so you can resize and make them reasonably small, and then it's easy to cut them up and put them around the classroom in various places.

A strategic QR code in the classroom

To set this activity up, get to the class beforehand and just stick these QR codes around the classroom in various places. You can make them hard to reach or very easy to see. Normally I'll organise the students into groups or pairs, one person is the scribe and the other one or two have the job of going round and finding the QR codes and scanning them with their smart phones. They then have to come back to the scribe tell them what's written on the code and they write it down. Once they have found all of them, their job is to either define the word or find the word that is being defined.

Remember that for the students to actually read them the QR codes they do need a QR reader but there are many of these available in the various app stores and it's very likely that many of them will already have them installed on their phone.

2) Geography game

This activity does require students to have a computer in front of them so you would need to be in the computer room or if you've got laptops you can bring these into the classroom. This involves a rather wonderful website called Geoguessr where students are presented with a random Google Street view and they have to make a guess about where it is in the world using contextual clues. This is fabulous for practising speculation language such as 'it might be', 'it could be', 'I think it may be' etc. 

Until recently there was no control over which places students were shown on the website, but a new website connected to this has been developed, Geosettr, that allows teachers to actually specify five places that students are going to see. This is great because you can make it more competitive as all students in the class are going to be seeing the same five places. It also means you can avoid them being shown just random pieces of scenery which give no contextual clues as to where the places are and you can find places where there's lots of writing on walls and roadsigns that will help them guess.

3) Close-up pictures

Another activity which is great for speculative language is by showing them some very close-up pictures you took with your smart phone. This can be done very quickly by going into your staffroom or looking around your desk and taking very, very close-up pictures of different objects, showing them to the students and trying to get them to guess what they are. 

This is one of the pics I showed. What is it?
You can display these pictures on the class projector in your our classroom or you can send them to the students if they have mobile phones with Internet connection and they can access them through email or a class VLE. 

A follow-up to this, assuming you have the time, is that you can get the students to do this themselves. They can go for a few minutes around the school with a partner and take some pictures of things close up and then show them to the other members of the group. Alternatively, they could do this before they come to class and send them to the class VLE.

4) Word clouds

An engaging way to revise a text and the accompanying vocabulary that you have recently looked at in class is to create a word cloud and then getting students to look at the word cloud to try to reconstruct the text. These word clouds generally emphasise keywords and will make words that appear more frequently bigger. This helps students because they were able to identify repeating ideas or common themes in the text and this helps them to reconstruct it. 

To create a word cloud, you can go to popular websites such as Wordle or Tagxedo. This can be printed out from the website or you can just show on the board.

5) Online Quizzes

students can take the quiz on their phones

A quick online quiz can be a great way to start a lesson and there are loads of websites out there for creating them. The one I tend to use most is Socrative simply because it's so easy to use both for the teachers and the students. The teacher does have to register to make a quiz but it's a fairly painless procedure. You can build multiple-choice or short answer quizzes, and these can easily be made available to the students by them going to a particular webpage on either a computer or their mobile phone (there is also a mobile app) and just typing in a room number that the teacher assigns. 

They can then take the quiz and get instant feedback on their answers. As a teacher you can display the progress of the students on the board and you can control whether the students go at their own pace or a pace you decide. Again this is quite nice the checking recent vocabulary Grammar or anything else you want to revise or recycle from your lessons.