Great Accomplishments in TESOL

We have found that the best way to find out key information is to ask an expert. So here are the top seven technological and other innovations in English language teaching (ELT) Chia Suan Chong’s personal network think have had the biggest impact on teaching. Chia Suan Chong is an EFL teacher trainer based in York.

1. Digital Platforms

When we talk about innovation, we often immediately think of the internet and what we can now do online. Facebook and especially Edmodo, which creates a safe online environment for teachers, students and parents to connect, are very popular with teachers.

Cloud-based tools like Google Docs have also become indispensable in recent years. For teacher Tyson Seburn, it’s where he’s “moved so much of individual and collaborative writing with students...'

The list of digital platforms is extensive and growing faster all the time: a multimedia manual like Digital Video by Nik Peachey (nominated for an ELTons award for innovations in teacher resources), for example, can help teachers navigate the complicated, and sometimes overwhelming, world of digital resources, enabling teachers to create activities, lessons and courses from a range of digital tools.

2. Online Corpora

The use of corpora, which are large text collections used for studying linguistic structures, frequencies, etc., used to be the privilege of lexicographers alone.

But with most corpora now available online, and quite a few for free, teachers now have access to information about the way language is used in authentic texts and speech at the tip of their fingers.

Teachers no longer have to panic when students ask them about the difference between ‘trouble’ and ‘problem’, and it's not just teachers who benefit! To find out if more people say ‘sleepwalked’ or ‘sleptwalk’ (for example), students can simply search Google.

3. Online CPD and the Global Staffroom

The advent of the internet and the growth of social media have certainly allowed English teachers from all over the world to form online communities that act like a huge global staffroom.

Twitter and ELT blogging, for example, have opened up a network of people who can offer advice, support and ideas. Participants who are generous with their time, ideas, and contacts find they receive much in return, spreading the love and benefit right across the world.

4. Mobile learning and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

The development of mobile technology and the proliferation of smart phones have enabled many of us to access the internet and a huge variety of apps wherever we are.

Learners also benefit from apps like WIBBU English: The Game, and podcasts like Luke’s English Podcast “Learn British English with Luke Thompson”. And teachers are able to build on their teaching knowledge and skills by listening to award-winning podcasts like The TEFL Commute or join 50,000 teachers from more than 200 countries and watch webinars or archived videos of talks by TEFL teachers on EFL Talks.

The attitude now is that if teachers and students are gaining so much from their mobile devices, why ban them from classrooms?! It seems that getting students to bring their own devices to class is actually becoming a game-changer in ELT practice.

For teacher Ceri Jones, tools like WhatsApp and Padlet help build channels of communication beyond the classroom. They have a record of the resources we've used to check back on after class.

5. Online authentic materials

One of the biggest benefits of the internet for language learners is the sudden widespread availability of quality, authentic resources.

As David Deubelbeiss points out, this enables teachers to use 'content with messages students want to hear from the daily news, watch trending videos on YouTube, read the latest tips on TripAdvisor… the possibilities are endless.

But with so much content available to us, choosing the right online materials is crucial for efficient and effective learning, too: Keynote by National Geographic Learning makes use of TED talks to develop a pedagogically sound approach to language learning, while Language Learning with Digital Video (Cambridge University Press) looks at how teachers can use online documentaries and YouTube videos to create effective lessons. Both resources were nominated for ELTons awards.

6. The IWB (Interactive White Board)

The IWB started appearing in classrooms in the early parts of this century and has now become a staple of many classrooms around the world. It allows you to save and print notes written on the board, control the classroom computer from the whiteboard, play listening activities on the sound system, use the screen as a slide for presentations, access the internet, and lots more.

But the addition of an IWB to a classroom does not automatically make for a better learning experience: unless teachers use them skilfully to complement teaching and learning, they are little more than a distraction.

As David Dodgson explains, some people 'love the shiny stuff', believing that simply standing in front of an IWB is effective integration of education technology! And, of course, it's not.

7. Dogme (or materials-light teaching)

For teachers like Matthew Noble, discovering the Dogme approach to language teaching was 'galvanizing': a communicative approach that eschews published textbooks in favor of conversational communication between learners and teacher, Dogme signals a departure from a one-size-fits-all approach to classroom materials.

For many teachers, this 'unplugged' approach represents a new way of looking at the lesson content. It’s also a chance to break free from self-contained language points and give more time to student-generated language.

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