The digital revolution and ubiquity of networked mobile devices has changed the face of education. Technology-enabled classrooms are common, and the number of fully virtual schools is increasing. In developed countries, the use of blended learning methods is becoming the norm at the middle school/high school level and is rapidly spreading into the K-6 realm.
Educators involved in teaching English as a foreign language have also been swept up in the technological advance. In fact, the language education field has arguably been a hot-bed of development when it comes to technology-enhanced teaching and learning. All of the major ESL/EFL publishers and many new companies are producing a huge range of digital materials and study tools that cover every aspect of language teaching and learning.
Fortunately, the sweeping effects of this revolution have resulted in many resources and tools that are readily accessible to the home-based English teacher and free or inexpensive to use. Here is my outline of a digitally mediated language teaching strategy you can easily deploy from your own kitchen table.
Adopt Hybrid Instructional Strategies
Teaching from home actually brings some advantages when it comes to technology-supported teaching & learning. As long as you have dependable high-speed home Internet service, you are better positioned than many teachers in large institutions across the world.
Now adopt an instructional mindset that incorporates the blended learning paradigm: A combination of face-to-face teacher-led instruction and self-paced online learning. Sometimes referred to as hybrid education, the Online Learning Consortium defines blended courses as those that “integrate online with traditional face-to-face class activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner.”
Blended learning extends opportunities for study beyond the class period, opens up access to a rich resource inventory, and allows students to participate in the control of their individual learning time, space, and pace.
Employ a Digital Platform
Virtual and blended education is delivered via various sorts of learning management system (LMS). The use of these online platforms is now widespread in both education and corporate contexts. An LMS affords teachers a ready-made website and cloud storage space to use in digitally mediated interactions with students.
An LMS lets you provide students with materials and media as well as links to other online resources. It is home base for the virtual portion of your blended course. There are several choices for a free, easy-to-use LMS. Schoology and Edmodo, two simple LMS systems aimed at K-12 teachers, are appropriate options for the home-based English teaching program.
Collect and Leverage Online Tools
The Internet provides an inexhaustible wealth of general multi-media content that can be adopted for various instructional purposes. There is also a huge supply of free, purpose made TEFL teaching websites and materials, including many interactive study activities, games, quizzes and so on.
These basics are in addition to a constantly growing number of stand-alone programs and apps designed for use in learning specific language skills. You will find plenty of tools to support grammar & vocabulary study and even speaking & listening. Ask your students and don’t be surprised if many already have their favorite study applications installed on their smart phones and tablets.
Online tools for teaching English as a second language are so numerous and proliferative that it is pointless to attempt a listing in this brief article. Instead, enjoy the fun of developing your own collection. Remember to gather URLs both for personal use and to create a resource page on your learning management system. I will just offer a few foundational items here; tools that have proven very beneficial in my own classrooms over the years:
- Khan Academy – A great source of online tools, materials, and courses.
- Online Dictionaries – Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online, Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary
- Learning Activity & Quiz Builders – Quizlet, Quia, ESL Games Plus, ESL Games World, ESLvideo.com,
Innovate to Engage
Everyone knows that young people today relate to the world through their mobile devices. Whether this is positive or negative is a matter of debate. I know one practical things as a teacher – If my students are going to have a screen in their faces all of the time, I am going to be on that screen at least part of the time.
Your students are likely already leveraging online resources in support of their English learning. Stay relevant and increase engagement by extending your teaching to the online space. It’s a creative, fun, interesting, and productive way to take your home English teaching program to the next level.
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