By Chia Suan Chong

11 June 2018 - 08:07

Woman seated beside book shelf and using mobile phone
'Content-creation tools allow learners to use language creatively, and turn language practice into a fun and engaging activity.' Photo ©

Malcolm Lightbody used under licence and adapted from the original.

What has inspired your teaching and teacher development this year? Chia Suan Chong, who will be blogging from the live-streamed ELTons awards on 18 June 2018, lists her top ten.

Technological innovations are part of education and English language teaching, but not all have staying power. The novelty of some innovations will wear out, and there are growing concerns about privacy and data protection. Only the innovations that come with solid teaching practices will stand the test of time.

Let's see what has changed since I wrote about the top ten innovations that changed English language teaching two years ago. The examples below are some of the finalists of this year’s ELTons awards.

Blended learning

As teachers combine digital media with more traditional forms of teaching, their course materials and resources reflect the trend. The Combined Pre-Sessional Course offered by King’s English Language Centre (King’s College London) combines face-to-face teaching and online lessons. For teachers who want to pepper their everyday teaching with practical online activities, Lindsay Clandfield and Jill Hadfield’s Interaction Online - creative activities for blended learning emphasises the interaction between teachers and learners.

Mobile learning

Online resources are more accessible with a mobile app or a mobile-friendly version. Wordable (Playlingo Ltd. with Cambridge University Press) turns vocabulary-learning into a fun, competitive game you could play with your friends. It has built-in, spaced repetition and active-recall learning to make new words stick.

Essential English (Oxford University Press) uses mobile technology to provide free resources for teachers and students, including flashcards, phrasebooks, lesson plans and activities. Meanwhile, Tri Pro English Website and Mobile Apps helps learners to practise their listening through free, high-quality recordings divided into levels and coupled with comprehension questions.

Gamification

Appealing to football-lovers, LearnMatch (VE Vision Education GmbH) uses training sessions, friendly matches, leagues and cup games to make vocabulary learning fun for young learners. Get Set, Go! Phonics (Oxford University Press) uses chants, songs and games to help develop pre-school children’s phonological awareness.

On an even more immersive scale, Learn Languages with Ruby Rei (Wibbu) plunges the learners into an interactive adventure game. They have to use their language skills to negotiate, collaborate and build friendships in order to escape from a forgotten planet at the edge of the universe. Any learning that takes place is incidental.

Embodied learning

Embodied learning is based on the idea that learning is not just about remembering. It involves using the mind and the body, collaborating, discussing and exploring. Learners need to be emotionally, intellectually, physically and socially engaged.

Courses such as Doodle Town (Macmillan Education) use visual, audio and hands-on activities to stimulate and inspire learning, getting young learners to draw, create, and be inquisitive. Orbit (Richmond) develops the young learners’ socio-emotional and cognitive skills through a language course that follows the story of a ferret and children who go on adventures in multicultural environments.

Inquiry-based learning (or: 'learning in a complex world')

The scenarios that teachers come across in some course materials can seem simplified and unrealistic, leading us to wonder if we are adequately training our learners for real life in the 21st century.

Courses like Fast Track 5 (EF Education First Ltd) and Wider World (Pearson with the BBC) use authentic video and audio content to bring the real world to teenage learners. They encourage teenagers to practise the soft skills and communication skills needed to take part in the global communities of the 21st century. Aimed at the adult learner, Perspectives (National Geographic) uses real-life stories and TED talks to motivate learners to think critically and creatively.

Danny Norrington-Davies’s Teaching Grammar: From Rules to Reasons (Pavilion Publishing) is an alternative approach to teaching grammar. Teachers and learners discover how writers and speakers use grammar to express themselves in real life. Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley’s Teaching Lexically (Delta Publishing) combines the teaching of grammar and lexis for more effective classroom practice, rather than over-simplifying language into a more traditional ‘grammar + words’ view.

English as a lingua franca (ELF)

When the concept of English as a lingua franca was first discussed by teachers, academics, writers and trainers, it was controversial. Many refused to consider how the concept of English as an international language might fit into course materials and language teaching. Today, we see resource materials like PronPack 1-4 (Mark Hancock) taking a non-prescriptive approach to accent and instead focusing on increased intelligibility as the objective. Using elements of blended learning and gamification, this pronunciation course doesn’t help the learner sound British or American, but instead prepares the learner to use English in the global arena.

Multi-literacies and trans-languaging

In global communities where English is a common language of communication alongside other languages, knowledge of other languages is an asset. Rather than diminish the learners’ first language (also known as subtractive bilingualism), teachers are encouraging learners to use their own languages. This requires complex social and cognitive skills. In contrast, strict English-only classrooms are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Such linguistic diversity is celebrated in courses like the Family Skills Toolkit (Learning Unlimited Ltd) that encourages parents and carers of children learning English to see their bilingualism as a benefit.

Supporting learners of specific needs

As globalisation takes hold, 'glocalisation' (adapting an international product to match what people want in their particular country or culture) becomes necessary. The more we understand individual learners' needs, the more we can tailor our lessons to suit them. Ros Wright’s book Learning English: English for Health and Social Care Workers (Pavilion Publishing) provides learners not just with medical terms, but also knowledge of policies and procedures in the medical and care industry. Study Legal English – the world’s first legal English podcast includes online learning materials and quizzes to gamify learning.

However, catering to learners with specific needs does not only mean English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Imagine! (Silva Education Ltd) caters to Brazilian learners from low-income families. EAP for Syrian Academics Projects provides online EAP lessons and material support for Syrian academics exiled across Turkey. Supporting Learners with Dyslexia in the ELT classroom is a teacher resource providing teachers with both theory and practical ideas of how to ‘reach and teach’ students with dyslexia.

Creating and sharing content

While there’s much online content already out there for learners, some programmes and apps allow learners to produce their own content and share what they have created with others. Popular online sites like Quizizz and Socrative allow both teachers and students to create online games and play games that are shared by users from around the world. Websites like Canva allow teachers and learners to express their creativity through posters, social media memes and banners. Then there are mindmapping sites, comic-strip creation sites and movie-editing/movie-making sites.

Using content-creation tools like these allow learners to use language creatively, and turn language practice into a fun and engaging activity. ELTons finalist Brick by Brick (StandFor/ FTD Educaçāo) is one such course for younger learners that has them creating and embarking on hands-on projects as they learn.

Learning and teaching management platforms

Learning management platforms (LMSs) like Edmodo are increasingly popular. They give learners an online way to find handouts, continue classroom discussions and submit homework. Now, online platforms are also used to communicate with parents and other stakeholders, give teachers and administrators a better overview of the curriculum, and help manage lesson plans and materials.

The Royal ABC (Prosper Education Pte Ltd) curriculum for four-to-six year olds comes with a teacher platform that allows teachers to manage lesson planning, complete administration, schedule homework and report to parents. This gives teachers more time to work with children in the classroom.

These tools may appeal because they seem shiny and new. But the true value of innovations lies in how much they can help learners to become better communicators in English., and the extent to which they can help teachers encourage learners in the most efficient, motivating ways.

Watch the ELTons livestream on 18 June 2018 to find out the winners. Chia will be live-tweeting the event with the username @BCEltons, and conducting the red carpet interviews alongside Callie Massey and Paul Braddock.

Join in the Twitter discussion using #ELTons.

Teachers, visit our TeachingEnglish website for lesson plans and activities, and find out how you can become a TeachingEnglish blogger.

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