I’ve been using, and embracing, technology in the ESL classroom for a few years now. Working with Level 2 learners in a course partnered with a workplace experience, it was a natural fit. I had a SMART Board from day 1, access to a computer lab, and training and support provided by LearnIT2Teach to set up a Learning Management System using a Moodle platform. I also had free and dependable Wi-Fi in the classroom. I have to admit, I had been getting spoiled.
Some of my colleagues had joked with me about what I would do if I were to be stripped of the technology that I used every day, or if my location were to change, say, to a church basement or similar. Then one day last November, it happened. New location. No SMART Board. No Wi-Fi.
After a wee bit of panic, I realized that the tech isn’t mandatory. It’s a tool. It’s like having a blackboard – you can just create far more lively pictures with a SMART Board. Also, when I first started teaching overseas, there were no computers available, and no access to the Internet. It would just take a little re-organizing.
After a few weeks, I realized that there was a media cart of which none of my colleagues were taking advantage. I now use the media cart, projected onto a large screen, with some interactive software. There is no SMART Board in the room, of course, but my learners can still walk up to the screen and touch it while I manipulate the mouse and follow their movements. The learners like to explore the technology in this way and look forward to any of the interactive ESL games that are widely available on the Internet. The learners, by the way, are Literacy level. We don’t have access to a computer lab, but if we did, I would still open up a Level 1 course with LearnIT2Teach.
I know that as long as I have a computer, and a projector, I will bring technology into the classroom. Becoming digitally literate is a skill that learners crave. Many do not have access to computers in their homes, so having access in the classroom brings the digital world into their lives. Together we have explored how to use a search engine, how to find community information online, and how to be safe on the World Wide Web. Those that do have computers often have children using them, so this is a topic that they have paid close attention to.
I guess, then, the verdict is that I failed the no-tech challenge. Perhaps “failed” is not the right word. Let’s just say I re-imagined how to use technology in a classroom with limited resources.
In a world where digital literacy is not just required in the workplace, it is expected, I think every effort needs to be made to introduce technology and use it with our learners so that they become familiar with it and more confident in their abilities.
Comment here as to whether you agree or disagree.
Currently teaching Literacy at TVDSB, Jen enjoys exploring technology as a teaching tool with her learners. Jen divides her time as a TESL Ontario Webinar Administrator, the TESL London Communications Chair, and a current PBLA practitioner. She’s also quite good at Scrabble.