IT @ IH – Improving our practice, having fun & reaching out to our students by Shawn Severson

Teachers with practice and experience have so much background knowledge and so much insight into the language learning process. They know the language, inside and out. They know the demands of school curricula, metas and language acquisition. But when it comes to certain aspects of their language teaching, can we say they have “an accent”? As a matter of fact, we can. Paper, textbooks, notebooks and the lot are all fundamental, but not being able to add in some of the digital content that is out there, means that a teacher has a bit of an accent as far as speaking the language of “21st Century Skills”. That’s why we’ve been working on our IT@IH course, first starting with our own teachers, looking at ways to further their practice, in an IT @ IH 1.2 course (to use the language of the Internet).

And let the IT @ IH 1.1 course begin! [pronunciation: eye tea at eye aitch one point one] Two of the most fundamental aspects of using technology is overcoming fear of technology and seeing need for what technology has to offer. That’s why after just reviewing some of the more basic skills we went into visually appealing and language-rich materials using video, image and text. Before our eyes, we could see how we could turn a short videoclip into a resource to lead students in predicting the story. Not only that, we also downloaded the video and saved it for future use. By the end, we could download a video, take images from our screens, and put this image in a document along with text. We could take a picture of an unchangeable .pdf document and get it into a worksheet. That frustrating thing of images pictures jumping around in our Word document, we learned how to stop. In short, we had made some great resources to reach out to our students. Our “accent” was already getting better.

From there, we imagined ourselves in “assessment time”, working with Excel to calculate test grades. Not such a captivating module, but one necessary nonetheless. We laid out the marking scheme and created formulas. When we put in the information of our fake students’ scores, we could see their grades developing in percentage, the class average and also the number of times correct. To finish it off, we made some idiom flashcards in Word to make a resource we could use for teaching and also as a pelmanism/memory game.

To round it off, we worked with PowerPoint to make our own presentations. Using the skills we had acquired working with image from the Word module, we put video, audio, pictures and text into PowerPoint. For the final test, we saved the file in the way we had discussed so that we could open up all of that catchy media on someone else’s computer. (Have you ever had that bad experience of having a PowerPoint with a video and opening it up on another computer and received the message “cannot find video file”? Well, we learned how to avoid that.) Mission accomplished! Sound, image and customized materials for student interaction made and ready to go.

The last module of IT @ IH 1.1 is about exploring and having fun – online tools for ELT teachers. To make a list of the tools here without showing how they work would simply not do those tools justice. So, let’s just say we had a lot of collaboration, a bit of competition, culture galore, communication unfolding, a fair amount of critical thinking and creavity?—yes, you guessed it, we were creative and certainly working on getting rid of our “digital accents”!

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