Luckily, more and more of my students have access to the internet at home and more importantly, access to ADSL. This is going to make life so much easier for me and learning a lot more fun for them.
I've been putting this into practice with two private lessons I stared this year. In the first case Stathis and Sofia are young learners who have completed two years of English. We've only done a couple of lessons so far but yesterdays internet lesson was a great success. I decided that a great way to start was with the British Council's Learning English Kids page which is full of brilliantly executed teaching activities. The Story Maker activity proved to be very popular and even if it was a tad difficult for their level the fact that it was so well thought out meant that they were willing to deal with any language problems. Next stage is for the students to perform their story. They have until next lesson to make sure they fully understand it and can read it aloud with confidence.
I've emphasised the fact that I don't want them to learn it by heart but rather be able to perform it as an actor might. We will record this performance next lesson using a digital camera an when they are happy with their performance we'll post it on their blog.
My second example comes from Kyriakos, a bright teenager who has just started his own blog. We ran though the basics such as adding text, pictures, video and links and now his homework is to write about the DVD I gave him last week (Final Fantasy) and add suitable photos, links and a video of the film's trailer.
This is just the beginning, of course, once the students (and parents) become comfortable using this technology then the next stage is to get them involved in projects with students from other parts of Greece and the rest of the world. if I have time I' d ideally like to set up a Moodle which would act as a hub for my students' efforts and allow them the chance to check out each other's work at a glance.
One cautionary note, however, comes from the other experience I had teaching yesterday. With another student virtually everything we tried to do connected with the computer and the internet ran into technical difficulties. A poorly maintained PC, out of date software, ignorance of basic internet safety procedures meant that the student's computer thwarted our attempts to do some pretty basic stuff. I didn't have the time to fix the problems during the lesson nor did the student have the knowledge to do it on his own.
Unfortunately, most people who buy a computer for their kids are blissfully unaware of things such as firewalls, anti-virus programs etc. As a result they leave themselves vulnerable. Sadly, the computer studies lessons the students do at school are of little practical help. Indeed I have been told by kids of weeks going by without them even touching a computer, let alone doing something useful with one. Instead, they read endless pages of theory which is unlikely to help them.