Thursday, February 12, 2009
The future is already here
This year I decided that I wasn't going to work anymore in language schools (or frontisterio as they are called in Greek). It wasn't just the low wages or lack of job security that prompted the decision but also the fact that nothing seems to change.
Actually, that is a lie there has been lots of change but none of it forward. Responding to the growth in choice in exams students can take most schools have a curriculum that amounts to little more than doing old test papers for years on end. I just couldn't face doing that for another year as it would amount to undergoing a voluntary lobotomy.
Instead I decided that I would do just private lessons not simply because the pay is better and people treat you with more respect but also I can teach in a manner that recognises that we are in fact living in the 21st century and not recycling the 19th.
Today I will be teaching the difference between how much and how many in English and the various grammatical rules that these words represents. If I was doing that in a school this would probably mean wading through a chapter of turgid explanations that are dull and difficult for many to understand.
Afterwards, there would be the obligatory pages full of exercise designed to supposedly reinforce the alleged learning that had taken place. Of course, there are students that thrive on such an approach but they are a minority. The majority either find such explanations incomprehensible or mind numbingly boring.
The beauty of computer technology and especially the internet is that it allows us to vary our teaching approach and find alternatives that fit in with how they learn. A case in point would be teaching how much/how many.
One way would be to find a picture of a street, room, fridge etc and then use Flickr notes (click here to see a explanation) to label the image with the correct term. e.g How many apples are there in the fridge? and then get their partners to answer. The picture could then be used to teach the others in the class each person taking turns to use it to teach the rule to the rest of their group or class. Also it could be added to a class/personal blog as part of an electronic portfolio.
Alternatively, you could get students to video (using their cell phones) a classroom, road, home etc and them use Windows Movie Maker (which comes as standard with every copy of Windows) to make a presentation in which the students ask questions such as, how much snow can you see? etc.
See video below on how to use the programme.
As you can see there are just a few of the ways we can use computers and the internet as something more than a glorified course book and allow our students to learn in other ways which fit in with own style.
I've found that when students have access to the internet during a lesson teaching possibilities expand exponentially. Occasionally, this is not possible and I feel that I've gone back, something akin to being forced to use chalk and a slate.