Macmillan English Language Teaching
How often do you use the computerroom?
The first two terms are quite intense so Iusually only manage to take each class thereonce or twice a month, but after Easter wego there once a week.
What’s the layout like in yourcomputer room?
We have two computer rooms. In the smaller room the computers are arranged in a U shape,which makes monitoring easier; if you are in themiddle it's easy to see if they are working andstaying on task. In the larger one they are in rowsof 6, so you have to alternate between patrollingthe rows and staying at the back (which is a goodvantage point for checking nobody’s doinganything they shouldn’t!).
How do you organize the students inthe computer room?
One student per computer would be ideal but itis not always possible. I reserve the classroomin advance, so if I go with the whole group Imake sure we have access to the larger roomwith 25 computers. That way most of the studentscan have their own computer. When we splitclasses we normally use the smaller one with just 10 computers, which means that studentsoften have to share.
What kind of activities work best?
I like working with web-based activities.There are thousands on the Net so your students can try a different one every day.
How much do you need to preparein advance?
You do need to do some preparatory work athome, selecting the sites with the exercisesyou want to work on and saving the links ona CD, or better still a pen drive, in order toupload them to your students' computers.
Have you ever tried uploading yourstudents’ work?
Yes! The more familiar I became with the Net, the more I started to think I could use itto improve my students’ writing skills. For example, with my 3
ESO students we dida writing project about our village, Arenysde Munt. We surfed some similar websitesabout different towns and cities to analyzethe kind of language and content we wouldneed, then wrote our own. The success of the project prompted me to try the same with my2
ESO classes. You can find links to all our students’ work on my own blog:
How easy is it to upload material?
Well, I have to admit that I did a course onhow to create websites to help them with this, but it’s not really necessary. There’s a web- builder calledwww.galeon.comwhich is veryuser-friendly and requires no previousknowledge.
Do you have a master computer?
We have a master computer which isnetworked to all of the other computers. Thisis handy for uploading exercises to the sharedfiles when we’re working off-line. In someschools, the master computer is connected toa large screen or to an electronic blackboardwhich would certainly be useful, but wemanage perfectly well without that.
What are the most common problems?
As the Internet connection can’t always berelied upon to work, I keep my back-upactivities on CD close by just in case! Thisis the most common problem so it’s one youcan easily pre-empt. But the best techniqueis to pray to ‘Santa Tecla’ before starting anycomputer activity! Just joking. Nowadayscomputers are more reliable than eight yearsago when I began these sessions, and if theInternet connection works, there are no problems.
How do you set tasks?
I upload the links to their computers in theorder I want them to work and ask them togo through them in that order. I prefer exercises with a built-in self-check facility, because students are more autonomous andcan advance at their own pace. I always tellthem not to go on to the next set of exercisesunless they have achieved 90% of the rightanswers, and they must show me their scores.After the first day, they become so used tofollowing this routine that they know whatto do, and once they have the screen in frontof them they start working.
How do you monitor everyone?
I walk round answering any questions, andat the same time I check what are they doing.It's easy, and means that I’m on hand to check their results when they finish each set of exercises.
What other materials to you allowthem to bring in?
They don't need anything else other than myinstructions, ie where to go and what to do.If they can't guess the meaning of new wordsI allow them to use an online dictionary.
Do you limit their website access orstop them surfing / chatting?
If they’re kept busy there isn’t time for themto surf or chat and with careful monitoringit’s easy to spot. Also, nearly all of them haveInternet connection at home and can regularlyuse Messenger or visit the sites they like, soit takes away the novelty of doing this duringclass time.
What do you do with fast-finishers?
Some years ago there were not so manysuitable websites around but now there arethousands, and as I upload enough links towork for two or more hours, they alwayshave work to do. So they can work non- stopand at their own pace.
What’s the main difference you findbetween managing computer room andclassroom activities?
Once they have their links to the websitesuploaded in their computers, it's easier to doa lesson in the computer room than in theclassroom because everybody works, eventhose students who hardly ever follow your lessons in a conventional classroom. They findit so much more motivating.
What are the main rewards fromdoing computer room activities?
Apart from the motivation factor it's great tosee how most of them can progress at their own pace. Surprisingly some of them finishtheir exercises of their own free willconnecting from their homes. What could bemore rewarding for a teacher?
Here are Joan’s top ten webrecommendations:
If you type ‘learn English’ into Google
you’llget something like 350 million hits! NaturallyI haven’t visited them all, nor do I imagineanyone is ever likely to, but here are my tenfavourites, in no particular order:
1. http://www.google.esThis might not sound very informative, but justtype in the kind of exercise you want to practise,eg
present perfect exercises
and you'll findthousands of them.2. http://www.learnenglish.org.uk / (British Council)
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/try/plans/superhero/superhero.shtml(listening/reading comprehension)3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/index.shtml (listenings)
http://englishlistening.com/ (listenings in American English)
http://www.fonetiks.org/ 4. http://yahooesp.englishtown.com/home/portal.asp (daily lesson)5. http://es.launch.yahoo.com/v/ (video clips)
http://www.lyrics.com/ 6. http://webquest.org/ (all about webquests,from the University of San Diego)
http://eslus.com/esl/resource.htm#general8. http://www.eslcafe.com/ (quizzes, chats...)9. http://www.apac.es/teachresource_links.html(Probably one of the best - lots of suggestionsfor resources on the Internet)10.(Write your own website here!)
The successful computer class
The ever-increasing availability of quality teaching materials and websites well suited for language learning hasraised the profile of the Internet in our classroom as a valuable study resource. Therefore we’ve decided to dedicatethis term’s Secondary section to the wonders of the World Wide Web. However, a fruitful class in the computer room also requires careful planning and good management. In this issue, Secondary teacher and Internet fan Joan Rubies Duro talks to us about how to get the most out of your computer time.
Joan Rubies Duro
teaches at IES DomènecPerramon in Arenys de Munt. He is also a teacher trainer, specializing ininformation technology.