This is the second part of two posts adapted from a longer article published in Business Issues, the IATEFL BESIG Newsletter, Autumn 2013, Issue 85, and is reproduced with the kind permission of the Editor, Julia Waldner.
In the first post Apps in the classroom, we looked at some basic tools for preparing to use apps in the classroom. Here are two or three suggestions for activities using some of the many free tools available to us online. It’s important to note that all of them work both in a traditional desktop browser and mobile devices so that nobody is excluded provided they have access to one or the other.
Polldaddy.com is another easy-to-use tool that offers yet more ways of engaging leaners in the classroom. Once you’ve created a free account, this website allows you to create a range of polls, surveys and quizzes which again can be easily accessed by learners and on their mobile devices as each activity has a unique URL.
PollDadddy can be used to test learner understanding of a topic, or for polling opinions, for getting instant feedback on tasks, or even for short reading and discussion tasks, as in the simple multiple-choice example shown here below.
The tool is flexible and offers many possibilities for tasks that can change the dynamic of lessons and strengthen the association in learners’ minds between learning and having fun on their devices. The responses are collated automatically (see example below) and can be shared with learners for further discussion, or analyzed privately by the trainer.
Socrative is a multi-platform ‘student response system’ which allows trainers to quickly set up digital exercises that learners can access on their laptops, smart phones or tablets. The range of question types is not extensive – multiple-choice, true/false, short answer – but this tool has many powerful features, not least of which being that activities can be either ‘teacher-paced’ or ‘student-paced’ and it provides real-time progress reports on individual learners as they complete the activities.
Trainers can ask questions verbally and gather responses in Socrative. Interaction and a fun competitive element can be introduced by organizing learners into groups, asking them to complete a ‘space-race’ with pre-prepared questions and displaying the window that shows their rockets advancing as they progress through the quiz.
LearningApps is a website that allows you to create a very wide range of interactive, multi-media activities – quizzes, games, etc. – for use in the classroom or for self-study. Alternatively, existing shared activities (known as apps) can be copied and adapted to suit your learners’ needs. Many of the activities work equally well in traditional browsers or on mobile devices.
In the classroom, activities can be used to check learners existing command of a language area, or conversely to consolidate or extend their knowledge as part of a conventional lesson plan. If you’re using a course book, activities can be quickly created to complement those in the book. Here, for example, is a screenshot of a quick activity that does just that with prepositions of time.
Use this link – Prepositions of time – or the QR code to try the activity. Prepared activities like this can also be used to provide quicker learners with extra material while they wait for the group to complete classroom tasks. Just provide the QR code to a related activity so they can maintain momentum and use valuable classroom time effectively working on their mobile device.
To conclude, it’s clearly not necessary, or indeed advisable, to use all the above tools in a single lesson. Nor is it suggested that they replace the tried and tested communicative activities lessons are normally built around. But hopefully, this quick review of some of the many tools that are available to us nowadays has suggested some ways of using technology that can add variety to classroom interactions and enhance lessons in ways that are relevant to learners’ needs and that exploit the appeal mobile devices can have for many learners.