Top ELT Tech Tools circa 2013
Top ELT Tech Tools circa 2013
The buffet of tech tools available to language educators is constantly morphing and expanding. As of Fall 2013, here are my favorites. A linked (and probably updated) version of this article can be found online at Koreabridge.net/kotesol/tech-tools-2013 . Please comment there to offer feedback and/or share details about your favorite tools.
Google+ Hangouts On Air & YouTube Live
Hangouts were introduced as part of Google+ a couple years ago. Up to 10 people can participate in a free mobile-friendly video conference that supports screensharing, document sharing, and text chat. The Hangout-on-air option allows the conference to be streamed live on YouTube which is then automatically recorded and posted on the user’s channel. ‘YouTube Live’ provides higher quality video streaming for YouTubers in good standing with at least 100 subscribers. I used Hangouts last semester for my students’ final projects. They prepared a 10 minute talk show style segment and had the choice of presenting it in a live stream or an off-air Hangout. KOTESOL will be using YouTube Live to stream plenary and featured presentations at the 2013 International Conference and perhaps in the future, chapter meeting presentations across the peninsula might be streamed live and archived.
Kakao Talk Group Chats
Use the force for good, teaching jedis! The biggest source of destraction in Korean classrooms CAN be used constructively. For the last few semesters, I’ve created a Kakao ‘English Only’ group chats for all my university classes. These can be used as an interactive game show type of tool or brainstorming aid during class or as a useful homework reminder and last minute announcement maker between classes. I’ve also found that it helps develop class bonding as students engage in ‘off-topic’ English banter with each other.
Google Drive (Google Docs)
Aside from being an awesome way to have access to all of my teaching docs and presentations from any computer (or mobile device) anytime, Google Docs make it quite easy to post presentations and class surveys (google forms) online. I’ve also been using a Group Notes document for each class in lieu of a whiteboad or chalkboard. This way, there’s a record of all vocabulary and teaching points made during class, that students can then edit afterward to add translations and comments. I also use Google Docs for all my writing classes. I create one document for each student, which makes it easy to comment on students writings and track all revisions without having to deal with emailed attachments and messy hand-written assignments. .
I could write an entire article about the virtues of Chrome. Aside from being lighter and faster than most browsers (especially MSIE), there are great extensions like Google dictionary, Speakit, OneTab, and PrintFriendly. What has helped me the most in my teaching though, is installing Chrome Portable on my USB drive. Instead of struggling with old versions of MSIE on the slower university computers, I simply run Chrome from my flash drive with all my bookmarks and extensions pre-installed and ready to go.
Google Translate (for pronunciation practice)
Its English-Korean sentence translations are still mediocre at best, but its speech recognition functionality has been very engaging for students as they tweak their pronunciation skills. Trying to teach the difference between ‘woke-walk’’ or ‘pressure-pleasure’? Have the students click the microphone and practice until they get the right result. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good and getting better all the time. When logged in, students can also build their own phrasebook. (audio input function only works in Chrome based browsers and mobile apps)
A flashcard activity site that’s been a big hit with teachers and students. Each set includes six different types of study activities and games. There are thousands of usable sets on the site already and it’s easy to create your own. Cards are mobile-accessible, easy to post online, and print-friendly. There is multi-lingual audio support and the Korean voice even speaks accurate Konglish when reading English words.
Social bookmarking at its finest. Diigo allows you to create private and public online bookmarks which can be accessed from anywhere. You can follow others whose bookmarks interest you, join collaborative groups (e.g.Resources for Languages or Language Learning and Technology) and track popular links based on tags. The Chrome extension enables you to take screenshots and annotate pages with a highlighter and sticky notes which can then be shared publicly with non-Diigo users.
Other blogging options have their virtues, especially Wordpress which is more robusy, but for class blogs and student sites, I still prefer Blogger. With a single Google account, users can create up to 100 bogs, so it’s quite easy to create (or duplicate) a new blog for each class and/or semester. Blogger integrates easily with other Google tools and provides different levels of user permissions and access that might be desired by teachers.
Wordcount.org: When someone asks, “How common is this word?”, find the answer here.
UsingEnglish.com: Reference section contains extensive, but clear resources for grammar terms, phrasal verbs, & idioms. Their ‘Ask a Teacher’ forum is the ‘go to’ place for those hard-to-answer grammar questions.
FreeESLMaterials.com: BreakingNewsEnglish.com is the star of the family, but Sean Banville produces ,8 other sites with ready-to-use materials on everything from movie lesons to business English.
Audacity: Still my favorite open-source option for recording and editing audio files. Setting stereo mix as your recording device will enable you to record any sounds from your computer (not just your mic).
Torch Browser: Chrome based browser that includes one-click downloading of audio or video from many media sharing sites (not only YouTube).
TodaysMeet.com: Simple, cross-platorm, light online chat rooms that provide automatic transcripts.
Mikogo.com: Not specifically ELT related, but if ever remote guidance is needed by a ‘technically-challenged’ colleague, friend, or relative, this is an easy way to remotely view and control their computer.
Jeff is a teacher trainer at Busan University of Foreign Studies. His CALL site can be found at LearningCall.net and personal blog is at JeffLebow.net. Archives from 2013 KOTESOL IC ‘Media Stream’ he helped produce can be found at Koreabridge.net/kotesol2013