Using Technology in the ESL Classroom

cute kid with vintage movie camera

This article contains great ideas about using technology in the ESL classroom and homework. I learned these ideas at an IATEFL conference in Hungary. I’m passing the tips on to you and adding my ideas, especially ways to do the same things in a No-Tech classroom!

Engage them or enrage them is a quote from Mark Prensky, who believes that using technology in the ESL classroom is essential to engage and motivate your pupils.

To carry out these ideas, you need to be very well equipped with computers at school and possibly at home, and children need digital cameras. However, take heart, because if your school is not kitted out like the Star Trek Enterprise, you can use no-tech alternatives. The use of websites and digital cameras is just the PACKAGING for the activity so that your pupils will think it is fantastic.

So here is the latest ESL BUZZ:

The buzz in teaching today is all about the “21st-century” classroom, integrating technology, and producing students ready to go into the workplace. To close the gap between skills employers want and what is taught in school, teachers should teach more than just the subject, in this case, English. They should also teach:

  • Professionalism
  • Work ethic
  • Critical thinking
  • Team work
  • Technology
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Cross-cultural understanding
  • Self-direction.

You are probably thinking, “oh boy, and I was having trouble with the present tense.” Here are ideas for using technology in the ESL classroom. These activities also allow for the development of other attributes on the above list:

1. Making a class blog

  1. Set up a social network for the classroom.
  2. Only the administrator can invite new members so that ensures that only your class is on the network.
  3. The administrator can control content to ensure the site stays clean and on purpose.
  4. There is a forum section where class members can post topic and comment on things – all in English of course.
  5. You may post homework up there so if someone misses class they can log on from home.
  6. Post class projects, stories, upload photos, videos, put birthdays up there and create a class blog.

It is straightforward to sign up, and you may well be able to get help from your pupils setting this up, because someone in your class might love to have that job.
Try – it’s free at the time of writing.

2. Quizzes 

Use a quiz site to make quizzes and play online word games and multiple choice. There are excellent vocabulary games on there, and the children may work at their own pace. One such site is – a search on the net will yield others.

3. Something we all love – Movies! 

Find a site where children can make short video clips by uploading three pictures and choosing the music. These sequences can be about anything, such as my favorite movie, family life, my ideal holiday, my best friend, my favorite band, or whatever topic engages your pupils. If you don’t know, then ask them! Such a site as this is

Next, upload clips onto the class blog or social network. You may set homework asking the children to decide which movie gets the oscar and why. Then, let the children make up bizarre stories based on the clips. Finally, the kids may comment on the videos in the forum.

4. Set imaginative homework such as making a short film

The IATEFL Hungary conference example was a hilarious and inspiring video. A group of four children aged ten had made a short film to explain hand symbols. They had picked hand symbols used for scuba divers. One filmed, one narrated, and two acted out the signs, fully equipped with diving masks, snorkels, and standing behind an aquarium one of them had in their home!

The above film project clearly let the children use their creativity, work together as a team, learn something new, and work independently of the teacher: What an ideal way to engage your class!

5. Use a “Wiki”

A wiki is an interactive space for you and your pupils where people can sign in, edit, add text and links and save their contributions. A wiki space constantly changes as it refreshes each time someone edits. So it is not like a blog that gets longer and longer; instead, you only keep the latest update to your group project.

Ideas for projects could be:

  • Holidays – deciding where to go, what the group needs to take, and who will bring what. 
  • Films – discussing which one to watch from a list of three. Provide links to the trailers.
  • Reviews – write a review of a favourite book or comic to convince the rest of the class to read it too. Then, vote on the best review. Then see how many students read it!
  • Grammar work could go up there, and the pupils could mark it. Search for “wiki spaces” in your browser to find the latest offerings.

Check out blog on motivating teens for more ideas on using technology in the classroom.

6. And now for my ideas to do the above from your yak tent or hill tribe village!

Many teachers are in remote areas with no access to cameras or the internet. So, of course, technology in the ESL classroom is not an option. However, never fear; we can survive and be creative without the internet or techie gadgets! And, (gasp of amazement), many of us made it through school without a mobile phone.

  • Make a big notice board instead of the blog. Then, kids stick up their comments and pictures on pieces of paper.
  • Use the idea using three pictures that the children draw or cut out from old magazines or TV magazines.
  • Tell the children to prepare short plays to perform in front of the class instead of filming them and showing them on a screen.

For those of you in countries with no internet, go ahead and try these ideas. For those of you in tepees, take the spirit of the activities and apply them creatively. The value of these ideas is that they lead pupils to be creative, learn to be part of a team, be responsible for their learning, work independently from the teacher, express themselves, and feel part of the learning process by actively participating in it.

Online technology in the ESL Classroom

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