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Using Technology to Make English Language Learning Abroad More Interactive

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Technology is around us and it’s here to stay. Whether you like it or not, there’s no denying the fact that having such a commodity readily available has made many tedious chores simpler and less time-consuming, like shopping, researching topics, and keeping up to date with the latest  news.

In the last few years, technology has played a key role in the way we organise and live our professional lives. The work environment across the globe has been transformed, acquiring unprecedented flexibility. New work-related concepts – hybrid roles, remote positions, work-from-home (WFH) – have entered everyone’s vocabulary.

One of the industries that technology has affected the most is education. While those institutions that heavily relied on traditional teaching methods have struggled to integrate remote learning in their day-to-day plans, others have taken online learning/teaching on their stride and managed to thrive as a result. A prime example of this is language learning/teaching.

Many people nowadays recognise the importance of speaking more than one language in a competitive work environment. They have taken it upon themselves, although often encouraged by their employers, to learn one or more foreign languages – English in particular – to further their career prospects. Slotting language learning outside of their working hours and around their personal commitments could be challenging, but technology has made it all considerably easier and accessible. 

The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry has been taking advantage of the use of technology for quite some time, both as a platform from which lessons can be delivered and as a learning tool.

Teaching through online platforms

English language online classrooms have existed for quite some time, going from strength to strength. Nowadays, there is a wide range of well-established online schools that offer lessons worldwide. Some specialise in certain areas, e.g. age groups, subject matter, geographical area etc.; others less so, with a wide range of language courses or school subjects to choose from.

Some of the online platforms to teach/learn other languages (as well as English) are:

  • Italki: Depending on your level of commitment, language knowledge, and teaching experience, you can offer structured lessons or conversation classes, which focus on fluency. Your hourly rate will vary depending on which option you choose.
  • Lingoda: There’s a solid support system in place for teachers and you will be provided with materials and plans for your lessons.

If you want to teach subjects other than languages, LatinHire is one of your options. As the name suggests, its target audience is located in South America, offering lessons on subjects such as Marketing, Chemistry, Maths, and English.

There are many online platforms dedicated to learning English. Some to keep in mind are:

  •  Cambly: This is an excellent option if you feel out of your depths teaching beginners. With Cambly, you can deliver conversation classes to learners who are already able to use the language to a certain extent.
  • Topica Native: They focus on speech tutoring courses across South-East Asia. They pride themselves on having launched the first speech tutoring Augmented Reality app.  

NOTE: Online platforms specialised in teaching Chinese learners were extremely popular among TEFL teachers worldwide until 2021, when the Chinese government put a stop to international teachers working from outside China. However, if you are located in (or thinking about relocating to) China, you can still teach Chinese students – online or face-to-face. There are several guides available online for step-by-step support in this process: check out this one from The Tefl Org.

Technology as a learning tool

There’s no doubt that technology can sometimes have glitches that could affect the outcome of your lessons; this might cause some teachers to avoid using it in the classroom. However, there are some applications and programmes that can save you a great deal of prep time and give your lessons a fresh look while making them more engaging.

Here are some fool-proof digital ideas to try in your next class:

  • Pixton – to design storyboards and comics
  • Quizlet – to make flashcards to revise and test any language area
  • Kahoot – to test learners’ knowledge in a fun, interactive, and competitive way
  • Google Forms and Microsoft forms – to create surveys, polls, and quizzes

Put your best equipment forward

If you are thinking of venturing into the online TEFL world, ensure that you are tech-ready. You might already have all the equipment you need to get you started in online teaching but let’s have a quick check, just to be on the safe side.

A laptop is ideal, as it already has a camera and mic built-in – as well as many other useful tools. Alternatively, a PC with an additional camera and mic would fit the bill. You might not have a headset yet, but consider investing in one if you are planning to teach while travelling – blocking out external noise is a must during your lessons!

Other advantages of tech-based learning

Outside the classroom, learners of all ages use technology on a regular basis, so it’s only natural that technology finds its place in the learning environment. As well as increasing students’ engagement and serving as a medium to deliver lessons, tech-based learning offers a range of advantages.

  • It encourages collaboration within and beyond the classroom. Connecting with others and sharing experiences is one of people’s innate features. Internet connectivity allows learners to work on projects in different ways: in the classroom or remotely, with their classmates or with peers from other classes or schools.
  • It provides instant feedback for teachers. Many educational apps allow teachers to monitor their students’ work. This allows teachers to spot issues as they arise and address them promptly.
  • It helps develop other skills. With the use of technology in the classrooms, learners are familiarising themselves with a range of digital applications, developing team-work through collaboration, and expressing creativity with the countless activities that can be created online.

Technology: Language learning’s best friend

There are still mixed feelings about the use of technology in everyone’s daily life. However, English language teachers worldwide are making full use of the advantages that it can bring, from saving time in their lesson preparation to building a stronger rapport with their students. 

The use of technology in a learning environment is also useful to the learners, who overcome their psychological barrier towards language learning and find themselves more engaged in the lessons. If you are still doubtful on how technology can improve the language learning/teaching experience, give it a go – you might be pleasantly surprised.

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