As we know, teachers have varying levels of access to computers and technology, and teach in all sorts of contexts to all sorts of learners. Here are some of the questions you may be asking yourself about using technology in the classroom.
How can I use ICT with my class if there is only one computer in the school?
Introducing a rota or booking system for the computer with your colleagues will ensure equal use for all the teachers in the school. You will need to use the Internet mainly as a resource with your learners, accessing the Internet to download and print out materials to use offline with classes. Technology-based activities you can do by printing off materials include:
• using websites).
• Internet-based project work - especially webquests offline
• email keypal projects using the teacher's email account
• a class blog with learners preparing their contributions on paper and the teacher typing them into the computer
• using online reference tools such as concordancers on paper
• electronically produced materials printed out for learners
You can also join free online teacher development groups
What can I do if my learners have very low Information Technology (IT) experience and skills?
You need to first find out about your learners' IT skills and degrees of experience, for example by means of a questionnaire, and then start off by using the simplest technologies in the classroom. For learners with zero or very low IT skills, or literacy issues, a good place to start is with simple word processing tasks (see Chapter 2). Once learners are comfortable with this, basic email (see Chapter 5) or searching the Internet (see Chapter 3) can be introduced. Try to pair up more technically experienced learners with the absolute novices
Skills and equipment for getting started
What does a teacher need to know to be able to use technology in the classroom? Well, you don't need to have any specialist technical knowledge or skills, much as you don't need to be a mechanic to know how to drive a car!
The basic skills you do need to have in place before you start reading this book are how to use a simple word processing program (e.g. Microsoft Word), how to use email and how to access and use the Internet. By reading this book, and trying out the activities suggested with your learners (with plenty of step-by-step help provided in the tutorials on the CD-ROM if you feel you need it), you should be able to greatly increase your ICT skills set, and to feel a lot more confident about using technology in the classroom.
You will also need some essential equipment in order to get the most out of this book, and to start to implement technology with your learners:
• at least one computer (preferably one per two students).
• an Internet connection.
• a printer.
• an audio card in the computer, and a headset (audio and microphone) for every computer.
• basic software (a word processing program, a web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or Mozilla, and an email program).
As we saw above, teaching contexts and teachers' access to computers and technology can vary widely. While reading this book, you'll find plenty of activities which can be done if only one computer is available in class. However, access to a computer room to which you can take your class will provide more opportunities for implementing technology, for both you and your learners.
It is worth bearing in mind that the layout of your computer room will directly affect the types of activities you are able to do with your learners, and how they interact with one another and with you. A layout which has computers at desks around the walls, facing the walls, with a large table in the centre of
the room, allows the teacher to walk around and easily see what the learners are working on and what they're looking at on thecomputer monitors (screens). The central area provides an easily accessible space where learners can go when they don't need the computers, and for when we might want to do more communicative group work. If the central space is reasonably large, moremovement and activity is possible in the centre of the room; this will offer up more opportunities for kinaesthetic learners, and thechance to use games and physical activities with younger learners away from the computer monitors.
Of course, few of us are lucky enough to be able to choose how our computer facilities look, but it may be possible for you to make some small changes in the work environment so that it's more comfortable to work in the room, and easier to teach in. It's well worth considering how your institution's computer room could be made more user-friendly for you and your classes.