Using the Internet in the Classroom

This is a guest post written by Lee Shutler. Lee is currently working as Academic Manager for the British Council in Incheon, South Korea. He has an MA TESOL from Canterbury Christ Church University and a DTEFLA where his tutor was a certain Sue Swift. He has been a teacher and school manager for 20 years in Italy, Japan, Korea and the UK. His professional interests include materials creation and helping a student develop as a person not just as a language learner.

Two ideas for the more “Luddite” teacher.

In an EFL world full of syllabuses, course deadlines, exams and student stress, we often forget that there is a world outside the classroom and it is in that world where we want our students to be focussing their language.

There are some very simple ideas that you can use in the classroom – or more likely, the Computer Room – where you can enhance your students’ imagination about what they can do with their language in the wider world.

The beauty of these two activities is that they are virtually (virtually!!) preparation-free! Also, they do not require you to be an expert in computers!

Idea 1.
Very simple.

1. Tell your students to “google” their own name. You can decide
whether they limit themselves to English only websites. But they have a certain amount of time (20 to 30 minutes) to research what the internet has on them and others of their name. During this time, the students make notes.

2. After the allotted time period, you can all return to the classroom. In small groups, students give mini-presentations about what they discovered about themselves or about others with their name.

3. Change groupings to allow students to develop fluency and confidence in speaking. Most of the time, students will also find it very interesting to learn about others.

In an activity like this, there is the danger that they will find something they don’t like. Or you might find that that someone’s name will illicit the wrong type of websites (I did not do this activity when I had a Thai student called “Supaporn”). It may, therefore, be an idea to google your students’ names first – just to check that nothing too unpleasant comes up, either connected to their personal history or to someone of the same name. However, most of the time, students will act as their own censors. For example I found lots of predictable information about myself but also that someone of my name was in a low security prison in America for parking offences and bigamy!

This activity can take a whole lesson. A lot will depend on your available ICT facilities.

Idea 2.

In an act of generosity, tell your students you are giving them GBP700 per pair or approximate equivalent to spend on a weekend away.

1. Put students into pairs and ask them to come up with ideas on what they want to do and where they want to go. (15 minutes)

2. Take students to the computers and ask them to “book” their flights and hotels and “make” any other reservations they need – theatre tickets, restaurants etc. (30-40 minutes)

3. They will also need to “arrange” sightseeing tours, transfers from the airports etc. (10-20 minutes)

4. Return to the classroom and put students in different groups. Students give mini-presentations on what they have planned.

5. As with the activity above, you can ask the students to change grouping to allow them to develop their fluency and confidence.

A recent example saw a group of students arrange return flights from Seoul Gimpo airport to Jeju - an island in the south of South Korea. They booked a beach hotel, arranged bicycle hire, arranged a boat for shell fishing and also organised a hiking tour to Hallasan (South Korea’s highest mountain). They were so enthused by what they had done in the lesson that after the lesson they actually booked that exact weekend away. We await the photographs.

This activity can also lend itself towards giving students practice at more formal presentations. A separate lesson could be used for the students to turn their information and discoveries into a series on Powerpoint slides which they then present “formally” to the rest of the group. This will allow you to give students practice with the signpost language of presentations.

As I have already said, both of these activities can be preparation-light. They lend themselves to both being a scheduled part of a course or as an emergency cover-lesson. The beauty of the internet means that a lesson like these can be repeated as the information is likely to have changed.