The toolbox is aimed at trainers/teachers who wish to enhance their classes with online resources but they may be unsure of what factors to take into account when choosing an online resource. Also to look for lesson plans providing a concrete example of how a specific resource was implemented in the class.
Since different type of computer- assisted programs have become available, Educators agree that integrating ICT into the classroom can make both teaching and learning more effective. Presentations, educational simulation games, interactive exercises, combined with the Internet and almost limitless OER resources make information technology a really powerful tool in teaching and learning. At the same time the growing number of ICT programmes and complex nature of them can become a challenge for many teachers. The problem is that it is not matter of choosing a tool and start using it in the classroom, but to choose the right one, applicable to students’ needs, in accordance with the curriculum and technology trends. In this section you will find some valuable information to think and a list of questions to ask yourself prior to choosing an online tool/resource.
What is the toolbox
Nowadays we all recognise that there is no specific way of learning, but rather there are different types of learners and teaching methods. Learning activities are no longer only related to the traditional face-to-face classroom training. Technology is changing the way our society operates. It offers us new opportunities and gives access to sources we never could have imagined before.
Unfortunately, our rigid education system is not flexible enough to apply all these free opportunities. Our education institutions and consequently, our trainers and teachers do not receive enough support and training to adapt their teaching plans to their learners’ needs. Missing skills, tight schedules and lack of time for training preparation are the main reasons for not experimenting with new teaching methods and strategies.
This project aims to combat these problems by creating a reference guide for language trainers that will support them in acquiring or improving their digital competencies. The guidebook will encourage them in to use ICT solutions in their teaching and will facilitate the implementation of Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) in their future classes.
Following the conclusions of the methodological and technological analysis of the 100 teaching tools, the toolbox was created with guidelines for teachers and trainers, examples of possible implementations of the tools in the classroom and feedback from learners and trainers. The toolbox is aimed at trainers who wish to enhance their classes with online resources but who may be unsure which factors to take into account when choosing an online resource or who look for lesson plans providing a concrete example how a specific resource was implemented in class.
How does the toolbox work
Enhancing language learning through MALL provides dynamics which are not available through the traditional classroom. The Internet offers a wide variety of tools that can be incorporated into the language classes. The toolbox aims to help trainers in the process of choosing an online tool and to provide a range of options to choose from.
If you are unsure how to choose an appropriate tool/resource for your learners, go to the “Guidelines” section of the toolbox. Here, you will find advice on which aspects to consider and how they may influence you choice of a tool.
If you are not sure what type of tool you are looking for, have a look at the online catalogue. If you have found a tool, you can check the methodological and technical reports for further information. You can also go directly to the toolbox. The toolbox is a dynamic resource that provides lesson plans for various online tools.
The toolbox contains the following parts:
Group description: Here you will find a brief description about the group, learning goals and course venue the lesson plan was initially created for. This will help you determine if the lesson plan is suitable for your learning group as it is or if you will need to adapt it to your needs a trainer or to your group of learners.
Lesson Plan: Here you will find lesson plans with detailed instructions how to use a particular online tool in class. The lesson plan indicates the learning goal, knowledge needed to successfully complete each activity, the approximate time for each activity, materials needed and the class arrangement. It also gives information of the role of the teacher and the learner. The section “comments” includes information that may be helpful when using the lesson plan in your own class or when adapting it to other groups.
Feedback: Here you will find comments from trainers and learners who have used the tool/resource. It will show you what they liked about the resource, what worked well and what did not.
Suggestions for changes: This part is closely connected to the feedback section. Based on the learner’s and teacher’s experiences, this section will collect suggestions for improvement. This section may be very helpful with regard to adapting it to your needs.
Guidelines for SLA Trainers
Educators agree that integrating ICT into the classroom can make both teaching and learning more effective, and different forms of computer- assisted programs have emerged. Presentations, educational simulation and games, interactive exercises, combined with the Internet and almost limitless OER resources make information technology a really powerful tool in teaching and learning, but at the same time their growing amount and complexity can become a challenge for many teachers. The problem is that it is not enough to choose a tool and start using it in the classroom, but choose the right one, applicable to students’ need, in accordance with the curriculum and technology trends. In this section you will find some aspects to consider and a list of useful questions to ask yourself in the process of choosing a suitable online tool/resource.
Before you start looking at any resource in particular. Think of what skill you would like to practice or improve with the tool. If you teach more than one language, also think which language you are looking for.
Questions to consider
What skill should the exercises be aimed at – Vocabulary extension, Grammar, Speaking & Pronunciation, Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Writing
Which language should the exercises be for?
The Learning Group
The learning group part of the questionnaire is meant to help you determine what kind of learners will be using the exercises. This includes the age basic information of the learners’ ages and gender. It will also help to identify language learning backgrounds and the learners’ goals. It is important to consider the pre-existing skills of the learners. For example, if learners have no experience working with online programs, this resource is not the best match. This information will be crucial in selecting the most effective learning group for the resource.
Questions to consider
How many participants are there?
How many of the participants are men, how many are women?
How old are the learners?
Do all learners come from the same country or do they come from different countries?
Do all learners have the same mother tongue?
Do the learners speak other languages? If yes, which languages?
How long have the learners been living in the country?
What educational background do the participants have?
Are there learners who need additional help to complete tasks?
Do the learners have time for homework?
Why are the participants learning the language? (job, university, hobby, course organised by the jobcenter or other agency, etc.)
Do the learners come to school for the course or do they learn at home or in their company?
Do the learners have experience using online courses? If so, how many of them have experience and what type of online course they have used?
How often do the learners use digital media and what type of digital media do they use?
How experienced are the learners using computers and online programmes for learning?
The questions in the course part explain the courses’ level, structure and goals. It is important to determine the length, frequency and location of the courses as well as the desired level. It is also necessary to clarify the materials and methods used. In order to create courses that are highly effective, a uniformed course style must be established. It is also crucial to clearly establish the course aims so that they match with the learners’ goals.
Who is the course aimed at?
What is the aim of the course?
What level do the learners have?
Which level do the learners want to achieve? Why do they have to or want to reach this level?
Duration of the course: How long is the whole course? If the course consists of several meetings, how many meetings are there and how long is each meeting?
How long is one lesson?
When does the course take place? (for example in the mornings, in the evenings, weekend)
How often does the course take place? (for example twice a week, daily)
What textbook or course material is used for the course?
Who chooses the material – the teacher, the school, an agency, etc.?
Which teaching method do you use?
The technical requirements are essential to the courses’ effectiveness. Teachers and learners must possess adequate technical skills to use this course. For example, it doesn´t make sense to use an app or use this online resource for self-study in groups made up of learners with low or no IT skills. It is also necessary to clarify what technological materials are needed and the participants accessibility to an internet connection.
Questions to consider
Do all learners know how to use a computer? If not, how many learners do know how to use a computer, how many don’t?
Do you as a teacher know how to use a computer?
Do all learners have the same technical skills or are some much more advanced than others?
Do all learners have access to the following items at the course venue?
Do all participants have access to the following items at home?
Do all learners have an email account? If not, how many of the learners do have an email account?
The classroom part of the questionnaire focuses on the setup of the classroom. In order for these courses to work, certain materials will be needed for the teachers to hold a course. It is important that students have access to the same materials to equally
Questions to consider
Are the following items available in the classroom?
Computer (If yes, how many computers are available per learner?)
Projector & Screen (If not, does the school own a projector and a screen that could be reserved for the lesson?)
Dictionaries (If yes, which type of dictionary – monolingual or bilingual? How many dictionaries are there? If there are no dictionaries in the classroom, does the school own dictionaries that can be reserved for a lesson?)
How is the seating arrangement? (for example rows one behind the other, U-shaped seating arrangement, two tables pushed together scattered across the classroom)
Can you change the seating arrangement for the lesson?
Apart from the group, concept of the course, technical aspects and conditions at the course venue, there are other aspects that may not seem to be related to the learning process. However, they are important to consider as well. If you live in a rural area, for example, the internet may be slow where the participants live. It may therefore not be possible for them to download large files or use website that require high speed internet. On the other hand, if you live in a big city, people tend to spend several minutes each day waiting for or travelling on public transport. Thus, it may be ideal for them to use apps that enable them to learn in short bits during waiting or travel time.
Questions to consider
How much time is needed to prepare for using the resource in class?
How much time are you willing to spend on preparing the class?
Does the geographic location of the participants favour certain tools/resources?
Does the geographic location keep the participants from using certain resources/tools?