TESOL Observations – Day 1 (academic session)

My first day of TESOL actually began on Wednesday because I attended a committee meeting and luncheon. As much as I enjoyed the company and the discussion yesterday, the true excitement always begins when the academic sessions are in full swing.  That is why I mark Thursday as Day 1. An interest in technology guided my choices of sessions today, and I soon understood that one hot topic this year at TESOL is the use of cell phones, and in particular smartphones.

I joined several dozen teachers bright and early at 7:30 a.m. to listen to Weston Bennett speak about cell phones as learning tools in the classrom. This instructor from The American Language Institute at San Diego State University titled his session “If You Can’t Beat’Em, Join’Em”, and he opened with a list of convincing reasons to encourage cell phone use by students. For example, Bennett pointed out that cell phones, especially smartphones, can partly substitute computers, which some classrooms lack. Also, even the basic cell phone can be used as a tool to promote speaking skills. It was argued that practice on the phone as part of students’ language study can increase their confidence when handling real life phone conversations.

Weston shared some creative activities that motivate, energize, and teach. For instance, students can compare and contrast their phones, and with a list of questions to guide them you can simply stimulate discussion or target specific grammar or vocabulary (such as comparatives and superlatives).  You can also put a spin on the classic telephone game and have students call one another to pass along a teacher-created message. Will the final student repeat the message as it was originally delivered?

From Weston’s presentation, I learned about GeoCaching, a type of scavenger hunt that makes use of the GPS device in a smartphone, and Wifitti, which allows students to send real time messages to the teacher’s computer so that they are automatically projected onto the classroom screen. This can be an alternative form for student contributions during brainstorming sessions. Weston also touched on the use of cell video recorders during student presentations for the purpose of self-critique. In the short 20 minutes, the presenter filled our heads with plenty of exciting possibilities.

After this Teaching Tip session, I headed off to the Electronic Village, which I can talk about in my next post!

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