TESOL 2018 Highlights: Engaging Learners with the Latest News

My annual TESOL experience wouldn’t be complete without running into colleagues all over the convention center. Hugs and updates are exchanged, and I sometimes even pick up interesting tips in passing. Lucky for me, I ran into Eric Roth of University of Southern California. He had just visited the Exhibit Hall and told me about one booth in particular that caught his interest: en.news. His quick summary sent me in to check out this new resource for myself. What an exciting find!

Conveniently available as a mobile app (in Google Play and the App Store) and as a web-based tool, en.news allows learners to access the latest CNN news stories in the context of a language lesson. The site takes the trending stories and bundles either the featured video or article with support tools and practice exercises. All materials are authentic and appear in their original format. If desired, learners can adjust the speed of the videos to slower settings (.5 and .75).  A handy 10-second rewind button allows a learner to replay any part that was difficult to catch the first time. Transcripts are also available. When reading an article, the learner can tap on any word in the text to get a definition and pronunciation, both of which come from the Collins Dictionary.

After watching or reading the main content, learners move into about four or five practice tasks, including word gaps and sentence scrambles. Speech recognition is used when learners submit answers via microphone. Lessons as a whole target reading, listening, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. As learners progress through a lesson, they earn points and badges. Yes, there’s gamification! Learners can easily share their achievements via social media, and a community leaderboard motivates learners to try new lessons and earn more points.

The vision of en.news is to align language learning with personal and professional interests. There’s distribution across all topics. The fact that new lessons are created as fast as news gets made means that en.news supports regular study habits. Lesson selection is aided by filters. You can sort by type and level of difficulty. Lessons are even tagged if they’re appropriate for TOEFL/IELTS study.

Did I mention that en.news is completely free? This makes the resource easily accessible to all learners and teachers. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the number of users is rocketing, though en.news is only two months old. More development is on the horizon. I inquired about discussion boards and the ease of sharing news stories as well tracking student progress. I was happy to hear that the creator is already thinking along the same lines and has plans underway to make en.news even more appealing and usable from a teacher’s standpoint.

My mind already sees possibilities for use with groups and among private students. Take some time to check out the site or the app. Feel free to post your thoughts as well!

More TESOL highlights to come!

 

Photo credit: Blogger, Cell Phone, Office, Business by Free-Photos. Retrieved from the Public Domain at https://pixabay.com/en/blogger-cellphone-office-business-336371/.

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