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Technology or chalk and talk?

May 29, 2007

Hello again,

I was struck recently by the reluctance of some teachers to make full use of technological teaching aids. In touring a well-equipped teaching centre, I saw one ...

... teacher using a video and another teacher using the Internet. Apart from that all classes were being conducted in the old-fashioned way with nothing more than a whiteboard and a marker. And I must confess that I’m guilty of the same techno-phobia. It’s not that I don’t see the value in sophisticated teaching aids; it’s just that I’m slightly wary in case they break down.

However, I am impressed by the potential for using PowerPoint as a teaching aid and would be interested to hear from schools that make use of it. The versatility of the software, with its ability to handle text, images and even sound make it very useful.
Although the preparation time is considerable, each presentation can be saved for use again, allowing a teacher to build up a bank of materials. For those who need help in using the software a Yahoo group exists offering a wide range of instruction and advice: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TeachingwithPowerPoint/.

I think that another reason teachers are reluctant to use equipment is that they have no help in setting it up. Ideally, the equipment should be set up well in advance of the class but this is often impractical and few schools have technicians to do this. Thus lack of time and the rush between classes can deter teachers from making use of various aids even though they are available. Do let me have your opinions on this topic.

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  1. Ruth Says:

    As an Indonesian teacher of English I have more opportunities to teach English for business people in Indonesia than the native. That also means I have to be ready to teach presentations - which means making myself familiar with power point usage. I should say that i am lucky teaching in a quite modern school which always dont mind updating their teaching equipments and giving technical training to the users - teachers. Sometimes I have the same feeling as Brenda that puts me off using power point especially when I have to rely on the company's equipments (off-site trainings). However, I still can work around it by asking my students to do it instead of me. If the students are still not familiar with it I usually arrange them to come to the school and have the IT teach the skills. Having said that though I am still with those who believes that a teacher should support his/her English skills/teaching by the new methods/ways in presenting it, at least to know the basic ways in operating the system.

  1. Lee McIntyre Says:

    Hi and great post!

    I agree that technology such as PowerPoint has huge potential in the classroom, but as you have identified, there are often practical issues to consider.

    In my school teachers move around rooms a lot, and so setting up such equipment is ofen impractical. The potential of this equipment and software is hugh though!

    Lee McIntyre


  1. Susan Senior Says:

    PowerPoint is great for both teachers and ESl students. I was a 60 year old technophobe, but I' ve been converted. The first two or three lessons are time comsuming. However,once you've got the format set, it's a breeze. Your lesson can be put onto a memory stick and quickly put into the classroom computer.
    My Chinese university students use PowerPoint to make their class presentations as well. It improves their confidence and keeps the audience interested with some visuals and clues for understanding. Only keyword notes are allowed on the ppt to avoid students reading their presentations.

  1. Ildiko Says:

    Just like Ruth, I'm teaching business people at their workplace, which gives me the opportunity to have equipment at hand. I normally use a laptop for online tasks or downloadable videos. As this is quite a pricy gadget to own, I ask my students prior the class to bring one. Therefore I have nothing to do but to click on the appropriate link. That takes only a few seconds so I never waste much time on searching.
    I do notice though that many of my colleagues have some sort of apprehension using hi-tech in class. Maybe it's down to the lack of their IT knowledge or they feel they risk their reputation if the equipment breaks down. Murphy is alive and well so you can never be sure...
    What I do is always prepare a plan B. Just in case.It doesn't mean I work out two lesson plans, that would be too time consuming. I do that only for the risky bits.
    Personally, I do believe teachers should do their best to make use of tech stuff in class. We're living in the age of internet and PC. And if this helps to spice up your teaching, your students will appreciate your effort rather than blaming you for a minor breakdown.

  1. David Says:

    Oh, how I'd love to have the sorts of practical problems that would come with getting equipment, setting it up, watching it crash... We've got white boards and CD players and ... erm ... no that's it. Still that's better than what's on offer when we go teach in company.

  1. Barbara G Says:

    In response to your comments about using technology, I am teaching EFL in China at present and have always been pleasantly surprised on having a databank machine in my class. They are terrific machines, you can put a book, without photocopying it and it is displayed in full colour. I can also display the words for a song and put the music at the same time through a memory stick or MP3.
    I agree that it should be set up before the lesson, so I put a student, usually a boy who is mad on technology, to set it up and close it every lesson!

  1. Floriane Cardon Says:

    i teach English in France to students and we have used your post to talk about the lack of high-technology in French sohools especiall when it comes down to teaching foreign languages. i wanted to know if they could post you their own comments on the question, even though this is a site for teachers?
    it was great to work on the topic anyway!
    Floriane Cardon

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    Hello Floriane,

    Thank you for your comment. Anyone is free to post their comments here so your students are very welcome to express their views.

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