It’s quite common to not allow the use of mobile phones in the English classroom. However, there is an increasing array of opportunities to use them in meaningful ways. Because students today are likely to have their own devices, we should put them to use. This requires integrating them purposefully so that they are not simply a distraction, but rather an enhancement to the existing class activities.
Of course, there are a number of apps available for use on our phones. In fact, there are so many apps today that it can be very difficult to choose the ones that are most useful for our particular students. Here are a handful of apps that I think have a lot of potential for language teaching and learning.
1. Augmented Reality: Google Translate
Some of the most interesting opportunities for classroom phone use include apps that are designed around mobility. This includes augmented reality apps that allow users to see the world around them with the addition of enhanced information. Google Translate and Pokémon Go are a couple of the most popular examples of augmented reality.
Google Translate allows users to point their phones at text and see text automatically translated. It works great for single words or short phrases, but is less reliable for longer chunks of text. As the number of people using Google Translate has increased, it has grown into a community of individuals who are interested in language and language learning, rather than a simple app. Other augmented reality apps include mobile game apps like Taleblazer and ARIS, both of which I wrote about in a recent blog post, “Augmented Reality for Language Learning.”
FluentU is an app with language lessons built around real-world videos, including cartoons, news, music videos, and commercials. These videos are enhanced with annotations and interactive captions. It is a freemium app, which means that you can use it to a point for free and pay for premium features.
Kahoot! is a game-based app that is easily customized for language learning. You can design games, including videos, images, and text, to support any lesson you teach. Students really enjoy the competitive nature of Kahoot! and they can use it as part of a team or individually.
Class Dojo is much more than an app. It is actually a learning management system (e.g., Blackboard, Moodle, Google Classrooms, etc.). It supports classroom management, gamification, tracking of student performance and various forms of communication with learners, and parents and other stakeholders. It has become quite popular with English teachers and can make your organization of class content and communication much less complicated.
There are also numerous study tools that allow learners to review material, create digital flashcards and interactive quizzes, and design opportunities to repeat exposure to vocabulary and concepts in order to commit them to memory. One of the most popular of these apps is Quizlet, which allows users to create their own study and review materials while also allowing users to browse through the extensive collection that others have made. These are very accessible and convenient because they are typically organized by textbook publishers and titles.
Further Discussion: Talking About Phones
Like many topics surrounding technology and related social practices, the subject of phone use itself can not only be engaging and interesting for English learners, but valuable in today’s society. Here are some places to get started:
- Quizlet even has lessons covering the vocabulary related to mobile phones that can be found here.
- Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab, which is an extensive and valuable collection of listening lessons and activities, also includes a lesson about mobile phones which can be found here.
- The British Council offers another lesson for the topic of mobile phones that can be found here.
- Tara Arntsen wrote a TESOL Blog entry about using cell phones for reminders. Readers can find that here.
How have you used phones meaningfully in your English language classroom? What apps have you found particularly useful in language learning or teaching, or in classroom management? Share in the comments, below.