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How To Teach English With Technology

Review by Mike Riley, IH San Donato Milanese
As a child, my nightmares were populated by the clown from It and the freaky twins from The Shining. Since becoming a teacher, it’s malevolent data projectors and menacing mp3 players that haunt me in my dreams. Still, I’m prepared to face the fear and give it a go. Just recently I mentioned in the Teachers’ Room that I’d used YouTube with a class. One teacher looked at me with disgust and declared – ‘I do NOT use technology in MY classroom!’
How to Teach English with Technology is designed to reassure those teachers who may be a little technophobic that they do not have to abandon their beliefs and values. One of the most positive features of this really useful addition to the How to series is that it highlights how technology – with a little know-how and practice – can enhance what we already do in the classroom. It encourages the smooth integration of technology into the student’s learning programme and the authors consistently avoid the temptation of being seduced by the glitz of the web and never suggest using technology when other techniques would do a better job.
Each chapter focuses on a different topic so you can dip in depending where your interests lie. The authors, Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly, guide the technophobes amongst us through simple definitions of basic terminology (who knew that Wiki came from the Hawaiian word for quick?) and they don’t shy away from addressing the doubts and fears that many teachers have. But there is plenty for the more experienced user – or digital native as they are called. The book is full of inspiring tips, tools, websites and activities. This is definitely a book to be thumbed through while sitting at a computer linked to the web. The fun is in trying out some of their great suggestions.
Written in a lively, reader-friendly style, the book starts with a general overview and then looks at perhaps the most familiar piece of technology – the word processor. There are later chapters on other resources such as CD-ROMs, DVDs and Interactive Whiteboards. The most interesting sections are those dedicated to that nightmare-inducing feature of modern life – the Internet. The authors go where others fear to tread. They gently guide us through reference resources available on the Internet, e.g., online dictionaries. They make the bold suggestion that we actually bring the web into the classroom and – sensitive technophobes should stop reading here – give us examples and lessons plans for using webquests, email and chatware (and if you don’t know what that is, you should buy the book) with our students. They even have the audacity to suggest that you get your class to create their own podcasts and blogs! The great thing is that they make it all seem so easy that you wonder why you haven’t been doing these things since the day your school bought its first computer.
The book itself is clearly laid out. Screenshots and diagrams make the material easy to digest. The CD-ROM that accompanies the book has lots to recommend it too. It brings the material discussed in each chapter to life. It includes interviews with teachers from diverse backgrounds who discuss how they’ve applied many of the ideas from the book. There are also useful tutorials on topics such as how to set up a blog and how to open a Skype account.
On the whole the book is a great success and is a really helpful resource for teachers and anyone involved in teacher development. At times the relevance of the content will depend on the teacher’s own context and experience. Due to restrictions of space, How to Teach English with Technology can only give an overview of areas it covers – e.g., there are just three pages for interactive whiteboards. But there is plenty of food for lots of thought and more information can be found on the web links provided on the CD-ROM. Teachers should embrace the great opportunities offered by technology and this book will do much to both inspire teachers who a more than familiar with the topics and sooth the nightmares of the yet-to-be converted. The only downside is that since reading this book, I’ve stopped having nightmares about data projectors and those twins are back…

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