I have the sometimes challenging but always rewarding job of training English teachers. I don’t train them how to be good teachers, though. I train them in how to use an online platform called Macmillan English Campus (or IH Campus to you). As you can imagine, I come across all ranges of teaching experience, IT knowledge and blended learning expertise. Some teachers have taught for thirty years, but have never switched a computer on. Some teachers have just qualified but could create their own website at the drop of a hat. So I always come away from my training sessions with new tips and ideas about using online resources in and outside the classroom. I’d like to share some of these tips with you and then give an introduction to using IH Campus in your school.
First of all, let’s have a look at the different types of web resources there are out there.
Websites with free lesson ideas
There is an endless stream of lesson ideas waiting to be found on the internet. English teachers are, it seems, very generous and like to share their classroom tips and plans. Here’s one of my favourites: www.teflclips.com. It’s a website solely dedicated to using videos in the lesson. I’d recommend spending a bit of time surfing the web for these kinds of sites because you might just find a gem. You can also find a list of many different sites at www.blendedmec.com/tips
Social networking sites
As a teacher, you get your very own social networking sites. One that seems to be very popular in the States is www.learncentral.org . It’s free to register and lets you share content with other teachers. You also have the bonus of access to an online training room. This is great if you want to explore the world of distance learning. You can also watch or participate in webinars to keep up with the latest technology and teaching trends.
First stop: www.onestopblogs.com. This lets you choose from more than 250 blogs related to English language teaching (including the English Campus blog www.blendedmec.com). As a teacher you might want to read blogs to find inspiration, experiences, advice … and lesson plans! You can also create your own blog to use with your students. This is a popular way of allowing students to publish their own work and encouraging learners to invest thought and energy in their writing projects. If you’re not sure how to go about it, there’s a very helpful post here from theedublogger.com: .
Websites with authentic material
Take advantage of all of the authentic and up-to-date news, videos, photos, slideshows, audio and dictionaries available on the web. Some of my favourites are:
Virtual learning environments (VLEs)
So, what exactly is a virtual learning environment (VLE)?
To sum it up in a sentence; it’s an online area that students and teachers can log into and access content. One example is the IH Campus, which is where I come in. The IH Campus gives teachers and students access to thousands of online, interactive resources. Here’s a summary of some of what that includes:
– Over 4,200 resources, including vocabulary exercises, listenings, videos, pronunciation activities and readings.
– Access to online courses that complement course books
– A coursebuilder and testbuilder function
– Voice record and playback
– Automatic marking
– Messaging function
Macmillan English Campus was first created for schools who wanted to start a blended learning course, combining their traditional face-to-face classes with an online element. In this model, face-to-face classes continue as normal but on top of this, the teacher can set homework or computer lab work for students to complete. Here’s an example: Swetlana the student (I’ve made this student up, by the way) has been assigned an online course to follow. In her last class, the teacher asked her to do the item ‘Food’ from Unit 4 of her online, general English course by the end of the month. So Swetlana goes home and logs in. She clicks on the title of her course in the my studies area to begin:
She finds Unit 4 and the item ‘Food’ in her online course and proceeds to open up each resource and complete it:
She can try each exercise as many times as she wants and click on the Submit button to finish.
The marks for each resource go into her Markbook, letting her teacher see the mark she got the first time she did the exercise, the mark for the most recent attempt and the number of times she’s attempted it.
If Swetlana wants to do further practice on any grammar point, she can also log in and search the whole database for exercises on any aspect of grammar or vocabulary – anywhere she has an internet connection.
IH Campus is also great for using in the classroom, with an IWB or projector or multimedia lab. The video exercise count on Campus is now over 100, and they are ideal for engaging your students. Each video comes with its own exercises, but there’s nothing stopping you creating your own lesson around the videos. Here’s just one idea to start with.
Choose a video on Campus. To find the videos you can go to the ‘Word and Phrase Search’ and type in “Video activity”:
This will produce a list of all of the videos on the site. Choose a video from the list that will interest your class. I like the video called ‘It’s your round!’. It’s a short video showing two women having a conversation in a pub and then one of them orders a drink at the bar. The point of the video is to demonstrate the language we use when asking for things.
You could play this video in your class with the sound off. Then, ask your students questions to elicit responses about what the people in the video might be doing or talking about and the vocabulary they could be using. Next, ask your students to write their own script in groups and perform it to the rest of the class (if they’re willing!). You then play the video with sound and compare their scripts to the real thing. Finally the students can complete the exercises as homework or in a computer lab.
So, as you can see, it’s definitely worth taking the time to look at what’s out there on the net. If you want to find out more about IH Campus, drop me a line at email@example.com or call me on +44 (0)20 7843 4501.