1-Who are you and what have you written for the ETpedia series?
My name is Nicky Hockly. I’m an EFL teacher and teacher trainer who is especially interested in the potential of digital technologies to help students learn. Since 2003, I’ve been the Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E, an online training and development organisation that helps teachers learn to use technology with their language students effectively. So unsurprisingly, I've written about technology for the ETpedia series, I’m the author of ETpedia Technology. It's my main area of interest and expertise.
2-Why do you think this resource will be useful?
I think it will be useful because it's aimed at a wide range of teachers. I've written it for teachers who may feel less confident with technology, or unsure about how to start using technology with their learners. But it's also aimed at teachers who may be more experienced with learning technologies. In every unit, there are activities that teachers can very easily and quickly implement, as well as more complex activities for teachers more experienced in using technology with their learners. Also, almost all the activities can be adapted for different contexts – for example, general English, business English, teachers of young learners and teenagers, as well as adults. And there are also plenty of activities for teachers in low resource contexts, where students may have limited access to technology. So I think there's something for everybody in the book – at least that's what I had in mind while writing it!
3-What has influenced you to focus on technology in the classroom?
I’ve been training teachers in how to use technology with English language learners for almost 20 years, since the late 1990s. I find that even though technology is far more ubiquitous and common-place than it was 20 years ago, teachers are still unsure of how to use technology effectively with their learners. Even teachers who may use lots of technology in their personal lives may be unsure of how to use it in learning activities. I’m actually most interested in the pedagogical side of things, such as how to design effective tasks and lessons that involve a principled use of technology, rather than in the technology itself. This is what all of my methodology books to date focus on, and ETpedia Technology is a very practical look at what can work well in the classroom.
4-What is your favourite technological activity or device to use in the classroom?
Mobile devices are a great tool that can be used as part of language learning, both in and out of class. Most students have mobile devices these days. Even if students have simple feature phones rather than smart phones, there is still plenty that can be done with them in the classroom. For example, one very simple activity involves giving students a topic (for example, the environment, clothes, food, transport – whatever topic is being dealt with in your course book), and asking them to use their mobile phones to take a couple of photos outside of class time, related to the topic. The students can then bring their mobile devices to class and share their photos with the other students in the class, explaining how each of their photos relates to the topic. Alternatively, students can email the teacher their photos before class; the teacher can then put the photos into PowerPoint slides, bring them to class, and get each student to explain the connection between his/her photo(s) and the topic to the rest of the class. An activity like this can be a simple and effective introduction to a new topic.
5-What does ETpedia Technology offer teachers that other books may not?
ETpedia Technology, like all the books in this series, is divided into units on single topics, and each topic has 10 ideas or activities. This means that there is a wealth of activities on a very wide range of technology-related topics, that teachers can dip in and out of. Teachers can browse the book by skill or language area (listening, reading, speaking, writing, grammar, vocabulary) or by tool (blog, wiki, Skype, TED talks, YouTube videos, etc.). There are a number of units on general topics connected to technology as well, so that teachers can learn about technology in a general sense. For example, classroom management, professional development, how to develop a strategic technology plan, how to manage your time effectively with technology … It's a particularly practical and hands-on book, and I think that’s very useful for the practising language teacher.
6-What are the main challenges facing teachers in using technology?
For teachers nervous about how to use technology with their students, the biggest challenge is often taking the first step. ETpedia Technology provides lots of simple activities for teachers to get started – and once they get started, teachers quickly gain in confidence. Another challenge for teachers is to keep up with the wide range of technology tools that are constantly appearing (and disappearing). In this case, developing one's own technology skills, or ‘digital literacies’, can help teachers to feel more confident in the ever-changing technology landscape.
7-How has this changed since you first began teaching?
When I started technology training about two decades ago, many teachers were still in denial about the significance of technology in language teaching. Many teachers thought technology had nothing to do with learning a language, and that they could safely ignore it. I find that there are far few teachers now who are in denial about technology. The vast majority realise that it's importance in every aspect of our lives makes it difficult to ignore for the language classroom. So now I find more teachers willing and interested to learn about technologies, and fewer refusals.
8-How do you think technology will change the role of the teacher in the future?
Technology is already changing the role of the teacher. Students can now access a huge range of materials online for free, and self-study language learning has never been easier e.g. via webpages with online language materials or apps. As more and better content becomes available for students, teachers are freed up to become guides and facilitators for students in their learning, rather than the main providers of that content. Rather than a threat, forward-thinking teachers see this as an opportunity to redefine their role. Technology is very unlikely to replace teachers, but teachers need to learn to work alongside and with technology, in order to best support their students’ learning.
9-What would you say to a less experienced teacher wary of using technology in the classroom?
Start small. Try a very simple activity or tool with your students, and see how it goes. For example, word cloud tools (like Wordle or Tagxedo) are very easy to use, and there are a wide range of language activities that can be carried out based on word clouds. By starting with a small simple tool, and using it in a range of ways, you will quickly gain in experience and confidence – and your students will love the activities! Chapter 20 in ETpedia Technology suggests 10 ways you can use word clouds with students.
10-What one piece of advice would you give teachers looking to develop their use of technology?
You mean apart from reading ETpedia Technology? I'd suggest joining an organisation like IATEFL's Learning Technologies SIG (Special Interest Group), or an online community of teachers like the Webheads. Reading blogs about how to use technology effectively, written by language teachers, is another option. But first and foremost - try out some technology tools yourself, and then try them out with your students!