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Embrace technology in the classroom

Yes, I am in favor of the use of mobile phones in the classrooms

I have been asked so many times why I let teenagers use their mobile phones in class, I can’t count them.

I do allow my students to use their mobile phones in class because it has resulted in a fantastic solution and support tool for my classes. Not only do they use mobile phones in class, but we also have a WhatsApp group where we communicate, share, comment, and interact.

Technological evolution, also in the classroom

The educational system has developed significantly, and the implementation of technology in the classroom has allowed language teachers to promote and adopt student-centred approaches.

Students using smartphones in the classroom

What are MIM applications and why should we take advantage of them?

Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) applications are on the frontline as one of the most widely used social networking platforms holding great potential for language learning and teaching.

Industry reports that there has been a significant growth of people owning smartphones, and using Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) applications such as WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, among others (Statista, 2019). 

The generation we are educating these days is becoming increasingly addicted to these apps for social interaction. Therefore, MIM applications have emerged as potential tools to enhance learning English as a second language (Tang, 2017; Andújar, 2019), but it is necessary to understand how these should be used for maximum efficacy.

child in an online hyfex lesson

Mobile phones in class: adapt or die

There is no doubt that technology is transforming education. Unavoidably, personal digital gadgets such as laptops and tablets have made their way from students’ homes to their classrooms. And now, smartphones (at least in my class).

Other, more traditional schools, on the other hand, remain resolute in their opposition to allowing personal gadgets, such as smartphones, in school. Certain schools have maintained their policy forbidding smartphone usage in the classroom, citing concerns about inappropriate use, cheating, and general disturbance.

student texting in the classroom

While the concerns about smartphone use in school are legitimate and clear repercussions for misuse should be enforced, establishing a blanket policy prohibiting the use of the resource entirely would be highly illogical and impossible. So I decided to embrace technology and bring it to my classes.

Adapt to technology inside and outside the classroom, with WhatsApp

Almost all youngsters nowadays grow up surrounded by computers and smart devices. Indeed, the majority of children receive their first smartphone around the age of ten or eleven.

Innovative schools should guide young “digital natives” in the responsible use of technology from an early age, allowing them to develop computer skills necessary for success in present and future employment markets. 

WhatsApp offers students the ability to present their views on an open forum, so this could be used to develop their language skills.

A smartphone with WhatsApp on the screen

Smartphones: also for language learning

An examination of English language teaching (ELT) methodology demonstrates that acquiring communicative competence in a second language requires not just knowledge of grammatical rules but also knowledge of when, where, and with whom to use the language in a contextually appropriate manner.

Teachers should examine initiatives that align with the concepts of Communicative Language Teaching as they seek solutions to big class numbers and unmotivated pupils. 

Unlike a structural curriculum that focuses on grammar and vocabulary drills, project work allows students to cooperate on activities that need actual, meaningful, and real-life communicative encounters. As a result, much as a person learns their original language, this form of real conversation assists students in acquiring communicative competence in a foreign language.

Why should you use WhatsApp with students?

I take advantage of students’ interest in smartphones and I use the Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) application WhatsApp as a tool to improve their skills as well as engage them.

children students with a smartphone

In my case, it has helped create a good atmosphere among students and helped them to get closer, especially during the lockdown. 

Sometimes we just communicate for fun (we share memes or stories we found that are related to topics we talked about in class). Sometimes students send their speaking tasks using the recording function WhatsApp provides, as it helps with some anxiety issues they have when speaking in public. 

It helps them solve doubts about assignments, homework or even grammar in a more immediate and informal way.

WhatsApp as an ally in the HyFlex mode

WhatsApp is also our backup technology when we are having hyflex lessons and a student at home is having problems (the mic is not working, they can’t hear, whatever problem they’re having and need to solve quickly).

Teacher using Kahoot in the classroom

But our favourite moment is when we play games as we review: Kahoots, Quizziz, Wordwall… you name it! They have fun and I get to evaluate their progress. It’s a win-win!

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

John Dewey

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