International Educator - March/April 2013 - S10
the website and it’s likely you’ll find something your teacher is doing
and offers complementary practice to the formal lessons and assign-
in class. It’s a great way to watch a lesson broken down, or watch it
ments completed during the course curriculum.
again and again. If you know you’re having a lesson on something
Christa Hansen, director, special programs and program de-
tomorrow, you can go to the site, watch a video, and get an introduc-
velopment at Georgetown, says online offerings all come together
tion. Students love it.”
through Blackboard, which serves as a sort of hub for everything
students do. “It’s pretty straightforward,” Hansen says. “Students
get their assignments through Blackboard and have a certain time-
Language classes have also embraced courses taught entirely on-
frame to respond and give their information, and then they get
line, finding that they bring together students from all over the
feedback. We also use the blog to allow students to continue dis-
world to learn together. Sherry Steeley, TEFL instructor at George-
cussing things with colleagues, and that runs through Blackboard
town University’s Center for Language Education and Development,
says the 19-week online classes she teaches are very popular, drawing a mix of students from the immediate Washington, D.C. area
and in other countries.
That means less for students to learn on the tech side, making
the courses easier overall.
“This year we’re incorporating speaking components where stu-
“The students are very active,” she says. “It’s not a self-paced
dents are responding to things and recording their responses,” she
course in any way. We have webinars and classroom assignments
says. “They upload their recordings to Blackboard, and we can give
that are looking at translating theory to practice within students’
feedback on those responses with a discreet focus on accuracy, flu-
ency, and responding to the content demonstration of understanding
Students use journal writing and blog posting to practice their
language skills, interacting with each other over the internet in whatever language they’re learning.
what the questions are asking.”
Georgetown, she says, has found that online learning is a great
way to prepare students for in-classroom instruction as well. “We
“The blog is fairly significant,” she says. “It’s a place for students
have students who come here for a four-month program,” she says.
to synthesize learning, theory, and practice.” The blog is student led,
“Before they come here, they do eight weeks of asynchronous online
Learning English in High-Tech
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR | 2 0 13 L A N G UAG E S U P P L E M E N T
hinese kindergarten teacher Pei Ge enrolled in Georgetown
University’s EFL language program last fall to start mastering
her English skills. She didn’t expect to learn using the electronic
devices in her pocket and backpack when she flew to Washington,
D.C. from her native Shanghai, but says they ended up making a huge
difference over the semester.
“I used my laptop, iPad Mini, cell phone, Facebook, and Skype,” she says
of the classes taught by Andrew Screen, who embraced high-tech teaching
methods a few years ago. “I really liked them. I also Google-chatted with
the instructor when I needed to clarify questions about assignments.”
The technological tools, she says, made the class easier for her. “I
used my iPad Mini to take notes in class. When I needed help for English grammar on essays or presentations, I could talk about that with
my friends via Skype or Facetime. And the EFL program uses Facebook
to post extracurricular events that all students are invited to participate in. I really enjoyed using all of these tools.”
The devices and sites also came into play during class, she says, and
having an instructor who knew how and when to use them helped her
learn the language.
“Professor Screen used unique teaching skills that surprised me a
lot,” she says. “For example, he is like a magician during the one-hour
class, using a variety of pictures on PowerPoint slides to help students
practice different kinds of verb tenses. He played short videos that related to our grammar, and helped students understand clearly how to
use the grammar appropriately.”
Combining the tools with body language and role-playing, she says,
helped make the idiosyncrasies of English much easier to understand
than a more traditional class would have.
“I had a lot of fun in the class,” she says.
Screen uses other tools, including digital recordings in a campus
lab and clickers that let students respond to classroom polls and
questions, in his English classes. He says those are powerful tools that
bring out even shy students to participate and allow him to gauge
what they’re learning and where they might need reinforcement. For
her per, We says those kinds of tools helped immensely and sped up
“Using the online grammar lab and clickers in class meant I learned
English faster than I learned with traditional textbooks and classroom
learning in my country,” she says.
Currently a full-time student at Towson University, We hopes to master
English well enough to start teaching English-speaking children her native