Engaging students with technology

Published: May 19, 2015

This week it is Staff Blog week here at Webanywhere, so each day we will be sharing with you a new blog post from one of our employees. Today it’s Keith Taynton talking about when he taught English as a Foreign Language teacher in Japan and Sweden and witnessed the impact that technology can have on student engagement.

I taught English for several years in Japan where, despite its status as a highly developed technological society, technology use in schools is surprisingly low. Most schools only use computers to teach a computing curriculum. I never saw a school using a virtual learning environment like School Jotter, and in this respect, the UK is much more advanced.

This post is about how I introduced a learning platform into my English class as a Foreign Language teacher in Japan and observed student engagement and learning outcomes skyrocket.
I had a contact in a school in Sweden and we decided to use the learning platform website to connect our junior high school students (aged 12-13) together for them to practice English, a second language for everyone, in a practical, real world way. The platform was styled as a poster upon which multimedia elements could be pasted. For example, students could record a short video introducing themselves, add pictures and text boxes and decorate it with clipart and so forth.
Being able to practice the four skills of language (reading, writing, speaking and listening) in one environment for a real purpose thoroughly engaged all of my students, even the ones who perceived themselves as weak at English. The motivation and novelty of the project helped them to focus on applying their learning and the reward was more than just a score – it showed them that they were not alone in their struggles to learn English and that it was a very useful thing to learn because it opened doors to the outside world that monolinguals do not have.
In short, the website gave both sets of students exciting opportunities to reach out and apply their academic studies in a useful way. Foreign languages are a fairly obvious candidate for technology enhanced learning, but with a little imagination this could be applied to many other disciplines. Imagine studying music and being able to connect with schools in other countries to hear what their music sounds like, the instruments they use and even co-composing music. Geography and history could be brought to life by sharing stories with peers who live in foreign countries, enriching both sides by breaking down stereotypes and boundaries.
All these are possible with the technology available today. You’re limited only by your imagination.
Keith Taynton

Related Webanywhere pages

Read some of our case studies to see how we’ve engaged other teachers, students and parents using technology in the classroom.
EdTech15 is an upcoming education technology conference based in Leeds, featuring talks from influential leaders in the education technology field, visit the website to find out more.