TED + iPad = productive small-group interaction

Every educator is familiar with TED and the vast amount of videos available online. Every educator is familiar with the iPad and the vast amount of apps available via iTunes.

In second language teaching, my institute are finding TED videos to be a valuable tool in both listening and discussion practice for two reasons.

  • 1) Students can relate to presented topics, and there are many topics from science to social media that both students and teachers can choose.
  • 2) Many presentations (not all) have a clear enough use of English that L2 students can follow, and even if that is not the case, transcripts are available at ted.com for students to follow, as well as closed captioning in a variety of languages.

I have always found the iPad (or any portable device) extremely useful in the classroom for its most simplest function, video and audio playback. I have used iPods in the past to allow students to watch videos of themselves and provide self-assessment of their progress over a school year.

IMG_0111At my current institute, I am responsible for a course titled English Workshop: Listening. Traditionally, students would gather in a room and watch a video on a big screen and answer questions from a workbook. This worked fine as there was plenty of teacher-student interaction before and after the video, but at the teacher’s pace. With 4 iPads at my disposal now, I am able to divide students into small groups to watch the same videos. There is still student-teacher interaction, but with two noticeable differences, one which was assumed to happen, and the other was not.

  • 1) Students were watching the videos at their own pace. This allows lower level students to be able to re-watch any number of times they feel necessary. For L2 learning, repetition is key, and watching videos on topics students are interested in makes the repletion a less daunting task.
  • 2) Students discuss what they are watching with each other. When students were watching together on a big screen, seldom did any of them talk to each other, but in the smaller, more intimate group setting, discussing what they were watching became easier. Even though much of the discussion is in their L1, the addition of this opportunity allows them to get a fuller grasp of the ideas presented, which can present further opportunities for L2 interaction with the teacher. There were also opportunities of more intimate teacher-student interactions that were 1-to-1, rather than teacher-to-class.

TED has been a great way to engage students in topics in which they are interested while still working through L2 activities, and iPads have given the students an opportunity to participate in a smaller, more intimate setting. As TED videos are available online, BYOD schools can take full advantage of the ease of availability.

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