Computer for ESL Computing is not about computers any more. It is about living. - Nicholas Negroponte How to Use a Computer for English Teaching Purposes
ESL teachers are usually excited by the idea of using computers with their students. Unfortunately, when the real job needs to be done, many teachers gradually become less excited. Those teachers who devote some time to gain the knowledge how to use computers for ESL teaching purposes find computers rather helpful. Those teachers who do not – they change their attitude about the application of computers for language teaching purposes from positive to negative.
Computers should be available in the classroom, in the self-access center, and at home so that students could concentrate on projects, and various other assignments. Computer activities in the self-access center and at home should become an extension of the classroom activities.
The computer is an excellent teaching and learning tool if it is used effectively. It can provide unique advantages over more traditional approaches to ESL teaching. They can develop such language skills as listening, speaking, reading and writing, as well as language sub-skills - academic study, research, and critical thinking skills.
1. Listening skills can be improved by making use of multimedia and different kinds of online language learning software. Apart from sound, visual participation provides students with contextual and paralinguistic features.
2. Spoken (pronunciation, intonation, rhythm, and fluency) skills can be developed by using multimedia programs with articulation functions, by using Skype and similar online tools. Also, by email and chat rooms.
3. Reading skills can be effectively improved by asking students to search, select and evaluate information online to solve specific problems. Reading combined with research can also improve students' critical thinking skills.
4. Writing and grammar skills can be developed by performing various practical assignments, such as formulating research topics, writing research projects, focusing attention on particular tasks, doing grammar exercises, completing online tests and quizzes. Advanced online software like Ginger grammar checker, Grammarly, WhiteSmoke, online dictionaries, specialized language learning software and content-based online resources can also improve writing skills. Blogging is another great tool if a teacher knows how to use it. There is a great deal of high-quality software available.
5. ESL learners can acquire cross-cultural communication skills (including paralinguistic skills) when teachers expose their students to various cultural issues, such as manners, etiquette, body language, customs, and traditions. Lynda.com, Ted Talk, and other websites contain a lot of valuable resources.
Teachers should act as guides and facilitators. With the help of the modern software which is available online, educators can significantly improve language study skills of special needs students. Teachers can also conduct the assessment (and the students can conduct self-assessment) by using a testing software. However, to use a computer efficiently, a lot of teacher preparation is required.
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