Teach English in ZhangshAn Linchang - Suqian Shi

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To ensure the best education possible for their students, teachers must be able to effectively use the resources at their disposal to teach a foreign language. Many classrooms in the past were limited to resources such as a chalkboard, course books, cassette tapes, CD’s or clippings from magazines and newspapers. More advanced technologies, including the Internet, have changed this dynamic. As a result, teachers must adapt to this different environment. They must be able to both find and apply appropriate, available teaching tools. This paper will summarize four tools, some of their pros and cons, and how they can be used. The first tool commonly available to teachers is the white board. Most modern classrooms come equipped with at least one whiteboard. Some may even feature several. The whiteboard’s benefits are obvious. It is familiar to many cultures and age groups. It can be used by both teachers and students. It can disseminate information to the entire class at once. But there are also downsides. The size of a whiteboard limits the amount of information that can be written on it. Writing on them often forces teachers to turn their back on the class. And only a limited number of students can write upon a whiteboard as part of an in-class activity. This tool is best used to show information that can be used throughout a class, such as instructions or questions to explore. The second common tool available to most teachers is the traditional course book. The extensive information contained within most course books provides teachers and students with subject matter frameworks. Course books often address a topic in a generalized format that can be used in multiple nations or cultures. They contain suggestions for homework assignments and tests. Most students have previously encountered such textbooks. However, their strengths are also their flaws. Course books are rigid and cannot change to fit a current situation. Not all assignments or material they provide can be used in a class. Depending on when it was written, a course book may well contain outdated information. It is up to the teacher to understand and include the sections of a course book which are beneficial to their lesson plans. A third, more recent tool is the smartphone. Students in many nations now possess them. They can display text, graphics and high quality videos at the push of a button. This is a resource that teachers should take advantage of for both in-class and at-home assignments. These phones can promote independent learning and creativity. They can support group projects, such as making a video presentation. For certain types of activities, such as learning how to do an effective job interview, the use of smartphone video can greatly accelerate students’ learning. However, a serious issue with smartphones in class is that students can easily be distracted by them. Phones featuring social media and texting often interfere with learning. The relative newness of this tool means that its disadvantages are not fully understood. Finally, a fourth, closely related tool that is often available to teachers is the Internet. Whether a teacher is searching for images, facts, news stories, videos or more, the Internet has a wealth of available material that can be used for lessons. Such material can serve as icebreakers, as parts of homework assignments, as components of in-class learning games, or as a way to connect students to current events taking place in English speaking nations. The possibilities are nearly endless. But there are two major issues with this powerful tool. The first flaw is that finding and using authentic materials for a class often requires a major expenditure of effort on the part of the teachers and students. The materials must be vetted for both accuracy and usability before they can be incorporated into the lesson plan. The second limitation is that the Internet may not sufficiently available or practical. Slow speeds may obstruct student efforts. Rural areas may have limited or no connectivity. Different nations may also place restrictions on the kind of content which can be viewed or downloaded. The Internet can be a powerful tool, but it is not useful for every type of instruction. Whether a teacher uses these four types of course tools in their classroom or instead chooses one of the many others at their disposal, it is up to the teacher to know when and in what manner they should be employed. Teachers who do not understand the limitations of their tools and only see their positive aspects will lessen their own effectiveness. A teacher who understands both can maximize a tool’s utility and help their students to succeed.