IATEFL 2015 Plenary Day 2 – Joy Egbert

IATEFL Day 2 Plenary session time!

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Before coming to IATEFL, Joy tried to learning British as a Foreign Language (BAFL – baffle!) with Doctor Who:

  • No social interaction,
  • No fb or support,
  • Challenge too great,
  • Loss of interest,
  • Lack of engagement/learning

Leads on to topic:

Engagement and practice in classroom learning, language and technology

Why are we talking about it? In high school, she took 4 years of Spanish, in university she took two years of Spanish, but never really learnt how to speak. There has to be something better? A better way to learn? 4 years of Russian at university. Used PLATO – a system that gives no feedback and you have to sit in front of it till you give the right answer. Has been around the world and seen a lot of people trying to use technology to learn language. Her children have very different teachers – her son gets to sing songs and play games, her daughter has to learn lists of words including a car part that I can’t spell (carburator?).

But a teacher’s goal is to provide an environment where students will succeed and learn effectively. One of the ways to think about how to engage our students is to think about how languages are learnt. What opportunities do your students have for using language? We know that activities need to be engaging – the more engaged students are, the better their language achievement will be (in their terms – their goals). Students become disengaged when they do things that don’t make sense to them, that aren’t relevant to them. What we want is students participating, focusing, leaning in etc.

Engagement deals with the relationship between the learner and the task. The teacher can set it up, but then the learner has to carry it out. If the task is engaging, the learner wants to carry it out.

Engagement can occur with opportunities that:

  • include authentic tasks (as perceived by students)
  • integrates connections with students’ lives
  • provide social interaction or deep individual focus
  • offer practice and feedback of an appropriate kind
  • offer connections to authentic audiences and materials.

And technology use can help teachers meet these engagement principles. However, there are issues with it. So, perhaps people don’t use technology, or pedagogy doesn’t change to use the affordances offered by technology, or people use it atheoretically i.e. use is unprincipled.

Today we will discuss a principled and effective use of technology.

The first step is getting to know your students. <Joy had us complete a questionnaire about our students at this point> These are the kinds of things we need to know about our students, but in general knowing about our student is important.

Thinking about authenticity: what can I do that can help my students be involved in this task? You can use different materials for different students, which help them achieve the same goal in different ways.


Three things to frame a lesson:

  • “Yesterday we… and today we’ll…”
  • “You’ve said you like to learn by…..so we’re going to try that today”
  • “This makes a difference in your life/connects to your life outside of class in this way..”

Social interaction/deep focus:

How to make group-work successful?

  • Need to encourage cooperation/collaboration
  • Structure roles: put students in charge of different things (typist, artist, etc.)
  • Let students answer their own/others’ questions
  • Students need a reason to listen

Think about what students are going to do with the information they are listening to. Take notes BECAUSE…. <e.g. they are going to do a project>.

Feedback and support:

We need to think of ways that students can use the feedback/support in other activities. For example, in MS word, you can use text comments or voice comments – depends which your students prefer.

Challenge/skills balance:

You need the students to be in the flow channel, where there isn’t anxiety of it being too difficult or boredom of it being too easy. Students can learn something and teach other people, choose their own materials, create tasks, get feedback from peers. So you allow students to learn and to teach. E.g. expert groups and jigsaws.


  • We need to work from students’ strengths but also help them work on their weaknesses. All students will rarely be engaged all at the same time, all the time; BUT all students can be engaged most of the time.
  • There are many technologies that can work across contexts e.g. storyjumper, googledocs, MS Word, Open Office, TikaTok
  • There is a wide variety of uses for these technologies. E.g. Popplet – a brainstorming software – could be used for word walls, timelines…
  • Can’t use all the new technologies all the time, but simple things can be so effective e.g. email.
  • We need to think about what we are getting out technology use. We need to evaluate it. What does it work for? With whom? What kinds of technologies, integrated how, into what kind of syllabi, at what level of learning, for what kind of learners? etc
  • If it helps you to meet your goals better, use it; if it doesn’t, don’t use it!

It’s about devising engaging tasks that are going to lead to language learning. Use or not of technology depends on how it fits in with this.

If you want to know more, you can contact Joy on jegbert@wsu.edu

….common sense? 😉


2 thoughts on “IATEFL 2015 Plenary Day 2 – Joy Egbert

  1. Pingback: IATEFL – On-line links and blogs | ILC INSIGHTS

  2. Pingback: IATEFL 2015: All my posts indexed! | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

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