Technology in the Classroom – Hacked with Future Learning!
Future Learning were delighted to host the first ELT Hackathon, with the support of the Eaqulas member event fund, at their school in Dublin City Centre on Friday 29th of November. Teachers came from other Eaquals and neighbouring Dublin schools, about 15 in total. They worked in teams on how to make different applications of technology work in the classroom including; Online Dictionaries, Language Databases like the BNC, Google Classroom, Video Trimming Tools, and Pronunciation Apps.
A hackathon is an event where the teams come together for a defined amount of time to tackle a problem related to their area of expertise. It has been borrowed from the world of coding and applied in this case to the problems of using technology in English language teaching (ELT). In his introduction, Future Learning’s Academic Director, Peter Lahiff, made the point that when it comes to the use of technology in education there is a tendency to think that the mere fact of having it is a benefit. He pointed out that like any tool we need effective techniques for using and to work out how to manage a class that is using. It is important too to know what preparation is needed before in order for it to be of use.
The event was opened up to the floor by asking participants to consider What technology does for us, not just what applications we use, and what we would like it to be doing. They were then asked to articulate the problem that they would like to solve and with the help of a partner to define it in terms that could be tackled in the time available. This was considered over coffee and then groups were formed with similar objectives. With the help of suggestions from others groups and FL technology coordinator, James Byrne they selected an application and worked out the steps for implementing it in their classrooms.
When the groups were ready with their proposals we invited a group of students from Future Learning’s afternoon classes to ask the hard questions and give their views about how it would work for students. The students then gave a presentation on the advantages and disadvantages of some of the applications that they were using in their classes including Edmodo, Kahoot and Quizlet. The participants found this feedback direct from the end user very insightful.
The aim of this event was to bring ELT practitioners together to solve some of the problems posed by the effective use of freely available applications in English language teaching. Everyone went away with a plan to try out a new application and an idea of how to implement it and what students thought about it. It was a very practical afternoon and a great way to share good practice between neighbouring Eaquals schools.