For teachers with the time and finances, many organizations such as TESOL (http://tesol.org) and CALICO (http://calico.org) offer online courses, standard face-to-face courses, conferences (online and face-to-face), or training sessions. Teachers with less time might take advantage of the many books, articles, and magazines dealing with technology; develop teacher study groups; participate in discussion lists such as TESLCA-L (City University of New York, 2004); or attend short in-service workshops.
Murphey (2003) describes these and other professional development opportunities. Whichever opportunities the teacher chooses, getting the most out of these experiences is important. Chao (2003) suggests that after choosing an activity, teachers should develop a plan to help meet goals effectively. Teachers can ask, “What do I need to know immediately? What would most support my classroom goals? In what specific ways will this activity assist me?” Teaching with technology is a large and complex subject, so the activity should focus clearly on professional development. The resources in this chapter and at the end of this book provide excellent starting points for development in CALL.
Saving Time by Learning How to Use the Web
An important first step to development using Web-based resources is learning to search the Web efficiently and effectively. There are tutorials and other supports all over the Web, but to get started teachers can go to the Web Skills for Teachers page at http://wsuprofessor.wixsite.com/teachertech/module-2 or use the multi-level lessons at https://sites.google.com/site/gwebsearcheducation/lessonplans.
Efficient Web use includes knowing the differences between browsers and how to use advanced search terms. eLearning Industry (https://elearningindustry.com/the-5-best-free-web-search-tools-for-teachers) helps teachers decide on the best browser to use in their context for their goals. WeAreTeachers provides simple and effective guidelines for teaching students about web searching (https://www.weareteachers.com/11-ways-to-teach-savvy-search-skills/).
In learning to search the Web, practice does make better, if not perfect. Of course, learning takes time; until you feel more comfortable conducting Web searches, you can find plenty of books and other materials with lists of great links and other technology resources for teachers. Colleagues are also great sources for useful materials and information on using technology in language classrooms.
The time spent on learning to search well will be rewarded by access to a countless number of resources, mostly free, for use by CALL teachers. Below are listed some sample search terms followed by examples of professional resources that can be found using the Google search engine (http://www.google.com). The special symbols used (e.g., +, “ ”) in the search term box help define the exact parameters of the search. Find out more about how to use these characters in one of the overviews mentioned earlier.
“lesson plan” + ESL
Lesson plan sites abound on the Web; one popular resource is http://www.lessonplanspage.com. Other useful sites include the Lesson Plans page at the Educator’s Reference Desk (formerly AskERIC; www.eduref.org/), which lists lessons by category and has a searchable database, and ESL-specific lessons at http://www.esl-lounge.com/. With the thousands of lessons on the Web, teachers can adapt the wheel rather than reinventing it, thereby saving precious time.
“computer-assisted language learning” journal
Teachers can peruse many e-journals for information on CALL, including Teaching English with Technology (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, 2004) and the academic research-based Language Learning & Technology (http://llt.msu.edu/)
“software reviews” + ESL
This search term results in pages of well-written and accessible reviews of all kinds of language teaching software, including pcmag.com’s “Best Free Language-Learning Apps of 2018” (https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/358228/the-best-free-language-learning-apps).
“free ESL materials” + teachers
This general search brings up everything from song lyrics, board game printouts, and lessons to dictionaries and job listings. Sites such as Wordsurfing (https://www.englishforums.com/English/Wordsurfing/cjkhj/post.htm) provide examples and interesting ideas for helping learners to acquire new vocabulary.
Learning to search efficiently can provide teachers with many focused resources to help them reach their professional development goals and overcome barriers to using technology.
Incentives: Tools for Teachers
Learning to search the Web efficiently and being able to use its abundant resources effectively can serve as one incentive for teachers to use technology tools. Release time and extra resources are also excellent (and crucial) incentives to support teacher development in CALL. However, many programs and schools cannot afford to provide these or other inducements. For some teachers, incentive grows as they learn more about computer technologies and how these technologies can (a) support learning in language classrooms, (b) help teachers use time efficiently, and (c) provide ways for teachers to do their jobs more effectively. For example, if a school does not provide a digital forum for connecting with parents, teachers can use free apps such as BuzzMob, Collaborize Classroom, and even GoogleGroups to contact and connect with parents and notify them of school events. Other software apps allow teachers to send a voice message via the telephone to parents or students; send wake up calls to students who are often tardy; and let parents know about meetings, homework, and student progress. Apps like Tocomail (tocomail.com), gmail (gmail.com) and kidsemail (http://kidsemail.com) remove the worry about what students are writing in e-mail messages by letting you access every message that students send and Receive (see wikiHow.com for instructions on how to set these up). Max’s Toolbox (published by http://fablevisionlearning.com) imposes a child-friendly interface on the popular Microsoft Office products, making them simpler to use and far easier to teach. In teacher personal learning networks (PLNs) that use platforms like Edmodo (http://edmodo.com), teachers can meet and work remotely with other teachers, sharing ideas, information, and empathy. The Web even has tools like Citation Machine (http://citationmachine.net) and EasyBib (http://easybib.com) which will help teachers format citations for reports and other work, and a Permission Template that teachers and students can use to request permission to use information from Web sources (Warlick, 2003; http://landmark-project.com/permission1.php). Being able to use these time-saving and community-building tools can motivate some teachers to learn and use technology.
Another possible incentive for teachers to learn more about technology and to improve their teaching is easy access to answers. Teachers whose forté is not linguistics, for example, could check the EnglishClub.com (http://grammar.englishclub.com/) or another grammar site before class to get a quick brush up on parts of speech, check specific articles, update themselves on English language teaching terminology, or locate answers to grammar questions that they were not able to answer for their learners during class. In addition, Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (Purdue University, 2018) provides resources and exercises with handouts. American University Library (https://subjectguides.library.american.edu/TESOL) offers another site for linguistically challenged teachers: TESOL and Applied Linguistics (American University, 2018). This list contains links to numerous linguistics sites that teachers can tap for information.
Discovering other teaching tools that save time and money and can contribute to learner achievement can help motivate teachers to learn more about effective uses of technology. For example, free presentation tools such as Prezi (http://prezi.com) might be an inducement for teachers. Copyright-free graphics that can be included in presentations to make teacher lessons potentially more accessible can be found on Google by searching Google images and including “copyright-free” in the search term.
There are many ways for teachers to learn about using technology in language teaching and learning and to use technology during the professional development process. The discovery or exploration phase will require the teacher to invest some time, but the eventual savings by having access to resources, information, models, and a community of learners in similar contexts can make the initial outlay well worth it.