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Teaching English Using Smartphones

I have been teaching English for over 25 years and during that time I have written many lessons and made CDs and DVDs. My course is bilingual and focuses a lot on phonetics.

I have also developed two free websites - see below.

These websites are easily available on any phone so students can study anytime, any place. No more excuses for not doing homework!!!

In addition there is a thumb drive which fits into a smart phone as well as a computer. I use one  that has 32 gigs. Many students pay for plans that do not provide much memory, so the “gadget” can be a great help.

I also created several WhatsApp groups for people who want to be in contact with me and ask questions.

Plus on my facebook page I set up some groups to learn English, see below.

Songs are an important part of my course, and I can include the students’  favorite songs in English with the lyrics superimposed like a Karaoke. Songs are a great way to teach/learn  new vocabulary, pronunciation, listening and grammar while walking, driving, on the bus, etc. - any time, any place.

I believe that the smartphone is the most important and useful educational tool that a teacher could incorporate into ESL - and other -classes, especially for low-income, working adults who are not able to attend classes in a community college.

Smartphones are also a great way to be introduced to the use of technology, serving as an  important method to bridge the ‘digital divide”.

Paul Rogers

websites= - with voice so that the students just need to raise the volume, click on the icon of an ear and repeat two or three times.

Facebook Groups






Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hi Paul, Thanks for sharing how you are using smart phones, Facebook, WhatsApp, songs, and memory devices etc. to teach English bilingually to Spanish speakers.  Your program sounds wonderful!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Paul Rogers's picture
One hundred

Thanks, Susan! Yes it is quite remarkable how the smart phone is the key to helping large numbers of immigrants learn English. But I think that there is not too much interest among in the idea among teachers and program directors at this time. If so I would greatly appreciate hearing how other people are integrating the smart phone into their programs/classes.

A note on the title - ESL a GoGo...does anyone remmember what GoGo meant back in the old days? Or am I the only one? 

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hello colleagues, I'm curious if Paul is right that few teachers are using smart phones for teaching English. How about it? If you are using smart phones in your instruction, please let us know.

Personally, I always check out every website I may want to recommend to learners to see if the site works on a cell phone. I'm always delighted to see that many of them do. I prioritize sites that work on cell phones, including Pumarosa for Spanish speakers. When  we use computers in the class (we are lucky to have Chrome books available), some students prefer using their smart phones instead. Another thing I'm doing, which Paul has shared with us before, is communicate with learners through texting and voice texts. When learners send me voice texts for homework, I can then provide them with feedback on their English.

I"m looking forward to hearing how others are using smart phones in ESL class.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Lisa Agao's picture

Hello All,  I teach citizenship. So I ask all my students to download the free USCIS: Civics Test Study Tools. In addition, students create accounts on USA Learns. Each week, we dedicate a portion of one class to online learning. Some students now prefer to use their smart phones rather than the traditional desk top computers. 






athomas's picture

We have helped our students download and install USICS 100 questions audio on their I phones.  They listen to this on their drive to work. We also use USALearns, but not  in class. Our students work with online lessons as homework out of class. We have been pretty good at creating a successful blended learning scenario for our students. We also use PLATO Learning systems with our advanced students. Smart phones have been very useful and effective.  We use the 'voice memo' option to record readings and speaking. Students can self record and e mail an audio file for our portfolios.  WhttsApp is a wonderful app to have. We use it record audio, share lessons, music, videos, news items etc.  Since it runs on Wifi our students can use it anywhere there is open wifi available. Even though our students have laptops, most prefer their phones and I pads.  I think it is the ease of use and can be taken to places in their bags/backpacks.

Julia Crawford's picture

Thank you for sharing these resources you have developed.  I look forward to checking them out!

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Paul, Lisa, Anitha, Susan and others,

Paul, in February 2019 you posted “Teaching English Using Smartphones.” There were a few helpful replies then, but I would like us to re-visit this, and I have some questions for you and others:

Paul, have there been any updates to your websites since February, new content or features you would like to tell us about? Have you seen any new or different uses or patterns of use by students accessing your websites using smartphones. For example, here are two patterns that I am aware of: 1) Sprints of 10 to 20 minutes  that students might have available while riding to or from work or at lunch or break time, or waiting in an office for a doctor, dentist, etc.  and 2) Binge learning of lessons, sometimes for hours,  after work or putting children to bed, often late at night or on weekends. Have you -- or others here  -- seen these patterns? Have you seen any other patterns of smartphone use for English language learning?

Anyone: Susan asked if Paul is right that few teachers are using smart phones for teaching English. How about it? Are you, and are other ESL/ESOL teachers you know, using smart phones for teaching English?

Thanks Lisa and Anitha for your replies. Anitha, I loved your reply. You wrote that you:

  • Helped your students download and install USCIS 100 questions audio (for U.S. Citizenship exam preparation) on their Iphones.  You said they listen to them on their drive to work
  • Use USALearns, but not in class. You wrote that your students work with these online lessons as homework out of class
  • Use PLATO Learning system (now Edmentum) with your advanced students
  • Think smartphones have been very useful and effective.  You said, for example, you use the 'voice memo' option to record readings and speaking and that your students can self record and email an audio file for portfolios
  • Use WhatsApp  to record audio, share lessons, music, videos, news items etc.  You wrote that since it runs on Wifi your students can use it anywhere there is open wifi available
  • Think that although your students have laptops, most prefer their phones and Ipads because of the ease of use and portability
  • Have created a successful blended learning scenario for your students.

I would like to ask you three questions Anitha:

  1. Is there anything new that your students have been doing with learning on smartphones, perhaps since February, that you would like to tell us about?
  2. I agree that portability and ease of use make smartphones popular. Do you – does anyone here – see other reasons they are also popular? Are they sometimes more affordable now, especially second-hand smartphones? Are there more free hotspots available for them now in your community? is the combination of phone and Internet, for example for instant messaging, or face-timing, important to them? Have you – has any teacher here -- asked your students how many have smartphones and, of those, how many do not have computers or Chromebooks, and then asked why they have smartphones instead of computers? If you have asked, or plan to ask, your students please share what they say with us.
  3. Anitha, I would love to hear more about the “successful blended learning scenario” you have created for your students. What do you see as the most important elements of that success?

David J. Rosen



athomas's picture


 We are looking at Learning Upgrade App to use next school year.

All our students have Smart phones, Most have both a laptop an I pad. It i s always the low literate ones that do not have a computer. All the more reason for them to have a smartphone or other options to increase encounter with the target language.

I can tell now with proof from our class that our blended learning has been successful. All students progressed on our assessments, students with professional licence or preparing for college placement test goals achieved their goals.  We planned on 8-10 hours/week of learning. 4 hours in class and the rest online at home. We choose the lessons based on personal goals.  Low level limited skilled   as well as citizenship prep students will be assigned USALearns. Our students like those lessons. Students with EFL background and PSE  goals are assigned Edmentum lessons . Out students like those lessons. I am picking lessons for my students from Open Courseware not using the preset assessments. Like I have said before most of our students work long hours or they have young children at home, so having an option to learn from home is absolutely necessary to attain their goals as well as meet our attendance and progress goals. I have encouraged students to use I pads because they can use it anywhere and easy to carry around. They can read when waiting for their children. I have done that a lot; I might have read the most in the car waiting in the school parking lot when I was chauffeuring my own kids.

We are looking into checking digital literacy of our students and trying to find out how we can help the ones to get the basic skills and others to  fill the gaps in their skills.


Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hello Anitha, Thank you for sharing this update with us about how blended learning is working in your program. Would you be able to say more about the assessments you are using and the specific goals learners have achieved? 

I have been using CommonLit to build in some blended learning for those who have time to study at home. Students greatly appreciate the opportunity to read, listen and respond to questions when they have time at home. On CommonLit, teachers can set up a class and add readings at different levels for the class or for individual students. Students can annotate while reading on the site as well. It's great that this site works well on cell phones.

I hope we hear from Paul and other teachers, too. Thanks for circling us back to this valuable discussion, David.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Langauge Acquisition CoP

athomas's picture

Common Lit is very good. I have used several readings from it. Our online independent learning option has to be the ones approved by our state for attendance hours, so we use USA Learns, PLATO and Burlington English.  My students are not using BE. They didn't like it.  Our assessments are also NRS approved. This year we have Best Plus, Best Literacy, TABE CLAS E and TABE 11& 12. I like he Best series.  In my class i pick the assessments based on students' education background and personal goals