Mobile devices, especially Smart Phones, are replacing laptops to the point that the students of any Adult Education class can access lessons online immediately, without depending on a computer at home or in the computer lab.
In order to have a good understanding of how a teacher could include smart phones, we need to examine specific models. In this regard, I would like to share my own experience.
Almost by accident, I started depending on the phone more beginning nearly a year ago, when my ESL website, Pumarosa, became mobile friendly.
Facebook is also available via phone, and I had begun study groups on my Facebook page three years ago. People become members to access lessons. I have three major groups: Songs, pronunciation, and readings – stories, poems and essays.
I also put lessons, texts and my YouTube videos on my WIX page, inglesconprofepabo.com.
Often I would post a lesson from Pumarosa and the WIX page on the Facebook groups, usually to answer questions, or to submit a lesson.
Then, last year, some students suggested I form WhatsApp study groups.
I created three different WhatsApp study groups – Beginning, Intermediate and a Chat group.
The response was incredible! The Chat group was the most popular, and actually became addictive, until I realized I was spending a great deal of time on it, and decided to leave it, making a student the Administrator.
The success I have had with the use of smart phones has led me to the conclusion that we can solve a number of vexing problems in Adult Education. Those students who are not able to attend classes, for example, can now be included in a program.
Below is a more detailed description of my program:
First, my program is totally Informal and free. There is no registration or test to take. Most of my students are older adults who live and work in various Latin American countries. Everyone can access lessons on Pumarosa and my Wix page. And everyone is a member of my WhatsApp groups.
WhatsApp is a free downloadable App that allows the user to keep in contact with other WhatsApp users. Anyone can send texts, photos, videos, and audios and also make a call to someone personally – from anywhere in the world. It is fast and easy and free.
About one year ago I started three study groups, Beginner (mostly Spanish), Intermediate (mostly English) and a Chat group (90% English). People can write in Spanish or English. Membership varies, and right now there are about 30 in each group.
When I started my WhatsApp groups, I posted my “Rules”:
- Be polite - No making fun of anyone.
- Don’t worry about mistakes.
- Avoid discussions of politics and religion
- Ask questions
Usually I just need to remind people of the rules in case conversations get to ‘personal’.
A good example of what happens can be seen in a session I had one hour ago, just before I wrote this. Several people from the Beginners’ group began by telling me about their day, and one said he was listening to some rock and roll songs. And then we started to chat about prepositions, so I sent a link from my Wix page.
An Intermediate student had a question about the pronunciation of the past tense (..d, …t,…eD), so I sent her a link to Pumarosa Intermediate. I signed off telling everybody I had to write this paper for teachers, and they all wished me well!
At times I will post a link from Pumarosa that I call “Homework”, usually a grammar lesson. Or I will ask people to record something to practice their pronunciation.
But the main focus is on people’s questions.
Often the sessions are lively, but sometimes there isn’t much participation.
If students are interested in inviting friends to join, they can become Administrators.
So – in conclusion – I work out of my home, as an independent teacher. This year I am going to devote some time to promoting my program through articles like this with the intention of becoming affiliated with adult education agencies that would like to try my approach in their classes, especially in a Distance Learning course.
It seems reasonable to assume that a Smart Phone/WhasApp addition to any class would increase its popularity, decrease the drop-out rate and accelerate learning.
If you would like further information, please contact me.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with WhatsApp. Although I feel quite comfortable with the use of technology for teaching and learning in my practice, I know I need to improve the use of Smartphones because that is the way my students are accessing information. Keeping a dialogue going with beginner ESOL students can be challenging and I see WhatApp as a means to increase their exposure and use of English in writing and conversation. Many teachers are very successful with the use of Facebook so I had been toying around with this idea. What I like about your suggestion is having a student be the administrator of the group. You have laid easy to understand and follow ground rules. I'm going to try this soon with my beginning level ESOL students in Rhode Island and I'll keep you posted. Thanks for sharing,
Sherry - Glad to hear about your program. There is a lot to the use of Smart Phones and WhatsApp and it can become very exciting. Don't forget the webinar coming up soon.
I deliberately set up at least three groups to allow for one group to be pure conversation, without lessons, corrections or homework. It was wild! Who knows - maybe your students can meet up with mine in a special group! Then just stand back!
Anyway, please keep in touch. Paul
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