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Get to know some digital tools

How would digital tools help teachers?
Now let’s have a look at some tools and ideas for how you can use them in your classes. In this section, we’re going to look at three tools, Write and Improve, Padlet, and Quizlet. For those who don’t know what they are, Write and Improve is a program developed here in Cambridge. Padlet is a free online bulletin board program, and Quizlet provides online learning tools for teachers and their classes. We’ll talk about each one in a moment. These are only examples, there are lots of tools available, and many of you will be using different tools, as you were saying. We’ve just chosen these three as examples of their type. So let’s start with a quick tour of Write and Improve.
So this is the home page of Write and Improve, an online tool from Cambridge English Language Assessment. You need to register, so that the system knows who you are, but it’s free. There’s also a video on the home page, which goes through all of the functionality, so you can see exactly how it works. So we’ll play this now.
Welcome to Write and Improve. This is an exciting new tool for English learners that evaluates the quality of your writing and provides fast feedback. It’s easy to use, and you can even log in using your Facebook account. Once you’ve registered, simply choose your task, write or upload your text, and submit your writing for feedback. Then try again, using your feedback, to improve. To get started, choose a writing task from the list. The tasks are there to help you think of what to write. For example, you choose to write about the internet and websites. You won’t be marked on your ability to answer the question, just your writing. Now simply enter your text in the box.
If you’re not quite ready to submit your writing, you can save and return to your work at any time. When you’re ready, click save and submit. The system will then assess your writing. The top result is your overall score. This is assigned on a scale from red to green. Red is for text that looks like it may be at CEFR Level B1 or below, and green shows evidence of being at CEFR Level B2 or above. Under detailed feedback, there are
three tabs: combined, error feedback, and sentence feedback. Combined gives you all the details from error feedback and sentence feedback together. Error feedback can be seen either by hovering over a red box or through clicking the tab. This shows specific words that have been used incorrectly, with explanations and suggested corrections. Sentence feedback gives you an idea of the general quality of each sentence. The colours range from green to red via yellow and orange. Green suggests a well- written sentence. Yellow and orange suggest the system believes the sentence is acceptable. Red suggests the sentence may have a few problems. Working from this advice, you can amend and resubmit the text and measure any improvement.
On the overall score scale, two arrows indicate results for the most recently assessed version and results for the previously assessed version, if there is one. Orange boxes around words suggest regions that may need particular attention and possibly correction, but for which the system can’t give a specific suggestion. For instance, you might consider using “have changed’ instead of “change” and using a capital I for Internet, rather than lowercase. Note that the system identifies a new error in the revised version of the text. As soon as the error in informations is corrected, it suggests correcting every to all. Using the suggestions from the system, you can gradually improve your writing.
You can submit as many revisions as you’d like, the system will reassess your revisions and suggest corrections for each version. Write and Improve not only helps your own written English, but by taking part, you’re contributing to a valuable research project that will benefit English learners around the world.
So as you’ve just seen, the main aim of Write and Improve is that students receive feedback and ideas on how to improve. So that they’re then able to learn from their mistakes and resubmit a better attempt. This leads to not just better writing, but good editing and checking skills and improved learner autonomy. As a teacher, you may choose to ask your students to print and copy and paste their final version, but they’ll have hopefully made a lot of improvements before they do that. The skill of improving and checking your own writing is an important skill to develop. It helps learners become independent, and of course it’s especially important for students preparing for exams.
So this tool is currently beta site, as it’s still in development and being used for research purposes, but the more people who use it, the more accurate it’ll get. So it’s currently most accurate at B1 level. For those of you who are asking who marks the writing, it’s automatically marked. The machine’s been trained at B1 level, which is why it’s most accurate there, most of the scripts work at B1 level. But as more and more people use it, it will become more accurate across the range. The second tool we’ve chosen to show you today is Padlet.
There are other tools like this available, or your institution may have a different collaboration tool, but any tool which is like a noticeboard or wall will work for the same types of task. Padlet is free, just go to the home page and sign up. It also has help available there for getting started. It’s basically just a blank canvas that’s very easy to use, which makes it perfect for using in combination with good content and tasks. When you’ve signed up, you just click on the icon on the right, indicated here with the purple arrow, that says create a new Padlet. Then you’ll see this page, which is a blank screen, and you can post anything you want.
So here are some examples of how you can use Padlet. You and anyone who has a link to the board, can post pictures or write something. In this example, there’s a word of the day, in this case, fascinate, and learners have to write sentences using it. The teacher can comment what the students have said on the wall. Or, you can use it for translation. You can put up the word or phrase in your learner’s language, and learners have to put the English translation next to it. You can also add pictures or audio to a Padlet board. Here’s an example with pictures. One idea is for you to add pictures and ask learners to make a story using the pictures.
What other ideas can you think of with pictures? Write some ideas in the chat box now. So when you put pictures on the noticeboard, what could you use them for? You could put one picture or several, they could be connected or different. Try and think of some of the ways you already use pictures in your exam preparation classes. We’ll just give you a minute to put your ideas in the chatbox.
OK, lots of you like Padlet, that’s good. It’s a very versatile tool.
Yep, you know it is. That’s right, it is similar to lots of collaboration tools like this. Your school may have its own as part of its BLE. Good to see people are using it. Like Cinzia using it with children in her primary class. So any more ideas about how you could use pictures? Labelling, great idea. Yep. Adjectives, good idea. Yeah, introducing a topic. Comparison, sequencing. Yeah. And someone’s asked if we can work the site. So after the webinar, you’ll get links, all the links to the sites that we’re showing you now. Compare and contrasting, that’s a good idea. Picture story. Differences. Yeah, you could put two similar pictures, find the differences.
Thanks for those ideas, now let’s look at another tool. The third tool we’re looking at today is called Quizlet. You register for free and enter the site. You can make online flashcards to introduce new language, to practise language you’ve taught, and to test learners’ knowledge. You can create classes on the site and give your students access to different sets of vocabulary for them to work on. After you’ve put in the words and pictures or definitions, you can then choose “Learn” and go to a flashcard. You can make your own flashcards, or you can choose flashcards that are already made.
There are 40 million sets on the site, so just use the search box to find the set with the language that you need. Here’s an example where you have the word and picture. Quizlet automatically adds the audio, so your learners can hear the pronunciation, too. If you choose the Test icon, Quizlet automatically makes questions using the vocabulary you put in. You can choose from written questions, matching, multiple choice, and true/false questions. So your students have several ways to practise. They can practise hearing, writing, or matching the words. There are games, too. In this game, learners have to drag the words to the pictures as quickly as possible.
Your learners can see who can do this quickest in the class, as all the times on a leaderboard. The example here is one we made using words
from Cambridge English: Young Learners word list and picture bank.

Let’s move on now to explore the exciting world of digital tools. Watch this clip from our webinar with Anna and Mary talking about some digital tools. Make a note of the digital tools they talk about and note how the resources can be used to prepare lessons. If you would like to see the whole webinar, here’s the link.


What do you think about using digital tools in the classroom? Have you ever experienced this as a learner, and how did you find it? What advice can you share about using digital tools for teaching? Share your ideas in the comments box.

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Exploring the World of English Language Teaching

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