BYOD versus School-Provided Technology, Part 2

In the previous post I shared an activity that I thought worked better on students’ own phones and tablets, but now I’d like to share one of my favourite activities to do with a class that actually works better in a computer lab.  I’ve tried this activity both ways and I by far prefer doing it not BYOD-style.

Activity:  Using Computers Interactively for Group Speaking

The concept is simple.  It works with any activity where students have to talk about their experiences, preferences or cultures, where they have to name things according to certain descriptions, like ‘an unusual food they’ve tried’ or ‘a place they’ve been on holiday to’ or ‘something their hometown is famous for’ or ‘a favourite film.’  Instead of just talking about their ideas, they supplement what they are saying with images from the web.   This makes it more interesting for their classmates because they have a concrete visual and so can better relate to what is being said.

My students discussing food
My students discussing food

Two examples of resources I’ve used that work particularly well for this kind of activity are ‘A tasting experience’ from Innovations Intermediate Resource Pack (p 57) where students have to talk about 18 foods that fit the descriptions (e.g. ‘the first thing I ever cooked’ and ‘my favourite dish ever’) and ‘What’s it famous for?’ from New English File Pre-Int Resources (7A) where they discuss famous things from their countries.

This is how I set it up.  To start with–NO computers.  First, I put students into small groups, ideally of 3, from different countries, but then I say they can’t talk to each other (or me) for 5 minutes.  They have to use this time to complete the activity sheet.  They can use their own language or skip questions if they need to, but no dictionaries or talking.  After 5 minutes, we discuss any unknown expressions and they can ask questions as a whole class.  I might then give them more time to complete the activity sheet.   After they understand all the vocabulary and have generated a few ideas for the speaking, and only after this, we open and turn on the computers.  Students discuss what they wrote and use google images (or whatever) to support what they are saying.  This works especially well with concepts that are difficult to translate or which are completely unknown to their classmates, like typical dishes from their countries.  It is also a chance to translate and learn unknown expressions.

An example activity I created
An example activity I created

Why does it work better with computers instead of their own devices?

I’ve tried the same activities both ways and felt a significant difference in using the school computers.  Students seem to have enjoyed the lessons more.  The lessons have been more dynamic with a lot more discussion and a lot more vocabulary learning.

I think it has to do with the physical set up.  Their main interaction is speaking with each other, using the computer to supplement and support their explanations, rather than hunched over individual devices that are too small to be shared as comfortably.  The computer is at eye level so they can maintain their own eye contact and conversation.  It is secondary to conversation, just a tool rather than the main focus.

It works because this set up is more collaborative than individual.  Although they are sharing their own personal experiences, they are working together and there is a sense of shared ownership of the new language and cultural ideas.

Also, from a teacher’s perspective, it gives me a chance to really see and monitor what they are doing.  I can see the screen or join in conversations.  I can easily notice gaps in their vocabulary and address this individually or as a whole class.

VerdictBYOD 1 – School Provided 1

I guess it just depends on what you are doing why, really.