Apps n’ Dogme


Phil Wade 

To cut a long story short I’ve recently taught some 121 classes with ipads n’ apps. No books, copies, even handouts, just an ipad. Now, 

I’m not convinced about the ‘wonders of the ipad revolution’ as many seem to be. 1 ipad costs a lot of money for a teacher to buy and from my own experimentation not a lot works on them except specifically designed expensive apps. Another problem is that the student uses it and you can’t see what they’re doing.

In one place I work we have a couple of ipads and I have to use them but never seem to know how. Thus, with a TOEFL 121 and a Philosophy 121 I set about seeing what I could find that was ipad possible at 0 cost. Not easy if you don’t have a Mac or ipad trust me. 

A great FREE vocab app with several sections and useful questions. It’s available for Apple or Android.

“Photo taken from by @alice_m, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence,”

I often use it as a warmer to check what my student knows and then to advise what to work on at home. It’s useful to kick off the lesson, also as a topic change or revision after another activity or even as a bit of fun to end the lesson. Simply select the topic based on the texts or listenings you’ve been using and away you go, instant vocab support.

TOEFL speaking

Another freebie but only for ios I think.

This has various questions and sample answers and lets you record your answers. It’s perfect for the first parts of the speaking. It can be used as a warmer, a whole speaking part 1 or 2 section or to end a class.

Where’s the dogme?

I like to think of each app as a tool that can be utilised in countless ways, just like a reading in a book. they are used as, well, readings, to introduce grammar, to contextualise vocab, to set a theme, to provide content for a discussion bla bla bla. So, why not the same for an app?

Now, imagine you have a 1 hour TOEFL ibt class. For anyone unfamiliar with the exam it is online and has all the usual skills. The 2 apps are inherently limited to vocab and speaking so I’m not going to lie and say make them into a TOEFL ibt reading or listening. No, for those bits just find and use online samples or Edulang’s TOEFL sim. The apps are flexible so can fit around what you are doing or be exploited on their own.

Getting back to the 1 hour. Now, I start off with the speaking app. I select a question, my student answers it while I record it then listen back and work on the mistakes and areas of improvement. Next, we look at another question and analyse the sample answer before doing another recording. To bring in the integrated aspect of the speaking section, I could either go TOEFL and show her a sample reading and play a listening from this part or just select similar material from the net. Again, I can use the app to record the student, play it back, discuss and then improve it.

Next, I could add a bit of vocab by choosing a similar category on the app, trying 10 questions then practising all the words, not just the correct ones in speaking style. After all, why not some listening? Like before, I can play a TOEFL listening online or choose a similar one from Google. The key with that is notetaking. I always check to see if my student is doing it well and then if there aren’t questions for the listening I can make up my own that are TOEFL style. A better approach is asking the student to think about what could be asked. Here we can go through question types.

So, 2 apps are quite handy but it’s also worth remembering you have internet access. I do tend to go on about early prep and laying the foundation at the start but in this course I did just that and collected loads of useful sites and put them on a Scoop. This means I can use them when I need.

Tip: At the start of the course I began building a Scoop which is my virtual resource board. I add to it when I can and keep a mental note of what’s there and how it could be used. In following lessons I pick out what I need (check that they work on your ipad please) but also am safe in the knowledge that I have the others ready for a if/when situation. Lately I’ve even started making my own Quizlets for revising language in the next lesson. They have a free app and even related ones, many of which are free:

“Photo taken from by @europeaantje, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence,”

Phil, the idea of a scoop is a brilliant idea to support learning outside the classroom. I was discussing learning a new language only last night with a friend who admitted to not studying at all outside of lessons; it adds an extra platform for students to use that’s not tradition head-in-books studying. One part that stood out particularly to me was recording and playing back students’ spoken language. I think there’s a lot to be said for this to capture their language to work on, what’s more it’s a handy learning strategy for outside the classroom. Thanks for sharing some useful ideas on using apps, all of which seem to work with student needs and student language – Dale

5 thoughts on “Apps n’ Dogme

  1. phil wade says:

    There are many issues I’ve found with ipads:
    1)Schools don’t always have enough so you need to share
    2)Free apps are either tasters for paid for ones or full of errors with sneaky ads
    3)WIFI connection doesn’t seem as good as on my laptop
    4)You need to either use lots of little apps for separate things or just have 1 or 2 mini-crsebook ones.

    I recently downloaded a free IELTS crse taster which looks like a mini book/course and is probably enough to do a decent 121 course with. As long as there are a couple of readings, listenings and some speaking and writing questions then that’s enough. You don’t need a full book for an intensive 121. Having that flexibility at your fingertips is ideal and it cuts planning time down a lot.

    Next week I have some 121 discussion classes so I’m thinking shrt video clips/texts and topic-centred language..Whether everything will work on the old iPad I don’t know. In general, I still remain to be convinced that they’re worth 400+ Euros when I can’t use powerpoint with an OHP, and the 3G/4G costs are high.

    I’m still waiting for the phantom iPadmini in October. If it is below 200Euros then that will tip the scale but the Nexus 7 is very affordable now. Sadly, I’m not impressed by the Google apps. 2 crash my phone and another doesn’t work. This is something you have to look out for i.e. proper apps by reputable companies and not these 1980’s looking dodgy ones that could have malware.

  2. Mark says:

    Thanks for sharing the ideas and links – the TOEFL links will definitely come in handy. The idea of having Scoops for specific learners/groups is a nice 1 too. Although I’ve not really tried any language learning apps, I have been using Evernote to type up and share vocabulary, discussion questions, worksheets etc with my one-to-one students. Students then open them up on their iPads using Evernote in class (no need for paper handouts). I like how I can share whole folders with students and so upload extra reading materials, video etc for them to look at in their own time. I also shareboard photos of the board in this way. It’s cool and they seem to like it too.

  3. Kathia says:

    I really enjoyed this post and I’ve heard of classrooms bringing in iPads to teach lessons. I’ve personally never used an iPad. Although I do see the benefits to use it in an ESL classroom for the use of practice on vocabulary and speaking. I’m hoping to be able to experiment in using an iPad and find some apps to work with. Maybe one day I’ll be able to use it in a future classroom!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s