ESL/EFL websites are flooded with new techniques to add technology to the classroom, and help online has moved almost entirely in the direction of needing more and/or adapting teaching materials for a rapidly advancing technological world.
Many teachers live in remote global areas where technology is not easily available or reliable, however. What options does the EFL/ESL teacher have in those places where there is no Smartphone, notebook, or tablet?
Adapt to Absence of Technology in These Smart Ways
Where There Is No Printer
Not having access to a printer may seem like a serious dilemma for an ESL teacher, especially if she is from the developed world, but she just needs to apply a little creativity!
- Flashcards: have students (or bored local kids) draw and paint pictures on cardboard you saved from your cereal boxes or whatever consumer goods you are able to buy in your area.
- Worksheets: block print on paper if you have paper and access to a copier, or hand write on a giant sheet of paper or blackboard for students to copy exercises. The extra writing will reinforce concepts for them!
- Tests: apply the same method as for worksheets, or give tests verbally.
Where There Are No Books
If your area has no printers, it probably has few or no books. What do you give them to read to practice?
- Make copies of pages of your own books or magazines and cut out good example sentences. (If you worry about piracy laws, remember that publishers never had what you are doing in mind when they copyrighted the material.)
- Check accessible papers and magazines for material in English to cut out.
- Copy vocabulary lists onto the blackboard for them to record into notebooks.
- Focus on speaking instead of reading and writing if you have few written options. They probably need that skill more anyway!
- If they have Internet and Smartphones, give them excerpts from e-books and tell them to read them as homework assignments.
- If they have no Internet but have cell phones, copy audio book mp3s to their devices and have them listen to them and answer questions or journal as homework assignments.
When You Have No Internet
Plan ahead, and gather resources you need for upcoming classes while visiting the city or wherever you can manage to link in. You might be able to print things in advance while at the Internet café as well. If you do not even have Internet close by, call people and ask them for advice! Call your friends or other ESL/EFL teachers in your network to help create learning objectives and materials.
When You Have No Smartphone
Increasingly, activities online are suggesting integrating Facebook, Twitter, and other remotely available tablet and Smartphone social media applications. You can still apply social networking exercises, but in offline adaptations.
- Develop an exercise where students have to interview a certain number of classmates in real life as opposed to on Facebook. They will actually have to get together in groups as opposed to chat online. If they live in an area with little technology, they are probably thrilled for a reason to get together anyway!
- If they have basic cell phones, have them text message conversations in English with partners and record their texts in a journal a few times a week.
- Instead of tweeting, have them write down three times a day “how they feel” or what “their status” is in a journal. They can share them with the class every week. It will be amusing.
- If they have access to cameras, or have them on their older model cell phones, have them take pictures of five new vocabulary words that they encountered in their worlds and “share and tell” with the class.
Where You Have No Projector
Projectors make life much easier, but there are ways to get around the big screen.
- If you have a decent computer monitor, make the words on your PowerPoints really big and have students sit close together to watch your slide show.
- Draw! Use big pieces of paper and crayons. If you really live in a place without Internet, Smartphones, and printers, you are probably bored anyway.
- Take students on field trips to see and experience new vocabulary words and grammar concepts. If you are teaching fruits and vegetables, go to the market! If you are teaching present progressive, go to the playground or the gym and describe what you, your students, or others using the park are doing. “Anita is playing soccer.” “The child is swinging.” “They are drinking water.”
If you are challenged with teaching EFL in a rural or technology-lacking area of the world, do not sweat, but embrace it!
The reality is that you can still teach without a Smartphone despite what the Internet is telling you, and, if you apply a bit of creativity, your classes might even be extra experiential and learning friendly as a result.