• Anabel Reis

Embracing technology – taking baby steps: 6 tips

Updated: Feb 2

Do you consider yourself a technophobe? Or do you shy away from using technology in the classroom because you don't think it's worth it or don’t feel comfortable using it? Recent experiences of teaching online with no prior training were traumatic and stressful for many, but we did it!

That's because where there is a will, there is a way. At this point in our careers, many of us can now say that we are experts in using video conferencing platforms. Many of us went further and even experimented with video making, online gaming and interactive lessons using an array of tools!

So why is it that many of us are shying away from technology again now that we are back to face-to-face lessons?

Teachers will always be essential to the learning process and technology gives us more freedom to expand the realm of possibilities of how to teach and be more flexible with the curriculum. Moreover, technology allows us to access content and resources that are otherwise not available.

To exemplify this, let's take Google Earth. You're probably thinking that’s a great tool for Geography teachers, but not for me. Why not? Here's a suggestion: bring a reading text to life by showing the setting. Or compare and contrast lifestyles. Help students identify similarities and differences between their hometown and lifestyle and those of people living in another part of the world. This changes a passive learning activity into one that can become a lively discussion. Not only will this simple task bring the text to life, but you will generate opportunities for authentic communication. This is just one example which can be extended to practice other skills.

Technology has a positive effect on student engagement and it allows students to learn actively. Let's not forget that we are also personalizing learning. Technology helps to spark inquisitiveness in students, boosting their curiosity and creativity, and helping to harness their authentic motivation towards learning.

So, before turning away from technology, let's consider the following:

1. Take baby steps

Get comfortable with an app or tool. Learn the basic features before moving on to more complex aspects or options. Give yourself the time to learn how to use it with your students and don't give up if you experience a few difficulties at first: there always are!

2. Don't be intimidated by your learners

While they might be surrounded by technology at home, never assume that your learners know how to use this technology for learning.

I have seen this being referred to as the myth of the digital native and the truth is that most students still need our help to use digital tools effectively for learning and collaboration. So be sure to teach your students how to use the app or tool in class. Exploit the occasion to build a mini-lesson in which students expand their vocabulary and functional language. If you happen to have a tech-savvy student, appoint them as your assistant. They can help you and other students, as long as they do it in L2.

3. In and out of the classroom

Learning can happen beyond the four walls of the classroom. You can use technology as part of your lesson, but you can also assign tasks and games to be done at home, thereby extending students' exposure to English.

4. Blend traditional learning with digital learning

Make sure you use apps and tools that add value to your teaching practice, but remember that there are still traditional learning methods which cannot be totally replaced by technology.

These include:

  • physical activities;

  • group activities;

  • some games;

  • and drawing, at any age or level, which is sadly often forgotten.

Remember: both traditional and digital learning are essential to creating a holistic learning environment.

5. Evaluate learners' performance with the use of technology

Is your use of technology improving learners' competences? Is it increasing their exposure to the language? Is it appealing to different learning styles? Assess what works well for you and your students.

6. Work with others, not in isolation

If possible, try to work with a tech-savvy colleague to improve your understanding and use of technology. Ask lots of questions. If that’s not possible, try to play with an app or tool before using it and encourage other teachers from your subject group to try it with you.

Using technology in the classroom helps build essential 21st Century Skills. You are teaching life skills which are essential for students' futures. Digital literacy skills will help students live, learn and work in a society where instantaneous communication and access to information are increasingly carried out via digital technologies and students need to learn how to interact with this information and with the world. After all, we should all aim to be digital citizens.

Stay tuned for some more teaching tips using technology in my upcoming posts. I’ll be posting about some of the apps and tools I love using with my students and sharing my experiences and advice for using them.


Anabel has more than twenty-five years' teaching experience and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics. She has been the DoS of a language school in northern Portugal for over twelve years and is a regular speaker at conferences both in Portugal and Spain. Her experience has taught her that motivation and student engagement are key features to help in language acquisition.