I’ve just finished day one of IATEFL here in Birmingham and just wanted to share a few notes from a couple of the sessions I went to that are relevant for both technology and EAP.
First off was Supporting postgraduate EAP students: teaching tips and technology tools by Angela Smith, an excellent session that did exactly what it said on the tin (unlike some of the sessions I attended today). Well planned and delivered, it talked about how she had revamped the support process for masters and PhD students and had used technology to help her.

A couple of things she talked about that really struck me as excellent ideas were the use of an online Helpdesk through the VLE to deal with incidental questions that the students might have. This was basically using the forum function in blackboard but it was a place for students to just ask one off questions that didn’t necessarily require a face to face meeting. This might be a question about grammar or about academic skills. Through appropriate scaffolding, she made sure that it got off the ground and now she has several people manning the Helpdesk because there are so many questions. I think this is an excellent idea and something I’m going to try to put into place in our centre as well.

She also mentioned some really useful web tools and software programmes to help provide support for the students. Markin is a free programme you can use to mark students work, insert comments and a pre-made correction code. I remember using this a few years back when it was a paid piece of software but it seems to have been open-sourced now and is available for anyone to use.

She also talked about notes.io, a website for quickly making notes and then sharing it via a link. This she found particularly useful for just jotting down a few key things the student had to remember and then sharing it with them via a link.

Another one she mentioned was Mindmeister, a web tool for creating mind maps. These can also be shared and collaborated on, so easy for students to work together on plans for essays or projects they are working on.

The second session I attended that I really liked was Classroom applications of corpora training for learner autonomy by Federico Espinosa. This was a follow up session to one he did last year (which I didn’t attend) and he focused on how to use corpora in the classroom to help develop student autonomy and better vocabulary awareness.

Again, another really well planned and delivered presentation and it never dragged. He basically showed how you could use the Contemporary Corpus of America – often referred to just as COCA – to help students analyse text more effectively. He showed various techniques that you can use with the online tool to do things such as search for common collocations for a word, find out multi-word phrases connected to a word, analyse text for word frequency and identify whether a word is more or less academic. In a previous post I talked about how some corpus sites could be intimidating and off-putting for teachers and students and COCA was one of those I thought did that. But this talk convinced me that it might be worth spending a bit more time with it to really learn how to use it properly.

Oh, just one word about the technology I’ve been using to help me record and take notes of everything I see here at IATEFL. A few weeks back I bought an iPad Pro, the smaller one (not the ridiculously large one) and got the Apple Pencil (basically a stylus) that works with it. Along with an app called Goodnotes, this has got to be one of the smoothest and most intuitive ways to take notes with a digital device. It’s not quite pen on paper, but it’s about as close as you’ll get. And the advantage of the Goodnotes app is that you can insert pictures taken of the slides, change colours/use a highlighter and all with the same tablet and Pencil. 

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About David Read

I work at the English Language Teaching Centre at the University of Sheffield as the Director of TEL (technology-enhanced learning). I've been an EFL/EAP teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years and have worked in 14 different countries. Settling down is clearly an issue for me.

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