The irony of this last technology webinar on ESOL in the community was one where the downside of using technology manifested itself fully as unfortunately we had a bit of an issue with the audio. Nonetheless, it was still a useful session as we had Julie Day from the British Council talking about English my way; some great resources for lower level learners including some very high quality videos – but seeing that the theme was what to do in community venues with little or no technology, Julie did go on to say that these resources can be downloaded for when there is no internet connection and can be accessed via mobile devices. Furthermore, you can order free resources, there is also online teacher support and you can become an English my way centre; to find out more follow this link
A lot of the ideas that we were trying to explore in this session came from the shared Google doc where people had written about the challenges as well as the strategies they used when teaching in community venues. This included what to do when learners were reluctant to engage with technology; so getting them to use their mobile phones for learning seems a popular one (though not everyone has a smartphone). With this in mind we were hoping to have ELATT tell us about their work but the technology malfunction occurred. However,Nafisha from ELATT managed to tell us in the chat pane that they carried out a needs analysis with their learners and one of the things they realised they had to do was to work with them to explore the full functionality of mobile phones (as not doing so was a disservice to the learners). So ELATT developed some learning strategies using Google translate, calendars and other simple apps. They also got class kits of smartphones so everyone could have access to one. A strategy aimed at not only teaching English but helping learners to develop critical digital skills.
Another presentation we missed out on because of technology breakdown was Fatima from Westminster Adult Education Service-but again through the chat pane Fatima did tell us how big community learning is for them as they have 60 community learning venues! Here at RSC London we do know that WAES does some fantastic work teaching in the community. This presentation from the e-Factor 2014 explains how they focus on simple steps; using a set of ipod touch for the classes that teachers can easily carry around with them. Crucially they also offer training and support in the learning resource centres for both teachers and learners. Other simple steps mentioned were using a flipped approach by getting learners to explore materials before they come to the lesson, getting them to take photographs with their mobile phones of the class whiteboard and using a padlet to upload work. The advantage of using Padlet is that it does not need a login which can make it easier to access for some learners and easy for teachers to set up.
Finally, the question came up of what to do when there is no internet connection and a participant really recommended MiFi, a portable hotspot solution, as she said it could take up to 11 users and was extremely reliable- so a possible cost effective solution there.
Overall, what came through is the importance of support when teaching and learning in a community venue. It is probably not so much an issue of sparkling technologies but more about communication with IT support and management, accessibility to some basic resources as well as time to explore to see what can work in different teaching situations with different learners.