MOBILE PHONES IN THE EFL CLASSROOM

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Technology in the classroom can be a double-edged sword. It can be useful for our lessons and a great resource for materials. At the same time, it can be a source of distraction and a cause for discipline if not utilised appropriately. Mobile phones in the EFL classroom, in particular are often a cause for concern for teachers. They are often illegal devices in EFL classrooms and so are a temptation to our students. Plus it’s quite distracting for teachers to see their students with their heads down playing with their phones under their desks!

How can we make sure we utilise mobile phones in the EFL classroom effectively while not allowing them to become problematic for our lessons? Here are a few ideas:

Use mobile phones regularly in the EFL classroom

It’s very easy to incorporate mobile phones in your lessons. They can be used in a range of different ways and for many different activities. By using mobile phones regularly in your lessons you are not giving them special status. They won’t be considered taboo in the classroom, so your students will be less tempted to WhatsApp their friends or play Candy Crush during class.

Use mobile phones communicatively in the EFL classroom

Whatever activities you decide to do with your mobile phones, make them group activities. If your students are utilising their mobile phones individually, it will be more difficult to ensure they are working on-task. If, however, they are working with a partner or in groups they will be held accountable for what they are doing on their phone.

 Be creative with mobile phones in the EFL classroom

The great thing about mobile phones is that they are, well, mobile. You don’t need to sit in the classroom to use them. You can send your students out into the school or the local neighbourhood (if they are adults) and make use of their mobile phones in a natural environment. Examples of activities are: finding and taking photos of particular objects, recording interviews with locals, and researching certain local landmarks on a treasure hunt.

Maintaining discipline with mobile phones in  the EFL  classroom

Of course there is always the chance your learners may take advantage of the fact that you are using mobile phones in the classroom and use them for entertainment rather than the educational activity you had planned. There are a few things you can do to avoid this.

Firstly, set time limits on activities. Don’t allow too much time to complete an activity. If students finish quickly with time to spare they will more than likely use their phones to pass the time.

Then, make sure your activities are set at the correct level. You want them to be challenging but not impossible. If in doubt, rather aim for a more difficult activity which you can provide scaffolding for if necessary.

Finally, don’t ban mobile phones outright. Accept that they are now a part of the classroom and that this might be a battle you can’t win. Acknowledge their usefulness in the classroom by allowing your students to use their online dictionary or look something up online, but hold your students accountable for what they are doing with their phones.

Mobile phones in the EFL classroom can be an asset if we know how to make use of them in ways which satisfy our students without causing unnecessary disruptions to our lessons.

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