5 Tools from my post pandemic tool kit: What are yours?

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What’s your post pandemic tool kit?

For many teachers the recent pandemic brought about a quantum leap in the use of technology. Being dropped into remote classrooms with little notice and often less training forced teachers to either sink or swim in those early few weeks. Luckily, most teachers rose to the challenge and found new ways to engage their students, adjusted their teaching techniques and learned new ones. Many teachers started using a wide range to digital tools and applications of which they were only vaguely aware before the crisis.

So now that teachers are moving back to the physical or hybrid classroom as well as, in many cases, still doing some remote teaching, I thought it would be a good time to take stock and find out which of the digital tools teachers are sticking with and working into their post-pandemic toolkit.

I’ll start by sharing some of mine.

Telegram

What is it?

For me one of the biggest revelations to come out of the pandemic is Telegram. I’d always thought of Telegram as being a simple text-messaging tool for people who want to protect their privacy, but I’ve since discovered it can be so much more. It’s actually a very powerful platform for building both synchronous and asynchronous online learning.

How can you use it in your EFL classes?

Using a Telegram channel, you can live broadcast your webinar presentations along with screen sharing to an unlimited audience without a time limit. What’s more you can also record them and share the recordings. You can also use the channel to input pre and post-webinar tasks or to gather feedback from your audience.

Using a Telegram group, you can deliver live group classes and have up to 30 live webcams on and with students participating and interacting. If you want to have students in breakout rooms, then you just need to create additional groups for them to move to.

Telegram is also a great asynchronous communication tool that allows you to share a wide range of file types as well as sending audio and video messages, as well as text. You can create polls and quizzes that you can send to students as well as sending links to online materials and resources.

Since discovering Telegram I’ve created an Edtech and ELT channel where I can share links to useful materials and talk through them in quick one minute video messages. Unlike other social media channels that use algorithms to restrict who sees your postings, all of your telegram followers are able to see all of your postings.

You can easily create something similar for your students and share resources and tasks with them. This can make Telegram a really useful tool for creating blended or flipped learning.

One of the really big advantages of Telegram is that it uses much less data and connectivity than similar tools like WhatsApp, Zoom and Teams, so it makes your resources more accessible even to people in more remote locations.

You can download Telegram from: https://telegram.org/

Genial.ly

What is it?

Genially is a great tool for creating dynamic, media rich interactive graphics. I was using Genial.ly quite a lot before the pandemic mainly to produce infographics, but since the start of the pandemic I’ve been using it to create all my online conference and training presentations.

How can you use it in your EFL classes?

Genially is great for this because you can embed video and audio media into your slides as well as having interactive buttons and dynamic text and images. Genially comes with a built-in image and resource bank as well as some nicely designed templates so it’s easy to make your presentations look great.

The materials you create are also hosted online so you can easily share a link to the presentation either before or after your session.

There’s a great inspiration section where users share the presentations, infographics and games they have created with the platform, so you may well find something you can adapt to use with your students.

If you look through this presentation, you’ll see how I’ve been able to animate objects and add interactive buttons to the tools that I mention and videos that show how to use them.

Example Presentation: 10 Digital Tools and Resources for the Interactive Classroom:

Using Genially has enabled me to enhance the quality of the creation and delivery of my presentations and add a much more interactive dimension to my slide decks.

You can access Genially at: https://genial.ly

CryptPad

What is it?

CryptPad is a like an open-source version of Google Apps and has a range of document types that are hosted online. Students can work collaboratively using these various apps. The most useful of these for me is the Docs one which enables you to create a collaborative document that students can work on without having to register and log in.

Just click this link for CryptoPad and it will instantly produce a new document in your web browser.

How can you use it in your EFL classes?

For writing activities CryptPad has become my go to tool. You can control whether students can edit it or only view the documents and you can even embed them into a page. Students can add their name to a kind of register at the top right of the page and both you and they can leave chat type messages as well as comments on each other’s documents. If you get students to register on CryptPad they will be able to save their work to the CryptPad drive.

If you take notes of things like student errors and new vocabulary that comes up during your lesson you can add these notes to a CryptPad document while you are teaching, then at the end of the lesson you can share the link to the document with all your students for them to review.

You can use CryptPad for a wide range of collaborative writing activities and if students share the link to their documents, you’ll be able to see what they are doing as they write. You can also post encouraging comments in the chat or add general prompts about things they may have forgotten to include.

For peer editing, students just need to create a document and then share the link to it with their peers.

If you use it for collaborative writing then be sure to limit the number of students working on the document at the same time, as things can get pretty confusing even with groups of four.

You can access CryptPad at: https://cryptpad.fr/

Evernote

What is it?

Evernote is a simple digital notebook tool. Now that most of the materials I use in the classroom are digital and web-based it’s important to keep those organised.

I find that while I’m browsing websites that I’m constantly making notes of ideas about different topics for classes and storing links to a range of different materials that I want to use in future lessons.

How can you use it in your EFL classes?

With Evernote I can organize my notes into different notebooks and then just add a new page for each note. These pages all appear in the notebook contents list. Notebooks are organized in alphabetical order and so quick to access. I can jump from one notebook to another in a single click, so unlike having lots of documents in folders it doesn’t take long to find what I need or to add a new note to a different notebook. You can easily drag in images and link to audio and videos. If you add a link to a video, then the video will appear in your note.

Evernote works across mobile and desktop operating systems so it’s easy to synchronise notes across devices. With the mobile app you can take audio notes and images from your camera to add to your notes.

This is a great tool to use with your students too. They can use it to order grammar and vocabulary notes and to do writing work and research. Notes and notebooks can also be shared so they can easily share a link to their homework with you rather than sending you email attachments.

You can download Evernote at: https://evernote.com/

TalkingAvatar

What is it?

The last of my top five tools is a very easy to use app for creating talking head videos using text to speech. The quality of text to speech engines has been constantly improving over the last few years and now it is difficult to tell the difference between AI produced audio and audio recorded by a real person.

How can you use it in your EFL classes?

This has really helped me to add another dimension to the materials I develop for my students. All I need to do to create a video is to choose an avatar, type in the text that I want it to read and then choose an accent. The video takes a little time to generate, but once it’s finished, I can download it and share it with my students or embed it into course materials. The British and American voices sound very authentic. Some of the other accents sound a little strange and the lip-synching isn’t perfect, but it does enable me to develop multimedia materials quickly and for free.

You can use this to create:

  • Example sentences for pronunciation practice.
  • Grammar explanations.
  • Explanations of various concepts.
  • Content materials for developing listening skills.

Here’s an example that I created for an activity about different styles of communication:

If you only want the audio of the text without the talking head video, it’s easy to extract the audio file using a free tool like Tiny Wow.

To get these videos and audio produced professionally would be very expensive but with the free version of Talking Avatar, I can create as many videos or audios up to one minute long for free. With a monthly subscription this expands to 5 minutes.

You can access Talking Avatar at: https://talkingavatar.la

And you?

So those are five tools that I have taken into my post pandemic tool kit:

  1. Telegram
  2. Genial.ly
  3. CryptPad
  4. Evernote
  5. TalkingAvatar

How about you? What tools have you kept? What made you keep certain tools and drop others?

Leave your comments and share your recommendations below and perhaps you can help someone else find their new killer app.

If you would like to learn more about teaching English online or online tools, you could consider our 30-hour Teaching English Online course.

For those who would like specialized support in the use of technology in your classroom, enrol in our Teacher Coaching Program and receive personalized guidance from an expert tutor in the field of technology.

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