Now that we are all aware (and in acceptance) of the huge numbers of mobile apps available to us all as consumers, it surely makes sense, as teachers and students, to Adopt and Adapt educational apps that can help to facilitate learning? One such app that has become ubiquitous in a reasonably short time for free messaging on mobile phones is WHAT'S APP. That is why we have started to use it with our new intake of preparatory students this year to communicate, share and practise English out of class time.
In fact, it was one of our students, Sinan, who initiated the class forum. Once he had each class member on board, he asked if my colleague and I would be interested in participating. We accepted his request, but with some guidelines for an effective platform:
All communication has to be in English
Every student is encouraged and reminded to join in
No posts that could fuel iritation (football or negative teasing)
Polite and informative chat is the primary consideration
Students greet each other in English
A Student enquires of others where their class peer is
A student uses it to arrange a Saturday hook-up
It's always important to remind them it's English-only
Students Request & Receive 24/7 Homework-Support (from Trs & Sts)
Another interesting find, and use for this service, is how the students use it to find out about other subjects such as Science and Turkish. Remember, these are native Turkish fourteen year olds with limited English.
The final exciting use of WhatsApp is how the students can also post audio files of a message they want to share. This will improve speaking and listening, plus build a lot of self-confidence.
Now after three weeks, we have seen over 1000 posts of English communication. It is an authentic place for practice, development and communication. It also leads to great self-confidence, which students starting off in a foreign language so desperately need.
I will say that anyone who reads this and thinks it could only be an irritation for you to be receiving notifications on your mobile phone as a teacher. That is a simple fix. DON'T OPEN the APP if you want to stay off at any time. It is a small price to pay for getting further in contact with your students for educational purposes. Switch it to silent for notifications and away you go. We have had over 1000 English posts, from less than twenty students. I reckon the numbers speak for themselves, and I urge you all to try it.