Mind the App!
This title in the Helbling Languages The Resourceful Teacher Series should be of interest to teachers who wish to integrate more online materials, apps and tools into their lessons. The author, Thomas Strasser, has successfully created a winning collection of activities to use in tandem with these online resources.
The book’s introduction gives a satisfactory overview of Web 2.0, and lists many advantages of the internet and social media for language teachers and learners. It also mentions some concerns, such as privacy, plagiarism and copyright. The introduction concludes with a brief overview of the book.
The remainder of the book is divided into ﬁve sections. Section 1, Teacher Tools , focuses on a few apps that teachers can use. These include websites for creating online quizzes and sharing PowerPoint presentations on the web. Section 2, Visualisation , covers activities using some of the websites that allow students to manipulate images. Two examples are ‘I have a dream’ (using Wordle to create a word cloud) and ‘Glogster it!’ (using Glogster to create an interactive desktop). Section 3, Collaboration, provides a number of activities that get students to work together on projects such as brainstorming, collaborative writing and generating feedback on a lesson online. Section 4, Audio, concentrates on music, voice and sound effects. Activities here show how to create podcasts and audio stories. Finally, Section 5, Writing , lists several activities for helping students write online, such as producing online binders and diaries.
One of the strengths of this book is the clear presentation of the activities. Each activity contains information on how to register on the relevant website and start using the applications. The in-class activities are explained well, with lead-in, online and follow-up steps, as well as suggestions for homework. The author also provides some interesting variations on most of the activities.
Another useful feature of this book is the quick reference guide found near the back. All the activities are presented in chart form, so one can easily ﬁnd things to do, based on level, age, focus or available lesson time.
The website accompanying the book (part of the Helbling Languages website) is well worth mentioning here. It contains several professionally-made instructional videos that show clearly how to navigate one’s way through these applications. In addition, there is a list of over 40 websites that are related to learning technologies and TEFL.
One problem I had with the book was that the number of activities in each chapter was a little unbalanced. For example, Chapter 2 features 13 activities for visualisation, while Chapter 4 presents a mere four activities that involve audio.
However, overall, I was highly impressed with the range of apps introduced in this book. In fact, I saw several that I want to explore next semester. In my view, it is an excellent book for any teacher wanting to use more online resources.