IELTS gets personal: experimenting with the Macmillan IELTS Skills app

25-Feb-2013

As teachers of English we are continually being asked to respond to prevalent trends and methodologies that reshape our industry and daily practice. From new teaching methods such as Flipped Learning to the growth in mobile learning and social media usage, we are constantly kept on our toes and strive to do our best to make sure we keep up.

Two trends which show no signs of abating in 2013 are the ever more central role of IELTS in our students’ learning journeys, and the growing use of mobile applications by teachers and students worldwide. So when blendedmec gave us the chance to trial the new Macmillan IELTS Skills app, we jumped at the chance.

Here at Bellerbys College in London, we prepare international students for UK higher education and all of them are required to take modules in academic English and IELTS preparation. Across a wide spectrum from A-Level to Pre-Masters classes, this means a lot of IELTS! Naturally, teachers and students can get bored of doing the same thing all the time, so we are always trying to come up with new ways of helping students prepare for the exam. The Macmillan IELTS Skills app seemed like a welcome addition to our box of tricks, so together with my colleagues Brenda Lynch and Chloe Druce we decided to run a mini action research project on it this term.

The app

The app comes in both free and paid-for versions (at a very reasonable price it must be said) and is available for both Apple and Android devices. It covers a lot of ground, with the following features available for all four parts of the IELTS exam:

• Golden rules for students to follow
• A wide range of interactive exercises for students to develop the extra skills they need for reading, writing, speaking, and listening
• Can do statements for learners to take the lead in assessing their own progress and reflect on their approach to each section of the exam
• Audio-visual material for the speaking and listening tests
• Interactive speaking tests, where students can record their performance

We downloaded the paid for version for ourselves and set about getting familiar with the app’s features before getting things started with our students.

The project

For the purposes of this research project, we set things up so that our students would use the app for self-study purposes. This is not to say, however, that teachers couldn’t use it in class, as long as you can connect a smartphone or tablet to a projector. Students at two of our levels downloaded the app onto their smartphones: a Pre-Masters class and a Diploma English class (at undergraduate year 1 level). Brenda worked with the Pre-Masters group and Chloe with the Diploma English group.

In the coming weeks here on the blendedmec blog, we will be telling you how things have been going with the project, based on student and teacher feedback. The posts will appear in the following format:

• Monday 4th March- Reading skills
• Monday 11th March- Speaking skills
• Monday 18th March- Writing skills
• Monday 25th March- Listening skills
• Monday 1st April- Summary presentation of the project’s findings

We hope you join us each week to get the lowdown on this interesting new addition to an IELTS student’s toolkit. Just like us teachers, our learners need to keep up with global trends in education and beyond, so let’s continue to keep them on their toes!

Rui, Chloe and Brenda

*Lastest news: The IELTS app has just reduced in price and IELTS skills (Complete) is now available for just £3.99 (was £9.99). The app is available for download here*

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