The onestopenglish app16-Jan-2013
Perhaps I should be worried. The teachers tell me I have a problem. An addiction. The symptoms, they say, are becoming all too obvious – short attention span, the occasional dizzy spell, withdrawal symptoms when I can’t get my fix. Perhaps it’s time to come clean. I have a tablet addiction. That’s right – I can’t get enough of my beautiful shiny iPad. It never leaves my side. I hear people sniggering as I walk through the school with it clutched to my chest (if I leave it on my desk somebody might touch it!) The teachers suspect I’m playing a surreptitious game of Fifa soccer, when I’m actually researching the next training session. Honestly. I just can’t imagine life without my iPad. But I’m not alone. It’s a disease that’s spreading – many of my colleagues have started to show the familiar signs of addiction. The non-believers mock us when we insist that tablet computers and smart phones are an additional string to our teaching bow. So, I’m always pleased when I come across a new app that might – just might – help me convince them that my iPad really is useful and not just my favourite toy.
The first stop for many teachers when planning the week’s lessons is onestopenglish.com – and to supplement their great site, Macmillan have released the companion onestopenglish app. Never reluctant to find an excuse to take my iPad into class, I decided to give the app a go.
The first thing to mention is that the app is easy to navigate and master. The layout is simple and effective and works well on both tablet and smart phone. Being a onestop app, it is a useful tool in the preparation of lessons. If you are online, you can link to the onestopenglish site and the lesson plans and content available. Even if you are offline there is a nice collection of lesson activity tips – warmers, lead-ins, speaking activity suggestions and tips for supplementing the course book. I found it a handy reminder of some old favourites like ‘stand-in-a-line’ and all the activities can be easily adapted to a wide range of class types and language points. It’s by no means comprehensive, but useful in those moments when you want a quick activity idea (with no preparation required).
For me, however, the best thing about the app is that it offers three very useful classroom tools. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need this app to perform these activities – it’s just great to have them all in one handy place. I found they quickly became part of my classroom routine.
We all know that it’s a good idea to set a time limit for certain classroom activities. It disciplines and focuses both teacher and student. And if you set a time limit, it’s only effective if you stick to it. So you need some kind of timer. Now, those other pieces of classroom technology – the wall clock and the wrist watch – do the job perfectly well. The nice thing about the timer in this app is that at the end of the allotted period the app produces a special sound effect. You – or the students – can choose the effect. My particular favourite is the ‘alarm’- put it on full volume and watch your students leap out of their seats as it sounds as if a full thermo-nuclear attack is on the way. Great fun! A colleague of mine uses the app with her young learners and they particularly enjoy hearing a great round of applause at the end of an activity. I’ve also used the timer during a training session – quite nice to watch the shocked looks on teachers’ faces as my much-mocked iPad interrupts them with an authoritative “And Stop!”
As a DoS of a certain age, it startles me to think that some of the new teachers joining the team think of the cassette as a museum piece. I remember rewinding them with pencils to save the battery on my classroom cassette player. I also remember the look of terror on students’ faces as I produced a fresh cassette and informed that they would now be recorded for prosperity (not realising that within three years the cassette would go the way of the dodo).
Smart phones and tablets have stepped into the cassette’s shoes (which the CD could never really fill). We all know the value of recording our students, whether to help our own reflection or to help them focus on their speaking skills. The voice recorder in this app is dead simple to use – you just press the big button that says ‘record’. My students – always nervous about being recorded – seemed more relaxed when I recorded them using the onestop app on the iPad, perhaps because it’s not as intrusive as a bulky cassette player. Again, there are other apps that will allow you to do this, but useful to have it within one useful classroom app. I would recommend that a future update could offer the possibility of saving recordings as, at the moment, any new recording automatically erases the previous.
Another fun part of the app is the sound effects section. It simply replicates the effects used in the activity timer – police siren, round of applause, alarm – I incorporated them into a storytelling activity which worked well as students narrated the events they could hear. However, I must admit that I use this section more often at home – there’s nothing like a warm round of applause just after you’ve successfully mastered the washing-up, is there? This app doesn’t attempt to revolutionise your teaching. Indeed, many of the things it has to offer reflect practices teachers have done for years. What it does do is offer simple technology all in one place to make your life as a teacher a little easier. That is surely worthy of a round of applause sound effect.
Oh, and did I mention the price? It’s absolutely free.
Anyway, that’s more than enough time away from my iPad now…I have an important match, err, work task to attend to…
Mike started teaching 12 years ago in Manchester. At the request of his students, he left the country and since then has been working in Italy. As well as eating lots of Italian food and playing FiFa on his iPad, he manages to fit in being Director of Studies at International House, Milan.