By Paul Rogers
Mobile devices, especially smartphones, are replacing laptops to the point that the students of any adult education class can access lessons online immediately, without depending on a computer at home or in the computer lab. In order to have a good understanding of how a teacher could include smart phones, we need to examine specific models. In this regard, I would like to share my own experience.
Almost by accident, I started depending more on the phone beginning nearly a year ago, when my ESL website, Pumarosa, became mobile friendly. I had begun study groups on my Facebook page, which is also mobile friendly, three years earlier for people to join to access lessons. I have three major groups: songs, pronunciation, and readings – stories, poems and essays. I also put lessons, texts and my YouTube videos on my WIX page, inglesconprofepabo.com.
Often I would post a lesson from Pumarosa and the WIX page on the Facebook groups, usually to answer questions, or to submit a lesson. Then, last year, some students suggested I form WhatsApp study groups. I created three different groups – Beginning, Intermediate and a Chat group. The response was incredible! The chat group was the most popular, and actually became addictive, until I realized I was spending a great deal of time on it, and decided to leave it, making a student the Administrator.
The success I have had with the use of smartphones has led me to the conclusion that we can solve a number of vexing problems in adult education. Those students who are not able to attend classes, for example, can now be included in a program.
First, my program is totally Informal and free. There is no registration or test to take. Most of my students are older adults who live and work in various Latin American countries. Everyone can access lessons on Pumarosa and my Wix page. And everyone is a member of my WhatsApp groups.
WhatsApp is a free downloadable app that allows the user to keep in contact with other WhatsApp users. Anyone can send texts, photos, videos, and audios and also make a call to someone personally – from anywhere in the world. It is fast and easy and free.
About one year ago I started three study groups, Beginner (mostly Spanish), Intermediate (mostly English) and a Chat group (90% English). People can write in Spanish or English. Membership varies, and right now there are about 30 in each group.
When I started my WhatsApp groups, I posted my “Rules”:
- Be polite – No making fun of anyone.
- Don’t worry about mistakes.
- Avoid discussions of politics and religion
- Ask questions
Usually I just need to remind people of the rules in case conversations get too ‘personal’. A good example of what happens can be seen in a session I had just before I wrote this. Several people from the Beginners’ group began by telling me about their day, and one said he was listening to some rock and roll songs. And then we started to chat about prepositions, so I sent a link from my Wix page. An Intermediate student had a question about the pronunciation of the past tense (..d, …t,…ed), so I sent her a link to Pumarosa Intermediate. I signed off telling everybody I had to write this paper for teachers, and they all wished me well!
At times I will post a link from Pumarosa that I call “Homework”, usually a grammar lesson. Or I will ask people to record something to practice their pronunciation.
But the main focus is on people’s questions. Often the sessions are lively, but sometimes there isn’t much participation. If students are interested in inviting friends to join, they can become Administrators.
I work out of my home, as an independent teacher. This year I am going to devote some time to promoting my program through articles like this with the intention of becoming affiliated with adult education agencies that would like to try my approach in their classes, especially in a distance learning course. It seems reasonable to assume that a smartphone/WhasApp addition to any class would increase its popularity, decrease the drop-out rate and accelerate learning.
Paul Rogers has been an ESL teacher for over 25 years and developed a bilingual and phonetic course which became the basis of PUMAROSA.COM, a free website for Spanish speaking adults, beginning in 2004. Pumarosa has been available for use on smartphones for about one year and Paul has been using and promoting the site as part of his program, working as an independent teacher, unaffiliated with any school or non-profit agency. You can reach Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.