A smart way to use your phone in ELT classrooms: TechTip #12

Whenever I see freelance language teachers still luggin' around great big CD players from in-company site to in-company class... I always pause and wonder why.

Because these days, in your pockets, you've got all the audio power you need.

If you've got a smartphone or actually any phone with an mp3 player, or even just an i-pod, all you need to bring audio to the classroom is a pair of speakers.

Here's a video of me using my previous phone and a €10 set of speakers.

I confess I did think about re-shooting this video - now that've got a swishier set of butterfly speakers with powerful enough audio for a large room of 2o students and a rather flashier phone... but Katrin did let me film her face and did such a lovely job of starring in this vid... so I decided to load this one up after all.

The video even shows you the little bit of "faffing-about" that so many teachers complain of when it comes to teaching with technology - I left this in so that you can get a feel on how it really doesn't interrupt our class.

To put audio tracks on to your phone, simply insert your CD in your computer, upload into either Windows Media Player or I-tunes, then download the tracks you want on to your phone's memory card, in the same way that you do with music!

What are some of the other ways we can use our smartphone devices to teach English?

Or better yet, what are some of the ways our students can maximize their jogging, commuter time, walking to the canteen time.. etc, to learn English with their very clever machines?


Useful links:

11 Responses to “A smart way to use your phone in ELT classrooms: TechTip #12”

  • Lisa R (Stuttgart) says:
    September 24, 2009

    Well said, Karenne. At the beginning of my teaching life, I also almost bought myself a ghettoblaster to lug around between companies - on top of my books, my folder and my lunch. That was until I attended your workshop and was introduced to the mini, yet mighty, card-reader, which was all I needed to turn my existing cellphone into a multimedia experience for my students (without the extra baggage for me). What I've realised is with groups of even up to about six participants, you don't even need the speakers. :) My students are still in awe at me having listening activities on my cellphone, even though they've seen it numerous times, and many of them work in IT. On another note, some of my students listen to short podcasts on their iPod while commuting. They could also use their phones for this. I guess most cellphones have integrated mp3 players these days.

  • Neal chambers says:
    September 24, 2009

    Great post Karenne. Of course it doesn't have to stop with audio. I know a guy that uses it with YouTube videos. I guess you can attach a video cable to an iPhone jack it into the front of a TV. You have to use youtuber and download the video and then convert it to m4v (iPhone video). You can do this with an excellent site I found -> media-convert.com it's free and converts any audio or video to any other form. Then buy the video cables (around $50) and then you have a portable video player with you too.

    Now, if we could only create a portable Bigscreen TV. I'm sure apple is working on it.

    Thanks again Karenne!

    September 24, 2009

    OMG - VIDEO... Neal, I have to have this... mmm, I do already have a netbook but must confess, playing videos in class direct from the phone sounds rather "cool" ;-) ta for all the tech tips on what would be needed to implement, brilliant.

    Hey Lisa, I know - whenever I start a new group or I'm subbing, the students stare at the phone in awe as if it's magic - then I ask them but haven't you got music on your phone? - which of course they do.

    I like using podcasts too in class, not just the tracks from books' CD, because they usually ask - where can I download a podcast on to my phone?

    Nice slippery way of getting them to want to learn :-)

    and... that's what we're all about, us teachers, heh heh

  • Shelly Terrell says:
    September 24, 2009


    Great post! My Iphone is quickly becoming my best friend! I can easily record students' voices and playback for their self-correction or use the recordings for digital storytelling without them having to show their faces. I can take pictures of my students (not their faces of course)! I can show them videos & I even found a whiteboard app and free ebook service. There are the search features as well that you described in a previous post! Great tips!

  • Unknown says:
    September 25, 2009

    Great post Karenne - the video really helps bring it to life. You're right that those smartphones can offer a lot of things I had never even thought of... thanks to the other comments below (Neal, Lisa etc) for sharing too.

    Coincedentally I have just been working on a six things to do with mobile phones in class... not quite the same as you have and I will definitely cross-reference here!

  • Dave Kees says:
    September 26, 2009

    Great ideas!

    There are so many ways to use smart phones.

    You know how books always have some exercise in making a phone call to book a hotel room or something? I live in China but I make calls to 5-star hotels in New York with my students. We put the phone on speaker phone and also use the phone to record the call. Students get a huge blast over making a real phone call to get information about rooms, rates, services, facilities, etc. Afterward, we play back the recording and discuss the English.

    In a one-on-one class I recorded my student during the first lesson. After a 30-hour intensive training I recorded him again. The progress was clearly dramatic and useful for the student to see how the training helped him.

    For a small class I will take them on an English Safari through a store like IKEA or a shopping mall. We talk about everything there and I write down the new words on my smart phone. When we finish the tour I copy the new words to an SMS message and send them to each student so they have a copy they can immediately review. I also review the words with them at our next class.

  • Darren Elliott says:
    September 26, 2009

    Neal said what I was going to say regarding the videos. I use anyvideoconverter, which converts direct from the youtube url to whatever format you need.

    I'm curious to hear about the capabilities of phones in different countries. The iPhone isn't really taking off here in Japan in the way it seems to be elsewhere. People have been sending email from phones, rather than SMS, for a long long time - text speak seems to be very different, of course, for cultural, linguistic, and technological reasons. There is a PhD in that though, never mind a blog post....

    September 26, 2009

    Dave, my hat is off - these are fantastic ideas, thank you so much for sharing them.

    I really like the Safari-words on the smartphone -then SMS idea, something I never thought of!

    The calls to New York from China sound expensive (unless you have one of those "cheap codes" we have here that you put before a telephone number.

    Am really impressed, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experience and tips with us!


  • Analise (Effecticom) says:
    September 28, 2009

    Hi Karenne,
    You've summed it up - can't imagine life without my smart phone now. To add onto the ideas - I've also used it as an aid for myself when 'tricky' situations arise in the class-room - to give feeback or clarify a point, to add onto telephoning - great to get them to record their own voicemail messages.
    Thanks to all the others for their excellent tips.

  • Unknown says:
    October 13, 2009

    Big Problem - Copywright! You are breaking the law by putting the material on to your phone without permission from the publishers.

    I had always wanted to teach from my smartphone and taught telecom comps years back that its the future. Imagine accessing all your work and downloading it to your phone before each lesson. So you dont have to have gigs of memory on your phone. Instead you can have a website where you store this (cloud computing).

    At the moment I use a small laptop and will no doubt buy a lighter one next year. Most of my books I have scanned in for relevant lessons the week before, along with audio material, I also have an electronic dictionary to access those words that my students spring up at me. I also have wi-fi so can access internet during class and get the latest info - good for conversation groups.

    October 13, 2009


    Just checked my CD - it doesn't say I can't upload the audio tracks on to my phone.

    None of my CDs (music) say that... I guess there might be a copyright issue but I'll let them write there here first - it'd be a seriously dumb one, because it so simplifies life. Why ok for a CD player but not an Mp3 player????




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