Most teachers today are equipped with a computer at home, yet very few of them use it to empower themselves as 21st century teachers. Be it a desktop or a laptop, your computer can help you develop professionally by making the best of your machine. As I said in my essay, The Five Habits of Highly Effective Teachers, “a computer is a must-have machine for every teacher.”If you are interested in helping your students learn English and are aware of the impact you can leave on your students’ learning career by using such a machine, I am sure you cannot go without it. However, many teachers still use it for entertainment purposes, missing unlimited opportunities for innovation and professional development.
Let’s start with the must-have softwares and applications for a teacher’s computer. Whether or not your machine has access to the internet, it must be equipped with the popular Microsoft applications, especially Word and PowerPoint. The first allows you to type in and treat your texts, be they lesson plans or handouts, and the second enables you to devise animated lessons and interactive quizzes. Yet there are two more Microsoft applications which most teachers ignore: Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Publisher. The first can help you treat students’ data, calculate their scores, analyze them, and even print out their result sheets and reports. The second makes it possible for you to create a lot of stuff: a calendar, certificates, Brochures, notices … and even a website. Yet this application (Publisher) is widely ignored by the majority of teachers, though they sometimes waste much time and effort looking for a way to create a CV, design a brochure, or builds a website. In short, the Microsoft Office applications are the minimum requirements to complete set up your virtual desk.
Second is Internet access. Being connected to the World Wide Web opens the doors wide to you for further professional development. Through the Internet, a teacher can deepen and widen his background knowledge of education, keep abreast with the new teaching methods and approaches, and have new educational technologies at hand for exploration and exploitation. The Internet is such a free and large supermarket where everyone can have fun trying new things and learning new skills, yet people who are not endowed with such curiosity cannot take any action to explore its secrets and potentials. So if you have already been online, seize the moment to download dozens of educational applications that will enable you to develop your professional ELT materials such interactive quizzes and courses, learning booklets, auto-run CD-ROM learning softwares, and a virtual classroom as a social and interactive environment where both teachers and students can post, share, and cut a dash.
Third is D-learning (Distance Learning). It a process through which learners can meet their learning needs despite time and distance. CBS News reports that a N.Y. student attends class remotely via robot. “In an elementary school hallway, a teacher takes her second-graders to the library, leading a single-file line of giggling boys and girls that’s perfectly ordinary until you get to a sleek white robot with a video screen showing the face of a smiling, chubby-cheeked boy,” CBS News reports. For the same purpose, a teacher can devise a variety of ways to keep his students learning from his office at home or anywhere and anytime he is online. A virtual classroom can serve to keep students updated with any news related to their class, homework, assessments, scores, and parallel activities. A teacher can embed a quiz in his e-classroom and get report about students’ quiz results each time they take it online. I have personally tried this, and it worked: I devised interactive quizzes using Wondershare Quiz Creator or Ispring Quiz Maker, and I embedded the quizzes into my virtual class, encouraging students to go and take them. After few hours, I usually received a detailed report about each student who took a quiz including his full name, e-mail, and score. Receiving students’ contact information, especially the e-mail, makes it possible to keep my students updated with any new quiz or lesson. A teacher can also devise a questionnaire about his performance inside the classroom and share it online with his students. I tried this too, and I really got fruitful results about my points of strength as well as the areas that need improvement. Thanks to Google Forms and Analytics, you can do this fastly and easily.
I still have a lot of ideas to share with you, yet I have to take a pause as this essay comes not to cover all the wonderful things you can do with your computer, but to trigger your creative soul to make effective use of that fantastic invention that paves your way to your professional development and makes it easy for you, at this time, to read this piece.