Nik Peachey looks at adapting a coursebook and explores how we can meet the increasing digital literacy needs of our students. Nik provides a comprehensive overview article on adapting a coursebook, including a list of tools to expand coursebook activities, such as Sync.in and flickriver, a downloadable lesson plan, a video screencast tutorial and a printable how-to guide.

 

In this article, we look at adapting a coursebook to see how you can add a new digital dimension to print resources. All downloadables relating to this article can be found in the ‘Related files’ section on the top right-hand side of this page.

Equipment needed

If you want to adapt your coursebook and supplement it with digital tools, all you need to get started is a web browser. However, it is extremely useful if you have access to a digital camera, a scanner and a computer with a microphone and/or webcam.

Why adapt your coursebook?

  • Many of our students are growing up with technology as a natural part of their everyday lives. They will most certainly need to have an understanding of how to use it if they intend to have any kind of profession, so developing our students’ ability to use technology in a meaningful way is very important.
  • Writing and publishing a coursebook takes a long time. Once the coursebook is published it needs to have a lifespan of a number of years, which means that the coursebooks teachers are using in the classroom today may well have been written ten or more years ago. By contrast, technology changes so quickly that any attempt to deal with it through the traditional coursebook medium can be rendered obsolete even before the book is published. So, to deal with this problem, it is we as teachers who need to be able to bridge this gap and adapt, supplement and replace elements of our coursebooks so that we meet the increasing digital literacy needs of our students.
  • Using technology to adapt some aspects of the coursebook can also enhance our students’ abilities to engage with the materials and broaden their potential to extend beyond the classroom. Particularly, it offers us great opportunities to develop more motivating and engaging homework tasks for our students.
  • Technology can enable students to work in new ways and collaborate more easily. Developing their ability to work collaboratively online can significantly help them to become more autonomous, enhance their ability to learn from each other and develop an important 21st century digital literacy.

What can you adapt?

  • Look for web-based tools that can help students to develop their knowledge of the vocabulary.
  • Record audio versions of reading texts so that students can also hear the text.
  • Supplement themes from the coursebook by searching for appropriate texts online.
  • Develop digital reading skills by getting students to find information from a combination of online texts and videos.
  • Help students to understand how to search for materials which can help them to supplement themes from their coursebook.
  • Create interactive digital activities to help students revise texts, vocabulary or grammar points.
  • Help our students to develop digital study skills by getting them to use computers or other digital devices to make notes.

Tips for adapting your coursebook

  • Remember that your coursebook is protected by copyright, so if you intend to copy images or text from it and save those as digital copies, then you will need to ask for permission from the publisher.
  • It’s best to create digital materials your students can access from home; that way you don’t have to face the potential problems related to connectivity in the classroom and your students will be able to get ‘hands-on’ experience on their own computer.
  • If working with technology is new to your students, don’t expect things to run smoothly the first time you try them. Expect a few problems and work towards developing students’ skills so that by the second or third time you try something, they spend less time understanding the technology and more time engaging with the task of learning language.
  • Look for ways in which the technology can be applied to really enhance and extend the work of the coursebook, rather than simply act as an entertaining gimmick. The novelty of using technology to learn a language wears thin very quickly, so you need to be able to show students that the way you use it really does have significant advantages for enhanced learning.

Teaching suggestions and activities

Collaborative writing 

You can transform a static writing task from a coursebook into a digitally collaborative exercise. See the ’Creating digitally collaborative writing tasks’ lesson plan which accompanies this article at the bottom of this page.

Listening skills

Record digital audio versions of some of the reading texts from the book, using a site such as https://a udioboom.com/. This will enable you to help students revise the texts that they have read in previous lessons and see how much they recall.

Creating ‘cloze’ activities 

Use a cloze test creator, such as http://l.georges.online.fr/tools/cloze.html to create interactive web-based activities based around the texts from your coursebook. Select the focus of the words you remove from the text or just remove random ones. This can be a great way to revise texts that students have worked with in previous lessons. Try to train students to create their own tests to test themselves when revising or reviewing their work.

Speaking assignments

Get students to send you spoken reports or assignments based around coursebook materials. I recommend using http://mailvu.com/index.htm as it will enable you to feed back to the students too.

Visual sentences

Ask your students to write example sentences using new vocabulary to show what the word means and how it is used, then ask them to copy these into https://www.pimpampum.net/en/.This will give them a pictorial version of their sentences which they can copy as a record.

Multimedia texts

You can use https://padlet.com to find and collect resources for online receptive skills practice. Use the search engine to find relevant texts, videos, images or audio files. This way you can create activities which encourage students to use multiple sources to find information.

SMS texts

You can convert short texts to SMS texting or online chat language using http://transl8it.com/. This is really useful to add an extra level of engagement with shorter texts from your coursebook. It’s also great for converting dialogues that you want students to practise. This language is generally very phonemic so it can help students to improve their pronunciation too. It’s also quite good to get students used to using SMS texting and/or online chat as these are a common genre of informal communication, especially among younger generations.

Phonemic texts

You can use http://www.photransedit.com/online/text2phonetics.aspx in a similar way to the SMS text transcriber. Just type or paste in your text and the website will transcribe it into phonemic script for you. This is a great timesaver for transcribing vocabulary records or creating sentences to exemplify the words and then transcribing them. It can also make teaching the script a bit less daunting and more activity-based. You can also get students to transcribe short texts or dialogues that they can read out loud. This will get them to really focus on the pronunciation of the text.

Controlled practice drills

Often when we teach new language items from a coursebook, we give students controlled practice spoken drills so they have the chance to hear and repeat the sentence or question. We can use the audio recording facility on a mobile phone to do the same thing by recording the model sentence and allowing the students to listen back to themselves and then re-record their own versions of the drill. This gives students the opportunity to listen to the sentence they have recorded, assess how well they have spoken the sentence and record it again if they wish to improve it.

Using a digital exercise book

Instead of getting students to write notes and homework assignments on paper, you can get them to use a digital journal as an exercise book and do their written assignments in it. The site https://penzu.com/ allows your students to set up a free exercise book which stores all their entries and allows them to email individual entries to their teachers for comment.

Text to word cloud

You can use http://www.wordle.net/ to create a word cloud for each text your students use in class. Take out these word clouds and put them around the walls of the classroom, then get the students to wander around the classroom and see how much of the information from each text they can remember. You can also put word clouds onto your projector and get the students to discuss them in pairs to see what they remember about the text.

Tools for adapting coursebooks

Sync.in – http://sync.in/

This site enables you to make writing tasks collaborative by creating a piece of digital paper that up to four students can work on together. You can share the URL of the page with the groups or pairs of students you want to work together so they can then type into the same digital text on any computer. The contribution of each person who changes the text will be colour-coded so you can see who has done the work.

You can download a onestopenglish video screencast tutorial on using Sync.in and a printable how-to guide at the bottom of this page.

flickriver – http://www.flickriver.com/

 

PHRAS.IN – http://phras.in/

This site enables you to compare similar words and see how they are used differently. It does this by searching the internet for examples of each word in use. It’s great for researching collocations and seeing how they can be used in context.

Forvo –http://www.forvo.com/

This site is a collective pronunciation dictionary of world languages. It is user-created so anyone can submit or ask for the pronunciation of a word. The pronunciation examples are linked to location and tagged by gender so you can find multiple examples of the same word and compare the different accents. You can also download audio files of the words. This is a great resource for teaching pronunciation, especially if you are looking for a particular accent.

Howj say – http://howjsay.com/

This is a pronunciation dictionary which has audio examples of each word. It shows the results within the related word family, making it easy to compare the pronunciations of words in their different forms. It also helps students to understand that changing the form and adding different affixes can change the position of stress.

Phrasr –https://www.pimpampum.net/en/

 

Memorize Nowhttp://www.memorizenow.com/

This site was built to help people memorize texts. You simply paste in the text or dialogue you want to remember and then click to start removing words from the text. You can gradually remove all the words and have single letter clues to help you recall it.

Tools for learnershttp://www.scoop.it/t/tools-for-learners

 

Further reading

Tech Tools for Teachers: Word Clouds
This part of the Tech Tools for Teachers series shows you how to create word clouds using Wordle.

Tech Tools for Teachers: Podcasting
This part of the Tech Tools for Teachers series shows you how to use Audioboo.fm to create audio recordings of your texts.

How to use Penzu

36 tools for digitising your coursebook
This is a collection of tools with my brief suggestions for how to use them to digitize coursebook content and activities.