What’s Up with Whatsapp?

Smart phones are an omnipresent factor in our lives; they come, of course, with their definite pros and cons! In the English language classroom they can sometimes be a distraction to students and a frustration to teachers who may need the class’ full attention.  But, since the smart phone is here to stay, for the time being at least, how can teachers and students alike use them to enhance the language learning experience?  Already they have become dictionaries as well as tools for accessing instant information and participating in online interactive language practice (thank you Google and Wiki!). But as we know, in this fast moving world of technology, the possibilities and uses could be endless.  Six months ago, an exam class of mine created a Whatsapp group in order to organise social events and keep in touch once the class had come to an end. Around the same time, I noticed that students liked to photograph vocabulary or grammar points rather than copy or make notes. Then one day, when a particular student was unwell, I asked his ‘study buddy’ to photograph some examples from the class and share the information with him in order that he wouldn’t be disadvantaged in the following day’s class. Suddenly an idea was born! In my following exam class, I suggested at the very beginning of their course that they create a Whatsapp group. In the twinkling of an eye, what had formerly been a means for socialising, became a platform for information sharing. With a free creative rein, students were now recording segments of the class, photographing and then posting exercises and examples, and discussing the class retroactively as a group.

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Whatsapp proved to be more helpful than I could have anticipated, especially for a 10 or 12 week intensive course. It became part of the experience that bound us all together on our shared journey towards the Cambridge exams. We posted important notices, and shared the language focus of the day with the students who were not able to attend class.  Our class could at any time (24/7) discuss, question or clarify. If I noticed any important errors in their communications, I could explore them the following day with the class as a whole. Then, as the exams loomed ever closer on the horizon, each and very student had at their disposal readily accessible revision materials and reminders.

So how would this work in a General English class, I wondered, where the student population changes often and the parameters of the course are so different? Our Intermediate class were keen to embrace the idea of forming a Whatsapp group and began immediately to not only communicate socially but also photograph the whiteboard, capturing valuable vocabulary and grammar points, and record pronunciation practice. As their teacher, I can remind the entire group about homework or preparations for the following day, while also giving feedback on spelling, grammar or vocabulary errors or offering common expressions and words to enhance their online skills.  It has, I believe, been a valuable experiment, and a unique opportunity to enhance the students’ language skills.  Interestingly, it has also been a tremendous morale booster: Whatsapp creates an instant group experience, wherein the students feel involved and a productive part of the language learning process.  There is an enhanced sense of ownership within the classroom which is palpable.

 

Class dynamics aside, if nothing else, it’s a virtual, portable language resource and totally eco-friendly – no more mountains of paper!

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And here is what some of my current General English students have to say:

 

Only I can say that my experience in Ability has been great, amazing and special. I would like to improve my English but in the same time enjoy.  So, this Its the perfect school If you search something like this. You enjoy learning. The whatssap for our class is very useful because is a easy and quick way to meet with people and we can organize different activities to do after the class. We like going to the park and sitting on the grass and talking about something… Or  watching a movie and also singing a song.  Fortunately I’m feeling like I was with my Catalan friends or my family.

(Rebeca)

 

 

We are intermediate 1 class. We created a whatsapp group. This become very beneficial for us. We can ask everything to teacher through the whatsapp. We can always keep in touch with each other and with our lovely teacher :).Sometimes we organise easily some activities after school or weekend. We can share the important knowledge we learned during the day and most important thing when we write in whatsapp, teacher correct our mistakes,  also whatsapp improves our class relationship and we thank our teacher for giving the idea…

(Kuyabe)

 

 

I find this concept very interesting. It gives so much advantage, for example if I fall sick, with Whatsapp no worries, it’s like if you are in class.  When on the board there is an important thing somebody takes a picture and sends. It’s especially a help to study. If you don’t remember something, you can check! Whatsapp has so many qualities about studies however there are some others qualities not about the study. With this we are so close ! We are unified. When somebody does one activities he proposes in Whatsapp to come with him and when you do this, but be carefull !! Teacher is never far away ! Always there to correct your mistakes!
(Jim)

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