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Teaching English with Information Technology

Authors: David Gordon Smith and Eric Baber Publisher: Keyways Publishing Reviewed by: Anton Elloway Teaching English with Information Technology (2005) is a practical book which explains how to use the internet and IT when teaching English. Aimed primarily at English teachers who have little or no experience of using Information Technology (IT) in their teaching, […]
Reviewed for Teflnet by Anton Elloway

Authors: David Gordon Smith and Eric Baber
Publisher:
Keyways Publishing
Reviewed by:
Anton Elloway

Teaching English with Information Technology (2005) is a practical book which explains how to use the internet and IT when teaching English. Aimed primarily at English teachers who have little or no experience of using Information Technology (IT) in their teaching, it offers a fairly comprehensive – if not entirely current – overview of what IT is and how it can be utilised by English language teachers.

The book is eminently practical, reader-friendly and well-intentioned. The authors’ approach is to give practical ideas on how to use technology rather than telling the reader all about the technology. It begins at the very beginning with a brief introduction to some IT basics and ends with a number of useful appendices (website addresses, language learning CD-ROMs, books and keyboard shortcuts) and an extensive glossary of IT terms.

The bulk of the book is organised into chapters based around a number of topics and these chapters can be dipped into or can be read from beginning to end. Most of the chapters provide a basic guide to using some familiar technologies – emails, websites, CD-ROMs, chat technologies, audio and video conferencing, authoring software and standalone software – and these sections are informative and practical, and though not particularly new or detailed, they provide enough information for the teacher to start working with the technologies in their classes.

For me, the main strength of the book is its jargon-free style and its no nonsense practicality. The section on websites, for example, provides a number of useful ideas for using standard, non-ELT, websites in class and these ideas are not only easy to implement but are also fairly generic in that they can be used with any number of similar sites – always useful with internet sites, which can appear and disappear rather rapidly.

The main weakness of the book is, in my opinion, that it seems a little dated now. Though a lot of the information in the book is still valid, particularly the practical ideas for using technology, the technologies themselves have developed a lot since 2005. The arrival of Web 2.0 has given the user a whole range of dynamic, interactive alternatives to creating fairly static webpages from scratch with Notepad or with GeoCities. Blogs are now so common and easy to use that relegating them to the last chapter (as presumably, one of the more ‘difficult’ technologies to learn), seems odd to say the least. Social networking sites and wikis are not mentioned at all, and though this is not a fault of the authors, it does make this book less helpful now in the days of Google and Facebook than it was back in 2005.

So, does this IT book published four years ago still deserve to be read? I would say, a little grudgingly, yes. It’s not the most up-to-date book available but it is helpful and has a gentle approach to technology. If I were to imagine its ideal reader, he or she would be new to technology and would be working in a school which does not have or has not had until recently a lot of technology at its disposal. The book could certainly benefit a teacher who has recently taken over an IT (or ICT) position in a school and who either needs to make some informed decisions about technology or who has to provide his or her colleagues some practical IT sessions. Be warned though, people in the know (perhaps your students) will be using technologies that do not even get a mention in this book.

Reviewed by Anton Elloway for Teflnet April 2009

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Teflnet : TEFL Book Reviews : Teaching : Teaching English with Information Technology