Teacher Hala Arraby observed that her students were more interested in learning English when she used technology. Photo by Yong Xin / Creative Commons

Teacher Hala Arraby observed that her students were more interested in learning English when she used technology. Photo by Yong Xin / Creative Commons

Teacher Hala Arraby observed that her students were more interested in learning English when she used technology. Photo by Yong Xin / Creative Commons

This week, the UK and Israel agreed to work together on a project to train Israeli teachers. We asked Israeli teacher Hala Arraby, who took part in our Routes to Excellence teacher training programme, how it works and why teachers should develop their digital literacy.

Why should teachers use technology in their classes?

As a young English language teacher, I recognise how important it is to use technology in my classes. My students need to be able to interact in English in a digital world, and they are more likely to be engaged in classes where they use 21st century tools.

I started out with the basics – YouTube and an interactive whiteboard. At first, it was quite tough to integrate technology into the more traditional style of teaching that is common in Israel. It’s typical here for classes to be less interactive, with learners answering closed questions and completing worksheets, and most tasks being assessed through summative tests.

To my surprise, my students’ reactions to using technology were good – they were more interested in learning English than before. For many of them, English is their second foreign language, and not an easy one either.

Teachers need to learn, too

I was approached by my English inspector and asked if I would be interested in becoming an accredited British Council teacher trainer for the Ministry of Education in Israel. I jumped at the opportunity to learn new techniques and develop professionally.

In July, I took part in a training course on how teachers could use technology better. This course is a part of ‘Routes to Excellence’, a teacher training and development programme run by the British Council and the Ministry of Education in Israel. It emphasises teaching before technology. To make the transition from teacher to teacher trainer, I learned how to motivate teachers and students, make more effective observations, give peer feedback and encourage students to communicate.

The British Council uses the latest English language teaching pedagogy, which encourages students to be actively involved in how they learn. They taught us to focus on group work using  interactive online learning tools such as linoit and tricider to encourage ideas and discussion.

One of the most significant parts of the training was getting feedback on our teaching. We were put into pairs and asked to prepare a mini-lesson, which we then delivered to the wider group. We received feedback on this lesson from the British Council trainers and from our peers. This was challenging, but extremely helpful. Observation does not happen nearly enough, and is vital for developing as a teacher and a teacher trainer.

How to train other teachers to be technologically savvy

The training provided me with confidence to become a teacher trainer, and train teachers who have more experience than I do. Of course, it also improved my own classroom teaching. Teaching other teachers how to use technology is not always easy. Not all participating teachers have computers in their houses, making it difficult for them to access the websites and to learn to use online tools effectively. Many teachers in Israel lack experience in learning technology. This course was particularly helpful as it offered a combination of teaching theory and practice, as opposed to other courses that are more theoretical in nature.

Now I train teachers how to use technology in their English lessons. I teach them how to create and work with wikis, blogs, Voki and VoiceThread, which they can use during lessons. We discuss the importance of digital literacy, cyber wellbeing, evaluating websites, mobile learning, using office software and social networking in the classroom.

The approach encourages teachers to reflect before, during and after a lesson on whether they’ve achieved what they wanted to, whether learners are engaged and what needs to change. This is something I try to impress upon all of the teachers who take part in my course.

The teachers that I train say that their students really enjoy surfing the web for specific information, posting grammatically correct passages, checking, commenting and collaborating with each other through online audio and writing tools. Technology and teaching are two parts of one body. They complete each other and ensure that students have the best experience when learning English.

The Routes to Excellence programme is now supported by a ‘memorandum of understanding’ between the UK and Israel, and will reach most English teachers in Israel – including teachers in the Druze, Bedouin and other Arab communities – and more than a million pupils over five years.

Read more: The benefits of new technology in language learning or how English teachers can use pictures or e-books in the classroom.

Photo by Yong Xin on Flickr under Creative Commons licence.


Total 5 Comments Add your comment


Posted on December 14th, 2013 Report abuse

When I first read this article I agreed with what you were saying. Then, I had a conversation with my son in our kitchen while I was washing the dishes. He asked me if the salutation Thank you was one word or two words. I looked at him with surprise. He is now a student of English literature at university and yet, ever since he learnt to read and write in first grade, he has thought Thank you was one word. I asked him if he had ever noticed that the spell checker on the computer corrected the mistake. He said yes, however, he had taught the spell checker to recognise the one worded spelling and the issue never came up again. Obviously he has never written Thank you to me or I would have noticed, other people would be too polite to make a comment. Now, he has to change his habits and think thank you as two words. I do not think any kind of digital technology could replace that face to face conversation we just had and obviously, none of the technology that he uses (as do others of his age) had picked up the mistake (for want of a better word).


Posted on December 16th, 2013 Report abuse

If you are searching for an amazing interactive educational site then this is worth a look http://www.whatismissing.net. I wish everyone new about it and contributed to it in some way. We would all be richer for it. What is Missing? Foundation creates innovative artworks that utilize sound, media and scientific and historical information to connect people to the species, places and natural phenomena that have disappeared, or will most likely disappear, if we don’t act to protect them.


Posted on December 16th, 2013 Report abuse

PS Sorry about the typing error. It should be knew.

I don’t know if you are interested in this or not, one of my favourite places for books is Persephone Books. They specialise in reprints of neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century writers. The writers on their list are mostly women and they have audio books and eBooks too. All the books are carefully designed with a clear typeface, designer endpapers and a preface by notable present day writers. The endpapers are chosen to match the date and mood of the book. When you think about it, if we loose the ability to appreciate books and how they are made and feel we will loose the ability to access a whole art form. If I were a teacher I would point my students in the direction of the best book stores or libraries around and say go and browse and see what you can find that is special to you.

If you are still passionate about digital technology as being the best medium for teaching then this video about typography might be helpful. I was not sure if the link would work outside of a specific site, so I emailed the link to myself first and tested it. It worked for me http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1091263959001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAABvb_NGE~,DMkZt2E6wO0aqwg3BkGVZipVhkS_MPQH&bctid=2534285906001

Jane Cohen

Posted on December 17th, 2013 Report abuse

Dear Judith,
I am a strong advocate of integrating Learning Technologies into the classroom. I do not believe that Learning Technologies should replace teachers. In my view teachers have more responsibility than ever to teach their students how to evaluate websites, to autheniticate the material they are accessing, to credit the authors and to be responsible digital citizens.’Routes to Excellence’ is a programme that provides teachers with the knowledge and skills to do exactly this.

I am really glad that Hala’s blog inspired you to share with us your experience and some educational sites to browse. I love the What is Missing? site and think it has so much educational potential.

Jane Cohen, English Teacher Development Manager, The British Council, Israel


Posted on December 19th, 2013 Report abuse

Yes in India also students have started appreciating the need of digital classroom which they find very essential as a learning tool. It is very necessary teaching tool. I am using smart class in teaching English. Even the village Schools have installed interactive whiteboard in their classroom. I taught in 4 schools as visiting faculty and all the village schools had a smart class installed. Students learn very fast, even the dull student is able to understand what a teacher is trying to say. Boring History classes becomes interesting with those animated stories, students learning and grasping power enhances multifold using digital technology and the results are fantastic in a school. Smart class has become a necessity now a days rather than rich man’s delight.