Using smartphones in the classroom

Using smartphones in the classroom

Hi fellow teachers,

I’ve been trying something different these days, and I want to get your reaction to it.

For a few years, I’ve been making videos for the Nice Talking with You YouTube page. They’re just short monologs, but they get a lot of views, so I guess students like them.

But now, I want to take it a step further. Everyone’s talking these days about using smartphones in the classroom, right? I made a short quiz to accompany the videos, so students can listen and see if they understand. Oh, and I added the script, because students sometimes ask for it. (I always hesitate to do that because some learners turn a listening comprehension activity into a reading comprehension activity. Oh well.)


Anyway, little by little, I’m building up a number of activities for our students. Short and simple. I tested them on my first-year students. I sent them the URL, and they did the whole thing on their smartphone, in class.
Most of them finished the task in about 4 minutes and got an average score of 3 out of 4. Sweet!
Please take a look at the quiz by pressing the button. If you think it’s something your students can benefit from, please share it with them!


And if you have a comment or a suggestion about this, please drop me a note here on the blog.

English listening practice with quiz!

English listening practice with quiz!

Everyone needs to practice English listening. It’s important if you want to improve your English! And with an online quiz, you can check your understanding fast!

I’m very happy to welcome new students who’ve joined Nice Talking with You from all over the world this month so far, especially from

  • Malaysia
  • Romania
  • Egypt
  • Japan
  • Vietnam
  • United Arab Emirates
  • and Thailand

For you and these new students, I have made a new video! I put it on YouTube and Facebook, but this time I wanted to do something special for you. So, I made a way for you to

1. Watch a video
2. Check your listening
3. Get the script

Click here to get the video, quiz and script, from the Nice Talking with You website!

friends quiz shot

The listening and activity are short and not too difficult.  And it’s kind of fun to quiz yourself instead of just watching or listening to a video.

When you have time, please check it out and then share it with a friend.

from Tom Kenny

PowerPoint presentations on the iPhone in the classroom

PowerPoint presentations on the iPhone in the classroom


When students make presentations in your class, are they still using making a PowerPoint and showing it to the whole class at once on the classroom projector? You can make their practice more effective by having them present more than just once! One thing I’ve been doing for a while is having students do their presentations from their own iPhones. First they practice with a friend, then in small groups, then in groups a little bit larger…you get the idea..until they’re ready to do it in front of everybody.


The big problem is that iPhones and iPads won’t show a PowerPoint just how the student wants the PowerPoint to look. It’s a formatting problem, and it annoys students a lot! Good thing that there’s a way around that. There are a few free online sites that will let then upload their MS .ppt PowerPoint file and then download it onto their iOS device so that it looks perfect. I made a short video for you so you can see how it works.

Sure I know, why not just make them buy Keynote? Then you won’t have to fool with a third party service. Well, PowerPoint is still the software they have on their home computers. Until that changes, we need to figure out other ways to accommodate our learners. At least the workaround (the website and the app) is free, so that helps. If you’ve tried this sort of thing, tell us how it worked for you. Please share this or post your comments below.

English Speaking Practice for Nice Talking with You students in Mexico

English Speaking Practice for Nice Talking with You students in Mexico

How about some speaking practice? Even if you can’t talk with an English native speaker, you can try to listen to one and imitate the speaker’s pronunciation or intonation!

The website has a lot of practice material for everyone. This week, the website has had a bunch of visitors from beautiful MEXICO!

Thanks to:

Karina L	Alejandra D
David T     	Gio
Manuel H.   	Anel G
Elena d.    	Pedro A
Francisco R 	Esmeralda
Adriana O   	Gabriela T

mexico-nicetalkingwithyouI don’t know how many teachers in Mexico are using Nice Talking with You, but I’m thrilled that so many students took the time to check out the ESL materials available on the site! In fact, here’s something I made today just for our Mexican friends. Watch the video and listen. See the words in yellow? Stress those words when you repeat. It will be a nice way to get some English speaking practice. Enjoy!

Authentic conversation makes ESL listening REAL

Authentic conversation makes ESL listening REAL

Language students know the difference between canned, scripted audio and authentic listening material. When they first begin their ESL Listening Lives, they know the former is a necessary part of their learning, so they just hunker down and do it. Lucky for us teachers that they do. We can’t really demand more of them, given the activities we usually have to work with. Sure, we can assign a movie for them to watch outside of class, or a news clip to view online, but it’s clear to students that it’s supplementary material — it doesn’t exactly fit into what they’re doing in class. And yes, it helps improve their listening skills to listen, but it still amounts to catching language that comes from a script. It’s neat, it’s prepackaged and approved. It’s safe.

Bringing authentic material into the ESL classroom is risky. And yet, there’s something so fresh about the way authentic conversation sounds, students find it compelling to listen to. It’s very cool to see students in class kind of edge forward in their seats and consciously attend to what they hear. The novelty of hearing it produces novel behavior: genuine interest. Imagine that, in a classroom. Now imagine that it’s a part of your course material, and it meshes perfectly with the topic of the unit you’re teaching. That makes it all the more appealing for both teachers and students.

Claudia and Masahiro appear in listening activities throughout Nice Talking with YouIt’s tricky to capture authentic spoken language. Most audio material for textbooks is recorded in big cities, in expensive studios, with professional voice actors and approved scripts. In contrast, I like to record people in relaxed settings, catch them when they’re talking naturally. I teach at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies, a place I view as an oasis of English, all kinds of English. Colleagues and friends are from the UK, Australia, India, Korea, Central America, China, Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia, each with a unique voice, each with interesting things to say. I’m very grateful that they gave their time and shared their imagination with us on the Nice Talking with You project.

I mentioned risk before. Teachers take a chance when they use authentic conversation in the classroom, but it’s publishers who take a much bigger risk by putting authentic language in text materials. The ELT publishing industry is rather conservative; when they produce textbooks, they have to remember that administrators and adoption boards do the safe thing, which is to choose books that are like the books they’ve chosen before. It’s been my great fortune to work with Cambridge University Press on developing activities based on the authentic conversation I’ve captured. True to the spirit of learning, Cambridge takes chances.

The video below shows a little slideshow around samples of the authentic language we recorded for the “Real Conversations” activities used in Nice Talking with You. I’d love to hear what you think of it, how you feel your students would react to this style of input, and what experience you’ve had with presenting authentic conversation to your students.