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By Joseph DeMarini

Smart phones have impacted every aspect of our lives—from social networking and instant communication, to the augmented reality of Pokémon GO. Here at Explore English, we’ve fully embraced the 21st century and like to upset the old order of “no phones in class” by telling our students to switch on their phones to help them engage in a variety of learning activities with our high-speed Wi-Fi network.


If a student doesn’t have a smart phone, no problem! We have several iPads and laptops on hand for student and teacher use. Having the technology is only half the battle, though—what do you do with it once you’ve got it? Hopefully, this post will give you a few ideas.

Just last night, I was teaching my students vocabulary to describe personality, and in this modern world, Tinder exists—a dating app where a person has less than 500 characters to describe themselves. To practice their vocabulary, I had my students create their own dating profiles on iPads; they didn’t have to download and actually use Tinder, obviously, but describing themselves using new vocabulary within a contemporary context kept them engaged in the activity—and provided a few laughs when they had to share with the rest of the class!

The app store is full of useful games and activities for students to use together or on their own, and as an American teaching in Australia, the Aussie Slang app has been helpful for not only my students, but me as well! I also like using Words With Friends for more advanced students to help with vocabulary and word building, and I often use the Game Words app to generate vocabulary for Pictionary and charades when there’s some time leftover at the end of class or if the students need a short respite from studying. For more practical purposes, there are several apps dealing with phonetics that are great for pronunciation lessons.

What’s the best part about using apps in class? The fact that, if a student is particularly interested in a specific app, they can easily download it for themselves and continue practicing on their own time in a fun way—and if questions arise that they bring to you, it can create a teaching opportunity for the class at large! So next time you see a student with their phone out, don’t automatically tell them off; instead, find a way to integrate the phone into the lesson. Who knows—maybe you’ll learn something, too!