VIEWS Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO)

Teaching English through smart phone technology

Retired Special Needs Secondary School Teacher Pamela Hughes from Manchester, has been living in Cambodia on and off for more than a decade. She first volunteered with leading international development charity VSO in 2002 when she began writing Cambodia’s Primary School English curriculum. Her latest placement from 2012 to 2016, saw her produce and direct a number of English audio recordings which are

now being used to teach English through smart phone apps and social media. Pamela reflects on the opportunities and challenges.

“When I first arrived in Cambodia in 2002, many primary school

teachers were untrained with very little formal education. Understanding English opens doors in Cambodia and as a volunteer Management Adviser, I was originally tasked with revising their English Teaching Manuals. It became increasingly clear however, that English language expertise was extremely limited amongst the teachers and they were too reliant on rote-learning. Simple technology was therefore needed to deliver what was in these manuals. From 2002, I have been collaborating with local and national education offices in Cambodia to develop the BEL method (Basic English Language) – an interactive child- centred teaching tool which replaces rote-learning. “To supplement these English Teaching Manuals and bring them to

life in the classroom, I scripted English recordings which were turned into MP3s for smart phone apps, downloadable materials from Facebook and films for YouTube. Wherever you are, interactive audio is an effective way of supporting listening activities in the classroom. BEL Training videos are also being used at Primary Teacher Training Centres (PTTCs) and links to BEL resources can be found on Facebook: When asked about the audio resources, teachers often say, “My teacher is always with me!” “VSO has also issued each PTTC with a tablet to help trainee

teachers improve their learning. Trainees can engage with the BEL audio prompts and then record themselves speaking English out loud on the tablet. This short video clip can then be sent back to me, or other members of the BEL team, for constructive feedback. This is a great way to support teachers, especially those who live in remote areas who are often cut off by floods or are rarely visited. By messaging and sending video clips via Facebook, their English is improving and they no longer feel alone. Officials who have visited schools using BEL have commented that they have seen pupils and teachers who are 100% engaged with lessons for the first time. By 2006, trainee teachers had also adapted BEL to teach their own language, Khmer, which is usually learnt by rote. “This technological language learning approach is a first for

Cambodian schools. BEL has grown from a pilot project in a remote area where nobody speaks English, to being widely used in schools. More than 15,000 children in the north east of Cambodia, have improved their English using BEL. When it comes to learning English, according to research published by the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2015, results show that the BEL method is just as effective as private tuition. After leaving Cambodia, I had no idea that BEL would continue to be used and has spread to other Primary Teacher Training Centres. “VSO provides a wonderful opportunity to experience another

culture and gain a greater insight into challenges faced by developing countries. VSO supports sustainable development in these countries by mobilising long term volunteers who are professionals in their field and who are committed to enabling local people through the transference of skills. “I have been invited back to Cambodia to apply BEL to the teaching

of early years Khmer - a huge challenge, but a privilege.”

December 2016 British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)

Don’t batten down the hatches, innovate!

This month, regular Education Today contributor Patrick Hayes, BESA Director, looks at the pressure on ICT budgets in schools and calls for innovative thinking to ease the strain.

The past year has seen an historic

amount of change in the UK, from the Brexit vote to a new Prime Minister. There have been equally turbulent times in education with seismic changes being

proposed one minute, like the academisation of all schools by 2020, and then being abandoned the next. The real-terms cuts in education budgets have also started to bite. It’s no surprise, then, that the “barometers” that we at BESA

undertake showing projected headteacher spending show some of the most concerning findings since the recession. It’s not looking good across the board, but the situation is acute in ICT. Primary school heads say they forecast a 3% decline in ICT expenditure, and the picture is worse in secondary schools, which are seeing more than a 6% decline. During times of uncertainty, the natural reaction is to rein in

expenditure and batten down the hatches. But the schools that will flourish during the coming period of belt-tightening are those that innovate instead, finding new ways of using EdTech in the classroom that is more cost-effective. And, indeed, making better use of the tech that is already there. There is no better time to do so. Indeed, one of the positive things

that has emerged from BESA’s recently published annual ICT in Schools report is the finding that the poor broadband connectivity that has blighted primary schools in particular is set to improve. While only 44% of primary schools say they are currently well-resourced with broadband, this is set to rise by 18 percentage points in 2017. In secondary schools, penetration is now edging ever-closer to 100%. Training remains a major issue, however. Indeed, when schools are

asked what their biggest ICT challenge is over the next 12 months, training teachers in using it comes even higher than securing funds. We are all aware of the transformative potential of using EdTech in assessment, for example. But if teachers don’t know how to use assessment solutions, then the impact will be limited. Our research shows that there has been a steady increase in the

amount of time pupils spend exposed to EdTech in the classroom. In primary schools, this now stands at 54% of the time in an average week. In secondaries, this is now at 56%. Despite cutbacks, ICT budgets remain substantial – around

£60,000 for an average secondary school, and £14,000 for an average primary. Spent wisely, this can have an impact upon pupils that could help both boost attainment, but also future career chances. The largest EdTech show in the world, Bett, takes place in London

between 25-28 January and is at the cutting-edge of developments in the field. Spending a day engaging in the many talks featuring world- class speakers, talking to peers from other schools facing the same challenges as you, alongside the many suppliers at the show, will pay dividends for your school. At a time when schools are tightening their belts, the solution is to

innovate. And there’s no better place to gain inspiration for innovative EdTech practices than the Bett Show.

uFor information from BESA contact: uPatrick Hayes u020 7537 4997 7

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