Thursday, June 11, 2020

Introducing EFL.Digital: Digital Assignments for 21st Century English Teachers by Paul Raine

by Paul Raine

Bio: Paul Raine (MA TEFL/TESL, University of Birmingham 2012) is an award-winning teacher, presenter, author, and developer.

His books include the best-selling 50 Ways to Teach with Technology and the innovative multi-path graded reader Journey to Mars. He has also developed his own website for teachers and learners of EFL ( He has published numerous research articles on the teaching and learning of English as a second language, and is particularly interested in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). 

He currently teaches at two universities in the Tokyo area.

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COVID-19 continues to have a catastrophic impact on thousands of people around the world. But learners still need to learn. And teachers still need to teach. I really didn't want this to be yet another "what we are doing to help you during COVID-19" blog post, but the effect of the virus is all-encompassing, and it is impossible to avoid.
In fact, I have been involved with Ed-Tech for many years, and EFL.Digital came about at least two years before the current crisis. 
I believe that technology has an important role to play in the lives of language teachers and learners, allowing them to be both more effective and more efficient. Technology is a very useful tool for language teachers in times of normality.
But the use of technology becomes literally unavoidable when we find ourselves having to deliver language learning courses from our homes, without loss of quality of instruction.
So I will suggest here that the tools and features offered by EFL.Digital are useful both in situations of enforced social distancing, and in the face-to-face learning environments most of us are more familiar with. And I am not saying by any means that EFL.Digital is a complete solution to distance language teaching; it's not.

What EFL.Digital offers is a suite of innovative digital assignment types that can be created and administered in a completely online environment.
I'd like to spend the rest of this article introducing a couple of these assignment types, and explaining how they can be used in both distance and face-to-face language learning contexts.

Part of our jobs as language teachers is to assess student speaking skills. One of the most efficient ways to do this is with a short audio recording task. This is the method adopted by the TOEFL and other standardized tests.
Summarizing one's argument in a one-minute soundbite is a useful skill not only for such tests, but also in everyday life.
We're all familiar with the "elevator pitch" - can you sell your idea in less than a minute? EFL.Digital provides a way to set audio recording tasks that can be recorded and submitted all within the students' web browser.


One of the perennial complaints of language learners in Japan is the lack of suitable interlocutors for honing their speaking skills. This fact alone has given rise to the buyant Eikaiwa school industry most English teachers in Japan are familiar with.
Recent advances in Artificial Intelligence now allow us to create interactive dialogues in which the computer can act as the learners' interlocutor.
With naturalistic speech synthesis and increasingly accurate speech recognition, students can now avail themselves of extra speaking practice whenever they have access to a computer or smartphone and an internet connection. EFL.Digital's Dialogue tool allows teachers to create interactive dialogues for their students, and administer them completely online.


The spread of the Internet heralded an explosion of new media outlets, and the likes of YouTube and Netflix are now major broadcasters in their own right. There is a wealth of material available on YouTube for English language learners, from TED videos, to childrens' nursery rhymes.
EFL.Digital's Video Gap Fill assignment type allows teachers to easily tap into this resource to create motivational and inspiring langauge learning activities for their students.
Simply copy and paste the URL for an English-captioned YouTube video into EFL.Digital, and select the lines to show and the words to remove. Hey presto, instant Judy Garland.

There are many more assignment types on EFL.Digital (eight in total that cover all four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing). I hope this blog post gives you a taste of what you can do with the platform, and I invite you to check it out and see how it can help you both with your online and face-to-face language teaching.

-          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

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