As teachers living and working in the 21st-century, we all know that technology is part of our students' daily lives. And our students increasingly expect technology to be part of their language learning too. Many of your students probably already use dictionaries on their smart phones, or access websites to watch the news or videos in English.

We increasingly have access to technology in our classrooms. And our students are increasingly bringing their own technology into the classroom in the form of mobile devices. But we often need help with integrating technology effectively into communicative classroom practice.

The problem is we have often received little or no training in how to integrate technology into our regular classroom practice. We know we should be using it more, but we're not sure how! Here are the million dollar questions for teachers:

How do I to integrate technology into my classroom?
Why am I using it?
How do I make it work well?
When do I use it?
Where to start?

Below are some more focused questions you can ask yourself. This can help with the initial planning stages of not just individual lessons, but they can also be asked when but looking at an overall syllabus, and working out where to slot in specific technology-related tasks and tools.

1. Outcomes: What do students learn?
Be clear on the main aims of the lesson. These are usually primarily linguistic in our field, but they also could relate to digital literacy skills, such as enhancing students' search skills via an activity. Once you are clear on the aims, ask yourself what the use of this particular technology bring this to the learning outcomes, and how it enhances learning.

2. Added value: What does the technology bring to the activity?
Check that the technology you are using enhances the activity in some way. For example if you use a free online poster site such asGlogster, students will be able to add multimedia such as videos, audio and digital photos. You wouldn't be able to achieve the same results with a traditional cardboard poster with magazine pictures cut out and stuck on it. The end product in Glogster will look a lot more professional, and you can share it with a wider audience – who can leave comments on the posters themselves.

3. Time & effort: Is the time spent on the tool worth it? Will it be for long-term or short-term use?
Ensure that using a tool is not going to take up more time and energy than the language actually being produced. With any technology tool, if it's a very complicated to use, and students are going to get bogged
down in the mechanics, use something simpler, or use paper! Ask yourself how much mileage you are going to get out of the tool. If you're going to use a class blog for students to work on their writing, you will probably want to include it as part of a longer term project, rather than for a one-off writing exercise.

4. Syllabus: What´s the fit?
Using technology randomly with no clear overall purpose is going to frustrate disorganised. Take a look at your syllabus and think about what tools you could use, at what points in your syllabus, and to achieve what results. Make a copy of your syllabus, and pencil in ideas for tools and activities on the syllabus itself. Show this to your colleagues and discuss the alternatives.

5. Skills: What do the teacher and students need to know how to do?
Think about the technical and digital literacy skills both you and your students need to be able to successfully use the technology/tool. For example, the technical skills involved in using a blog include: setting it up, adding multimedia to postings, enabling comments, etc. And the digital literacy skills include: writing for an online audience, appropriate length and style, appropriate use of hyperlinking, balancing images/video and text on the page, use of images and copyright, etc.

6. Location: Where and when will the tool(s) be used?
Depending on your context, you may want to take students to the computer room for specific activities. Or share activities in the one computer classroom, with additional tech work done at home (assuming they have access there). Or you may have students use their own mobile devices – inside and/or outside the classroom. Where and when tools are used is an important part of basic classroom management.

7. Role: Do students consume or produce?
Keep in mind that using technology does not mean simply accessing webpages, or consuming information via YouTube videos. The really interesting developments in web 2.0 enable your students to become producers of online content. Blogs, pod casts, online posters, videos... Your students can easily produce, and share it with a wider audience online. Ensure that your use of technology across the syllabus balances consumption with production.

8. Resources: What tools are available?
Have a range or repertoire of tools and techniques to draw on. And for each of technology tools you decide to use, design effective task types for it, and consider how these tasks fit into the wider picture above. This is where training can help. Access informal training via contact with fellow teachers, either online through social or personal learning networks, or chatting in the staff room. Consider formal training, such as workshops or courses, either online or face-to-face. Check out the rest of this newsletter for some online training course options that can help!