The Information Age lesson

ESL lesson on information technology

The Information Age

Digital citizens

We live in the information age or some might call it the information revolution.  Just like the industrial revolution that came before it, this one also has a gigantic impact on the way we live, communicate and of course the way we research and have access to information.  This impact brings with it a transformation that not everyone has been ready for but will mostly likely continue for the foreseeable future.  Going through this transformation of sorts brings a need to adapt.   Teachers, it stands to reason, are at the forefront of this revolution, and have an opportunity to expose students to the impact both positive and negative that being a “digital citizen” entails.  I therefore wanted to dedicate a lesson idea to this topic and how we can incorporate it for a variety of age groups into our ESL classrooms in order to raise awareness, and increase understanding of what it means to live during this “information age”.  This inevitably covers technology and information in general, but can lead to questions about security, human evolution, identity, ethics, sharing, privacy, addiction and much more. Thanks to this, you could cover a different aspect of this topic over multiple lessons.  So let’s get to it peeps. Other lesson ideas I’ve created related to this topic are The internet age lesson, The media and social networking lesson as well as the innovation lesson idea. These all can be mixed and matched to your preference so you can create the perfect lesson plan for your class.

Lead-in and Speaking

A typical lead-in to a topic is to start with some photographs or some quotes.  Look on google or Pinterest and try to find some images that will get the discussion flowing and students thinking about the positive and negative impact of technology.  It can be an image of young children playing games on a mobile device, a person using a laptop on a train or plane, computer game competitions as well as images showing people in social situations and using their devices instead of talking to each other.  There is a galore of stuff for this, so choose whatever you prefer. Alternatively, you can post one quote on the board and ask students to discuss it, or put them in groups/pairs and ask students to discuss different quotes you give them, then during feedback ask for someone to share with the class what their quote was and what they discussed about it. Here is an example:tech-quote

The same can be done with images.  You can have them as a slide on your projector and go through them one by one (note: time-consuming lead-in).  Additionally, you could ask students to brainstorm words related to the topic, or provide some yourself for your students.  Here are some that I have used:

Multi-tasking     Access Information         Visual Stimuli     Interactive          Digital Organizer       

    Exciting Challenges          Chat Rooms        Reliability

Ask students to use these words while discussing the quote or images you have given them.  Afterwards get some feedback.

You can follow this up with a couple more questions:

Why do you think people become addicted to the following and might such a dependency affect their daily life?

  • Digital media
  • Computer games
  • Social networking

How do computers help people enjoy life?

  • Escapism
  • Convenience
  • Work

Vocabulary and Reading

There is some quality vocabulary here in the questions and if you are monitoring students, depending on age, lots more will inevitably come up so be prepared!

From here you have a multitude of options.  I personally like to go in the direction of security and privacy but you might prefer a different route.  Alternatively, you can present students with some more input. For instance here is a graph:mobile-internet-trends-mary-meeker-2015-1


You can ask students to scan it and ask them to talk about it.  What does the graph show and what does it mean for the future.  In an earlier lesson idea I covered language for describing trends so that can be useful here.

Another route you can take is through reading!

Here is an article about the benefits and drawbacks of the digital age. It’s short and sweet, and has tons of vocabulary for students to note (ex. Repercussions, unscrupulous, savvy). Pay particular attention to the collocations used (ex. Enhance brand image, customer loyalty), and any expressions that could be useful to students (ex. Jump on the bandwagon). You can prepare some comprehension questions for general understanding or for more specific understanding, that’s up to you.  Obviously, there is room for follow up questions and feedback on what student think of the article.  You could also ask them to write an essay for homework: Social networks: Do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?  Younger students preparing for Cambridge exams or IELTS will need practice at essay writing, and this topic (information and technology) is one that gets covered one way or another.  If you want you could hold a mini debate at the end if time allows.  Put students into two groups and ask them to brainstorm reasons for why social networks, mobile devices etc. are good while the other brainstorms the negatives.  Put them in pairs and let them debate the issue. Controversial topics for debate or essays could be:

  • Should companies be allowed to keep private data of its users saved, including fingerprint scans on phones?
  • Does the internet provide reliable information to those who research medical issues? Or to students working on a project at school?
  • Should companies share our private information with other companies in order to provide us with a more personal experience or simply to make it easier for us to use multiple sites under one account? Think Facebook accounts linked to other accounts you have, like Spotify.

Final thoughts and additional materials

The list goes on and on peeps, but as you can see we have only scratched the surface of this topic.  In subsequent posts I will revisit it, specifically on privacy and security, because it’s one that offers a lot of vocabulary and discussion, and is of interest to students.  Of course this lesson idea can be used in any ESL classroom of intermediate or above as well as, obviously, conversation lessons.  Though admittedly some of the language might be quite challenging for intermediate students, chances are, they will already know some of it and so will manage just fine 🙂

Like this lesson idea? There are many more and plenty to come. If you don’t want to miss these or my videos and blog posts on teaching tips just submit your email for my monthly newsletter. Or click on the links here to check out more.







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