White House Webquest

I don't believe teachers should be using technology to teach. Instead teachers should be encouraging students to use technology in order to learn a language and valuable IT and communication skills for the future. There is a presidential election going on in Finland right now and I told my students this week that if they ever wanted to be president, they would need to know how social media works. Both presidents have impressive blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages: Pekka Haavisto Campaign Blog. It's all a part of each person's digital footprint and web image. Students need to start practicing now.

One of the tasks this week was to create a computer assisted lesson plan. I would like to share a version of it here for everyone to see. I think it is a good practical demonstration of what I would like to do with technology and teaching English.

Lesson Plan with Technology

Class: 20 upper secondary school students, approx. 16 years old, mixed level (intermediate to beginner), English Course 4: Society.

Duration: 75 min. The lesson will take place in computer class.

Objectives of this lesson:

  1. to learn advanced political vocabulary and about the U.S. Government and political system

  2. to learn how to access different web sources and look for relevant information + summarize in our own words

  3. to be able to use the vocabulary in writing (150 - 250 words, 90% accuracy) and orally (1 min. presentation on voki.com, 5 min. presentations in pairs in front of the class, 80% accuracy)

  4. to be able to provide constructive criticism for a peer
Procedure and activities:

  1. A WebQuest with questions about the White House will be available on our blog at the beginning of the lesson.

  2. The teacher will clarify some of the questions and present the main source of information: the White House Official Website. The teacher will also explain how to tell about a topic in your own words and choose relevant information from a long text. She will also encourage students to look for video and photo material and show the students how to comment the blog post when they have found their answers.

  3. Students will partner up and each get two of the questions to research + they are asked to teach the rest of the class 3 difficult words they encounter on their quest using an online dictionary.

  4. Answers to the WebQuest will be posted as comments and presented to the rest of the class orally in front of the classroom (5 min. each)

  5. All the students read through some of the speeches and remarks available online (Barack and Michelle Obama) and choose one issue that they are interested in from the website.

  6. Students write / record their own speech as Obama or the First Lady on Voki, addressing one of these important issues and offering a solution. Vokis are published on the blog as posts.

  7. Students comment each others' vokis on the blog (constructive criticism) according to the evaluation criteria provided by the teacher on the blog. The idea is to use challenging political vocabulary and formal English.

Learning styles addressed: Different kinds of learners each get their chance on the computer. When working with a partner you can always ask for help and teach each other (often the best way to learn) + comments on the blog will also encourage peer evaluation. Visual and aural learners will have plenty to work with due to the videos and presentations, so will those who enjoy writing (blogging).

Homework: Write a blog post describing a day in the life of Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia, Sasha or their dog. Use your imagination and everything that you have learned during the lesson about life in the White House. Details and colorful description will make your story real. Please write in first person, i.e. "I woke up this morning and kissed the first lady on the cheek."


  1. Hello Anna,
    On one hand, I agree with you that teachers shouldn't use technology to teach. It is true that we have to encourage our students to use technology for learning and to prepare for their future. But on the other hand, I think that we have to use technology sometimes in order to make our teaching environment appealing, so students can be motivated to use the technology by themselves.
    I also like this technology enhanced lesson plan where every step is so clear and defined. I really like your lesson plan and the lesson you are going to do with your students. It is very interesting and students can develop many skills.

    Best regards...


    1. The extremity of the phrase "teachers are not supposed to use technology to teach," was meant to shock teachers into thinking outside the box and taking their CALL onto the next level ;) Of course I too use technology to engage my students in class and visualize/demonstrate concepts. However, in Finland that is no longer considered teaching with technology - that's just teaching. I think it is also a question of access to technology. Having complete access to the web at every school in Finland forces us the evolution of teachers' web skills.

  2. Hello Anna

    I was taking a look at your lesson plan and I believe that your students are going to be very engaged on this activity. It seems that there is nothing left behind and the objectives are clear enough. They are going to pracice the different skills and they are going to use an authentic setting, which is always rewarding.

    Best regards.

  3. Hi Anna
    I like your ideas of PowerPoint shows in education
    I am my self using it with my students ( the have some
    Points in PowerPoint then they speak not reading from
    The slide )
    By the way you have nice blog here


    1. Thank you Yasir! You should try using Prezi.com for presentations next time? They are visible online (no hassle saving the ppt files) and can be commented and shared by students! A very useful tool!

  4. Hi Anna,
    I think both teachers and students need to get familier with using the Internet. I feel I can see the world beyond the screen. This is the window connected to the world. As a teacher I would like to guide the students to access the Internet properly.

    1. You are quite right Chiyoko! I'm just saying that it is a given in my country that teachers use techonology in their teacher, the trick is to get the students to look through that window out into the world. That is beautifully said, by the way. They use the Internet everyday to socialize... The questions reamins - how to utilize that same environment for learning a language?