Using Innovation in the ELT Classroom

Innovation has become a driving force in education, transforming teaching methods and revolutionising learning environments, which was a major aspect of our recent IHWO Academic Managers’ Conference 2024 in London, this January.  In ELT, innovation has the potential to enrich student engagement, promote language acquisition and foster 21 century skills.

Innovation in ELT integrates technology as well as encompassing creative approaches, pedagogical strategies and the adoption of up-to-date methodologies.  By embracing innovation, we can create dynamic, student-centred classrooms that cultivate critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity, which is the foundation for success in the modern world.

In this article, I’d like to explore the importance of innovation in our ELT classrooms with some practical strategies and technologies we can use to enhance the teaching and learning experience.  Some of which I hope you’re using already.


The flipped classroom reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content outside class time, often through videos, podcasts, online modules and articles leaving class time for interactive activities, discussions and collaborative projects.  This methodology promotes active learning and allows more personalised teaching during the class.  It also allows the students to engage with the material at their own pace given before the lesson.

Project-based learning (PBL) immerses our students in real-world, inquiry-based projects that require critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.  These may involve creating multimedia presentations, designing adverts, producing short films or conducting some research on topics your students are interested in.  The great thing about PBL is students conduct authentic languages tasks that promote collaboration and develop transferable skills be it to work or academic studies.

Gamification involves incorporating elements of game design and mechanics into activities to motive learners, enhance engagement and promote skills development.  Students can earn their scores, time limits set to create urgency and competition between students or against AI.  Gamification may include; storyboarding – to guide learners through difficult subject matter, incorporating them into the plot. Game-based competitions like quizzes, for points on a leader board keeps motivation high and help foster valuable lessons about risk-taking and resilience … and being a good sport.

Differentiated instruction is the process of tailoring lessons to meet each student’s individual interests, needs and strengths.  Teaching this way gives your students choice and flexibility in how they learn and helps teachers personalise learning.  By adjusting the curriculum and instruction we can maximise the learning of all students, by adjusting the three main instructional elements of content, process, product and learning environment.

Multimodal literacy emphasises the integration of multiple modes of communication including visual, auditory, textual and digital elements to create and interpret meaning.  We can do this by incorporating multimedia resources, authentic materials, digital storytelling and visual aids to enhance language comprehension, vocab and cultural understanding as well as creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy.  Digital storytelling tools such as Storybird and Adobe Spark allow students to create multi media narratives, presentations and interactive stories that integrate text, images, audio and video elements.


So which technological innovation can we find in ELT?

Interactive whiteboards offer dynamic multimedia capabilities allowing us to deliver engaging and interactive lessons for diverse learning styles.  IWBs have features such as touch screen functionality, annotation tools facilitating dynamic presentation, collaborative activities and real-time feedback.

Digital learning platforms provide access to loads of educational resources that feature adaptive algorithms and personalised study plans and progress tracking tools.  They promote self-directed learning, facilitate asynchronous collaboration, formative assessment and feedback.  Mobile apps can also offer convenient and accessible tools for language practice, vocab building and skills development on-the-go, using interactives exercises, language games, flashcards and pronunciation guides.  With features such as gamified challenges, social learning communities and personalised recommendations, mobile apps can be used within our ELT classrooms as well as students’ own time.  Duolingo and Babbel now use AI algorithms to personalise language courses to individual learner needs and preferences, with adaptive assessments these apps can optimise language learning experiences by identifying strengths and weaknesses, adapting content difficulty levels then providing targeted practice exercises.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) such as VR4LL offer immersive, experiential learning environments that simulate real-world contexts to enhance language acquisition.  Through VR and AR learners can explore cultural landmarks, participate in virtual field trips and engage in simulated conversations with native speakers.  VR and AR experiences stimulate sensory perception, spatial awareness and emotional engagement, enriching language learning experiences.

Speech recognition software such as Dragon Naturally speaking or Google Voice Typing allows students to practice pronunciation, fluency and speaking skills by converting language into text.  These tools are really useful for real-time feedback on pronunciation accuracy, intonation and speech clarity, improving fluency and building confidence in speaking.