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EAL tools

The thing we love the most about the best digital tools is that they are easy to pick up and use for the novice, but allow more experienced users to find ways of using them to a greater depth, either for teaching and learning purposes, classroom impact, or to aid workflow.
A workshop we have been offering recently to EAL teachers and departments uses a tool that does just that. More specifically, Google Docs.

Using the built-in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) in Google Docs, you can turn images with text into text documents, and then using the translate tool, convert that text into whatever language you need for your EAL students.

Imagine the scenario - in your lesson you are studying a couple of pages from a text, perhaps identifying certain parts of speech or grammar. You have a student or perhaps a few students in your class with English as an additional language who you know will struggle with this particular text or the homework task that follows, but you don't have the particular text in their language. You certainly don't have the budget to buy the translated versions of the book.

This is where Google Docs comes into play!

Step 1: Take a photo of the page you are studying (or perhaps you can take a screenshot of the eBook, or you have a worksheet as a pdf).

Step1: take a photo or screenshot and put it in Google Drive

Step 2: Put this photo/screenshot/pdf into Google Drive and right click on it. Select 'Open With' and open the document/photo/screenshot with Google Docs.

Step 2: Open it with Google Docs

Step 3: After a few seconds Google Docs will open with your photo at the top and the extracted text below it. Delete the photo and hey presto you have the text from your original photo/screenshot/pdf in word processing form ready for manipulation.

Step 3: OCR has done its thing

Step 4: From here, you could edit the text (perhaps changing keywords or differentiating the text), or now translate the document by clicking the Tools drop-down menu then selecting 'Translate'.

Step 4: Translate the Doc

Imagine the impact this would have for EAL students: rather than sitting in a lesson bewildered by a text that is too difficult, having a translated copy of the text to be able to compare to the English version will help in a multitude of ways. Homework help, supported learning, lessons resources, you name it. From a teachers perspective, you have made a huge impact in a matter of the few minutes it took to do the above steps. This also has its uses in MFL lessons when creating resources. Have access to Chromebooks? Students could even do it themselves.

Throw in additional tools like Google Keep and the ability to grab image text and create Docs from your notes and you can supercharge this process even further, or collect resources whilst out and about for later use. Love it love it love it.

We talk a lot about the juice having to be worth the squeeze when using technology, and in this case (and speaking from experience of teaching EAL students), this is a lot of juice for a relatively small squeeze.

If you would like to hear more, or want to organise a training event or coaching session, then please get in touch with the eLearning Team. See all our training videos at

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