Using Student BYODs (Phones) for a Getting-to-Know-You Extension Activity

Tim Knight, Shirayuri College

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Speaking, listening, learning about classmates, BYOD, computers
  • Learner English level: High beginner and above
  • Learner maturity: High school and above
  • Preparation time: About an hour for a class of 20 between the first and second class
  • Activity time: About 50 minutes in class; 30-40 minutes out of class
  • Materials: Students’ mobile phones and computers, computer (or tablet), audio editing software, document-making software (for the teacher). 

This activity has three aims: first, to build on the getting-to-know-you activities many teachers use in the first or second class of a term; second, to provide a homework listening assignment based on students’ own interviews; and third, to show students that their mobile phones are useful devices for their foreign language oral communication development, as Hockly (2012) and others have explored. The speaking part of the activity is done in class. The listening part is done out of class, traditionally not a time for getting-to-know-you tasks, and the final part is done in a follow-up class. 


Step 1: Get the students to team up in pairs (a ‘three’ can also work if necessary). 

Step 2: Students should prepare one or two questions they would like to ask their partner. At this stage you can give more specific directions. For example, if you are teaching a content course, you can specify that the questions are focused on a particular topic. For easy identification later, each interview should start with an introduction, such as “Hi, my name is X and I’m talking to Y.”

Step 3: Ask the students to use their mobile phones to record their introduction and the interview. It should last between about 45 and 90 seconds. It’s important to limit the time of the interview. Some students may have never used the voice memo function or even have an appropriate app and need a little guidance. 

Step 4: Write your email address on the board and tell the students to send their recordings to you. Most universities now have Wi-Fi on campus and the students should make use of that. It is better if you can make sure you have received the recordings before the end of class, so you need to have your own device with internet access in the classroom. You need to allow enough time to check that you have received them, too. Tell the students to expect an email with instructions for their next task.

Step 5: Load the recordings into an audio editing software program such as Audacity and join the files together. For a class of 20, you will receive 20 short interviews. Rather than joining all of them into one big file, I recommend dividing up the interviews to make 3 files of seven or eight minutes each. Export as mp3 files and upload them to an audio file-sharing site such as SoundCloud. 

Step 6: Listen to the interviews and make one comprehension question for each, so you have one question about each student.

Step 7: Type the questions with spaces for students to write answers and make a PDF (or Word) document. 

Step 8: Send an email to your students (I make a group email for my classes) to which you attach the question sheet and in which you provide a link to the audio files in SoundCloud. Remind the students to listen to the interviews, answer the questions and bring the completed document to class. 

Step 9: Check the answers with the students in a follow-up class. 


I have found this activity to be both useful and fun. Both the teacher and the students learn about all the members of the class, while getting language practice outside of class time, as well as introducing  new technology in their language development.


Hockly, N. (2012). Tech-savvy teaching: BYOD. Modern English Teacher 21(4), 44-45.