English - In the spotlight

30th September 2011 at 01:00

The interactive Grammar of English app

www.ucl.ac.ukenglish-usageappsige

iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (Android tbc). Complete pound;4.99, `Lite' free

What's so smart about smartphones? Look at a teenager staring glassy-eyed at their Facebook updates and you might think they have dumbed down a generation. But iGE is an app that could change that.

iGE allows you to learn the basics (and more) of English grammar. You can follow a grammar course from basic word classes to clause functions, or just pick a few areas you need to brush up on. It has a useful glossary to help you answer those awkward questions in class.

With its mix of old-school values (you get things wrong, rather than being told your answer is "interesting") and new-school technology, iGE outlines key concepts, then tests your understanding. You can try to beat the clock or take your time, but repeating the same exercise pulls up new example sentences to test you; these are not just plucked from thin air, but come from real conversations, books and broadcasts.

For A-level English language students, this app is a great way to help make instinctive those analytical frameworks we bang on about so much. It could also get students at KS34 beyond catch-all labels such as "emotive" or "powerful" and look at how words fit together.

It's not a panacea, but this app is a great start and will hold your interest long after Angry Birds has lost its appeal.

Dan Clayton is an A-level English language teacher at Colchester Sixth Form College, AQA senior examiner and research fellow on the Survey of English Usage at University College London.

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