First posted on Education Week’s Teaching Now blog
By Anthony Rebora
Something to keep an eye on: A recent alum of the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a background in working with immigrant students is developing a lesson-sharing website specifically for teachers of English-language learners.
The site, created under the auspices of Harvard’s Innovation Lab, is accessible now in a beta version. It includes plans for a “resource bank” with separate categories for general ESL, students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE), and district-specific materials. Lessons will be tagged in accordance with variety of standards frameworks, such as the Common Core and WIDA.
The site’s creator, Yefei Jin, has apparently been ruminating on the particular challenges facing ELL teachers for a number of years. According to a piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jin had a career-redirecting experience when, as an undergraduate theatre major at the University of Minnesota, he enrolled in a volunteer program to tutor Karen refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma). He was so moved by the students’ struggles to learn English and make up academic ground that he decided to pick up a minor in English-learner education.
After graduating, he launched an after-school arts program for Karen students and started attending English-learner conferences, where he learned that many schools lacked adequate instructional resources for the growing population of ELLs and newly immigrated students. He also discovered that that many teachers were creating their own materials out of necessity.
Jin went on to study education policy at Harvard, where the idea of creating a collaborative online resource for ELL teachers percolated.
“With so much education technology out there, few have explicitly addressed needs in ELL space,” he writes in a letter on beta site. “In addition to workshops, PDs, and conferences, I wanted to explore this concept of a free independent online platform just for ELL educators, offering a continuous loop for collaboration and community building.”
According to the Star Tribune, Jin has vetted his idea with classrooms teachers, and a number of educators from Minnesota and New England have contributed to the site.
The site is currently seeking more teachers who are interested in uploading materials and testing the interface.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.