Federal

Interactivity Seen as Key

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 12, 2007 | Corrected: February 25, 2019 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: An earlier version of this article misidentified Jan Lacina’s position at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

Teachers should focus on seeking out technology that encourages interactive learning by English-language learners and not be preoccupied with whether the technology is designed particularly for such students, experts on the use of educational technology for students still mastering English say.

Most software programs designed for English-language learners are little more than glorified worksheets and don’t give students a chance to practice communicating in English, contends Jan Lacina, an assistant professor in literacy and English as a second language at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. In a column she writes for the Childhood Education journal and in her TESOL courses, Lacina helps teachers become familiar with technology meant for all students that also works well to engage English-language learners.

At the middle school and high school levels, for instance, she recommends that teachers involve students in computer chat sessions, which tend to draw out English-learners who are hesitant to speak. “If they are hooked up to a computer working on vocabulary one-on-one with the computer, they aren’t talking or listening,” she says. But with a chat session, the students are forced to use their language skills, she points out. Lacina also advocates the use of Web quests, in which teachers ask students to complete a task or solve a problem through research on the Internet. She points teachers to an online site containing Web quests already designed by teachers, called webquest.org.

In the book Technology and Teaching English Language Learners, published by Pearson Education Inc. in 2003, education technology experts Mary Ellen Butler-Pascoe and Karin M. Wiburg stress that teachers should use technology to help English-language learners practice reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and to support content-based instruction. The book includes examples of Web sites that are created for all students—and also work well as sources for interactive activities with their peers who are learning English.

The authors have a more positive view than Lacina does of some of the drill-and-practice software widely used to teach English-learners reading. They write that “even traditional programs that reinforce grammar, spelling, and vocabulary learning can provide useful assistance for language learning if used as part of a communicative approach.”

What Motivates Students

Barbara Gottschalk, an English-as-a-second-language teacher in Michigan, says that drill-and-practice reading programs for all students designed by Computer Curriculum Corp. and its component designed for English-language learners, called Discover English, have been invaluable for her students. Computer Curriculum was acquired by Pearson Education in 1998, and Discover English became a module embedded in Pearson’s SuccessMaker program.

Gottschalk adds that the program has been beneficial because she and a colleague, who teach English-language learners at Angus Elementary School in Sterling Heights, have taken pains to learn the ins and outs of it.

ELL Technology Tips

Technology-enhanced programs for English-language learners work most effectively when they:

1. Provide interaction, communicative activities, and real audiences.

2. Utilize task-based and problem-solving activities.

3. Provide “sheltering techniques”—ways to make lessons easier to understand—to support language and academic development.

4. Are student-centered and promote student autonomy.

5. Facilitate focused development of English-language skills.

6. Support collaborative learning.

7. Foster understanding and appreciation of the target and native cultures.

8. Provide appropriate feedback and assessment.

SOURCE: Excerpted from Technology and Teaching English Language Learners, by Mary Ellen Butler-Pascoe and Karin M. Wiburg

“A lot of times when people say a computer program doesn’t work, it’s not being implemented properly,” Gottschalk says. “We run reports. We share those results with the students. That’s motivating for them.”

While some teachers of English-language learners use software programs to teach ESL or reading that have been around for a long time, such as software by Rosetta Stone Inc. or Pearson Education, other teachers put their efforts into applying new technologies in their classrooms that are on the market for the general public.

Mercedes Pichard, an ESL teacher at Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers, Fla., participated in a workshop sponsored by Intel Corp. in which she learned how to integrate the use of hand-held computers into her teaching. Intel gave her 36 hand-held computing devices to use in teaching.

She says that having access to the latest technology in school motivated her students. “Kids adore technology of any kind—the newer the better,” she remarks. “English-language learners are no different.”

But Pichard contends that the biggest obstacle to her using the small computing devices and also designing lessons using the 16 computers in the back of her classroom is that her school doesn’t have enough personnel to maintain technology and Internet access.

Warren Buckleitner, the editor of Children’s Technology Review, says the educational technology industry is starting to introduce some products for English-language learners that are as sophisticated as those on the market for all children.

Still, Buckleitner characterizes the development of educational technology for English-learners as slow.

Related Tags:

Mary Ann Zehr, an assistant editor for Education Week, covers immigration and English-language-learner issues.
A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2007 edition of Digital Directions as Interactivity Seen as Key

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Webinar
The State of Assessment in K-12 Education
What is the impact of assessment on K-12 education? What does that mean for administrators, teachers and most importantly—students?
Content provided by Instructure
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Citing Educator and Parent Anxieties, Senators Press Biden Officials on Omicron Response
Lawmakers expressed concern about schools' lack of access to masks and coronavirus tests, as well as disruptions to in-person learning.
5 min read
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, testify before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, testify at a Senate hearing about the federal response to COVID-19.
Greg Nash/Pool via AP
Federal Miguel Cardona Should Help Schools Push Parents to Store Guns Safely, Lawmakers Say
More than 100 members of Congress say a recent shooting at a Michigan high school underscores the need for Education Department action.
3 min read
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the residence of parents of the Oxford High School shooter on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the Crumbley residence while seeking James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
Federal In Reversal, Feds Seek to Revive DeVos-Era Questions About Sexual Misconduct by Educators
The Education Department's decision follows backlash from former education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other conservatives.
4 min read
Illustration of individual carrying binary data on his back to put back into the organized background of 1s and 0s.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal Biden Administration Lays Out Its Top Priorities for Education Grants
The pandemic's impact and a diverse, well-prepared educator workforce are among areas the administration wants to fund at its discretion.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on Aug. 5, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a White House briefing.
Susan Walsh/AP