English Learners

Teaching, Technology, and English-Learners: 5 Things to Know

By Corey Mitchell — January 16, 2020 2 min read
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Teachers who work with English-language learners are more apt to use general digital resources rather than tools designed specifically for English-learners, a recently released report from the U.S. Department of Education indicates.

Eighty-five percent of teachers reported using digital learning resources, such as applications, programs, software, or websites, to support learning goals, according to Technology Use With English Learners, a fact sheet from the Education Department’s office of English-language acquisition.

English-learners are a diverse group of nearly 5 million students with hundreds of different language backgrounds. To date, researchers have not compiled much national data that reveals how teachers use digital technology to support these students.

Using a nationally representative survey of school district administrators, a separate teacher survey that included mainstream teachers of English-learner students and English-learner specialists, and case studies of six school districts, the education department report collected data on the use of digital learning resources with English-learners during the 2016-17 school year.

Here are five takeaways from the report:

  • Teachers were more likely to report weekly or daily use of general education digital learning resources than of digital learning resources designed primarily for English-learner students (85 percent versus 65 percent).
  • About two-thirds of teachers reported using digital references and resources, language tutorials or practice tools, and academic tutorials or practice tools weekly or daily in instructing their English-learner students.
  • Few teachers reported assigning English-learners to use digital learning resources outside of class, in part because of concerns about students’ lack of access to the technology at home
  • English-learner specialists reported fewer hours of professional development with digital learning resources than did mainstream teachers.
  • Educators suggested that digital learning resources could improve by engaging students in academic content while building language and literacy skills; making resources available in multiple languages; and providing grade-level content and age-appropriate design for older beginner-level English-learner students.

Earlier in 2019, the department released a lengthier report on English-learners and technology use. Here’s a look at the report.

Related Reading

English-Learners and Ed Tech: A ‘Tool Kit’ From the Education Department

Quality Learning Materials Are Scarce for English-Language Learners

Schools Often Fail to Educate, Support English-Language Learners

Photo Credit: Students in the District of Columbia’s International Academy at Cardozo Education Campus, immigrants from Central America and Asia, work on an assignment in history class. --Greg Kahn for Education Week

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.