Integrating technology has continued to be a challenge for many educators as they find it difficult to find the time and expertise to create the instructional materials necessary to create quality instructional materials. This is combined with the still lingering issues of having enough technology available to accommodate a classroom or thirty or more students. These challenges become even more difficult when you are trying to utilize technology for you ELL students.
“ELL teachers regularly employ a variety of specialized and unique teaching strategies and best practices aimed at helping their students acquire English and thrive academically (Knutson & Graphite, n.d.).” For ELL teachers, finding technology apps is a very difficult challenge. For my project, I created a lesson for second grade students learning about place value in math. While there was a never ending supply of apps and online resources for traditional students, it was almost impossible to find resources for ELL students. In most cases I had to choose tools that most appropriate based on how they worked. I selected online tools that worked more with manipulatives and visuals, rather than those more dependent on language. One of the most important things for ELL students to grasp is the vocabulary involved in a lesson, but this was one of the things not included within the learning tools available online. Quality tools not being available though is just one of the major issues in technology use for ELL students.
According to Robertson, there are five areas that still pose a major challenge to teachers working with ELL students. This includes language, limited access, different levels of experience, school infrastructure, and being able to keep up. (Robertson, n.d.) While ELL students are already trying to get up to speed on learning a second language they also need to know the language of technology use in order to be able to effectively use the tools. (Robertson, n.d.) Learning the tools can be very difficult since many ELL students do not have access to technology when they go home. They may not be as familiar with alternative ways to access computer or internet services like non ELL students are. (Robertson, n.d.) ELL students also have much more varying degrees of experience with technology. You may have students who are “sitting in front of a computer for the first time. This requires that teachers develop their own ability to differentiate technology instruction for their students” in addition to the instructional differentiation they are already doing for the content being taught (Robertson, n.d.). “While many schools across the country have invested heavily in technical infrastructure and equipment, many have not – including numerous schools serving ELLs (Robertson, n.d.).” Lastly, even when you school has the technology available, it is very difficult for teachers to keep up with the newest best practices and tools for integrating technology into the classroom while also keeping up with everything for the rest of the classroom. (Robertson, n.d.).
From my experience in creating my content area lesson, the most effective strategy is to keep in mind the best practices for instructional strategies for ELL students while choosing technology tools to use. ELL students need to be introduced to vocabulary early and have it reinforced often throughout a lesson to make the content more accessible. Using technology that uses virtual manipulatives, which they already use can help make the transition to using them online easier. It’s also important to use the technology tools as often as possible depending on the experience and access level of your students so they can continue to hone their skills in technology use. As for all students, becoming experienced in technology use is absolutely vital for them to become good digital citizens and prepare them for life after school. It’s absolutely imperative in today’s world that all students be fluent with as much technology as possible.
Knutson, J., & Graphite, C. S. (n.d.). Where Do English Language Learners Fit Into the Ed Tech Revolution? Retrieved April 6, 2017, from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/09/14/where-do-english-language-learners-fit-into-the-ed-tech-revolution/
Robertson, K. (n.d.). Preparing ELLs to be 21st-Century Learners | Colorín Colorado. Retrieved April 6, 2017, from http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/preparing-ells-be-21st-century-learners