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For Teachers Updated May 30, 2018

How to Integrate Technology with Teaching ELL Students

By The Room 241 Team March 6, 2013

Educators face a number of challenges when designing programs that match technology with English Language Learners (ELL)—also referred to as ESOL, English for Students of Other Languages—students’ capabilities. Computer literacy levels among ELL students run from having no experience at all to being able to reprogram or optimize a system for greater efficiency.

Fortunately, there are a wide range of resources available to you to help your students learn English, increase their confidence, and learn new technologies and computer skills along the way. And of course—although you probably didn’t think otherwise—there are plenty of benefits of using technology with ELL or ESOL students. 

Exploring the benefits of technology for ESOL students

Technology accelerates the acquisition of phonics, increases vocabulary, improves reading-comprehension skills, and encourages language development, according to Edutopia.org contributor Maya Payne Smart.

In the same article, Mark Warschauer, a university professor at the University of California-Irvine, said that authenticity is imperative for positive growth and experience. Warschauer suggests that written-conversations, online discussions, chat room conversations, and similar activities promote the development of more extensive vocabulary skills—he attributes this to mimicking other student entries they see online.

Bringing technology into the classroom clearly has multiple benefits for your and your students, especially when they’re learning a second language. Students learn new vocabulary and develop skills necessary to thrive in the technology-rich 21st century, preparing them for success both in and beyond the classroom. Eager to dig in?

Educator competency

First, it’s incredibly important for you, as their teacher, to feel comfortable with using technology in educational settings. As you well know, technology is quickly becoming an integral part of classroom instruction. For educators to provide students with a full-coverage educational experience, every teacher in 21st century classrooms should possess the necessary skills to incorporate technology into lesson plans.

Feeling like you could up your game? That’s OK! Professional development, private instruction, and continuing education are three channels educators can utilize to acquire or enhance their computer literacy before implementing teaching strategies and designing lesson plans supported by technology.

And then, once you’ve achieved adequate technological literacy, study up on the techniques and methods for success, and take a look at what’s available to you online and in your district. There are numerous websites and technologies available for ELL or ESOL students, with applications that increase confidence, enhance language acquisition and development, and promote subject learning are just three options for classroom teachers today.

Techniques and methods for success

Color In Colorado published some suggestions based on a research study concerning technology and ELL students. The Visilearn Company findings were based on a 2002 survey conducted among 117 teachers regarding Special Education and ELL student technology learning. Teachers who responded to the survey identified the five techniques or methods below as most efficient for producing positive outcomes.

  • Provide hands on-opportunities.
  • Keep instructions simple, with step-by-step increments.
  • Use multiple large graphics.
  • Deliver information in small segments.
  • Use real-world examples and relevant exercises.

When adding technology to ELL student lesson plans, educators should also identify vocabulary gaps before providing instructions. Students may know a mouse is a four-legged rodent, but may not know it is a computer device. In addition, many computer terms do not come up in homes without computers and modern technology.

Be sure to use graphics, samples, or other visual aids to help students acquire the proper jargon—technical language—before giving instructions for completing assignments with a desktop or other computing device.

Games: playing and designing games for language development

Let’s get more specific here. English Language Learners absolutely benefit from practice. In your quest to explore new ways to use technology to help your students improve their conversational skills—both oral and written—try out games they’ll have fun with.

One example? Sploder is an online website that allows students to create video games, play games, review other games created by peers, write their own reviews, and practice English in a more relaxed, friendly environment.

According to Larry Ferlazzo, this experience and other online educational activities like games provide an engaging environment that is easy to navigate, engaging to participate in, and encourages face-to-face conversation.

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