Critical Issue: Using Technology to Support Limited- English-Proficient (LEP) Students' Learning Experiences

This Critical Issue was researched and written by Asta Svedkauskaite, NCREL program specialist; Laura Reza-Hernandez, a doctoral student in educational leadership at the University of Texas, El Paso; and Mary Clifford, NCREL program associate. Editorial guidance was provided by Gil Valdez, Ph.D., chief officer, Learning Point Associates, and director, North Central Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Consortium. NCREL Program Specialist David Durian also contributed to this issue.

ISSUE: Since 1992, limited-English-proficient (LEP) student enrollment has nearly doubled. Most recent data from the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction Educational Programs (NCELA) indicate that there are close to five million students identified as LEP (NCELA, 2002). The number, primarily of Latino students, has doubled in the last ten years. These skyrocketing numbers of LEP students underscore the importance of ensuring that student academic success becomes a reality and that teachers provide them with every opportunity to excel.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002) clearly sets a goal for LEP students to meet the same challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic content standards expected of all students. The law also states that every student should be technologically literate by the eighth grade, regardless of student background or family socioeconomic status. LEP students, moreover, will be tested in English after they have attended school in this country for three years.

With these rigorous requirements in mind, this paper will focus on the critical issue of using technology as a tool to enrich classroom practices for LEP students. Educational technology as a learning tool can increase opportunities for students. Developing effective and adequate strategies is critical as educators and policymakers look at multiple ways to integrate technology in LEP students' learning. A thorough research-based understanding of technology integration to support and extend LEP students' learning experiences is a necessity. This Critical Issue supports the view that academic content understanding, linguistic knowledge, and technological literacy should, ideally, develop simultaneously in order to:
  • Increase strategic use of technology.
  • Enhance LEP student orientation in content classrooms.
  • Redefine teacher roles.
  • Increase access and equity for LEP students.
Arising from the informed understanding of a variety of language instructional programs (see "Mastering the Mosaic"), this paper shows how technology can be beneficial and successfully used, regardless of whether the classroom setting is mainly bilingual or contains an ESL (English as a second language) component. We also look at research and examine diverse school settings from two areas where technology is used successfully with LEP students: one from high-poverty schools in El Paso, Texas, and the other from a more prosperous district of Schaumburg, Illinois.

Together, development of these interrelated components offers a promise of making LEP student academic success a reality.


Overview | Goals | Action Options | Pitfalls | Different Viewpoints | Cases | References

Note: To capture some of the impressive success of LEP students—and to support professional development efforts—the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) published a multimedia package titled Enhancing Academic Success Through Technology for Limited-English-Proficient Students, which consists of a videotape and booklet. The video (approximately 36 minutes) includes school vignettes with real-life examples and testimonies of technology use with LEP students at several bilingual school districts in El Paso, Texas. The accompanying booklet provides a professional development workshop model—in the form of a study group—enabling educators to start or continue to focus their conversations for professional growth. It contains processes and materials that can accommodate the needs of any teacher working with students for whom English is not their native language. Handouts of these processes and additional reading and resources are available for download at http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te9resources.htm. To order a copy of the complete multimedia package, please visit the Learning Point Associates Product Catalog.

OVERVIEW:

Technology: A Gateway to New Experiences

Technology offers all students opportunities for learning never before imagined. Factors encouraging—or discouraging—technology use can range from the level of teacher enthusiasm and expertise to principal and parental support to quality software and hardware availability and its selection (Burgess & Trinidad, 1997, p.16). How does one define the application of this multipurpose, multifaceted tool integration? The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) (2000) defines curriculum integration as follows:

"Curriculum integration with the use of technology involves the infusion of technology as a tool to enhance the learning in a content area or multidisciplinary setting. Technology enables students to learn in ways not previously possible. Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should be come an integral part of how the classroom functions—as accessible as all other classroom tools." (p. 6)
Clearly, technology cannot be a goal in itself. Without a systemic integration of content and quality professional development for teachers, it is likely to only cause frustration. Technology is useful "insofar as it is handled competently by teachers and it is integrated into the teaching program as a whole" (Hoven, 1992, p.19). One of the reasons for this holistic integration of technology is the fact that there are always new technology tools entering classrooms. Therefore, the potential of such tools needs to be routinely redefined and evaluated with all students in mind. Thoughtfully selected technology tools can offer so much more than just productivity to the learner.

Over the years, research has highlighted many benefits of using instructional technology with LEP students. Competent use of computers prevents LEP learners from "academic and social marginalization" (Murray & Kouritzin, 1997, p.187). It allows them to have the most control over the direction of their learning by controlling their time, speed of learning, autonomy, choice of topics or even their own identity (Hoven, 1992). To many students, technology is motivational and nonjudgmental. It gives them prompt feedback, individualizes their learning, and tailors the instructional sequence. Technology can meet specific student needs, increase their autonomy, allow for more responsibility, promote equal opportunities in an early nonsexist environment, encourage student cooperation with peers, and encourage them to make decisions (Burgess & Trinidad, 1997). Through technology, LEP students can learn in a rich linguistic environment and find opportunities to interact with the multicultural world, extend their language skills, and not be embarrassed for not knowing answers (Padrón & Waxman, 1996, p. 344; Lee, 2000). In other words, it greatly helps build on their confidence.

Manny Sanchez, Technology Coordinator at Ysletta Middle School expands on the potential of technology to enhance student self-confidence.

Manny Sanchez's Picture Manny Sanchez, Technology Coordinator at Ysletta Middle School, expands on the potential of technology to enhance student self-confidence.

Student Orientation

Language Expectations
There is little disagreement that besides their technological literacy, LEP learners also need to develop their English language and literacy skills. When the ESL Standards and Assessment Project was begun in 1995, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), the initiator of ESL standards development, aimed to establish standards that would accommodate all programmatic instructional programs (Short, 2000a) (see "Mastering the Mosaic"). ESL Standards for Pre-K-12 Students was published in 1997 by TESOL and sets three main goals and standards to reach each goal (see Table 1).

Table 1. ESL Standards for Pre-K-12 Students
Goals Standards
To use English to communicate in social settings.
Students will use English to participate in social interactions.
Students will interact in, through, and with spoken and written English for personal expression and enjoyment.
Students will use learning strategies to extend their communicative competence.
To use English to achieve academically in all content areas.
Students will use English to interact in the classroom.
Students will use English to obtain, process, construct, and provide subject matter information in spoken and written form.
Students will use appropriate learning strategies to construct and apply academic knowledge.
To use English in socially and culturally appropriate ways.
Students will use appropriate language variety, register, and genre according to audience, purpose, and setting.
Students will use nonverbal communication appropriate to audience, purpose, and setting.
Students will use appropriate learning strategies to extend their sociolinguistic and sociocultural competence.

Note. These nine ESL content standards under three educational goals were established in 1997 by TESOL (TESOL, 1997).

Although student native language support in the ESL Standards is not the focus, the standards embody a range of instructional programs and can be applicable in various school environments, including both ESL and bilingual. The ESL Standards allow ESL and bilingual teachers to have a dialogue with content teachers about "what learning a second language means and what learning content through a second language requires" (Short, 2000a, p. 4). Often, LEP students have very few years at school to master their English writing, reading, speaking, listening, and comprehension skills. Mastering English can be done through cognitive demanding activities. Crandall, Jaramillo, Olsen, & Peyton (2002) describe the following cognitive ways educators can support and encourage LEP students' language and literacy skill development:

  • Build conceptual frameworks.
  • Teach learning strategies.
  • Focus on reading in all classes.
  • Give students opportunities to engage in free reading.
  • Help students move beyond the text.

Frameworks for Successful LEP Learners
In 1996, the George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education published a framework for promoting excellence for LEP students. They outlined the following six guiding principles that characterize an effective school setting in which LEP students are able to realize their fullest potential:

  • LEP students are held to the same high expectations of learning established for all students (p. 7).

  • LEP students develop full receptive and productive proficiencies in English in the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, consistent with expectations of all students (p. 11).

  • LEP students are taught challenging content to enable them to meet performance standards in all content areas, including reading and language arts, mathematics, social science, the fine arts, health, and physical education, consistent with those for all students (p. 15).

  • LEP students receive instruction that builds on their previous education and cognitive abilities and that reflects their language proficiency levels (p. 25).

  • LEP students are evaluated with appropriate and valid assessments that are aligned with state and local standards and that take into account the language acquisition stages and cultural backgrounds of students (p. 33).

  • The academic success of LEP students is a responsibility shared by all educators, the family, and the community (p. 39).

If the above principles are in effect, LEP students will have opportunities and support to succeed when educators offer them opportunities aligned with all learners. Effective technology integration in the classroom is one of the tools that can promote and make such learning expectations a reality. In some districts like Schaumburg School District #54, Illinois, every type of technology, such as text readers, audio tapes, Franklin spellers, or voice recognition devices, is used inclusively to accommodate the needs of all students:

Doris Reynolds's Picture Doris Reynolds, Facilitator for Foreign Language in the Elementary School Program/Teacher, Schaumburg School District #54, Schaumburg, Illinois, explains that technology offers benefits to meet the needs of all students.

Along with practitioners, researchers such as Johns and Tórrez (2001) support the fact that "the new technologies offer many possibilities to the second language learner" (p. 11). For example, they argue that computer-assisted instructional (CAI) programs are "ideal for fostering reading and writing skills in the target language" (p. 11). Critics of CAI, however, believe that traditional CAI is limited "in that it can realistically only accommodate differences in the rate at which users progress through the information base" (Bermudez & Palumbo, 1994, p. 5). Such criticism supports ongoing initiatives to integrate technology as a whole. Tools such as e-mail, databases, spreadsheets, or word processors can help enhance LEP students' English skills—and, if necessary, build on their native language skills through the availability of online dictionaries or spellcheckers (Johns & Tórrez, 2001). Technology has evolved from its support function to play a role in initiating learning processes. It can provide a flexible learning environment where students can really explore and be engaged. Hypermedia, for example, individually addresses levels of fluency, content knowledge, student motivation, and interest, allowing inclusion of LEP students, who can thus monitor their comprehension, language production, and behavior (Bermudez & Palumbo, 1994).

NCREL's enGauge® framework helps educators to understand various factors that are critical to effective use of technology in schools. Those factors, called "Essential Conditions," include shared vision, instructional and learning practices, teacher proficiency, digital-age equity, access, and systems. The enGauge® framework identifies smaller components of each essential condition necessary for success. Those components are termed "indicators," and one of them (under the "Practice" condition) includes the Range of Use technology chart. The chart indicates that all students need experiences in which they are engaged, to ensure achievement in the classroom. It models a range of technologies, including learning, productivity, visualization, research, and communication tools, to show how each relates to (1) complexity and (2) authenticity of learning, as well as (3) instructional approaches to learning (NCREL, n.d.). It becomes evident that there is a high correlation between the three dimensions. The use of technology, then, can provide an engaged learning environment that can only benefit the LEP student.

Engaged Learning Environment
Engaged learning classrooms offer LEP students opportunities to construct meaning and learn in a variety of ways, not just from the teacher or the textbook. They have their peers to learn from and to explore educational activities together. The more opportunities they have, the richer their experience. Knowledge is not one single tangible concept, but rather created by the learner or a group of learners. Being engaged allows students to learn. In Plugging In: Choosing and Using Educational Technology (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, & Rasmussen, 1995), engaged learners are defined as being responsible for their own learning, strategic, collaborative, and energized by learning. Using technology is a strategy to produce such engagement. In the El Paso school region, teachers witness on a daily basis how technology excites students as they understand the importance of it:

Laura Juarez's Picture Laura Juarez, O'Shea Keleher, Socorro Independent School District, El Paso, Texas, relates the excitement students express as they acquire an understanding of technology.

Technology integration defined by Reilly (2002) is curriculum development. It is one way to move teaching from teacher- to learner-centered. School reformers, such as Mehlinger (1995), believe that technology can support learner-centered instruction as practice. The relationship between students and teachers will be modified because in the past, schools were places in which the authority decided what and when content was covered; new technology provides students access to information that was once under the control of teachers (Mehlinger, 1995). To allow for greater success rates for LEP students, teachers need to integrate technology to advance student learning because technology activities, such as using the Internet or working as a team on a project, provide students with opportunities in order to enhance and extend the regular learning to higher levels of cognitive involvement.

The effect of engaging LEP students through technology can be multilayered. When technology is used as part of a model that involves students in complex authentic tasks, the results can be student-centered cooperative learning, increased teacher-student and peer interaction, and more positive attitudes toward learning (The President's Educational Technology Initiative, 1998, as cited in Kasper, 2000). When students work out a problem that requires research on the Internet, they are working closely as a team to solve the problem, allowing for greater interaction and sense of responsibility for the team. The old model of instruction places the student alone at a desk with a book, while collaboration allows learners to take an active role in helping each other to accomplish a task that is a vehicle for using authentic communication (Hanson-Smith, 1997).

Learning at high levels through technology activities shifts the learning process itself. The Internet has transformed the way we view information. It has changed our schema of how we obtain and use it. The Internet contains rich sources of information (over 4 billion Web pages), engages the user in imaginative ways and is therefore, "changing the face of instruction" (Greene, 1998, p. 21). It is a tool that can provide experiences that promote meaningful content for LEP students. They can "visit" the National Gallery of Art to view and analyze renowned artwork. They can also use information databases such as the Census —indeed, should not—be limited to the textbook and local resources. Software and the Internet can "support, challenge, and enrich" any learner (Greene, 1998, p. 26). These activities can accelerate content learning by addressing relevant information and are not solely dependent on learning English. Through experiences such as these, LEP students have the opportunities to participate in an engaged learning environment and learn at higher levels.

Today's engaged classroom is more student-oriented and individualized, which allows for more social interaction, learner communication, and cooperation (Padrón & Waxman, 1996), skills of especially high value to LEP students. The teacher is not the only expert because students have their own experiences that are part of the learning dynamics. With technology, LEP students can control and self-direct their learning and get immediate feedback. They no longer depend on direct teacher instruction, which often limits the student to passive listening and watching the teacher. While the direct teacher control is evidently lower in technology-based classrooms (e.g., a computer lab), the instruction is ever more demanding on the teacher. The teacher becomes a facilitator, rather than a "deliverer or transmitter of knowledge" (Padrón & Waxman, 1996, p. 348). Teachers scaffold their LEP students' learning experiences to build high-quality instruction. In a recent case study by Tiene and Luft (2002), they found that this type of environment creates a shift from "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side." One teacher in the study wrote, "I spent more time with my students learning than I did teaching them" (Tiene & Luft, 2002, p. 13).

Those who value technology as a resource to improve learning, and not just increase productivity, see the importance of changing the role of teachers, learners, and even the learning process itself. The transformation to student-centered classroom in education marks a new role for the teacher as a facilitator. As both teachers and facilitators, they help students construct their own meaning; technology provides them with new ways of teaching and enhancing learning opportunities for LEP students (Padrón & Waxman, 1996). The following are some activities using technology that are intended to support learner knowledge construction:

  1. Online collaboration with classrooms around the world.

  2. Education applications of the Web such as e-mail exchanges, online bulletin board, and information searching.

  3. The use of multimedia to create projects (Hartley & Bendixen, 2001).

When students are engaged in activities like these, they are constructing their own knowledge, with the teacher as the facilitator of the process.

Defining Teacher Roles

Teacher Quality
To enable this transition of the learning environment, it takes a knowledgeable and proficient educator. NCLB requires supporting and providing professional development opportunities for all school personnel who serve and teach LEP students. School districts have to certify that teachers of LEP students in a language instruction education program are "fluent in English and any other language used for instruction, including having written and oral communication skills" (NCLB, 2002, Title III, Part A, Sec. 3116[c]). Given the rigorous teacher quality and accountability requirements, it is imperative that LEP students receive high quality instruction and are able to achieve the same challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic content standards expected of all students.

Effective use of technology depends to a great extent on teachers. Some teachers continue to embed only classic technologies, such as the overhead, video, chalkboard, or TV (Anglin, 1991) in classrooms as a part of the everyday operation of schools. Such limited perception of technology is an incomplete picture and has clouded the true meaning of technology integration. Technology integration means more than simply using the overhead to display information, a computer to input grades, or using the Internet to do research. It is about using technology as a tool to enhance teaching, learning, and multisensory experiences, providing "a range of pathways for students at varying levels" (Ficklen & Muscara, 2001, p. 26).

Supported by the No Child Left Behind Act, training teachers how to use technology remains among the highest prioritized goals and concerns. The use of instructional technology offers great promise but also poses significant challenges. Such challenges include keeping up with technology innovations and evaluating technology for indicators of student success. Teachers need to be trained to use technology—they also must become competent enough to integrate technology efficiently, creatively, and confidently into their lessons:

Magali  Williams's Picture Magali Williams, Dirksen Elementary School, Schaumburg School District #54, Schaumburg, Illinois, emphasizes the need for teachers to receive appropriate technology training.

Creating student-centered environments with computers invites innovative uses of technology. Technology Counts 2001, published by Education Week, reported that in 2000, 28 percent of teachers were in the beginning stage, 46 percent in the intermediate, 8 percent in the advanced, and 1 percent in the innovator category of technology users. Although fewer schools categorized a majority (50 percent or more) of their teachers as beginners than in previous years, few schools report a majority of their teachers are advanced or innovative technology users ("Technology Counts," 2001).

Technology may be quite exciting when it is used skillfully and with a point, and when it provides LEP students "with another vehicle to construct meaning, to exercise critical thinking skills," (Krueger, 1998) to learn difficult concepts. But most of all, teachers have to be enthusiastic to learn various uses of technology that can benefit their culturally and linguistically diverse students (Tobiason, 1996).

Making Connections and Building Meaning
Technology plays an important role in making connections for understanding. For example, graphic organizers constructed with Inspiration® serve as a visual tool that can help LEP students see the relationship among concepts and how they relate and connect to one another in a bigger picture (Crandall et al., 2002). Graphic Organizers Index provides examples of such tools.

Visualization allows students to become active researchers and to comprehend many abstract concepts better. One of the advantages of using technology is the opportunity of providing visual context.

Cynthia Gomez's Picture According to Cynthia Gomez, El Paso Sageland MicroSociety School teacher, Ysleta Independent School District, El Paso, the computer and the Internet make it easier for LEP students to collect information, such as temperature readings throughout the United States.

Visual additions help students to learn a concept and expand its important vocabulary. Additionally, curriculum supported through a multisensory approach of text, graphics, speech, and sounds are best suited for language learners. Animation software reinforces the visual appeal in the learning process of academic content. García (1999) investigated the effects of animation software and comic strip creation on bilingual (Spanish and English) children's learning processes and how the use of animation software "might contribute to the production of tight [close visual and verbal representation] science explanations by young children with emerging bilingual skills" (García, 1999, p. 2). He looked at the use of animation software that would build on LEP students' skills in learning both science and language simultaneously, and attempted to show how the design, creation, and revision of animated models can help a child tell a science story (García, 1999, Abstract). He cited Windschitl, who noted that animation software is helpful in LEP students learning the "representation processes that:

  1. take place over a long period of time, such as continental drifts;

  2. take place too quickly to be grasped in real time, such as engine cycle;

  3. are microscopic, such as viral infection;

  4. are macroscopic, such as astronomical motion;

  5. have many complex sub-processes, such as photosynthesis; or

  6. require concrete visual representations or qualities, such as speed, density, or temperature." (as quoted in García, 1999, p. 9)

The observation that technology helps students take "an active role in their learning and construction of knowledge" was reinforced in the study (García, 1999, p. 9). The use of technology eases language learners' process of conceptualizing, thus relieving the stress that learning a new language creates. It is also possible that it allows them to have "a linguistic pause or 'nonverbal period'" (García, 1999, p. 9). As a result, such a verbal pause can provide learners with more ease to learn new concepts, increase their thinking and ways of exploring different phenomena. Many content-area Internet sites now provide visual representations to assist learning. Students can use Internet sites that are interactive. For example, mathematical visual representations on http://www.exploremath.com/index.cfm can assist learners in making connections of various mathematical relationships and concepts, and assist them to learn content, such as volumes of geometrical figures.

Besides providing a framework in which content learning can take place, technology can be intrinsically motivating so that simultaneous acquisition of concepts, as well as of the English language, can occur. LEP learners employ many ways to get themselves to the meaning of a subject. Children often translate for their monolingual parents, older siblings at home, and their classmates at school. Translation that is done spontaneously and with no previous preparation reflects a bilingual child's ability to enhance his or her "metalinguistic awareness and language proficiency" (Pease-Alvarez, 1993, pp. 1, 7). Translating also provides additional contact with ideas and concepts that can result in deeper meaning. In addition, student cultural diversity also needs to be included into activities so that concept developments and understandings make more sense to the learners. If they can apply what they already know and are familiar with in the classroom, it will ease their attempts to make meaning.

Depending on the LEP students' background and prior knowledge, some activities may not be equally appropriate for all students, yet opportunities should be available for them to take risks to explore technologies. Teachers need to understand the technical skills that LEP learners need in the real world, future academic careers, or even the workplace—especially children of migrant families who apply these skills immediately as they go through their daily lives and may not be ready to learn higher-level technology skills just yet. Tim Collins (2002), an assistant professor of language minority education at National-Louis University in Chicago, concentrates on developing the language of technology for ESL adult learners that is also very appropriate in K-12 schools settings. According to Collins (2002), teachers need to:

  • Get a better grasp of their students' future (or current) jobs and technology they are likely to encounter every day, and choose tasks that are real-life focused.

  • Make instruction relevant by focusing on technology that students have at home or have seen in real life, and use words and their shades of meaning that are commonly used to refer to most machines (e.g., dials, knobs, buttons, door, lever, key, cord, push, pull, press, plug in, unplug, start, and stop).

  • Set up the classroom so that it remotely resembles a real-life situation, and allow students to routinely use technology so that they start taking responsibility for it (e.g., ask students to make photocopies, set up the overhead projector, lower the screen).

  • Have older (or more experienced) students help younger (or less experienced) ones. Some students may not be comfortable asking for help, so teachers should teach them it's okay to say, "Please show me how to use this machine," or "I don't know how to use it."

  • Teach students to show understanding and comprehension (e.g., how to say "No problem") and report problems (e.g., "The copy machine is jammed").

  • Talk often to their students about safety issues with technology (e.g., wear goggles in the lab, find the nearest exit, etc).

For elementary ESL students, using technology to engage in actual activity may lead to improved language skills by increasing their vocabulary, their ability to share their own and their peers' feelings, and hence feel accepted in the new environment. A project with 20 third- and fourth-grade ESL students at Washington Middle School in La Habra, California, aimed at helping the students create their autobiographies using HyperStudio, and particularly using stacks, cards, buttons, text, and graphics (Green & Peerless, 2001). As a result of the Me Books project, the students' vocabulary about the computer increased (e.g., "a button," meaning a type of fastener and an object on which one can click); they felt accepted by their peers as they shared their feelings through their storyboards, recorded sentences in English and their native languages, and showed the projects to their families.

Educationally, the benefit of parental engagement is profound, as activities pursued by parents together with their children are found to definitely deepen children's ideas (Hall & Schaverien, 2001). A five-year long project initiated by R. Durán and J. Durán from University of California, Santa Barbara, recognizes the need of parents to engage in computer learning so that their computer skills are connected to children's educational outcomes. The project, entitled "Developing Immigrant Parents' Computer Learning in Partnership With Students' Learning," was designed to work with parents on developing materials and activities so that the parents acquire knowledge of the use of computers "as powerful tools for learning" (Durán & Durán, n.d., p.1). About a hundred parents of third- through fifth-grade LEP children participated; during the first year (1997), they learned word and graphics processing skills, using the programs Storybook Weaver®, the Bilingual Writing Center software, as well as the Internet. They wrote stories and narratives, conducted small-scale research projects, and published a newsletter. The overall goal was to determine effective ways to employ technology "as a means of joint parent-child learning" (Durán & Durán, n.d., p. 7).

Teachers also need to tie LEP students' cultural backgrounds into instruction. A number of multilingual Web and computer-based technologies are breaking the barrier to multilingual communication among schools, families, and students. For example, students, teachers, and parents can now use online translation services for words and paragraphs. Although online translation is not always accurate, it is a convenient tool for language learners. Teachers also can have their students participate in international collaborative projects and cross-cultural "e-mail pals" that are available online. This type of implementation can help LEP students—and English-speaking students as well—communicate and collaborate with other students across the globe. Students can learn about other cultures and share their folktales, stories, and games. Additional activities could be having LEP students use the Internet to explore their home countries in order to foster knowledge and respect for other cultures.

Teachers can also provide students with positive role models by bringing in people from various ethnic backgrounds to share their career experiences. Bringing in such resource persons from the community can pique students' interest and their willingness to seek advanced careers. Teachers can arrange field trips to various workplaces where technology is used in real-life settings. By seeing aspiring professionals in various fields, students will be able to see that technology is an integral part of any workplace. This opportunity to connect what students learn in the classroom with the real world is priceless.

Teaching and Learning With Technology: Performance Assessment
With the new NCLB requirements, schools are now being held more accountable for showing that LEP students are making adequate yearly progress toward educational goals. With this focus comes an increased demand on schools to align curriculum, instruction, and assessment with standards-based reforms and the need to prepare students to succeed on standardized tests that will gauge their yearly progress. Technology can certainly help with this charge, but teachers first need to examine their understanding of successful and diagnostic ongoing assessment measures.

One area through which classroom teachers can broaden their understanding and use of "accountability assessment" measures is daily classroom activities that make use of activity-based "performance assessment" (LaCelle-Peterson & Rivera, 1994). Performance assessment activities can provide teachers with a tool for assessing student English proficiency, and they can be structured to allow multimodal assessment of progress. LaCelle-Paterson and Rivera (1994) developed a framework that encourages multimodal assessment and assessment strategies that encourage learner-centered control of the learning process. The framework contains the following elements:

  1. Assessment systems should provide an integrated account of all that LEP students are learning, both in language and in academic content areas (p. 65).

  2. Assessment systems should be flexible; multiple indicators should be used to assess LEP students progress through all four modes of communication (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) (p. 65).

  3. Assessment systems should focus on the student's progress over time toward established goals rather than on comparisons (p. 66).

  4. Assessment systems should be sensitive to the particular needs of groups of students locally (p. 66).

The effective use of technology in an engaged learning environment supports the elements of this assessment framework.

As teachers plan for assessment during class activities, they need to combine formative and formal assessments aligned with local standards and benchmarks as well as other school reforms. It is important to ensure that the assessments used contain language that is neutral for the student (Romaine, 1995) and are appropriate in assessing the developmental stage at which the learner is currently engaged. It is also important to ensure that assessments are valid and reliable for the students, as their successful learning of language and abstract concepts may be obscured if these conditions are not met. Through the use of formative and informal assessments, teachers have the opportunity to give students "immediate feedback for self-correction and practice or rewards for accuracy are essential for language learning" (Bishop, 2001, p. 40). This type of feedback can be beneficial to LEP students in their comprehension of subject matter and language growth (Short, 2000b). It also allows teachers to encourage student success in a low anxiety environment removed from the pressures of formal assessments such as standardized tests and the writing of essays (Krashen, 1994). Both formal and informal assessments allow teachers to determine areas requiring improvement as students continue through their learning process.

Technology offers teachers a number of venues for using performance assessments with LEP learners. Student work that is identified as learning-centered performance assessments can be as simple as text with graphics or dialogue journals or as complex as individual multimedia learning portfolios. Technology provides multiple strategies for language learners to communicate their learning and understanding of content, as well as contextual knowledge. In computer-managed instruction there are supplemental technology programs designed for students new to learning English that emphasize vocabulary learning, phonetic awareness, and basic literacy skills and have been shown to be successful in assessing the learning outcomes of students (Taylor, 1999; Labov & Baker, 2001).

Each of these strategies using technology offers teachers the chance to gauge LEP students' mastery of linguistic and content knowledge over time. Through the use of the computer and such tools as electronic grade books and program support tools, teachers can generate charts and graphs that can be used to evaluate the overall success of their instruction and assessment techniques as well as determine areas for improvement. These strategies can be used in individual, paired, or group settings, reinforcing language skills, facilitating success, and enabling personal interaction among students who may feel isolated because of their language differences (Bishop, 2001).

It is important to remember that assessment strategies are best implemented holistically within the context of content learning activities with all learners from all cultural backgrounds. According to Taylor (1999), "Rather than pieces of alignment, a complete holistic system of curriculum, instruction, assessment, staff development, and materials is the ideal situation for improving student learning" (p. 14). Technology as one such component needs to be introduced into the learning process through a well-thought-out technology plan and adequate assessment.

Lynn Rauch's Picture In Schaumburg School District #54, technology supports every student in the district. Dr. Lynn Rauch, Superintendent, Schaumburg School District #54, Schaumburg, Illinois explains.

Without being adequately linked to curriculum, teaching strategies and instruction, as well as technology integration efforts, the assessments may not reveal learning needs or learning successes of LEP students.

Access and Equity

Access
Seeing technology as an integral part of the learning and teaching process is vital in its implementation. One concern, however, is access to technology. Some public policy officials have questioned whether the digital divide is real, but it is very real. For example, the gap between white non-Latino and Latino home access to computers and the Internet continues. According to a Department of Commerce study, in 2001, 32 percent of Latinos owned computers compared to 55 percent white non-Latinos (Tornatzky, Macias, & Jones, 2002).

Inequities in the availability of high quality experience with computer technology and Internet access also persist. A special report by Education Week (2001), Technology Counts 2001 highlighted that in schools where fewer than 11 percent of students qualified for subsidized lunches, the percentage of classrooms with Internet access skyrocketed from 4 to 74 percent between 1994 and 1999. On the other hand, where at least 71 percent of students qualified for subsidized lunches, classroom Internet access rose from 2 to only 39 percent in that time ("Technology Counts," 2001). Some of the discrepancy between these groups can be attributed to the additional costs of establishing and supporting the required infrastructure in existing buildings. According to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), retrofitting existing schools can be costly: "A study by McKinsey & Company, Inc. estimated that 65 percent of American schools were more than 35 years old and had not undergone a major renovation to support technology. The study projected that some of these schools would use wireless technology, but that would not be practical in every case" (CoSN, n.d., p. 1).

In addition to the disparity of Internet access and lack of infrastructure support, students in schools with predominantly minority enrollments are more likely to use their state-of-the-art technology for drill, practice, and test-taking skills ("Technology Counts," 2001). Meanwhile, white students in more affluent communities are creating Web sites and multimedia presentations ("Technology Counts," 2001). According to Herbert Kohl, the director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco, "'The computers become nothing much more than trivial workbook and control mechanisms for kids' in the heavily minority schools.'...'In other communities, they are instruments used toward the success and the futures of kids'" ("Technology Counts," 2001, "Racial Disparities" section).

El Paso, Texas, is one of such successful communities. In the El Paso area, where Texas, New Mexico, and the Mexican state of Chihuahua meet in a desert environment, many teachers are making great strides in creating opportunities for all students. The student population of the schools visited (see the video) is composed of at least 65 percent Hispanic, and 83 percent or higher are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The schools' accountability rating is either "recognized" or "exemplary," the two highest ratings by the state of Texas. To earn an exemplary rating at least 90 percent of the students must pass each subject area, and the recognized status requires at least 80 percent of the students to pass each subject area. The state also requires that subgroups, such as economically disadvantaged and minority, also have passing rates of 80 to 90 percent to earn the exemplary and recognized status (Texas Education Agency, 2002).

Another "island of excellence"—a much more affluent one, however, with only 6.3 percent low-income rate—is School District 54 in Schaumburg, Illinois, which has the largest number (22) of elementary schools in the state. It serves an increasingly diverse population of students who speak 61 different languages. The LEP population is 7 percent, based on the 2002 state district report card (Illinois State Board of Education, 2002). The district's language programs currently serve students from 26 different language groupings (Rauch, 1999). Data from 2002 also show that 34.9 percent of students are from diverse backgrounds (Illinois State Board of Education, 2002). The overall student performance based on state tests was 75.4 percent in 2002 (Illinois State Board of Education, 2002).

While there are many reasons for the academic success of the schools in El Paso and Schaumburg, educators attribute part of that success to technology. The El Paso teachers believe that technology is an equalizer in high poverty areas when it is used skillfully and in conjunction with other school reforms. Research, too, agrees that technology for LEP students is "a great equalizer" as its helps them "to not be handicapped by the fact that they're second language learners" (Smith, 1995, p. 36). LEP students, however, who see their academic content literacy at the stage where they are familiar with the terminology and are skillful in using textbooks, may find the language barrier is limiting applications of technology to their learning due to the English-only base of many technology learning programs. They also may find they have more experience working on isolated skills rather than engaging in real-world applications.

Technology Achievement Gap
LEP students predominantly are disadvantaged in the respect that they do not have an equitable access to technology. Bishop (2000), from The National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, claims that recent "developments in technology and its use in education hold a promise of better, faster, and more equal access for bilingual learners" (p. 1), but almost immediately recognizes the fact that this promise is still corroded by the digital divide. Educators in El Paso, Texas, admit that access to technology is, in fact, the biggest problem. They admit that students in schools that have poor technology infrastructure and technology maintenance express concerns about getting jobs. Universal software availability may also be another barrier.

Doris Reynolds's Picture Teachers in Schaumburg adapt software so that all students' needs may be met, according to Doris Reynolds, Facilitator for Foreign Language in the Elementary School Program/Teacher, Schaumburg School District #54, Schaumburg, Illinois.

Given the apparent benefits in both learning and teaching with technology, there may still be skeptics who see technology as another hassle. For those who question whether technology use is truly effective, Padrón and Waxman (1996) cite research findings on the LEP student dropout problem in the United States. They address a critical concern and state the imperative of educating LEP students through instructional technology. Technology use in the classroom, they believe—especially for higher-level applications—is one of the potential strategies to address the dropout issue and improve the teaching and learning of all LEP students. Research studies cited in their paper generally agree that technology is effective for LEP learners. Their findings and experts' opinion on the social and academic benefits for LEP learners lead to the conclusion that technology is "especially beneficial for ELLs [English language learners] because they are often disengaged from schools and they have generally experienced more failure than success in learning situations" (Padrón & Waxman, 1996, pp. 344-345). Therefore, educators have all the more reason to address effective technology integration for LEP students.

GOALS:

Teachers, Administrators, Policymakers

  • Teachers believe that all students can and will learn regardless of the poverty of their backgrounds or their English language proficiency level. They are well aware of the family and cultural backgrounds of their students and are careful what references they use so that those references have meaning to LEP students from any economic background.

  • Teachers are periodically trained in professional development and the successful use of technology, so they integrate technology efficiently, creatively, and confidently. Administrators integrate technology systemically and simultaneously with teacher professional development.

  • Both teachers and administrators view technology as a tool for providing a two-way communication.

  • Teachers allow many opportunities for student engaged learning. They understand students' individual study, writing, reading habits, learning, and language development needs.

  • Curriculum design teams involve parents and train them in computer and electronic literacy, and they employ technology "as a means of joint parent-child learning" (Durán & Durán, n.d.) and community collaboration.

  • Schools offer opportunities for parents to understand literacy and have foundational knowledge of an engaged learning environment where technology is a tool for learning.

  • Schools provide dedicated funding to support implementation and use of learning technologies for LEP students.

LEP Students
  • LEP students use technology as they see it used in real life; therefore, they are motivated when they see value in its applications.

  • LEP students have equal access to educational technology.

  • LEP students do not feel estranged from their monolingual peers in their ability to use technology.

  • LEP students' English language skills, and their native language skills, depending upon the program they are in, are strengthened and supported in an engaged learning environment.

  • LEP students see transference of their increasing technology skills both at school and home.

Parents
  • Parents familiarize themselves with educational technology so that they can engage and connect their technology skills to their children's educational outcomes.

  • Parents are an integral part of the learning community. Connecting parents' and children's skills frequently reveal the tight interdependence: While most children have language skills that the parents do not have yet, they depend on the parents' experiential knowledge that they often lack.

    Lynn Rauch's Picture According to superintendent of Schaumburg School District #54 schools Dr. Lynn Rauch (personal communication, December 5, 2002), involving parents can also reduce bigotry.

ACTION OPTIONS:

Teachers, Administrators, Policymakers

  • Allow flexibility with students who have varying levels of English proficiency.

  • Introduce and reinforce vocabulary within a contextual framework.

  • Provide opportunities for students to speak, listen, read, and write, and communicate with each other in meaningful ways.

  • Use technology for instruction with a point and application in real, authentic situations, and become a facilitator rather than a deliverer of knowledge.

  • Incorporate nonlinear learning patterns when appropriate.

  • Provide learning technologies to assist learning for LEP students.

  • Perform needs analysis prior to software selection. Select software that reflects student cultural, linguistic, and learning style diversity. Learners, for example, would benefit if software had a parallel in their native language(s), and/or if it accommodated their learning style, whether it is independent, dependent, impulsive, reflective, cautious, or adventurous (Burgess & Trinidad, 1997, p. 20).

  • Refocus classroom instruction and activities to teach LEP students in an engaged learning environment.

  • Seek expertise on technology use from "islands of excellence" in using technology in diverse school districts (e.g., El Paso, Texas, and Schaumburg, Illinois).

  • Create opportunities for parental and community involvement.

  • Train school staff to address cultural diversity, especially those who work directly with LEP students.

LEP Students
  • Willingly participate in collaborative learning.

  • Contribute and help their peers in teamwork and become part of the team decision-making process.

  • Learn to work with technology independently and responsibly by choosing their own pace and pattern of learning.

  • Expand their cultural activities through their interaction with their peers, the Internet or other technology uses.

  • Express their academic, technological, linguistic, and cultural learning in new, exciting ways.

  • Through teacher guidance, make the most of every piece of technology and software application available to them in both content and language classrooms.

Parents
  • Collaborate with their children and teachers to engage in computer activities such as writing narratives, conducting small-scale research projects, and publishing newsletters (Durán & Durán, n.d.).

  • Engage their children in daily conversations and activities involving informed technology in addition to reading books, telling stories, and taking their children to museums.

  • Believe in the value of education for their children and encourage them to excel in their learning.

IMPLEMENTATION PITFALLS: As schools and various members of the school community establish goals and take action to successfully integrate technology that will accommodate the needs of all learners, the following are some challenges and problems that may arise in the process:

  • Student access (in school and at home) to technology is critical to integrating technology and addressing the digital divide.

  • Some students may be reluctant to use different types of technology.

  • Integrating technology successfully into content or language classrooms where all or few students are limited English proficient takes time to plan and create materials.

  • Adequate and continuous teacher professional development is essential to teacher quality and effective technology integration. Teachers may lack training and professional development to teach LEP students and may not use technology to its optimal potential, specifically addressing LEP students' needs. Some schools may also face frequent teacher mobility, which lessens the number of teachers who have professional development opportunities to fully integrate technology.

  • Some teachers are reluctant to change and resist the use of technology because they still believe that they can be successful without using it.

  • Teachers may still experience a lack of administrative and/or parental support.

  • There may be a lack of just-in-time technical support or of sufficient bandwidth and scalability for teachers to manage applications supporting the specific needs of the LEP students (e.g., video).

  • A school's physical condition to support the infrastructure of technology (e.g., asbestos and poor wiring for the Internet, limited or no connections, and so forth) may not be readily adequate.

  • Financial support of technology integration is also a challenge. Programs already in place need financial resources to acquire the technology that LEP students need and to support the implementation and effective use of technology by all students once it is bought. Technology should match the instructional needs and goals of every student.

    Lynn Rauch's PictureAccording to Dr. Lynn Rauch (personal communication, December 5, 2002), superintendent of District #54, Schaumburg, Illinois, schools need to allow every child "to touch, to feel, to understand" myriad types of technology.

Educators, therefore, need to make sure that effective technology use becomes transparent in the curriculum, not overshadowed by sparse, skill-and-drill individual activities that LEP students have so often received or still receive now.

DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW: Although technology integration can be pivotal in and positively impact LEP students' learning process—in both the academic and workplace scenarios—arguments still emerge against the use of technology.

Some critics of the use of technology in schools raise a question about technology's physical and developmental effects upon students (such as posture and eye problems). According to Northwest Educational Technology Consortium (NETC), "As technology becomes a bigger part of children's lives, so does the need to pay attention to the health issues of using computers. Children need to be taught simple safety principles from the time they begin using computers" (NETC, 2002, p. 1).

The high equipment expenses associated with technology use has long been an issue of contention among educators and parents. Members of some communities question the focus of expenditures on technology at the expense of other student needs. They view financial support being reallocated from traditional materials and programs to buy new technologies. Those school districts that do have sufficient access to technology should make the most of it. Quality software with bilingual support is a great way to supplement skill development activities for LEP students. Most textbooks today come with CD-ROMs attached to them in the form of an electronic book or workbook, or the actual textbook content; there is also individual software that parallels texts in more than one language. Having curriculum knowledge in digital form allows teachers of LEP students and their students to modify information as needed to meet individual learning needs.

Some educators view additional teacher preparation for technology use as unnecessary because of their opposition to using technology to support LEP student learning as a means to improve that learning. Or they may feel that technology can only be effective in some academic areas, but not the others. Some parents and community members do not believe schools should allocate time and money for teachers to receive professional development in technology; technology training should be on teachers' own time and with their own resources. However, using technology effectively is no longer optional for all teachers; in fact, it is a requirement within the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002).

ILLUSTRATIVE CASES:

  1. El Paso, Texas

    A notable success effort using technology with LEP students is underway in El Paso, Texas. The El Paso (Texas) Juárez (Mexico) area is the largest international urban area in the world, with established and very recent immigrants from Mexico and South America. Many teachers in this area are making great strides in creating opportunities for all students. Many schools in the area receive the highest success rates in the state accountability system. While there are many reasons for the success of these schools, educators attribute part of that success to technology.

    This community was awarded the U.S. Department of Education 1998 Technology Innovation Challenge Grant, named locally the El Paso Partnership for Technology Integration. It brings together twelve school districts (three urban and ninerural), Region 19 Education Service Center, the University of Texas at El Paso, and the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence to integrate technology with challenging instructional content in order to accelerate student achievement. Teachers in the program participated in professional development over the course of two years. The teachers have created various products, including WebQuests, and most importantly, a teacher portfolio reflecting effective uses of technology (for more information, see http://challenge.utep.edu/).

    Creating engaged learning environments with the effective use of technology has become a reality in El Paso. Even though different demographics—urban to rural—are represented by the schools and districts, their common beliefs and goals are constant with their expectations for the success of LEP students (see Table 2). The schools were not always ranked high academically by the state. However, large reform efforts in the city have increased the achievement for all students, including LEP students. Technology integration is recognized as contributing to the successes with LEP students, in particular, because of the changes in instruction, the role technology plays, and the opportunities for academic successes provided for LEP students. For this reason, it is important to explore how teachers are effectively using technology with LEP students.

    Table 2. El Paso Partnership for Technology Integration
    Common Beliefs and Goals Effective Uses
    • All children will learn.

    • Student-centered classrooms are a primary component to effective schools.

    • Change in instructional methods is necessary for effective use of technology.

    • Technology provides opportunities for academic success.

    • Students take responsibility for their own learning when creating authentic products from authentic tasks.

    • Providing experiences through technology use (i.e., virtual field trips) levels the "playing field" giving an equity factor with their English native speaker counterparts.

    • Community and parental support are critical components to success.

    • Technology as a tool provides unlimited resources for students and teachers.

    • Technology as a tool provides a means of engagement for higher-order thinking skills.

    • Technology as a tool provides new resources: virtual field trips, online simulations, and connections to professional experts.

    • Assessment can be ongoing, performance-based, and generative.

    • Technology allows LEP students to explore and exchange ideas with a global audience.

    • Technology allows for opportunities to do public speaking via multimedia presentations.

    • Technology allows the LEP student to make learning connections using his or her native language.

    • Working collaboratively and providing immersion in authentic language experiences.

    • Technology provides visualization for making learning connections.

    • Resources to learn about new culture.


    Sageland MicroSociety School and Ysleta Middle School

    Sageland MicroSociety School and Ysleta Middle School are two schools out of the twelve school districts participating in the El Paso Partnership for Technology Integration. Both schools are recognized as high achieving by the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), the state-mandated accountability test, which measures student reading, mathematics, and writing at the exit level. As of the 2002-2003 school year, TAAS has been replaced by the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), which now measures reading, writing, language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. (Spanish TAKS can also be conducted in Grades 3 through 6.) These two highly rated academic schools are accomplishing success within their school buildings and outside in their communities. Within these schools, teachers use technology as a tool to support engaged learning, providing enriched classroom practices for all students, especially a large number of their LEP students, 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

    Sageland MicroSociety School

    At Sageland MicroSociety School, parent engagement is an important part of the school's culture. Parents of students are participating in nontraditional ways at the school. There is a parent center where workshops are provided to help parents understand how to assist their children with learning and the various ways to help with early literacy. Using technology and specific software are two strategies introduced. Community communication is facilitated by a full-time parent liaison coordinator to ensure and secure the home-school connection for the success of the students. Moreover, parents are active supporters of engaged learning; they are willing to learn how to use technology and understand how technology may help their children and themselves in life experiences.

    Sageland's community vision is focused on the success of its students going to college. The microsociety created at Sageland is intended to mirror real-life applications, using simulations from banking to crime stoppers issuing tickets for hallway infractions. Using the Internet within their inquiry-based curriculum provides visualizations and animations that allow students to become active researchers and knowledge-generating participants able to comprehend many abstract concepts better. Presentations are made using technology to communicate the understanding of their new learning. The use of technology eases the LEP students' process of conceptualizing. Daily technology use in relevant applications gives them practical knowledge and application of 21st Century Skills reflective of real-life applications, while enhancing their use in language acquisition skills.

    Ysleta Middle School

    Ysleta Middle School students are also finding success in authentic learning experiences provided by teachers, which includes high access to technology. Students use computers in tasks where they have to conduct research, communicate outside their classroom with other students and content experts who live across town, as well as those across an ocean or a continent. The majority of students at Ysleta Middle School have no technology in their homes. Providing technology at school gives the students an opportunity to go beyond their neighborhood and virtually travel the world. Using the Internet in the student's language-learning process provides communication connections in their native language to communicate with others or read content on the Web in their first language.

    Because of the academic success of Ysleta's LEP students, technology's contribution to that success, and the fact that many of the students at the school do not have access to technology at home, the school implemented a checkout procedure, which allows students to take laptops home. The laptop checkout provides equitable access to the tool at home as well as at school. Students' motivation is reflected in their increased confidence and knowledge using computers for 21st Century Skills application, as well as establishing a strong foundation for lifelong learning and making the necessary connections for postsecondary school success.

    Teachers in El Paso, Texas, are using technology with LEP students for various applications. When teachers provide students with various tools to learn, technology plays a vital and significant role in the teaching and learning process. One teacher in El Paso commented, "I have high expectations when they are working with technology because they are self-directed, engaged, empowered, and are using high-order thinking skills," (personal communication, June 21, 2002). This not only gives students confidence in their learning, but the responsibility of their learning. Teachers in El Paso Partnership for Technology Integration believe today's LEP students are using technology effectively and will succeed to their fullest potential. Another El Paso teacher, who uses the Internet for online collaboration, describes herself as an idealist: "If you have children work with others from around the world, then you realize we are all the same. We are all people. If we understood ourselves as such, then maybe the world would be a better place." She looked away for a moment, thinking about what she had said. There was so much passion in her words. She has given herself a huge task—to change the world and to make it a better place, one child at a time.

  2. Schaumburg, Illinois

    The current total enrollment in the Schaumburg Township School System is about 15,000 students (Illinois State Board of Education, 2002). School District 54 was among the first five public school districts that emerged in the state around 1872. At one of its schools, Everett Dirksen Elementary School with a mixed student population (67.5 percent white, 5.2 percent black, 11.9 percent Hispanic, 15.4 percent Asian/Pacific Islander), the LEP students who are eligible for transitional bilingual programs comprise 7.6 percent (Illinois State Board of Education, 2002). The overall student performance on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) was 85.8 percent in 2001-2002 (Illinois State Board of Education, 2002). The IMAGE (Illinois Measure of Annual Growth in English), which is administered in transitional bilingual programs to students who are not yet able to take ISAT due to their English proficiency, indicated 38 percent growth in 2001-02.

    Dirksen Elementary School

    In a transitional bilingual program, LEP students start learning academic content in their native language, at the same time developing their English proficiency. English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction is an essential component of transitional bilingual programs. Another outstanding feature of Dirksen Elementary is its formation of multiage student groups in the classroom. According to the school Web page, "Multiage education involves placing children of different ages, abilities and emotional maturity in the same classroom. Teachers meet frequently to share ideas and build consistency and excellence for all students. Children are often regrouped for different learning activities rather than being consistently segregated by chronological age. ...This provides for continuity of instruction and helps to build the sense of community that we feel is so important for each student's success in school" (Dirksen Elementary School, 2003).

    Dirksen Elementary offers its Spanish-speaking student population a bilingual resource and self-contained room where they receive Spanish language instruction three times a week. Magali Williams, a bilingual teacher, and Doris Reynolds, a language acquisition specialist, teach a third- and fourth-grade multiage bilingual reading and writing class. The students in this class are mainly Spanish speaking, and they receive English instruction as well as academic content support in their native language. During the reading period, technology serves as a great tool in getting students to their learning goals. Making the English language accessible through instruction and technology is evident. The teachers scaffold the students' writing process by allowing them to hear the spoken language (e.g., books on tape) and to hear the written language (e.g., tape recorder, Intellitalk®). Other support includes dictionaries, charts, posters, modeled writing, shared writing, interactive writing, use of graphic organizers, and templates. The teachers strongly believe that technology engages, supports, guides, and empowers students, as well as allows for their independence. Technology gets their students excited.

    Dooley Elementary School

    Slightly different from Dirksen, Dooley Elementary provides its LEP students a dual-language program in which they receive instruction that builds on the proficiency of both languages, native and English. For example, teacher Yuri Kim, from Dooley Elementary School, addresses her students both in English and Japanese—on consecutive days—to teach them core subjects, including reading the calendar, as well as adding and subtracting. "The idea is to put English and non-English speakers on an even footing and push both to master a new language while their general education progresses," she says (Ahmed-Ullah, 2002, p. 1). A part of the dual-language, or two-way immersion, movement, Ms. Kim's class aims at learning the subjects, such as science and mathematics, in both languages. Singing songs, learning commands, using posters, animal flash cards, or word books in both languages at the elementary school level involves students in a collaborative learning environment, where technology is just another tool for learning.
Technology as a tool to enrich learning experiences can serve as an excellent instructional tool for language learners of all ages, in any language instruction educational program. Research and case studies show that learning, mediated by digital technologies and supported by best practices, means academic, linguistic, and cultural success to students from diverse backgrounds.

  References


Date posted: June 24, 2003

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