George Lucas Educational Foundation

technology and reading instruction for ELLs

technology and reading instruction for ELLs

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I've been thinking for quite a while about how to incorporate the use of technology tools and reading instruction for English learners. I know that I can demonstrate how to use certain apps on your iPhone or smartphone to find new words, definitions, and/or synonyms for words. Then, stories can be read on an iPad or similar tool. What other ideas are out there? What have you tried? What was successful? Or, not?

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Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Judith,

I would be interested in seeing how iPads will be used to teach traditional or simplified Chinese, correct strokes and all. Do you know of any apps that do that?

Katherine Judd's picture
Katherine Judd
College writing and communications teacher

...if you want a good program for learning languages, Rosetta Stone is a great program for that. Most computers comes with language options in the word processor programs. Simply load Rosetta Stone, choose Chinese as the language, and take off! I used this program when my kids needed extra help with Spanish and Latin. It's available in most school supply stores and online.

I tend to shy away from using the new "gimmicky" tech gadgets, as they are either too expensive or become obselete too quickly. I fear, if we start using smartphones and iPads for education, many low-income students will be left in the dust behind the technology train! Remember the "ThinkPad" two years ago? A complete bomb, because it was too expensive for the majority of students or their parents to buy.

I have the same concerns with social networks. I took a webinar course debating the advisibility of using social networks but quickly realized those networks offer TOO MANY distractions that would negate the learning process. Not to mention, if a site, say Facebook, begins to insert education into the pages (even if you CAN designate a page), students will abandon the site for a new one that is more social, less educational! Can we, as an educational community, afford to take the time to "chase" the networks for the current popular site?

Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup


Great thoughts! I am extremely interested in how teachers incorporate tech into the classrooms and the lives of students. Market dictates that only 2 or at most 3 top players in any business niche. (I predicted that T-Mobile would be swallowed by Sprint 2 years ago; ended up that AT & T got their hands on them first. I think that Facebook will be here for a while and that there are learning opportunities on FB as well. Platforms function in many ways the same, the bigger challenge is navigating a platform. From a digital divide perspective, I wonder how educators and community organizations will provide the tools for students to learn.

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Hi Judith - you would benefit from checking out our World Languages Community Forum here on Edutopia! ELL and WL are natural partners. See the community forums list and feel free to join in on our on-going conversations.

I concur with Katherine that Rosetta Stone is an excellent tool. For software, there is little to compare with it. As for iOS apps for iPad, iDevices... there are many good choices. Here is a good starting list:

Pages - for word processing - good to do writing activities; Keynote - to make powerpoint -type presentations - to support speaking practice

I also love these apps: Penultimate, FlashCards++ (very useful for taking notes on vocab - see their website for cards to import!); PhatPad (also for drawing, handwriting and typing); Audiotorium (records voice and has a tablet for notes - students can listen again to a speech); ArtRage (for paint); NPR - listen to the broacasts; WebComics - read comic strips - nice!: Dictionary - from the dot com site of the same name - very good - also in Spanish; Audiomemos - for making voice files; Articles - download wikipedia articles to read later; YouTube - of course; how about DC Comics, or Marvel?

Of course, these are not all specific English language learning tools, but they can and will learn English by using them. There are more apps than we can count, with lots of ideas. I would focus in on which language skill I want to support most: listening, speaking, reading and writing, then decide which apps support the most the skill in question. I hope this helps, or at least is a start toward helping!

Don Doehla
WL moderator here on Edutopia

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