Pages:11 (3230 words)
Document Type:Research Paper
How Technology Enhances ESL Students’ Learning Experience
In the COVID-19 era, education has taken a dramatic turn towards distance learning, meaning that virtual classrooms are now more popular than ever. But what is the effect of the use of technology in an ESL classroom? Evidence shows that technology actually does enhance ESL students’ learning experience (Kasapoglu-Akyol, 2010). The fact is that ESL students use technology tools in their daily lives and thus not to use technology for learning purposes is akin to taking a fish out of water and then asking it to learn to swim. In the digital era, digital natives have been using technology since birth and it is older teachers and educational systems that are slow to recognize this fact. This paper will show how technology enhances ESL students' learning experience related to ESL instructional practices and analyze how that topic or trend impacts the district, state, and national levels.
Virtual Technology’s Advantages
One of the most common technology usages in classrooms today is the ability to create virtual learning environments for learns that can facilitate in-class learning. Volery and Lord (2000) argue that it is important for schools to leverage online learning technology so that they can be technologically relevant and help learners to overcome time and space barriers. Some of the benefits of using online learning technology include: the expansion of education opportunities to those who cannot physically be in the classroom; the utilization of software designed to enhance and facilitate the learning experience; the use of online learning tools such as direct messaging, email and platforms where learners can engage with others. For ESLs it is no different than for other learners: technology opens up the world for them, gives them more opportunities to learn in different ways and formats, and allows them to communicate with people in a variety of methods.
Virtual technology also facilitates team collaboration for learners. Kahai, Carroll and Jestice (2007) found that virtual worlds assists learners in communication, sharing knowledge, and developing team work skills. Kahai et al. (2007) show that the virtual team is a reality in today’s digitalized world and therefore not something ESL teachers and ESL learners should shy away from: the virtual team is “a temporary arrangement of individuals belonging to different organizations and cultures, possessing different functional backgrounds, and working across different time zones on a common task” (Kahai et al., 2007, p. 61). The primary means of communication for virtual teams in most cases is email, instant messaging, shared document folders, and discussion forums. What the literature on virtual team work shows is that it is a way to “enrich electronic interaction by offering the visual, aural, and spatial dimensions lacking in the lean channels that are commonly used today” (Kahai et al., 2007, p. 61). Virtual systems can help learners by giving them more opportunities to collaborate with others, learn from people who are peers as opposed to just learning from a teacher who cannot meet everyone’s needs due to time constraints, and more.
Park (2011) shows that “the benefits of online learning are its flexibility, accessibility and interactivity that enable students to access learning materials and services from anywhere and at anytime” (p. 185). For students, having access to learning materials at their fingertips is a great boon. Being able to bring up digital texts, videos, tutorials or message from an online platform can give them the support they need to stay connected, engaged and active in the learning process. For ESLs this is especially important as immersion into the education experience is vital to their success. Digital tools facilitate the immersive learning experience.
Technology and ESLs
Virtual worlds are not the only way for students to gain from technology. Simply being able to use computers in the classroom can help ESLs (Ybarra & Green, 2013). Computer assisted instruction has been found to enhance the learning experience by giving students the opportunity to practice in a more engaging way. Given the fact that most learners today are used to having computers in their lives, they enjoy being given the autonomy, responsibility and freedom to have computers as part of their basic education in the classroom. Beetham and Sharpe (2013) show that it improves their scores across the board, too: when these students are able to use computer assisted instruction their writing and reading performance has improved considerably and their overall morale and attitude toward learning increases favorably.
Computer assisted instruction for ESLs gives these learners more time to engage with a lesson at their own pace, increases their motivation to engage as an active learner since most students enjoy using computers, and it broadens their access to learning materials (Keengwe & Hussein, 2014). They are able to engage in team work with other students, review their work instantly as the computer program gives them an automatic response, and they can gain from the instant feedback whereas in a traditional classroom they may be waiting on a test for a week before it is graded and handed back to them. Computers improve the feedback time and enhance the learning environment in a favorable way since it makes the learning process more fun for ESL students (Keengwe & Hussein, 2014). Computer assisted instruction has been linked with an increase in the vocabulary knowledge of ESLs (Cassady, Smith & Thomas, 2017). It has also been found to improve overall language acquisition in a faster time frame than among ESLs who are not given computer assisted instruction (Alvarez-Marinelli et al., 2016).
Simply using technology as a way for ESLs to communicate more freely with teachers is another benefit. For example, the study by Jiang, Tang, Peng and Liu (2018) looks at using social networks as a tool to facilitate collaboration among students and interaction between teachers and students. Jiang et al. (2018) were able to produce…
…new ESL educators is something that would have to be addressed at the university level where teachers are prepared. These teachers should be made to understand that technology is a solution not a barrier to education for ESLs. This training should be supported by real world access to technology, however. Teachers who learn that technology supports education of ESLs but find that they cannot use the tools when they enter into a school because they are just not available may be disheartened by the lack of correlation between what they learned in their training and what they find to be the real world situation in their schools.
Educators and school districts, as well as administrators at the state and national levels must all be working together on this issue. The Department of Education sets the tone in many ways for tomorrow’s learning opportunities, but it still requires a great deal of feedback and input from real world teachers, school leaders, and experts. If the input is not forthcoming, the necessary changes will not take effect. Collaboration at the three levels, local, state and national, is thus essential.
Teachers should be able to use the tools that are available to create their own approaches to teaching ESL classrooms. The more freedom they have to explore, the more likely they are to find solutions that work for them. Through the right training, the right assistance, the right funding, and access to the right technology tools, opportunities for enhancing the ESL educative experience can be found that were not present before. Schools should be supportive of this endeavor and federal money should be available as districts re-think how to approach education in the coming years.
ESL learners are in a position to benefit mightily from technology, especially as they tend to be digital natives who are used to technology and enjoy using computers. Having access to this technology is going to be a problem for some families who may not be able to afford all these tools, so schools may need to be the ones to provide them. Schools should receive funding from the federal budget, and the COVID-19 era has literally reshaped the way teachers and students think about learning. The trend towards using digital technology to enhance the classroom experience has been growing but till now it has been viewed mainly as a luxury. Today’s world is now adjusting to the reality that distance learning is not just a luxury: it is a necessity. ESLs should not be viewed as learners who might be negatively impacted by using computers and other digital forms of technology. On the contrary, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the use of technology in the teaching of ESLs. Their vocabulary, testing, reading and writing can all improve when technology is part of their learning environment. Blended classrooms where in-class instruction is modified with virtual learning would be a great benefit, but if virtual learning becomes…
Alvarez-Marinelli, H., Blanco, M., Lara-Alecio, R., Irby, B. J., Tong, F., Stanley, K., & Fan, Y. (2016). Computer assisted English language learning in Costa Rican elementary schools: an experimental study. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 29(1), 103-126.
Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (Eds.). (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing for 21st century learning. NY: Routledge.
Cassady, J. C., Smith, L. L., & Thomas, C. L. (2017). Supporting emergent literacy for English language learners with computer?assisted instruction. Journal of Research in Reading.
Jiang, H., Tang, M., Peng, X., & Liu, X. (2018). Learning design and technology through social networks for high school students in China. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 28(1), 189-206.
Kahai, S. S., Carroll, E., & Jestice, R. (2007). Team collaboration in virtual worlds. ACM SIGMIS Database: the DATABASE for Advances in Information Systems, 38(4), 61-68.
Kasapo?lu-Akyol, P. (2010). Using educational technology tools to improve language and communication skills of ESL students. Novitas-Royal, 4(2).
Meskill, G., & Mossop, J. (2003). Technologies use with learners of ESL in New Your State: Preliminary report. Retrieved from https://www.albany.edu/lap/Papers/technology%20use.htm
Park, J. Y. (2011). Design education online: Learning delivery and evaluation. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 30(2), 176-187.
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