As more schools announce they will remain closed for the rest of the academic year, supporting students of all ages, including those with special needs, is at the forefront of educators’ minds. And with April 23rd being English Language Day, it’s a good time to focus on supporting English language learners with technology.
Educators everywhere are learning more about the various ways technology can be used to support and enhance learning, which is particularly important for English language learners (ELLs), who made up nearly 10% of public-school students in 2016. As this population grows, so too does the need to offer them learning support and guidance, especially as more learning moves online due to school closures.
While many ELLs develop functional communication skills in English, they can still struggle with mastering the academic language necessary for success. It can take about two years for a child to become conversationally fluent, but research shows it can take five years for the average child to learn a new language at the level needed to be academically successful. Fortunately, technology can play an important role in accelerating academic success among ELLs.
Benefits of Supporting English Language Learners with Technology
- Using technology can boost the motivation and confidence of English language learners by helping them work independently and take more ownership of their learning.
- Technology can deepen understanding and contextualization of the material, and infographics (visuals with text) can be especially useful for engaging ELLs.
- Online learning alleviates the pressure of speaking before a classroom of peers, which can encourage ELLs to take more risks in their learning.
- Using technology helps teachers differentiate learning in multiple ways including writing, speaking, and listening.
- For schools that don’t have the resources to offer professional development to help ELLs, technology can help fill the gap.
Aside from the tangible benefits of supporting English language learners with technology, online curriculum can make learning more enjoyable for students while giving teachers a variety of tools to enhance lessons. And incorporating blended learning for English language learners can open up more learning opportunities for students to work on both the academic and social aspects of the English language.
Adding technology to your ELL classroom gives students a chance to develop their English language skills in a variety of engaging ways. It accelerates the mastery of phonics, increases vocabulary, and improves reading-comprehension skills. Furthermore, using technology prepares students to thrive in the increasingly tech-savvy workforce, ensuring their success lasts well beyond the classroom.
Butler, Y. G., Witt, D., & Hakuta, K. (2000, January). How long does it take English learners to attain proficiency? Stanford University. https://web.stanford.edu/~hakuta/Publications/%282000%29%20-%20HOW%20LONG%20DOES%20IT%20TAKE%20ENGLISH%20LEARNERS%20TO%20ATTAIN%20PR.pdf
Smart, M. P., (2008, December 10). The word and the world: Technology aids English-language learners. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/technology-software-english-language-learners
The National Center for Educational Statistics. (2019, May). English language learners in public schools. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgf.asp