When students come to our classrooms with limited English because they are speaking another language at home, how can computers help?
In the article, “Using Technology to Help English Language Students Develop Language Skills: a Home and School Connection,” Timothy Green (2005) explains that computer-aided instruction (CAI) can be a tool in helping English learners bridge the gap between classroom instruction and home extension. Studies have shown that a variety of CAI methods increase verbal interaction among students, provide “a rich contextual environment” for vocabulary acquisition, and provide increased interest and motivation in reading and writing. Parental involvement at home, facilitated by CAI, is crucial to ELL success. Overall, CAI is not the entire solution, but may be used well to support a balanced language learning experience.
I chose to read and reflect on Green’s article because my school is taking on the One-to-One Laptop Initiative. Each fifth grade student has a laptop. We teachers are trying to figure out exactly how the laptop will aid our current methods of instruction.The school is still trying to determine whether or not each child should be allowed to take the laptop home with him or her from school. The upcoming change has been weighing heavily on my mind. I was hoping to find some guidance and direction in Green’s article.
One passage which instantly struck a chord with me was that, “ultimately… it is important to recognize that computers are not a substitute for effective teaching. Computers are a tool…simply one type of supplement to the regular curriculum in teaching English Language students as they develop language skills” (Green, 2005, p. 59). Thus, as teachers, we must recognize that a computer is not a pedagogical miracle cure; solid teaching practice must remain the backbone on our classes, while computers enhance what we can do.
For example, in the article, ELL students were put into small groups around a computer while a, e-book, filled with graphics, was read to them by a voice on the computer. Afterwards, the students discussed the book. In addition, students published book reports and writing assignments such as memoirs on an internet site. Students ended up reading more books because of the incentive of being able to publish a report about it online. Writing, something very difficult for language learning students, became more enjoyable for them as they added graphics and special effects to their work.
But what excites me the most, is the possibility of audience that online student portfolios provide. In the article, students were able to share their reading and writing work with their parents. There is no better motivation than knowing that you have an audience. And when that audience is your parents, it provides parents a better opportunity to work with their children in language skills, so that students are getting support not just at school, but at home as well.
For this reason, I have shared with my administrators that I would like the children to be able to take their laptops home, although I realize that many factors may make it impossible for our school to allow this any time soon. For example, rainy weather could damage laptops, as could viruses gotten from students’ family members using the laptops to watch their favorite TV show online. Still, Green’s article makes me more confident than ever that bringing laptops home has great potential to benefit students who do not have a computer at home. In a world where so many parents lack time to share with their children in their learning, having their child’s work on the internet could be what a busy parent needs to reconnect with his child.