Advantages of Using Technology in the ESL Classroom Thesis

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ESL Tech

Technology and the Enhancement of ESL Instruction

The English language is a difficult one to master, even for the native speaker. Its many rules and exceptions comprise a language that, in conversation and in writing, can be complex. To the student for whom English is a second language -- also known as ESL students -- speaking, reading and compositional writing in the American academic setting can be extremely daunting. Learning English, like any skill, improves with practice. For the ESL student, English mastery is an achievable goal, even though the learning process may be fraught with frustration. Therefore, it incumbent upon the instructor to approach students with patience, clarity and, increasingly, the types of technologies that helped to ease the process of adjustment. As the discussion here shows, with the use of such media resources as video, computer and internet, it becomes possible to achieve greater flexibility as an instructor, to induce greater independence in the student and to select reading and learning materials that are designed to facilitate a greater understanding of sentence structure, vocabulary and diction. Therefore, evidence suggests, the greater the technological resources available to an instruction context, the more probable that an ESL student will become a more adequate user of the language.

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The overarching goal of the ESL instructor is to help non-native speakers to draw equivalency in meaning between terms and ideas originating from two different languages. With regard to objects, ideas and principles, the symbols which constitute our words are specific to and different within the context of each language, even when the objects, ideas and principles are universally the same in meaning. For a student of a language which is foreign to her, comprehensive instruction is an absolutely essential tool for properly applying linguistic meanings to new words. As the research available to us has tended to demonstrate, the process by which students come to apply these meanings is significantly aided by the manner in which media help to reinforce needed associations.

Thesis on Advantages of Using Technology in the ESL Classroom Assignment

As Miltenoff and Rogers (2003) argue, "in the MTV and Nintendo era, today's learner wants visual effects, moving pictures, and other entertainment along with educational content. These students expect to be able to control, manipulate, explore, and interactively engage in the acquisition of knowledge." (Miltenoff & Rogers, 34) This is particularly true for those who may find any number of universal cues in the visual and physical manifestations that, in a video medium, will provide greater context clues to help reinforce verbal meanings. This promotes strategies in the ESL classroom that inherently link the types of media experiences to which students have become independently savvy with those learning experiences where correlated comprehension skills will be useful.

A good example of this in application comes to us from the article by Clovis (1997), in which an instructor provides an experiential reflection on an increasing belief in the value of technology-based educational methods. To the point, the instructor recounts on example of her success in the article, denoting that the integration of video and television content into course material and in-class instruction would be especially pertinent to engaging the students on the own grwn. The relationship which media such as video can create between image, action, sound and word is denoted here, where the instructor recalls that "we also used instructional TV programs with closed captions -- a feature that allows text to appear on the screen at the same time the video segment is viewed. We used this feature to teach and reinforce content vocabulary and reading." (Clovis, 39)

Though somewhat outdated, this source does prove itself as fairly prescient, seeming to recognize the challenges of an increasingly ethnically diverse society and schooling context. Simultaneously, there is also an explicit recognition that there are evermore sophisticated and dynamic media at our disposal and that these must be viewed as an opportunity for the instructional institute.

This can be especially important not just for helping to ease students into the linguistic areas of concern which are central but also into helping to introduce more complex aspects of the target culture. Namely, one of the more challenging snares of bridging the language gap through the universality of certain ideas occurs when cultural differences create communication barriers. Where concepts and ideas are unique to specific cultures with their own language and dialect sets, it may be the case that linguistic translation is inadequate to provide appropriate meanings to non-native speakers. This creates a gap between cognitive and translational equivalence as well as in comprehension between instructor and student. Religious, tribal and other ethnic peculiarities may exist strictly within cultures and language for which there is no meaning-equivalence in other cultures and languages. Here, cognitive equivalence is absent and, in its place, a danger exists that translational equivalence could be inaccurately substituted. If a curriculum is not constructed in such a way as to discourage such misapplication of meanings, this equivalence discrepancy could prevent the bilingual student from properly using the target language. In this sense, the speaker would be instructed toward expression rather than toward comprehension of the language in question, providing the likelihood of distortion in communication. It is thus that the application of video or online images and programs can help to create the types of associations that might illuminate cultural specificities.

Given the article by Miltenoff & Rogers cited earlier in this discussion, the understanding that the modern learner has some experience with self-guided media such as the internet is best utilized in the classroom context to help engage these cultural differences independently but within the confines of an educational support system. As Clovis recalls of her classroom experiments, "because second-language acquisition is best learned by total physical response, we used as many learning styles as possible to bridge the gaps between language experiences." (Clovis, 40) This would prove invaluable in uncovering those techniques which seemed most to enliven the attention and insight of students in both the linguistic and cultural regards. The result would be a greater sensitivity to the conceptual principles at the base of the applied linguistic expression.

Another aspect of our research which offers compelling and adoptable practices is that which endorses computer and online strategies for learning instruction. This is part of an evolution in available educational technologies. By the late 1990s, such technologies as had prior been relegated to only the facilities of graduate school educational contexts, such as internet web access, interactive multi-user communicational interfaces, text-based chat frameworks and a host of graphic-based video programs, had received empirical support from educational scholars as suitable and even primarily recommended tools for teaching elementary aged children in a wide array of disciplinary contexts. Indeed, research from this time demonstrates a growing quorum of support for the introduction of computer terminals with such web and graphic applications to young learners gaining skills in basic educational disciplines such as literacy development and mathematic technique refinement. Our research approaches this subject both in terms of the opportunities provided by the computer software technology and online resources, which provide a wealth of well-conceived instruments for the ESL instructor and student alike. To this point, some examples of computer-based literacy programs are cited by Kurshan et al., who denote that "for younger ESL students, Sitting on the Farm, The Cat Came Back, and Children's Classics are multilingual programs that invite users to read, write, listen, view, sing, play games, and make recordings in conjunction with stories. These applications encourage understanding of basic written and spoken vocabulary in context by grouping words together in general subject areas." (Kurshan et al., 2)

This is to argue that it has become a distinctly more important priority in recent years, where resources are available, to ensure that young children are given access to the type of computing technology at home and at school which can help to stimulate media literacy and positive development in all the capacities above noted. For those who must overcome the considerable obstacle of linguistic and cultural barriers this is especially true. It is thus that may contend that the application of computing in education will be contingent upon the quality and comfort level of the educational institution and the educator. Such is to say that the use of computer technologies in class or in assignment, today, though recommended, is only likely to be properly applied in the hands of an institution with the economic means and with a teacher his or herself well-versed or confident in the use of the computer as a tool for education. Quite to the point, educators have tended to note the positive benefits of employing computer and web-based educational strategies. With direct consideration to ESL students, according to the study produced by Hurt's (2004) article, "62% of faculty members said their online students learned equally effectively in online and traditional environments, with 23% noting that their students learned better online." (Hurt, 6)

As the research denotes, where an instructor is capable of integrating traditional expectations such as the introduction of objects which can… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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