Effective Learning Outcomes of ESL Elementary and Secondary School Students Utilizing Educational Technology Infused with Constructivist Pedagogy

Article excerpt

MISSION STATEMENT

The purpose of this paper is to examine the potential of educational technology infused with constructivist pedagogy in ESL (English as a Second Language) classrooms and to explore alternatives for schools that lack advanced technological learning tools.

IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM

According to the U. S. Department of Education: Office of English Language Acquisition (2002), limited English proficient (LEP) K-12 enrollment has increased by 95% from 1991-2002 (Table 1). Furthermore, the ethnic and linguistic diversity in the student population has become a challenge for teachers. As a result of the increasing LEP student population and the diversity among the students, a major debate among educators on how to best instruct non-English speaking students began. Is there another alternative to the "chalk and talk" method (Adkins-Bowling et al., 2001)?

INSIGHTFUL ALTERNATIVES

Currently, technology is vital for full participation in the economic, political, and social life in the United States. Therefore, schools must provide all students with the opportunity to become familiarized with technology and acquire the skills necessary to become efficient contributors to society (Adkins-Bowling et al., 2001).

CELA Research Study: Teacher Selection

Over a period of two years, the National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement (CELA) conducted a research study emphasizing the role of technology in an ESL (English as a Second Language) program (Meskill et al., 1999). The researchers (Meskill et al., 1999) chose two teachers from Indian River Central School District, in New York, based on the exit rates of ESL students in the district, length of time technology has been in place, and the teachers' expertise in ESL instruction and training in technology. Both teachers, that were selected, held Master's Degrees in Elementary Education and have had extensive training in technology.

Indian River Central School District's Commitment

Indian River Central School District's extreme commitment to technology integration in the ESL program is self-evident. Through the school district's generous grants the ESL teachers are able to receive continuing education through in-service workshops and a district instructional technology curriculum specialist. The funds are also used for purchasing equipment for labs, libraries, and classrooms. "Unlike many other school districts that view technology as a route to uniformity and consistency across curricula and grade levels, this district is casting technology in the role of catalyst for teacher reflection, creativity, and change (Meskill et al., 1999)."

Uniqueness of E-text vs. Print

E-text (electronic text) is on-screen information within computers. It is available in a variety of forms such as games, simulations, educational software, talking books, telecommunications, etc. (Meskill et al., 1999). Because of its diverse forms, there are major differences between e-text and print. For example, e-text provides visual, textual, and audio components while print contains textual and/or visual elements. Also, e-text is anarchic where as print is hierarchical and static. The anarchic features of e-text allow students to control and edit information spontaneously (Ulmer, 1989). Therefore, computers are dynamic tools that allow students to construct meaning through the use of multiple senses.

Once Upon A Time

The researchers (Meskill et al., 1999) observed ESL students as they used simulation and authoring software, while their teachers facilitated in the learning process. With Once Upon A Time, an authoring software program, second grade ESL students can create stories based on a theme of their own choosing. There are a variety of backgrounds, characters, and objects students can select from to design a scene reflecting their story. Since the program also features an audio component, students were able to hear the name and pronunciation of the object they "clicked" on. …