LIVELY LANGUAGE ARTS: The Digital Age Invades the English Classroom

Article excerpt

New and exciting uses of digital technology in language arts are appearing all the time-a very good thing in view of the digital nature of the lives of today's K-12 students. As we all know, the amount of time that students spend with television, cell phones, iPods, gaming technologies, the Internet, computers, and other electronic technologies is stunning.

Contrast that with the long struggle that language arts teachers, especially at the secondary level, continue to have as they work to make language arts relevant to students'lives. The digital world is taking students ever further from traditional language arts teaching. The methods used in today's language arts classrooms must be as real and immediate to students as what they can do on the Internet and as important as what they can listen to on an iPod.

Fortunately, emerging digital technologies can help language arts teachers liven up their classes, making them more digitally relevant and keeping or regaining student attention. This article takes a look at some Web-based programs and some new hardware that may provide new ideas for your language arts classroom.

WEB-BASED PROGRAMS

The number and variety of programs accessed via the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds. Among the many advantages are ease of access and installation. All you need are reasonably fast computers, a good Internet connection, and a password.

Among the disadvantages: the need for a good Internet connection and reasonably fast computers. Newer Internet technologies often work best with faster computers and faster online connections, yet not all schools have access to them. For those who have the right tools, some excellent Web-based programs are available.

FableVision's Get A Clue for grades 5 and up is a vocabulary study program that uses the WATS (Words And Their Stories) system. This vocabulary learning method, based on inductive reasoning, is used with general vocabulary study, standardized test preparation, and literature-specific vocabulary.

The Get A Clue multimedia program provides individualized and self-paced instruction. The assessment feature offers diagnostic and achievement exams, as well as customizable quizzes. Online reporting tools allow results to be viewed by individual or class. Scores can be viewed by average and by number of words completed. The program meets or exceeds state and national standards.

Get A Clue can be found online at http://www.getaclue.com. Contact the company for pricing information.

SAGrader, for grades 11 to adult from Idea Works, Inc., is a new essay-grading system that uses "computational intelligence strategies" to grade student essays in seconds. This is a wonderful idea; the program provides instant feedback for students and saves hours of grading time for teachers.

SAGrader can be used with a Web connection and a Windows, Macintosh, or UNIX computer system. The program responds with detailed, topic-specific feedback for both teachers and students. Essays can be revised based on the feedback.

Teachers can purchase course packs and use them as they are written or modify them for their own use. A free authoring package is available for teachers who want to design their own courses.

A plagiarism detection feature is scheduled to be added in late fall 2006.

The cost for academic licenses begins at $19 per student, per course. Institutional pricing is available. More information can be found online at http://www. ideaworks.com/sagrader.

Vantage Learning's MY Access! 6.0 for grades 4-12 provides an online essay scoring service and writing instructional tool. The program is based on Vantage Learning's IntelliMetric core, which uses a combination of a digitization of human expertise and artificial intelligence to score student competency and progress in writing.

Students write to supplied prompts using multilingual dictionaries, a thesaurus, word banks, spelling and grammar checkers, writing editors, multilevel tutors, and other tools. …