Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Training Using Technology in the Adult ESL Classroom

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Training Using Technology in the Adult ESL Classroom

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this article I discuss two reasons for the slow adoption of technology as an instructional tool in adult English as a Second Language (ESL) education. I outline recent facts about the relationships between today's adult ESL learners and technology, and then construct a background of theoretical support in favor of integrating technology in adult ESL classes. In addition, I investigate how the use of technology can make ESL instructors' work more organized and time-effective.

Introduction

The public education system no longer considers the integration of technology as a debatable issue in the classroom. Many schools have started to use computers and mobile devices in the classroom to enhance the academic performance of students (Lynch, 2013). However, the introduction of current and emerging forms of technology in adult English as a Second Language (ESL) education has not been widely embraced (Lotherington & Jenson, 2011). One important obstacle to integrating technology into English language instruction is ESL educators' concern for the perceived complexities of its integration into their classrooms (Brown, 2007; Parrish, 2004). Other barriers stem from the assumptions by ESL program managers and instructors that their learners are too old to leam technology, or they do not own or have access to computers or Internet connectivity (K. Gamble, personal interview, July 5, 2013).

In 2008, Ono and Zavodny found that immigrants - those most likely to enroll in ESL courses - were less likely to have access to and use a computer and the Internet. However, more recent surveys indicate that the digital divide has been narrowing in the United States. According to research done by the Pew Internet Project and reported by Zickuhr and Smith (2012), between June 2000 and August 2011 the overall percentage of Internet users in the U.S. made an astounding jump from 47 percent to 78 percent In addition, of the 22 percent of adults in America who did not use the Internet, 12 percent reported they do not have a computer. Furthermore, the Pew results revealed that of those who own smartphones, it is young adults, minorities, those with no college experience, and those with lower household income levels who are more likely to report themselves as smartphone Internet users. In fact, compared with Whites, people of other races and ethnicities reported greater use of smartphones for accessing the Internet, sending or receiving email, downloading computer applications, playing games and music, accessing social networking sites, and doing online banking (Zickuhr & Smith, 2012). As for the age factor, Spada and Lightbown (2013) point out that older learners "are more efficient than younger learners" and "by using their metalinguistic knowledge, memory strategies, and problem-solving skills, they make the most of second or foreign language instruction" (p. 93). Indeed, one must remember that adult ESL learners also may have the knowledge and skills necessary to make the most of technology if provided in their second-language classrooms.

These considerations create a more tech-savvy image than is generally assumed of the minority, lowincome, or undereducated individuals who make up a majority of the adult ESL population. The question is, will this updated image of ESL adult learners lead their ESL program managers and instructors to abandon outdated fears and assumptions and, instead, embark in a new direction in adult ESL education: one that takes advantage of the technologies many of their students may be familiar with already?

To encourage a new direction for ESL managers and instructors, this paper examines how learners may benefit from an integration of technology in the adult ESL classroom. In addition, several digital tools are described, along with suggestions for integrating them as instructional aids. Finally, some practical examples of how technology can make life easier for the busy adult ESL teacher are briefly presented. …

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