Academic journal article The International Schools Journal

The Impact of Technology Tools on Literacy Motivation on Elementary School English Language Learners: Podcasting in a 4th Grade EAL Class

Academic journal article The International Schools Journal

The Impact of Technology Tools on Literacy Motivation on Elementary School English Language Learners: Podcasting in a 4th Grade EAL Class

Article excerpt

The use of technology within the classroom is becoming more and more commonplace around the world. Students in elementary school are digital natives, and are comfortable using it both inside and outside of the classroom. The use of technology within an English as an Additional Language (EAL) classroom opens up new opportunities for a vulnerable demographic of students who could benefit from learning key English language skills through a medium (technology) with which they are comfortable.

English language learners (ELLs) are a group of students who have a far more daunting academic challenge than students who are native speakers of English; they have the dual task of being expected to learn English while they simultaneously learn the content from the multiple disciplines that are taught in their main classroom (which is taught at an English proficiency level that is higher than their own). They are expected to acquire social language skills, academic language skills, and to keep up with what is taught in their classroom, all at the same time.

Literacy motivation and ELLs

A student's motivation to read has been related to their speed of learning a second (or additional language), and to possible improvements in reading outcomes in general. In the study Assessing Adolescents' Motivation to Read, (Pitcher, Albright, DeLaney, Walker, Seunarinesingh, Mogge, Headley, Ridgeway, Peck, Hunt, & Dunston, 2007), it is claimed that using students' 'preferred reading materials and modes of instruction will lead to increased motivation, and perhaps to improvements in reading outcomes' (p 378). There is a vast amount of research that supports the connection between motivation and achievement, and that learning literacy is influenced by many motivating factors (Gambrell, Palmer, Codling, & Mazzoni, 1995).

In addition to the compelling relationship between literacy motivation and reading achievement is the threat of what might occur if there is a lack of literacy motivation amongst ELLs. Sturtevant and Kim (2010) portend that

difficulties in school-related reading motivation can lead to serious consequences such as students who choose not to read beyond the barest minimums required by the school are not likely to develop the advanced literacy skills necessary for success (p 69).

This is a daunting consequence for any student, but particularly for ELLs who are faced with multiple challenges in school and have a higher chance of being less motivated due to their marginalized position of learning a new language at the same time as learning discipline-based content material.

Technology integration and motivation

I chose to test how using a particular form of technology increased literacy motivation, as traditional texts can 'limit the possibility for multiple discourses in the classroom' (Pitcher et al, 2007, p 379). This is a view that traditional, paper-bound, print-based reading materials are restrictive and disengaging, and that literacy instruction would benefit from the use of technology in breaking past page-bound texts to explore digital texts.

One major factor in increasing literacy motivation is student engagement. Colombo maintains that 'motivated readers are engaged readers, and this engagement is highly related to continued growth in reading ability. Students are motivated when reading texts that are connected to stimulating activities' (2002, p 10). Integrating technology in literacy instruction has shown to be particularly effective in the motivation and engagement of ELLs because it provides these students 'with authentic purposes for reading and authentic audiences for whom to write' (Colombo, 2002, p 14). Publishing the work of students on the web is one way in which to provide an authentic (and potentially global) audience for student products.

EAL and technology

Skouge, Rao, and Boisvert (2007) believe that 'technology under qualified conditions can serve to build literacy-rich contexts for children'. …

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