Technology Vital to Educating ELL Students: The Fastest Growing Enrollment Group in Schools Today Is English Language Learners

By O'Neal, Sloane | Technology & Learning, June 2004 | Go to article overview

Technology Vital to Educating ELL Students: The Fastest Growing Enrollment Group in Schools Today Is English Language Learners


O'Neal, Sloane, Technology & Learning


The fastest growing enrollment group in schools today is English Language Learners. According to The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition more than 4.6 million English language learners (ELL) were enrolled in public schools during the 2000-2001 school year--nearly 10% of total public school student enrollment. Since the 1990-1991 school year alone, the ELL population has grown approximately 105%, while the general school population has grown only 12%. In some schools, 40 to 50 different languages are represented.

Imagine 28 students in a typical elementary school science classroom. The teacher is instructing the class in English, using a combination of lecture, demonstration, and student discussion. Where do the non-English speaking students fit in? Are they learning? How does the teacher know?

These students enter our classrooms knowing very little English, if any, yet are expected to achieve to the same high standards as their native English-speaking classmates. Unfortunately, many educators have not mastered the skills needed to accommodate culturally and linguistically diverse students. And, as is the case in many content areas, not all teachers who are teaching ELL students are certified to do so.

The result is literally millions of underserved students and under-trained teachers.

What is the solution?

One answer comes in the form of technology. Why? Because technology can provide the personalized instruction ELL students need to improve both English language skills and content knowledge. It is one-on-one instruction, tailored to each student's particular needs. Technology can provide the personalized instruction ELL students need to succeed.

Language acquisition theories suggest four key principles for effective ELL instruction--all areas that can be addressed with technology:

1. Increase Comprehension. Students must know the correct pronunciation and meaning of words, but also what those words mean together, in context. Instructional technology solutions marry sight and sound, teaching through pictures, demonstrations, video and audio clips, and hands-on learning opportunities.

2. Increase Interaction. Students learn better when they have a chance to practice their skills in real-life situations. …

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