Technology in Adult Education ESOL Classes

By Ball, Nancy | Journal of Adult Education, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Technology in Adult Education ESOL Classes

Ball, Nancy, Journal of Adult Education


Today's world is filled with technology resources such as cellphones, iPods, laptops and the internet. By using these technological resources, adult education ESOL teachers can improve instruction, boost learning and better prepare students for real world English use. This article examines advantages of technology use and offers examples of successful classroom implementation.


Historically, technological inventions eventually require a corresponding change for classroom teachers. Quill pens evolved to fountain pens and then ballpoints. The abacus became a calculator. Typewriters were replaced by desktop computers. Each new invention has led to significant instructional shifts for educators.

The 21st century calls for even greater response to and use of technology in classrooms. Many types of technology have been introduced that would have been unimaginable only a short time earlier. The iPod (200 1 ), wireless headset (2002), camera phone (2003), YouTube (2005) and iPhone (2007) are just a few examples (Bellis, n.d.).

Technology resources used by many teachers for years are now being phased out. VHS and cassette tapes are following dodo birds and dinosaurs into extinction and being replaced by DVDs, CDs, iPods and the internet as new systems for playing videos and audio.

This article explores the benefits of using current technology, offers suggestions for effective implementation and provides sample lessons for incorporating multiple technologies to enhance learning in adult ESOL classrooms.

Benefits of Technology in Adult ESOL Classrooms

New technology provides both an opportunity and an obligation for adult education ESOL teachers. Wappel (2010) puts it this way: "technology has made a huge impact on the teaching and learning of English as a Second Language in the U.S.A." She notes that teachers now have a vast array of technology resources to help students move from their native language to English.

Further, Wappel (2010) contends that through the use of laptops, video cameras and especially the internet, students are making notable advances in their learning. Technology improves the quality and impact of the lessons, helping students perform better. Additionally, many students are able to enroll in regular college classes more quickly. She states that technology is a key component to the success of English language learners.

Beare (1999) agrees about the power of technology in the classroom. He contends that computers provide advantages over more traditional instructional approaches. Beare notes that computers not only offer the option of listening exercises, but also the use of students' motor skills for typing, which can provide further enticement for learning.

The engagement aspect of technology is another important benefit. All learners need stimulation and varied learning methods. Technology offers students the chance to "do" as they learn, using hands and minds. Clicking the mouse or typing words on the keyboard gives physical stimulation. Many online activities provide instant visual and/or verbal feedback with congratulations or corrections. Students whose instruction includes music videos are developing their listening skills. When maps, graphs, text or pictures are part of an online lesson, reading and study skills are exercised.

Another notable advantage of technology use with items such as computers and iPods is that learning becomes self-paced. Students have more control over their learning. They can repeat exercises as they choose, or move on to the next items. They can determine which activities are most important to their needs and focus on those. Beare (1999) writes regarding the adult ESOL classroom, "Probably the strongest argument for the use of the computer in the classroom environment is that of student self-pacing." As an example, he notes that students using the computer for pronunciation help can record themselves and then repeat the process until they are satisfied with the results. …

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