For some time it was unknown to what extent technology would be beneficial to ESL teaching methods, but recent studies have painted an overall good picture of the newest techniques being used in English as Second Language learning environments.
The generally agreed upon conclusion is that educators should integrate multimedia into their lesson plans as much as possible. The reason for this is that multimedia has been shown to activate both sides of the brain, and the study of foreign languages has been shown to be most successful when the whole brain is used. Therefore, there are both practical and scientific reasons to incoporate computer software and Internet use in lesson plans.
But in the process of integrating technology into the classroom, teachers should not forgo solid lesson plans and cutting edge, interactive instruction. Innovative technology is vitally useful, but it will never replace the value of a powerful teacher-student relationship.
Here are a few ways to combine some of the newer technological applications with top-notch teaching:
Why Use the Newest Strategies For ESL Instruction?
Utilizing the powerful medium of the Internet
It's been known for well over a decade that the Internet increases language use and helps people to learn second languages by encouraging students to use the newly learned language patterns in their daily lives. Internet interactions can also help to simulate real life discussions and linguistic and semantic idiosyncrasies related to negotiation, information requests, and persuasion. Because of social media, the Internet has now expanded to encompass much, if not all, of our daily correspondences, which makes it all the more useful in ESL learning.
Because language is not just words alone, but a highly complex network of syntactical relationships, the Internet's presentation of art and media and its demand of keyboard skills, file storage, and search engine entries, helps with both technical and conceptual language mastery. Additionally, the Internet helps to expand and evolve the interaction between the teacher and the student, helping education become more focused on the student. The Internet also facilitates collaborative projects which are good for the social aspects of language education. Finally, the Internet provides a wealth of resources for both students and teachers.
Using educational tools and software applications
There are a variety of different tools out there that can help with many educational needs, ESL learning not withstanding. A number of teachers are utilizing interactive gadgets such as digital whiteboards, which allow for a more one to one presentation of information. There's also a great deal of software and online communities that can be beneficial to both teachers and students who are engaged in language learning.
Voxopop, a voice-based e-learning tool allows teachers to create online real-time talkgroups based on voice, rather than text. This would be an excellent resource for focusing primarily on learning to speak English. For the text side of it you can try Visuwords, which is an online graphical dictionary.
Visuwords would help more with writing and reading. These services have been utilized by people studying for ESL and TOEFL degrees. There are a number of educational applications that serve all-purpose needs for teachers and students. The app Wallwisher allows educators and students to collaborate on projects through a shared online board. It has proven especially useful for students who pursuing online education.
Other programs, including Photopeach, Voicethread, and Community Clips allow students to use visual media, such as video, audio, and pictures to create stories, break down lesson plans and create digital dialogues. These programs have the potential to be particularly useful to students learning English as a second language, as they are given a neutral intermediary that can break down initial language barriers.
Creating strategies for better, more efficient learning
At a certain point, the onus lands back on the educator. Sometimes the success of the student depends on the strength of the teaching he or she receives. ESL educators must create strong game plans. The need to use comprehensible gestures and body language to impart meaning to new students; create visual lessons (possibly with the aid of the applications listed above) using graphics, maps media, and semantic storytelling; produce relationships between new data and prior knowledge—harness a student's personal and cultural narrative; and encourage cooperative learning styles that facilitate students working together and sharing unusual words, idioms, and phrases. The should also allow for alternative assessments of skill levels by offering tests of oral, visual and physical (acting it out) knowledge.
It can't be stressed enough the importance of encouraging the students to socialize and talk to each other. Whereas in other subjects this may be distracting, in language learning students need to absorb words and phrases in a number of different dialects, contexts, slang words, proverbs, and difficult pronunciations. This should help you avoid the common problems that ESL teachers confront in the classroom, which include students frequently reverting to their first language, students being unsure of what they're supposed to be learning, and students being too dependent on the teacher.
Teachers should also remember not to echo the students, as it cuts into their talking time and adds to their dependency on the teacher's affirmation. A better way to interact is by adding helpful sentence completion. If a student cannot think of a phrase, the teacher should work on redirecting the tail-end of a sentence in a way that still makes the student finish his thought.
In some respects, ESL, TESL and other forms of language learning are no different than other subjects such as mathematics, literature, chemistry, or business.
Educators must still experiment with new teaching strategies and educational tools and software platforms in order to maximize productivity and ensure a constructive relationship between the teacher and the student and between the student and his/her peers. But there are aspects of learning a foreign language that are particularly challenging, which is why immersing the classroom with Internet access, digital whiteboards, and plethora of applications and talkgroups is an excellent way for progressive educators to start constructing a game plan for top notch ESL learning.
-- This is a guest article by Ryan Crestwood. Ryan is an educational writer and blogger who writes frequently on subjects related to online degree, foreign language learning, and classroom etiquette.
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