First and Second Language Writing: Is Their Development Aligned?

As an instructional coach, I get many questions about the use of educational technology with multilingual learners. Which tools, apps, and websites do you recommend for multilingual learners? Newcomers? Students with interrupted formal education (SLIFE)? Long-term English learners (LTELs)? Do multilingual learners need to use technology every day? How can I help my multilingual learners who are frustrated using digital tools?

Digital learning resources are essential for multilingual learners in the twenty-first century. In my presentation, Empowering Multilingual Learners with Digital Learning Resources, I share how educational technology can be a catalyst for language development, content achievement, and engaged learning.

 

Multilingual Learners’ Digital Styles and Preferences

First, let’s think about what research states about multilingual learners’ digital styles and preferences. At the turn of the century, Prensky (2001) defined a person who was born after the introduction of digital technology as a digital native and used the term digital immigrant to classify people born before the introduction of digital technology.

Although multilingual learners are digital natives because they were born into the Digital Age, they may be considered digital immigrants because they have not had familiarity with computers and the internet from an early age. Students’ and teachers’ technological preferences and proficiencies are diverse and not uniform (Judd, 2018). Are your multilingual learners digital avoiders, minimalists, or enthusiastic adopters? Are your multilingual learners digital consumers or digital producers? Are they digital visitors or digital residents?

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Digital Learning Resources for Multilingual Learners

After identifying a multilingual learner’s digital learning style and preferences (Hernandez, Ramirez-Martinell, & Cassany 2014), teachers can decide which digital tools will accelerate and enhance learning in their educational context. I frequently reflect on the National Study of English Learners and Digital Learning Resources conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, Policy and Program Studies Service on behalf of the Office of English Language Acquisition and the Office of Educational Technology. The study provides the first national data on how educators across the country were using educational technology in instructing multilingual learners before the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Education (2019), digital learning resources refer to

  • Digital academic content tools
  • Digital productive tools
  • Digital communication tools
  • Integrated digital learning sets

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When I evaluate digital tools for multilingual learners, I review the Digital Learning Resource Matrix (page 25) and the Digital Support Features Matrix (page 26) found in the Educator Toolkit developed by the U.S. Department of Education. The key elements in the matrices guide my decisions as to which digital tools are appropriate for a particular group of multilingual learners.

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U.S. Department of Education. (2018). National Study of English Leaners and Digital Learning Resources, Educator Toolkit: Using Educational Technology-21st Century Supports for English Learners, Washington, D.C.

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U.S. Department of Education. (2018). National Study of English Leaners and Digital Learning Resources, Educator Toolkit: Using Educational Technology-21st Century Supports for English Learners, Washington, D.C.

Keeping in mind these matrices, as well as teacher recommendations from Commonsense.org, I created the Digital Learning Resources: Interaction Tools for Multilingual Learning Infographic. Which of these digital tools do you use with multilingual learners in your classroom? Which of these digital tools would you like to try in the near future?

Download the interactive infographic. Click on the tool that you would like to explore.

 

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Digital Tool for Multilingual Learners Decision-Making Process

Once you have identified the digital styles and preferences of your multilingual learners and asked fellow colleagues what digital tools they are incorporating into their lessons, take a moment to reflect on the following questions:

  • What do I really need the learning tool to do when instructing multilingual learners?
  • How does this digital learning tool address critical needs of multilingual learners for the lesson?
  • How do the support features of this digital tool enhance learning for multilingual learners?
  • Is this digital tool filling a critical need that is not addressed by tools that I already use?
  • Is another digital tool or app necessary? Can an existing tool be used in a new way to help with the learning task?
  • Will it take longer to find and learn how to use a tool than to make do with the way I am handling the learning needed now, especially if the tool won’t be used very often?
  • How often should I add a digital tool into the multilingual students’ repertoires?
  • What tutorials can I find or make for multilingual students to understand how to use the digital tool? Can I assign a multilingual student who is familiar with using the digital tool to create a video tutorial for the class?

 

Teacher Empowerment

For multilingual learners to develop twenty-first-century skills, teachers need to have sufficient time, opportunities, and support for building efficacy and mastery of new content knowledge and instructional practices for technology-enhanced in-person, online, and blended learning environments.

As new technology, software, and hardware are developed, teachers have the right to select and evaluate digital and multimedia learning resources for accessibility and equity of learning opportunities for multilingual learners in their educational contexts.

By connecting with other educators and experts across their communities and around the world, teachers can expand their perspectives in designing relevant and authentic learning experiences for multilingual learners with digital learning resources. After all, empowering multilingual learners with voice and choice begins with empowering teachers to make decisions about the use of digital learning resources in their classrooms.

 

By Maria Cieslak, Center for Applied Linguistics

Watch the recoding of Maria Cieslak’s webinar, Empowering Multilingual Learners with Digital Resources

You Might Also Like: Mixing It Up: Varying Our Approaches to Engage All Language Learners

 

References:

  • Hernandez, D., Ramirez-Martinell, A., & Cassany, D. (2014). Categorizando a los usuarios de sistemas digitales. Classification of Digital Systems Users. Revista de Medios y Educacion, 44, 113-126. doi: 10.12795/pixelbit.2014.i44.08
  • Judd, T. (2018). The rise and fall (?) of the digital natives. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 34(5), 99-119.
  • Prensky, M. (2001) Digital natives, digital immigrants: Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/10748120110424816/full/html
  • Prensky, M. (2001) Digital natives, digital immigrants Part 2: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6), 1-6. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/10748120110424843/full/html.
  • U.S. Department of Education. (2018). National Study of English Leaners and Digital Learning Resources, Educator Toolkit: Using Educational Technology-21st Century Supports for English Learners, Washington, D.C.
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. (2019). Supporting English learners through technology: What districts and teachers say about digital learning resources for English learners. Volume I: Final Report. National Study of English Learners and Digital Learning Resources, Washington, D.C.

 

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