Note: This is an “OldyButGoody” article I wrote…my FIRST article that I wrote consciously for publication, shared on the Texas Education Network (TENET) where Carol Mann Simpson (Mesquite ISD back then), who was editor for Linworth Publishing’s Technology Connections magazine (now out of print), picked it up for publication. I have the scanned image of the check somewhere…it appeared as “ESL, Kids, Technology…It’s Amor!” or something silly like that. Wow, I must have been twenty something teaching bilingual education in a portable building with kids from San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
The Bilingual Technologist
Copyright 1996 Miguel Guhlin
This article was written while I worked in Mt. Pleasant ISD, Mt. Pleasant, Texas. At the time, I was a third grade bilingual teacher.
Many reasons are given for the fundamental misuse of technology with bilingual students. Two reasons most often cited are: 1) Little software designed for bilingual instruction; 2) Existing software is in English and educators believe bilingual students cannot make use of it. The U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) (1987) found that only 1% of commercially available software programs are designed for students learning English as a Second Language. Furthermore, even in exemplary programs, software was poor in quality and primarily focused on grammatical forms, many of which were not important (Johnson, 1992). It is critical, now more than ever, to integrate technology into the bilingual curriculum. Unfortunately, among regular classrooms teachers who teach second language learners, 22% use computers compared to the proportion of all regular classroom teachers (50%) who use computers. (OTA, 1987). Although increasing numbers of computers are being placed in schools, they continue to be used for drill-n-practice activities requiring only relativley low level cognitive skills of rote memory and application (Becker, 1982 as cited by Cummins).
Review of the research (Mehan, Moll, and Riel, 1985 as cited in Cummins & Sayers, 1990) shows that not only are minority students excluded from using technology, but that female students and those from low income and ethnic minorities tend not to have the same access to computers as do their male, middle-income, non-minority counterparts; and when minority students do get access, they are more likely to be assigned to drill-n-practice rather than problem-solving activities The National Coalition of Advocates for Students (1988) cited in Cummins has estimated that by the year 2001, minority enrollment levels will range from 70 to 96% in the nation�s thirteen largest school systems. By the year 2020, whites in the U.S. will represent 70% of the total population and 30 years later, they will have dropped to just 60%. It is clear that technology cannot be limited to middle-income, non-minorities.
Preparing our children–both non-minorities and minorities–must involve the use of technology. But, how do we do it? As a classroom teacher and advocate of the use of technology as a tool, I suggest there is a simple model that computer assisted instruction (CAI) can follow. Johnson (1992) says it this way: Employ computers as tools for authentic communication and for accomplishing intellectually challenging, nonremedial tasks in the context of culturally appropriate whole activities. Thus, when we talk about using technology in the bilingual classroom, we must ask ourselves how computer assisted language learning (CALL) engages and interacts with students in its social context.
In my own third grade bilingual classroom, students are using technology to produce theme-centered, multimedia slide shows, electronic hypermedia books, and publish their poetry. They are also using technology to graph real life data and explore the relationships between data and their graphical representations. The tools they use include, but not limited to, Kid Pix 2 by Broderbund, The Graph Club by Tom Snyder, Storybook Weaver by MECC, The Bilingual TimeLiner by Tom Snyder and a shareware program called ScrapIt Pro. Hypermedia books are created using Roger Wagner�s HyperStudio. Employing technology as a tool, rather than as a drill-n-practice center, allows students to develop language skills in relation to the computer.
Cummins, J. & Sayers, D. (1990). Education 2001: Learning Networks and Educational Reform. Haworth Press: New York.
DeVillar, R.A. & Faltis, C. J. (1990). Language Minority Students and Computers. Haworth Press: New York.
Johnson, D. (1992). Approaches to Research in Second Language Learning, Longman: New York.
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure