Mobile Technology Integration and English Language Learners: A Case Study

Mobile Technology Integration and English Language Learners: A Case Study

Jung Won Hur (Auburn University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7507-8.ch052

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to report a case study examining the benefits and challenges of iPad use to help ELLs develop language proficiency. Based on the differentiated instruction framework, the author integrated iPads into a grade 4-5 ELL classroom and investigated learning impacts through classroom observations and interviews with the teacher and students. The findings of the study presented that iPad integration helped make learning engaging, provided various options appropriate for leaners' needs, and promoted learning outside of the classroom. Although important learning benefits were observed, several challenges were also reported such as a lack of appropriate ELL educational apps, a limitation of multitasking, and difficulties of monitoring students' learning progresses.
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Introduction

Classroom teachers across the United States are dealing with an increasing number of English language learners (ELLs) in their classes. From 1997 to 2008, the number of ELLs in K-12 schools increased by 51%, while general student enrollment increased by only 7.2% (The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 2011). These ELLs share a wide variety of linguistic, educational, and cultural backgrounds. Some students have a strong academic background (e.g. high level math or science ability), while some have never been in school, significantly lacking background knowledge necessary for academic learning (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2008). This indicates a strong need to provide differentiated instruction for ELLs in classrooms to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Differentiated instruction is defined as “using strategies that address student strengths, interest, skills, and readiness in flexible learning environments” (Hoover & Patton, 2005, p. 232). The language skills and content knowledge of ELLs vary widely, and the time required for these students to acquire new skills differs. Thus, teachers need to customize instruction based on their students’ unique needs. This means teachers need to choose tasks that match their students’ readiness and create different levels of expectations for task completion, ensuring all learners successfully master what is expected of them (Tomlinson, 2001; Werderich, 2002). One way to differentiate instruction according to students’ needs and readiness is to use mobile technology such as iPads or smartphones. Thousands of free or low cost educational apps are available, and these apps can be effectively used for ELLs to improve their English proficiency (Pilgrim, Bledsoe, & Reily, 2012).

The purpose of this chapter is to report a case study examining the benefits and challenges of iPad use to help ELLs develop language proficiency. Based on the differentiated instruction framework, the author integrated iPads into a grade 4-5 ELL summer class and investigated the impacts and challenges of iPad integration through classroom observations and interviews with the teacher and students.

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