Debate over which models of instruction most effectively address the needs of English language learners has been going on for decades. Many of these debates are culturally, politically or ideologically driven, and debaters generally fall into two camps: advocates of bilingual education and advocates for English-only instruction. The debate is certainly warranted: Between 1980 and 2009, the number of children age 5–17 who spoke a language besides English at home increased from 4.7 to 11.2 million, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That translates to an increase from 10 to 21 percent of the population of the U.S.
Regardless of which side of the debate you favor, you should remember two things. First, everyone is a language learner. And second, research has consistently found that the quality of instruction trumps almost every consideration, including the language of instruction.
ATPE wants to help with the latter. So, in partnership with the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA), ATPE invites all educators to participate in Technology Tips for the Bilingual Classroom, a new, free webinar moderated by TCEA Professional Development Director Monica Martinez. The webinar will take place at 4:30 p.m. April 12. (Register today!)
During the webinar you’ll learn and discuss best practices for using technology in the bilingual classroom and design content-rich, 21st-century learning spaces for your students. Here’s a preview of what you’ll learn:
- Make sure the technology you use leverages or improves the learning environment—don’t use new tools simply because they’re the latest gadget.
- Look for tools that do not require too much interpretation; you don’t want to take up instructional time explaining what a tool is called and what it does.
- Find tools that allow users—both students and educators—to communicate and collaborate in multiple languages.
"When working with technologies and bilingual learners, it’s not only about finding cool gadgets," Martinez says. "The tools should have features that include being able to post anonymously for sensitive feedback, [that] provide security so that students aren’t scrutinized for bad grammar or spelling, and [that] can be accessed from any platform so that users with different technologies have access to them anytime and anywhere."
Even if you don’t work directly in specialized instruction for English language learners, participating in this webinar might give you a new perspective on teaching monolingual and traditional students. You’ll likely find new ways to engage ESL, gifted-and-talented and special education students as well. Join us April 12!