Teaching is Language Development.

Over the past few years, I have focused much of my volunteering and work in public schools on ELL students and programs. What does it mean to be (labeled) an English Language Learner? What is (or can be) done to support these students in English-only learning environments? What are the benefits of alternative models of education, such as dual language programs?

As a part of my teacher certification program, I am now forced to learn a new language: the language of digital and social medias. Although this may seem a bit abstract, the ability to utilize and navigate these cyberspaces and digital technologies is much like the ability to speak a different language. I know what I want to say and show, and now I have to translate this all into a format and framework I am not yet fluent in. I have had enough exposure to these technologies that the new softwares and cybertools feel accessible to me, yet I am still struggling to fully learn, comprehend, and utilize them, and easily become overwhelmed. I am not even close to the level of fluency required to teach these languages to someone else.

When I observe my classroom and watch my peers working with these digital technologies, I am quickly aware of the diverse levels of fluency we each have with these languages. For students with smart phones, iPads, and social media accounts, many of these new concepts and cybertools seem to be a bit more intuitive and accessible. Much like with language development, more exposure to these technologies seems to correlate with a higher level of fluency using them and learning new forms of them. However, for students whose exposure to these technologies has been more limited and restricted, the process of learning how to use them seems to be more challenging and difficult. Much like the ELL students I have worked with, these students seem to be at a disadvantage due to their lower level of fluency.

How can/should we teach DLLs (Digital Language Learners) in a way that is equitable and effective, especially within classrooms of fluent digital technology users? What would a “dual language” approach to digital technology instruction look like and feel like? What languages do DLL students know that could be taught in tandem to the digitally fluent?


3 thoughts on “Teaching is Language Development.

  1. I can certainly relate to being in a classroom and not being fluent in digital language. It definitely makes me feel as though I can relate to ELL learners on a new level. Education tasks rely on a foundation of understanding and if that understanding is shaky or non-existant than the whole structure it at risk. Not unlike many ELL students, I have found ways of trying to compensate for my lack of technological experience in order to keep up with those already fluent and those strategies are not good long term strategies. I think a dual language approach would need to include a great deal of scaffolding. Also, really looking at the vocabulary and language support needed to achieve the learning objectives. As we need to look closely at language for ELL students, we need to do that for technology as well. Bookmark, favorites, links, making shortcuts to the desktop – these may seem like obvious terms that all are familiar with but we must remember that that is not the case. Many language strategies are useful for ELL learners and also support the learning of all students. While children today in general have a greater exposure to technology that is not always the case. Technology should not widen the gap between students of varying socio-econoic status – which is often reflected in who has exposure to technology. With DLL’s or techonology learners another step needs to be taken. Not only understanding what these terms mean but how to do the tasks they actually represent. All those basics are necessary to understand before moving confidently to more complex technological tasks.

  2. […] experienced this phenomenon as well. I think my response to another cohort members post regarding technical language as an ELL situation is my best demonstrations of how I contributed to someone else’s learning as a blogger. […]

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