Bringing a Social Studies Project to Life

11 Multimedia Tools in 1 Great Project!

Thank you to Donna Colavolpe from Half Hollow Hills School District in NY,  for a Social Studies project idea that is a shining example of 21st Century teaching and learning.   Donna’s fourth grade class in NY used e-pals.com to connect and share information with another fourth grade class from St. Louis,  Missouri.

Step 1: The children began by writing introductory letters to each other. Then, they began comparing their lives to the lives of the Missouri students. Students used Google Earth to observe New York and Missouri. They wrote back and fourth to each other approximately twice a month.  They learned about each other’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, schools, friends and even holiday celebrations.

Step 2: The students researched everything about their home state using websites that were teacher chosen and attached to the class e Board. The sites were differentiated according to readability and included videos as well.  As they acquired information, they took notes in an Excel spreadsheet.  They also used digital cameras to take pictures of the plants and animals that they observed in their own backyards.

Step 3: The students used their notes to create paragraphs for a Power Point presentation.  These presentations were shared in class and also attached to the class e Board to share with others. Then the students attached their Power Points to an email to their pen pals.  The children in both classes wrote personal narratives  and published their narratives in Word and emailed them to their pen pals.

Step 4: With the use of Skype and web cams, the students in both classes finally met and were able to speak to each other face to face. They took turns asking their e pals questions and sharing what their favorite part of this learning experience was.

*Another option/modification for ELLs:  Have ELL students connect with students from their home countries so that they can compare and contrast their new home with their country of origin.

Reinventing the Flashcard

Technology’s Touch on a Time-Tested Teaching Tool

Flashcards have been around since the stone age but now let’s take a look at a technology tool that will help ELLs learn metacognitive skills while practicing vocabulary.  We recommend that ESL teachers use electronic flashcards on their iPods to help reinforce content and at the same time teach students valuable study skills.

Why iPods?

Everyday, teachers and students are discovering that iPods have a use beyond downloading music, movies and entertainment.  When used creatively, iPods can bridge the classroom with the outside world. This has tremendous appeal to today’s tech savvy students- aptly named, Digital Natives. 1

There are several ways to create flashcards that can be used on your iPod. One quick and easy way is to use digital photos (jpeg, gif, or png) and create a photo album in your iTunes library.  Take pictures of labeled objects in your classroom. After selecting the photo album, view the photo album as a slideshow by simply hitting the play button on your iPod.  Go to the settings menu to add music from your iPod and to adjust the timing and transitions.

Through the use of iPod technology, English Language Learners can increase and reinforce academic language proficiency and content area knowledge.   The capability, versatility, and popularity of iPods among the school age demographic make it the perfect crossover teaching tool between learning in the classroom and embracing the outside world.

1 Presky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5).

NYSABE-New York State Association of Bilingual Education Conference

Encounter with an ESL “Rock Star”!

We were at the New York State Association of Bilingual Education Conference (NYSABE) on Thursday and Friday and had the pleasure of meeting Keynote Speaker, Ana Uhl Chamot, the co-designer of the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA), an instructional model for English Language Learners. (if you haven’t heard).  We were like groupies, got our books signed and took lots of pictures. We even got to talk shop a little.

Of course, we discussed the use of technology with ELLs and how it aligns perfectly with the CALLA model.  Many tech tools encourage metacognitive development and reinforce the use of differentiated learning strategies.

E-Book readers are good examples.  They make it easy for students to practice their reading skills with links to additional content, one touch access to word definitions, instant highlighting, and note-taking tools.  iPods are great too, as you can teach study skills with electronic flashcards and applications such as iQuiz.

We know that our students learn best when they have a repertoire of learning strategies to draw from and when they are reflective, critical thinkers.  As Ana Uhl Chamot mentioned,  the CALLA model encourages showing students how to practice vs. practicing more, breaking down tasks and modeling what the outcome will look like.

This allows students to practice strategically and identify the thoughts and actions that they use to help them complete a learning task, especially when they are struggling with a concept.  Having many learning strategies means more use of higher order thinking skills which equals more success for our students!

The Celebration of Teaching & Learning WNET Conference, New York City

TESOL- Teaching English To Speakers of Other Languages Conference, New Orleans, LA

13th Annual Association of Suffolk County Supervisors for Education Technologies Conference, Melville, New York

New York State Association Bilingual Education Conference, New York City

For more information, please visit the New York State Association Bilingual Education Conference site.

Welcome to ESL Techies!


Welcome to ESL Techies. As technology integration specialists, we have been training ESL teachers to create 21st century classrooms that help ESL learners acquire both content and language skills.

The idea for ESL Techies.com began several years ago while we were training teachers on how to use iPods in the classroom. We presented our workshop “Using iPods in the ESL Classroom” at Channel Thirteen’s Celebration of Teaching and Learning in NYC and it was very well-received. We realized immediately that there was a great need to help teachers and administrators maximize the potential uses of technology in the ESL classroom.

What is really exciting is that we know technology is an incredibly unique, effective and engaging tool that helps our kids who are struggling to keep up with their native English speaking peers. So finally, today we have the blog we have dreamed about.

We hope you will visit and contribute often as we discuss the various ways that the classroom learning environment is changing for the better for our ELLs. Our aim is to provide you with all sorts of useful information. There is so much to share with you, that we hardly know where to start.

This blog will become a great resource for you and an even greater place to visit regularly for new ideas worth trying in your classroom, school, or district.