A Multicultural Perspective on Women’s Rights

Women’s History month is the perfect time to raise awareness that multicultural views and perspectives must be part of the curriculum all year around. Wow! By far one of the best group projects I have seen recently is about Women’s Rights, created by Larry Reiff, an English teacher from Roslyn High School, NY.

Using Proboards.com, Mr. Reiff has set-up an online forum for his students’ group based discussion on women’s rights around the world. Each group is assigned a video clip for viewing along with several thought provoking questions to discuss together during class.  When they go home each student must watch the remaining videos and blog the answers to their questions using Proboards.

Proboards allows teachers to set up free forums for their classes to interact on.  Mr. Reiff set his pages up so that the students could easily find their assignments by clicking on the tab that had their group number on it.  More importantly, the content of each video expressed authentic, real-life struggles and successes of women from around the world such as the Dowry Killings in India or the moving speech “Ain’t I A Woman” read in honor of the author and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

This is exactly the kind of rich multi-cultural content that ELLs and all students need exposure too.  When it is delivered to the students through tools such as Proboards and video,  the diversity of the world comes to life in the classroom, the content is more comprehensible and the students will remember it!  By the way, I discovered that Mr. Reiff is currently a participant in the Apple Distinguished Educator program.  Congratulations to him!

From Paint to Moviemaker

 I recently saw my daughter’s 5th grade comic strip writing project and was amazed at the creativity and simplicity of bringing creative story writing to life .  Her 5th grade teacher, Ms. Lawniczak, uses technology as the instructional tool for writing.   She empowers her students with the necessary tools and ideas needed to develop 21st Century skills.

Ms Lawniczak effectively meets the needs of all learners within her classroom by designing lessons that do not rely on traditional textbooks and teachings, instead, the instruction provides engaging and meaningful technology-based activities.  The comic strip writing activity includes pictures given to each student and the use of  programs such as Paint & Moviemaker.

In the lesson, the students create storyboards using the Paint program.  The Paint program is a drawing program that allows the students to draw, paint, and add text to their pictures.  These pictures can be saved as a jpg file and imported into MovieMaker to create a slide show.  The final steps include the addition of transitions, effects and music to their comic strips. 

The project is published on Moviemaker and shared with the class and parents.  The Paint and MovieMaker programs allow English Language Learners (ELLs) the opportunity of using visuals to express their understanding.  In particular, beginner ELLs may have a hard time creating stories, so you can help them along by giving them a sentence starter, such as “I wish I could…” or “If I could be a Superhero, I would be….”

Learning…Driven by Technology or Instructional Model?

Today at the Celebration of Teaching & Learning Conference, the NYC iSchool discussed how it is changing pedagogy and is utilizing 21st century tools to differentiate and individualize instruction, as well as monitor mastery learning for high school students.

What makes this concept unique is iSchool’s approach to prepare students for college and to the global changes in the work environment.  Traditional classes are conducted along with increased virtual interaction, and self-selected coursework.

In addition to online courses used to prepare students for New York State exams, other learning opportunities include AP courses via Skype, and modules based on student suggestions that teachers create and offer as courses.  

Modules are interdisciplinary challenge-based courses. They last nine weeks. Modules are not like project-based learning which is mapped back to a curriculum, but are about real-life problem solving.

Technology supports the instructional vision of the school. Some of these technology tools include video conferencing, mobile devices, laptops, interactive whiteboards, Moodle LMS, and virtual desktops.

The school reports that students earn over 10 credits per year and that 45% of the students complete all five regents exams in their first two years.

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).

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.