ELLevation: A Tool for Educators of ELLs

So, you need to conduct an analysis of ELP assessments for English Language Learners. Or maybe you’d like to restructure your ELL data collection and monitoring process. For many educators, entering and retrieving this information from a student information system can be a daunting and complex process.

ELLevation is a web-based software platform that supports the unique needs of ESL students by providing unique online tools to increase effective instruction, productivity, and collaboration among educators.

ELLevation is the first of its kind to integrate a comprehensive platform just for English Language Learners. It allows educators of ELLs to align instruction to data, monitor student growth, and facilitate collaboration between ESL and classroom teachers.  Imagine the possibilities when ESL and classroom teachers can set goals and create action plans that include instructional methods in the classroom.

Check out the innovative features of this program at http://ellevationeducation.com/

 

 

Mastery Learning and Content Creation on the iPad

By Heather Parris-Fitzpatrick

In this era of testing , it’s a good time to reflect on the elements of  Mastery Learning as an instructional model and see how it may benefit the 21st century English Language Learner. ESL students of every proficiency level can benefit from this approach.

ELLs routinely participate in standardized assessments that are designed for native language speakers.  Oftentimes these students cannot accurately demonstrate their mastery of a topic without yet having mastery of the English language.

With the iPad and a mastery learning approach students can create dynamic and entertaining multimedia presentations that can be used as alternative assessments that inform instruction.

Most mastery learning concepts come from Benjamin Bloom who coined the term. Mastery learning is based on individualized instruction that is targeted and informed by data. Teachers use frequent formative assessment to monitor student progress and provide high quality, corrective instruction to improve student achievement.

Bloom introduced the concept based on the premise that even though students have various learning rates and modalities, if teachers provide the necessary time and appropriate learning conditions, nearly all students can reach a high level of achievement. Research has consistently linked the elements of mastery learning to highly effective instruction and student learning success (Guskey 2010).

This approach is a natural choice for ESL students who are often faced with rigorous content demands while struggling at the same time to acquire English proficiency. As ELL advocates, we know that our ELLs need alternative strategies to access content and they are not always able to demonstrate their content knowledge through traditional means of assessment.

The iPad provides the multimedia support for content that ELLs need and also allows ELLs to demonstrate mastery of a topic, regardless of their English proficiency.

The simplest way for students to demonstrate mastery is to use the built in video camera and have students create short direct instruction videos on a topic they have mastered. Another option is to use traditional tools like PowerPoint or Keynote on the iPad to create multimedia presentations.

Finally, there are many useful apps that incorporate images, video, audio, writing and drawing to create interactive multimedia presentations and videos. I’ve listed some of them in the table below.

Guskey, T. R. (October 2010) Lessons of mastery learning. Educational Leadership,68 (2),52-57. Retrieved from  http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct10/vol68/num02/Lessons-of-Mastery-Learning.aspx

Educreations is a recordable interactive whiteboard that captures your voice and handwriting to produce video lessons that you can share online. Students and colleagues can replay lessons in any web browser, or from within the app on theiriPads. There is also a community showcase on the homepage or the “Featured” tab in the iPad app to view lessons that other teachers have created withEducreations.

Audioboo is an application for recording and sharing your voice with the world. This free version allows you to create audio up to 3 minutes in length and post that to your own account on the web. You can add titles, tags, geolocation info and a photo to the recording before you upload it and it will save all that with the file. The audio can then be shared with your followers or via Facebook, Twitter & other social networks by managing your account at http://audioboo.fm.

Story Kit is an iPhone app created by the International Children’s Library Foundation. This app allows users to create their own digital book that includes video and voice recordings, images, drawings and text. The book is stored on the apps bookshelf to be edited or read at any time.  

Videolicious allows users to create videos without having significant editing expertise. Users choose from videos and photos stored on their iPad, place them in order and then stitch together that media. It enables them to use transitions, visual effects, and logos. Once users have picked the media they want to use, all they have to do is tap the videos while narrating over them, and they can later add soundtracks.

Explain Everything lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations andpresentations.Explain Everything records on-screen drawing, annotation, object movement and captures audio. Import Photos, PDF, PPT, and Keynote fromDropbox, Evernote, Email, iPad photo roll and camera. Export MP4 movie files, PNG image files, and share the .XPL project file with others for collaboration.

 

Discovery Education and the iPad: Long Island Day of Discovery

Today we had the opportunity to present at the Discovery Education Day of Discovery Conference.  We explored techniques for building a mobile learning environment and ways to use digital media in creating content on the iPad.  It was exciting to demonstrate how digital media and web 2.0 tools remove boundaries and promote academic achievement for ELLs.  The iPad and other tablet computers can support the use of Discovery Education streaming and allow ELLs to access academic content in a whole new way.

We enjoyed engaging with those educators working hard with ELLs and all struggling learners.  Here are just a few recommended apps that were shared during our session:

  • Roadshow – Collect web videos and play them back anytime
  • Language Builder – A rich environment for improving language development
  • ScreenChomp – Sharing tools used to create a sharable, replay-able video
  • ShowMe – Record voice-over whiteboard tutorials and share them online
  • Videolicious – Create a video combining videos, photos, music, and stories
  • Audioboo – Create audio and post to your own account on the web
  • SlideShark – View and share PowerPoint presentations on the iPad

 

 

 

Long Island Technology Summit 2011

How can technology help engage students to learn content? 

As educators, we know that engaging ESL students is key to academic and linguistic success.  We are faced with the daily task of teaching grade level content in a language that poses many challenges.

Dr. Michael Nagler, Superintendent of Mineola Schools, presented a workshop entitled, What Are 21st-Century Skills Anyway?   Though, the workshop was not limited to the needs of ELLs, there were many points that Dr. Nagler shared that highlighted the challenges for all learners. 

Dr. Nagler stated that, “technology is the tool of engagement and we must stop teaching content and start engaging students in the content.”  During this discussion, he described that the order of Bloom’s Taxonomy was now reversed.  With information being readily available, students must learn metacognition – “think about thinking and how they are learning.” 

Today’s student is growing up in a world much different than ours. Educators continue to use traditional teacher-centered methods of instruction; this is a fundamental contradiction to the way our students learn. For many of these students, even the pace of technological advances will even make digital natives into digital immigrants.  What is certain is that 21st century skills remove boundaries and promote academic success for ELLs  and for all students.

So how do we change the way we teach content and how do we use technology to leverage it?  Give students the ability to become problem solvers and critical thinkers.  Don’t give the content, but start with the end first through methods such as project-based learning.  Technology must be used as the tool that provides a means to the end.

iPad Training for Teachers: It’s all about the Apps

We recently conducted a three-day workshop for teachers who are using iPads with kids in grades K-12. Although all of the teachers worked with ELLs, some of the teachers were ESL teachers, others taught ELA, Math, Social Studies, or Special Education.  You get the picture.  We were all over the map as far as our audience was concerned.

So,  the obvious question is how do we train teachers from such a wide variety of settings to use the iPad effectively in their classroom? This answer lies at the very core of what makes the iPad so unique: differentiation through apps!

Once the initial how-to session about the functions and features of the iPad is completed, the emphasis must switch. Professional developers must model differentiation for the teachers, just as they would do for the students in the classroom, through the use of solid apps.

This begins by exploring applications that are truly educational and useful for each teacher in their subject area or focus. First share the apps that are basic tools for instruction such as reference tables, calculators, readers, and dictionaries.  Introduce apps like iBooks, Stanza, Periodic Table of Elements, Google Earth, and CalcMadeEasy.  

If you are part of a district wide initiative using iPads, there should be one set of student tools for managing notebooks, submitting classwork and studying for all students.  You must decide as a class which tools you will all use.  Index Card is a great app that allows users to customize flash cards and organize them into categories for studying. 

Ideally teachers should create a paperless system. (Can you imagine a world where you do not have to carry home 5 classes worth of assignments on Friday night?) By allowing students to submit their work via the iPad, teachers begin to model one of the true 21st Century learning protocols.

 The buzz at ISTE 2011 was that Evernote works very well for this and is a robust app for creating, storing, and sharing documents.  The native app Notes is a simpler note-taking tool.  Of course, you always have the option to print out assignments when necessary.

As for instruction, remember that oftentimes the best apps cross over into many disciplines. For example, after we distributed our best apps list for ELLs, a teacher shared with us her best apps for Special Ed and we discovered a whole new bunch of apps that can be used with a variety of students. Apps for brainstorming and mindmapping such as iThoughtsHD and Popplet are universal tools for differentiated instruction.

Finally, teachers have to establish a classroom routine that works for them and their teaching style. Whether you have an iPad center a few times a week, or each student uses an iPad every day, the priority must be to set up classroom rules about how and when the iPad is used to achieve the instructional goals the teacher has designed.

What iLearned at ISTE 2011 – Part 2

What if? History Project

During our visit to the poster sessions at the conference, we learned of an interesting project conducted by students attending the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  The teacher, Diana Laufenberg, created a counterfactual or alternate history project that focused on the investigation of historical events through research and creativity.

Students were responsible for identifying a point in American History where they would change the outcome.  After reading background information and identifying the point of divergence, students researched three events preceding their point of divergence, and then introduced three new events in history leading up to 2011.

The essential questions addressed three main ideas for this project:

How do the actions of individuals impact the historical record?

How do systemic changes impact the historical record?

How influential can one decision be in the historical landscape?

Students worked independently and collaboratively with their peers in developing their presentation of ideas.  The project included an organizer, a work contract and a journal to record the process. Projects were assessed using a rubric and presentations were uploaded onto the school website.

American History can be one of the most difficult subjects for English Language Learners because of the unfamiliarity with historical events in the U.S.  The research needed for a counterfactual project can help ELLs gain an understanding of the impact these events have had on our lives today.

Just imagine the alternate history that would be created if a student had never moved to the U.S.  How would this have affected their lives, schools, or communities?

For more information on the What if? History Project please visit:

http://tinyurl.com/whatifhistory

The iPad Revolution!

Using iPads with ESL students

So, by now I am sure that every teacher reading this has gotten his or her hands on an iPad, right? Well if you haven’t, you have just been given your summer assignment.  In my opinion, there is no other tech product currently available for teachers that can facilitate teaching and learning like this one.  I think you will find that the iPad is a revolutionary educational tool.

For our purposes, I’m going to narrow the focus to the use of the iPad for English as a Second Language Learners. If you haven’t become a devotee of the iPad universe, join me. Let’s take a look at just a few of the things that make the iPad so unique and so useful for ELLs.

iBooks Struggling readers will find the tools available through iBooks absolutely indispensible.  The highlighter, bookmark and note tools facilitate student comprehension and encourage students to use the reading strategies we have taught them to readily access the content of a text.  By simply touching a word or phrase, they have the option to get the dictionary definition, highlight, annotate, or search.  In addition to marking up a page, the student can  find all the notes and bookmarks in one place when reviewing the text. They can also type in and search for key words or phrases within the text.

Students are able to download  and store books and pdf files without breaking their backs with overloaded book bags.  The library can then be sorted by title, author or category.  Upon opening a book, students can browse the table of contents, flip through pages, or advance to any page in the book with one or two gestures. The brightness, font size, or page color can be adjusted to suit the reader’s preference.  If you prefer to use a Kindle e-reader, (I like it too) you can download the app to your iPad and use that one as well.  There is also an app called OverDrive, which allows you to borrow e-books from your local library!

Notes Lisa and I have been experimenting with several different note tools.  I have found that for basic note-taking the Notes application that comes standard with the iPad is okay.  However, several of the apps now available allow students to record a lecture while drawing, writing or typing their notes.  This is very useful for ESL learners. They can play back the lesson as many times as they like while reviewing and revising their notes. Notes Plus is one such app.  inClass is an app that offers audio, video, and photo note-taking, as well as a student organizer. Other writing apps that are being used in school districts include Office2HD, PaperDesk and iAnnotatePDFDragon Dictation is a speech to text application that is great to use with Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE). Verbally is an assistive speech application that allows users to communicate by selecting from a word bank. Speak it! is a text to speech application that allows  students to hear what they are typing.  UYH Gold is a good for practicing handwriting with SIFE.

Educational Apps We continue to test out apps that are both fun and educationally useful for ELLs.  There are several good ones.  Flipboard allows you to customize and browse the web in a magazine layout that is easy to scan and fun to read. There are also many good word game applications. I like the traditional Boggle and Scrabble.  There are also lots of flashcard apps, such as Index Card, that help students learn study skills. Apps like Stack the States and Star Walk help with content area studies.

Other Tools But wait..there’s more.  Some of my favorite apps include Google Earth and Translator.   We know that our ELLs benefit from having visuals and the iPad screen is the perfect size to view videos and images – not too big and not too small. You do run into a wall sometimes because iPad does not support Adobe Flash, but you can definitely work around that.

This is just a quick look.  There is a lot more.  I hope this has piqued your interest.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to use an iPad yet, my best advice is to get one and see for yourself.  If you know about some useful apps, tell us!

There are a lot of pilot programs for iPads springing up in schools. Here’s a link to an article from Scholastic.com that highlights an iPad pilot program in a  NY school district on Long Island. Who knows, maybe your district will be next?

Every Teacher is a Language Teacher

During a meeting with educational administrators today, Lisa and I were asked a question that we hear over and over again.  Every time, it goes something like this: “How do I help my English, (Math, Social Studies, Reading, Science, etc.) teacher work with the ESL students in his/her classroom?”  They go on to explain that their teachers don’t know what to do.

One unique book that addresses this very important issue is “Every  Teacher’s Toolkit – Closing the Achievement Gap for English Learners” by Karen Kwaguchi (Pearson-Longman).  This is a great book for teachers who have little or no experience with ELLs.  It includes lots of basics like a description of ELL language proficiency levels, a glossary of commonly used terms in English language teaching, and tips on teaching academic vocabulary. Each unit includes mini-lessons, useful graphic organizers and insights on ESL methodology.

Content area teachers need to be reminded that every teacher is a language teacher and every lesson they teach  includes a language component. At the same time, we need to provide all teachers with strategies that will enable the English Language Learner to access the content of each lesson.  This is the basic premise for The SIOP Model (The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) created by D. Short, M.Vogt and J. Echevarria (Pearson-Allyn&Bacon/Merrill). Visit http://www.siopinstitute.net/ for more information.

The SIOP model is  “a scientifically validated model of sheltered instruction designed to make grade-level academic content understandable for English learners while at the same time developing their English language.  The protocol and lesson planning guide ensure that teachers are consistently implementing practices known to be effective for English learners.” -from the SIOP Model for Administrators, 2008

Of course, I know there are no quick fixes or easy answers on training all teachers to effectively address the educational needs of English Language Learners.  The good news is that the right questions are being asked, which means better instruction for all ELLs in the long run.