iPads for ELLs: Enhancing Critical Thinking

Here are the highlights from the workshop “iPads for ELLs: Enhancing Critical Thinking” which we co-presented at the 2011 Long Island Tech Summit on October 18th. 

The workshop focused on three essential questions and provided a brief overview of the iPad and how it can help ELLs reach their full academic potential. 

 How can educational iPad applications strengthen and support critical thinking for English Language Learners?

When the the right educational iPad application is integrated into a content rich lesson, it provides multisensory access to that content, facilitating comprehension and allowing ELLs to participate more effectively in academic discourse. Apps can be used to scaffold activities that may otherwise be difficult for ELLs to understand.  In addition, using multimedia apps to deliver content enhances traditional methods of delivery that are largely text-based.  This opens up the door to critical thinking by lowering the language barrier and channeling the instructional focus to academic content.

The following quote sums up the need to provide content-based language instruction that challenges ELLs to think critically in order to attain academic parity with native English language speakers.

 “Merely using the language and knowing the meaning is not enough. To become proficient in a language, learners need to use creative and critical thinking through the target language.”

 From: Muhammad Kamarul Kabilan. (June 2000) A. Creative and Critical Thinking in Language Classrooms The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 6,
http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Kabilan-CriticalThinking.html  

 How can teachers integrate iPads into their classroom toolbox?

Before selecting an app for use with students, educators must first identify the   instructional goals and objectives of the lesson, not the other way around.  Instead of discovering a fun or exciting app and trying to build a lesson around the app, take a lesson that has proven to be successful and find apps that can be integrated into the lesson to scaffold the content, differentiate the instruction and enhance the outcome.

For example an interesting project idea “The Alternate History Project” was showcased at a poster session at ISTE 2011 http://tinyurl.com/whatifhistory . Integrating social studies apps such US History Tools or On This Day as well as a graphic organizer app like Popplet and a digital media app such as Discovery Ed Streaming (Mobile.DiscoveryEducation.com) can help ELLs meet the goals of this project successfully.

How can iPads, digital media and Web 2.0 tools remove boundaries and promote academic achievement for ELLs?

Finally, it is important to explore the bigger picture of using instructional technology and to identify the purpose for using iPads in the classroom. Consider the following list of pedagogical goals in order to identify how this device can help promote equitable educational opportunity for ELLs.

  • For Intervention (RtI)
  • For Enrichment
  • For Assistive Technology
  • For Digital Literacy
  • For Reading
  • For Organizing Resources

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/05/27/five-ways-readers-are-using-ipads-in-the-classroom/

If you’d like to read more about how teachers are using iPads with ELLs read “ELL to Go” by Jennifer Demski

http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/05/02/ell-to-go.aspx?sc_lang=en