English Language Arts
Using ICTs to promote English language Arts learning
Smith (2013) identified a number of challenges associated with teaching English Language Arts in K-12 school settings that included not only what to teach students but also how to keep students motivated throughout the learning experience. Teachers spend a considerable amount of time marking English assessments therefore there is an increased length of time for when students receive feedback (Tay, Lim, Lim, & Koh, 2012). There is also a challenge when you have students with mixed abilities in the same class (McGrail, 2005). Added to these challenges is the emphasis that writing is not just an individual project-based activity but a "social, process-oriented activity that stresses critical relationship between writing and other language processes, such as reading, speaking, and listening" (McKenney & Voogt, 2011, p.709). Teachers also need to consider the relationship that exists between "readers, writers, texts, contexts, and the situations in which texts are written and read" (Swenson, Rozema, & Young, 2005). Traditionally, curriculum has centered on the printed text (Young, Long, & Myers, 2010) and students' study of literacy and language was teacher driven primarily occurring in the classroom or as an independent study at home (Swenson, Rozema, & Young, 2005). English educators also face challenges of figuring which textual forms to include in instruction and prioritizing the attention given to the various forms (Young, Long, & Myers, 2010).
Other challenges with face-to-face learning in Language Arts include students with language-based disabilities, expressive and receptive language issues, and those who are too timid and refuse to speak in English class (Cumming, & Rodriguez, 2013). In addition, some students have poor critical thinking skills, difficulty verbalizing and sharing their ideas through their writing and anxiety with learning English (Foulger & Jimenez-Silva, 2007). As well, complex tasks sometimes cause frustration as students must pay attention to "topic organization, grammatical correctness, vocabulary, word choice, genre principles and sentence variety" (Foulger & Jimenez-Silva, 2007, p. 110).
Role of ICTs
Information and communications technology (ICT) provide a variety of language learning activities ranging from "repetitive language drills, text creation and reconstruction through word processors, literature to electronic journaling and videoconferencing for cultural communication exchanges" (Lin, Lee, & Chen, 2004, p. 135). Using technology such as emails, listservs, blogs, text messages, videoconferences, podcasts and cell phones allows students to communicate with the world outside of school (Swenson, 2006).
Technology and multimedia publishing programs such as PowerPoint, Word, KidPix and web authoring software have allowed students to draft, revise, edit, and publish and have also allowed them to add meaning to their text by "complementing it with graphics, student drawings, sound, voice, and video" (Foulger & Jimenez-Silva, 2007, p. 119). ICTs improve students' spelling and grammar when they use word processing and multimedia tools (Tay, Lim, Lim, & Koh, 2012). Reading digital texts expanded students' vocabulary and the use of the Internet for guided reading engages students more than the printed word (McNab, 2005). Andrews et al. (2007) also found that computer use resulted in more writing, with more words and sentences per assignment, than when assignments were handwritten. The use of iPads, with its wide variety of applications, provides support to students with disabilities in the area of language acquisition, communication, fine motor skills, education and behavior (Cumming, Draper Rodriguez, 2013).
Andrews, Freeman, and Hou (2007) reported that the use of software gave students' self-esteem as writers. IPad recordings at home allow students who were previously shy and refused to speak in English class an opportunity to complete their work, which then allows teachers to monitor their progress without forcing them to speak in class (Cumming, Draper Rodriguez, 2013). Cumming et al. (2013) also identified that students found iPads easy to use, required less preparation time, increased their communication speed, and allowed them to work independently.
The use of wikis in the classroom allows students to work in a collaborative environment where they can research, talk, and reflect on the daily classroom dialogue which reinforces the classroom activities and extends the classroom discussions (Matthew, Felvegi, & Callaway, 2009). The development of media products promotes individual and collective learning as well as establishes a sense of community within the classroom that helps to bridge social boundaries and class barriers (McKenney & Voogt, 2011). McGrail (2007) reported that certain technologies such as video conferencing, online chats, online interviews with authors, and panel discussions could be used to develop critical thinking and to support an exchange of ideas with peers. Through multimedia publications, students present information at a higher level than they would have with just text therefore allowing those students receiving the written communications to comprehend at higher levels (Foulger & Jimenez-Silva, 2007).
McGrail (2007) reported negative outcomes of computer use such as student difficulty with formal writing since they tended to use online conventions such as the "complete elimination of any capital letters, the use of slang, and lots of misspellings". McGrail (2007) expressed concern that students might lose the ability to express themselves with acceptable language conventions. However, (Foulger and Jimenez-Silva (2007) reported that "multimedia and telecommunications captured student interest by offering more opportunities for collaboration and interaction" (p. 118) which motivated them to go beyond what was required. Cumming and Draper Rodriguez (2013) reported student success with the use of iPads for learning English since students used them as portable dictionaries.
Cumming and Draper Rodriguez (2013) reported that some students got bored with using the Language Builder application. Lin, Lee, and Chen (2004) however reported that online puzzles and appropriate language arts games can be used in the writing classroom to keep students engaged.
According to McNab (2005), students who struggled with spatial processing, and attention/memory problems experienced difficulty reading hypertext. Cumming and Draper Rodriguez (2013) identified the effectiveness of the iPod touch and the iPad for reading difficulties. They found these ICTs used for audio textbooks allowed students to locate words more quickly and to hear words pronounced correctly.
McGrail (2005) identified a need for students to develop critical literacy skills where they needed to learn to sort out what is a good source of information. Smith (2013) noted that when technology was integrated well, digital fabrication could provide students with an opportunity to engage in hands-on discovery learning.
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