ICT can be a very supportive tool for EAL learners, both for developing skills that are important in their own right, and as a complementary resource for classroom activities. There is a range of different types of ICT that can help bilingual learners of varying levels of proficiency in English, for example:
- Word processing software such as Word
- Presentation and desktop publishing software, e.g. PowerPoint, Publisher etc.
- Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs)
- The internet
- Recording technology: audio and video
- Communication: email, video conferencing, social media
- Immersive games
- Translation software
- A range of other software and apps, for example focused on grammar and vocabulary, literacy or curriculum based and creative or story-making based software and apps
Whatever medium you are using it is important to remember that the principles of good practice in terms of EAL teaching and learning apply equally to the use of ICT. In other words, ICT should be used in ways that are consistent with EAL good practice, for example to provide a rich context, to build on prior knowledge, to scaffold language and learning and to provide opportunities for collaborative learning. Read more about principles of EAL good practice here.
Types of activities using ICT
- Word processing or publishing work (individually or pairs or groups) can be particularly motivating for EAL learners at an early stage of learning to write in English, as they can produce work to a higher standard of presentation than they may be able to by hand.
- Working collaboratively using presentation or desktop publishing software, for example to devise and deliver a group presentation on a given topic or to produce a poster, leaflet or magazine.
- Using interactive whiteboards (IWBs) for modelling and scaffolding learningUsing the internet to research topics online, accessing text (including in first language), images, sound, film / video / DVD, graphs, maps charts etc. which will allow learners to make links between concepts and knowledge they already have and the English they need to explore them.
- The internet can also be used to provide a rich context to increase access to the curriculum, through searching for images, maps (e.g. Google Earth), charts, diagrams, music, film / video / DVD etc.
- Using software that gives opportunities for learners to work collaboratively to solve problems, e.g. Maths games, simulations etc. This kind of activity will provide opportunities for exploratory talkUsing email or video-conferencing to give EAL learners access to first language communication
- Using spreadsheets to for learners to generate their own graphic organisers such as graphs and pie charts.
Practical ideas for using ICT
- Top tip: You can use ICT to employ all the Great Ideas suggested in these pages!
- To consider: When you get access to a new piece of technology, think about how it can be used to provide scaffolding, modelling, a richer context and/or opportunities to work collaboratively.
Group or paired presentations on a topic can encourage organisational discussion during the task and also supports those who are less confident in speaking in English through the use of presentation software like PowerPoint or Prezi.
Word processing or publishing completed work can help reinforce the conventions of written English through the use of spellchecking and grammar checking. It can also support the development of more adventurous vocabulary using integrated thesaurus tools. See further information on use of bilingual dictionaries and translation software.
When drawing on the experience of the class or group, you can use image search on the internet to provide clarification – for example, the nature of a favourite dish or a type of plant or animal mentioned. If there is ambiguity or confusion, images are usually available to look through and select the right one.
Interactive white boards
IWBs are great for scaffolding learning across the curriculum, for example:
- using visuals
- text marking and annotation
- using writing and speaking frames, prompts and graphic organisers.
Digital cameras and camcorders
These are excellent for:
- making books for EAL learners at an early stage of developing literacy
- pronunciation and presentation practice
- collaborative projects such as making a welcome video for new arrivals at the school
- recording learners talking, giving a presentation or reading aloud, all of which are useful for assessment purposes
- celebrating success.
Using the internet for research with EAL learners
It is important to be specific about what you would like the learners to find out, rather than simply asking them to research a topic. We recommend that teachers:
- Suggest a maximum of three or four websites to search, and check first if the information they need is there or not.
- Teach learners how to avoid copying and pasting chunks of information without understanding (see below).
- Use the same criteria to choose websites as you would for a text book: layout and overall look, quantity and quality of visuals, readability, target age of audience, content, scope and level, navigability.
- Sites designed for EAL, EFL or ESOL learners are often useful as many of these are aimed at improving the grammar or vocabulary of learners whose first language is not English, and some, like EAL Nexus and The Collaborative Learning Project websites, have curriculum related resources aimed at EAL learners.
Teaching learners to avoid ‘copy and paste’
Encourage EAL learners to work through the following process:
- Scan read the text you have found and see if it has the information you need.
- Copy and paste the section that has the information you need into a draft document, print it out and read it carefully.
- Highlight the important words or phrases making sure you focus on what the question asks or exactly what you are trying to find out.
- Using a bilingual dictionary or translation software look up any words that you don’t know and that are making it difficult for you to understand the text (e.g. any words that are used a lot) and write the meaning in your first language on the paper.
- Use the highlighted words to put together your own sentences.
- Look back at the original text for help but don’t copy too much more.
Good for EAL, Good for All: Can I use ICT with the whole class?
Of course: The benefits of ICT in engaging learners are well recognised – independence, interactivity and style. When EAL learners engage with their peers using ICT it can increase opportunities for understanding and connection. Using the internet can also really benefit everyone in the class in terms of the opportunity it can bring to see and hear about life all over the world.