I am a reading specialist at William M. Davies Career and Technical High School. I obtained my master’s degree in Reading in 2001. After raising two children and finally finding the time to pursue personal and professional goals again, I began my journey towards obtaining a second master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages in March of 2019. After this semester I have just one more elective course to go. I feel that I have learned a tremendous amount in a brief period of time about the importance of linguistics and language acquisition. I decided to take this media literacy course to increase my ability to push out engaging content digitally and to increase my pedagogical skills in media literacy so that I can further develop my student's capacity to be informed and responsible digital citizens. I feel that I have learned many skills, tools, and strategies during my brief time here with you all in this learning community that has helped me to do this.
As I reflect upon what I have learned throughout my coursework in my TESOL program, my philosophy and knowledgebase about teaching ELL students have grown to the extent that I believe that teachers of ELLs need to be language learning specialists. I believe this because it is critical that the ELL teacher knows all the aspects of the language acquisition process, the second language learning process, and the linguistic components that are involved in both of these processes in order to provide quality instruction. As a reading specialist, I know that the essentials to quality instruction in reading involve the five dimensions of the reading process: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, word study/vocabulary, and comprehension. If I apply my current knowledge base as a reading specialist, my first language or “L1”, and apply it to the learning of becoming a teacher of ELLs, my second language or “L2”, I can see the value and impact of providing quality instruction to my current and future ELL students that embeds all five concepts of quality language learning instruction: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics in addition to the five components of quality reading instruction. After taking this course, I can now see that I am developing my third language. That language is the language of technology. I believe that it is through this third interrelated language that I am going to further enhance the learning processes of my emergent bilingual students.
Thinking back to an earlier post where I contemplated about the reasons why I did not want to continue exploring with a computer coding program on the Apple that my father, who was a school teacher, brought home from work each weekend, I think that the problem was one that many second language learners face. I did not have anyone else besides my dad, to encourage me to practice my "new language" skills with. To learn a new language more effectively I believe you need social constructs and to engage with others who also know the language or who are learning the language too, to practice with. So, although I could have been a Prensky native, as I a fantastic opportunity, and started out as a native at the start of my career, the technology advanced too quickly. I did not have technology in my classroom to work on, the students did not have technology at home to use, so my skills became stagnant. I became a Prensky "immigrant" in his terms, an emergent bilingual in my view. I feel that I am a techno-traditionalist in Noon’s view, but I want to improve and enhance my skills in teaching with technology so that I am a techno-constructivist. I know that in order to be completely fluent in technology, I need to stretch both my beliefs, my confidence, and my skills to create learning experiences and learning communities that I believe best impact educational outcomes.
Like Mitra, I believe that students need to learn how to read and once that ability is fully in place students then need to learn how to read critically, analyze information, and engage in problem-solving, as those skills are going to be most wanted in the job markets of the future. As teachers, I believe that we have the power to create learning environments and create educational challenges for students that focus on higher-level thinking skills. I believe, like Wesch, that students need encouragement and opportunity. Wesch, Robinson, and Mitra remind us that students need access and opportunity to use technology in meaningful ways for authentic purposes in social contexts. To assume, like Prensky, that one is "hard-wired" or innately gifted is not my view. Technology skills, like learning an additional language, can when one access, motivation, and opportunity. As educators, we need to equalize the technology playing field, understand that students do not all have the same skill set in technology, and work with all stakeholders so that education can support all students, no matter what their zip code is, in becoming responsible and informed digitally literate citizens.
I believe that students' background knowledge, ethnic origins, and home languages need to to create an accepting and supportive learning environment. I believe that students need classrooms filled with "Project Lit” books that provide “windows and mirrors” into a child's life and support cultural competency. I believe that students need to have access to books and materials in their native language.
I worry, like Turkel that students are becoming more isolated and alone, even amongst others, because of technological devices. Are we creating learning environments where the students would rather turn to their cell phones than to turn to each other? Wesch reminds us that to increase learning engagement students need access and opportunity to use technology in meaningful ways for authentic purposes in social contexts.
When I go back to school in September, one aspect of my program that I would like to improve upon is the way that I structure weekly student book talks. Currently, my students meet in their small cooperative groups on Fridays to share their independent reading. As they share out, a notetaker fills in information about on a Google form: What are you reading? How many pages did you read? How many times did you sit down to read this week and log your time? Cite a favorite quote from the book? What are some universal life lessons that this book is teaching you? The students usually have their books and use notes on stickies to relate their findings. However, with distance learning came disengagement. As I moved from Zoom break out room to Zoom break out room each Friday, the students were just filling out the form, not really talking, asking me about what their grade is, and just getting by. It was disheartening.
To avoid this dynamic next year, as I feel that intermittent school closures are imminent, I am going to move to use the application with my students to support and enhance the weekly book talk process. I learned about in a RISTE summer workshop four summers ago but was hesitant to try it in my classroom as I worried about students not being appropriate with their posts and other logistical issues as the technology was new at that time. Now that this application is now more mainstream and has with technical cyber safety rules and I feel more comfortable. I also must acknowledge and act upon what is best practice and be willing to use tools to best advance and enhance the education of my students. I'm a late adopter!
ELL students can enhance their linguistic abilities with as it supplies speaking, pronunciation, and listening practice. Students can record their book talk on Flipgrid and then during their Friday break out room meeting they can view each other's Flipgrids and make comments on each students’ posts as opposed to just filling out a form. I will also guidance by giving the students a guiding question as a lens to look through and to address in their two-minute talk.
Additionally, I realize the need to teach the tool prior to using the tool for instructional purposes. I can teach students how to use by asking them to answer brief 30-second icebreaker questions for the first few weeks of school. From there, we will read short culturally relevant shared texts together and I will ask the students to create a response based on a shared literary prompt. Once the students are familiar with both the technology and the types of questions that they will have to respond to, and perhaps start thinking of their own questions through their independent reading, they will then be prepared to carry this out with their collaborative discussion/book talk group each week. I believe that making this move will empower the students to think more critically and to engage in their reading more thoughtfully. It will also further motivate students to read and will increase their comprehension rate as they will be prepared to discuss both their video response, comment on the responses of others, and communicate about the book that they are reading during group time.
I believe it is imperative that the ELL teacher advocate within their school and district for ELL best teaching practices to occur, to advocate for culturally responsive teaching of ELLs, and for faculty and staff to have a clear understanding of the importance of embracing and valuing linguistic diversity. I believe that the ELL teacher also needs to have the pragmatics and register of being empathetic, understanding, and compassionate toward multilingual students, their families, and their communities. My plan is to continue to increase my knowledge base and skills of the above mentioned linguistic concepts, social justice issues, and teaching strategies that I have learned in the Rhode Island College TESOL program to best serve all learners who are in my classroom. My plan is to continue to increase my knowledge base and technology skills to benefit all of my students.
My "Golden Circle", my "Why" and the emotions that go along with it are the reasons why the journey is more important than the destination. Like my students, I am learning a language too, the language of technology, and my goal is to grow together with my students as we go through our educational journeys. Thank you!
Pecha Kucha: https://www.loom.com/share/11bf0317ebc349489ef63d5c4d23495c (take 100)Pecha Kucha: https://www.loom.com/share/e3d4a0d0cce64f71916af54b2ff13ede
(take 1000 lol, I'll always remember this journey!)