Imagine, as a young student, having tons of new information presented to you in a language you recently began learning. This scenario plays out everyday for English-language Learners (ELL)/English as a Second Language Learners (ESL) and these students often fall behind, scrambling to simultaneously grasp a new language and comprehend the needed knowledge.
The Tug-of-war Between ESL/ELL Student Needs and State Demands
Even with these disadvantages, ESL/ELL students are frequently still held to the same state standards accountability as English-native students.
The divide between 'meeting state and federal demands' and 'providing ELL/ESL students the time and resources they need' can put schools and teachers in a very precarious situation. And, sadly, this juxtaposition leaves students who are learning a new language to be unfairly penalized by a lack of needed support, time, and attention.
Bridging the Gap Between Engagement and Language Connection
However, new trends in digital learning, specifically Blended Learning/Flipped Classroom environments, are helping schools to bridge the gap between fulfilling ELL students needs and meeting the required state standards. Instead of throwing tons of information at ESL/ELLs in a one-sized-fits-all, English-language lecture method, blended learning promotes self-driven, differentiated digital instruction as a means of developing basic knowledge.
Blended learning gives ELL and ESL students the ability to read and hear the instruction (often at the same time), while utilizing their already established context and schema to help create connections between the English words and their meaning. Essentially, the individualized instruction aspects of blended learning let the student digest instruction at his or her own pace, while concurrently developing the necessary lexicon understanding.
Digital self-learning also couples the visual and auditory instruction with engaging images and sounds to further scaffold the connection between the English-words instruction and the students understanding. So, even if the student is struggling to understand the words of the instruction, he or she can see and hear the visual/auditory cues and utilize their context clues to help grasp the concept(s) and the verbiage.
The Real Advantages of Blended Learning for ELL/ESL Students
The advantages of digital learning for ELL/ESL students are not speculative. A 2009 study at Round Rock (TX) Independent School District found that mathematics and reading test scores for 3rd and 5th grade ELL students increased following implementation of interactive whiteboards.
Blended learning environments take the interactive whiteboard initiative one step further, putting the device straight into the hands of the ELL students, allowing them to interact kinesthetically with laptops, computers, and mobile devices. The personal, hands-on relation between student and technology furthers engagement and the students connection between language reception and individual retention/understanding.
By providing hands-on, self-driven learning tools (via digital content and resources), schools can finally give their ELL/ESL students the engaging, effective learning experience they need to improve progress and connection with their new language.