(note: there are a LOT of fun links here. Take your time. Enjoy them all)I've spent the last ten weeks being introduced to different aspects of Bilingual Education. One of my two ESOL classes this term was "Sociopolitical Foundations of ESOL/ Bilingual Education," while the other was "Educational Technology for the ESOL/Bilingual Classroom." I must admit, when I started the ESOL endorsement, I just wanted to make myself as employable as possible. But now, I find myself a passionate advocate of Bilingual Education.
Many of my blog readers will remember that I've been tutoring Koreans for the past four years. Part of why I thought I'd enjoy the ESOL endorsement classes was because I felt I already had some experience teaching ELLs, or English Language Learners. I have enjoyed my time with Newspaper Talk, and feel it really has given me a good preparatory experience teaching ELLs. I'm looking forward to furthering my ESOL education.
I was surprised to find that I enjoyed my ESOL EdTech class so much. I must admit, I was a little nervous at first. I do not think of myself as a particulary "techie" kind of gal--I mean, I know how to work my way around my familiar programs and websites, but I've not done much beyond that. After all, that's what my IT tech loving geeky husband is for! He's MUCH MUCH better at it than I am! But I found that I really enjoyed the lessons in this class, and figured out some terrific tools to use.
In my first assignment, I used some Google tools to create a Powerpoint-style presentation. Then I used SlideRocket to make my first ESOL-themed assignment. (that was fun!).
After that, I used Jing to create a Screencast (I've hidden my ScreenCast as an Easter Egg kind of link--pay attention to my Korean tutoring if you haven't found it yet); I liked that technology so well, I used it to make another ScreenCast to help my Mom figure out Spotify (I haven't heard if she liked it, but I had fun making it!).
One of the assignments that was hard (but still enjoyable) was using Prezi to create a "digital essay" about using technology in the classrooms. One of my classmates had a quote that inspired my project. Her project referred to using digital tools and technology as the "new literacy." I felt that was so apt and appropriate, I titled my digital essay "The New Literacy."
I still find the subject fascinating, and truly believe that if you are teacher who does not want to use technology in the classroom, you will be replaced by a teacher who does. I do think that it's a lot to ask for students who are surrounded by some pretty sophisticated technologies to just put it all aside and sit and listen to a lecture or read from a textbook and be expected to enjoy it.
Our last big assignment was to create a website. I must say, website "plug-n-play" templates have come a long way since I toyed with the idea of creating a personal website many years ago--an idea I abandoned because it was too hard for me to do by myself. That isn't the case any more!
All in all, I have been changed in the last 10 weeks. Not only have I become a passionate advocate of bilingual education, but I've become somewhat of a technological pioneer. Granted, my pioneering journey was just for myself, but all of the assignments (with the exception of the week we were to experience blogging) took me to places I hadn't been before. I created a new digital literacy for myself, and had my eyes opened to new ways of looking at the world--and education.
Bilingual Education in the U.S. has had a rough road. Shortly after the First World War, there was a push against bilingualism, specifically with the German language (Spolsky, 2011). German books were banned, German music ignored, and schools stopped teaching the German language. These attitudes continued until those who were bilingual were seen as having a lack of intelligence. Even worse, bilingualism became anti-American. In fact unless it served the country in some way, either defensively or otherwise, there has been a lack of bilingualism in America. The Bilingual Education Act expired in 2002, and the No Child Left Behind act crippled bilingual education even further (Crawford, 2008). Some states have even gone so far as to promote an “English-Only” curriculum in schools. California, Arizona, and Massachusetts have even gone so far as to pass laws requiring an “English-Only” curriculum, citing that students’ test scores improve in an “English-Only” model and that by teaching only in English, students would be protected from unwanted influences and even have greater economic prosperity. Other states have tried to pass laws, Colorado for example, but were unsuccessful (Benz, 2005). Thank goodness! I think that such claims (by those that promote the “English-Only” movement) are ridiculous! This makes me grateful to teach and live in Oregon, one of the few states that have officially adopted an “English-Plus” policy; this means that not only are immigrant students taught in English, but their native languages are also protected and encouraged.
Bilingual education has been in the court systems long before the push for “English-Only” curriculum laws. In 1946, in California, a man named Gonzalo Mendez successfully sued the Westminster School District for racial discrimination and segregation (TeachingTolerance n.d). Mendez was a farmer who wanted a better life for his children. His sister took his children and her children to register them in their local school district. Her children looked white; his did not. Her children were allowed to register in the local school, while Mr. Mendez’s children were told they’d have to attend the inferior Mexican school on the other side of town. Outraged, Mr. Mendez spent a year organizing the other Mexican families. They won the case, and the landmark case of Mendez v. Westminster was successful in allowing not only Mr. Mendez’s children the right to attend the superior schools, but 5,000 other Mexican children as well. Many people followed this court case, including Thurgood Marshall, who successfully argued the famous Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1964. In 1964, the Title VI Civil Rights Act was passed. This act allowed for equal education for all, regardless of race, color, or nationality. In 1971, in Chinatown, in San Francisco, it was discovered that many Chinese children were put into English-only classrooms. These children had very limited English skills. The district felt that they had done nothing wrong—and had in fact, been providing an equal education for all, according to Title VI. A judge however, saw things differently, and felt that by putting these children into classes where they could not understand the lessons made their classroom experiences “incomprehensible” and “in no way meaningful” (Wright, 2010 p. 73). This Supreme Court case became known as Lau v. Nichols, and it led the way to implementation of bilingual education programs for students with limited English proficiency. The Equal Education Opportunity Act (EEOA) of 1974 followed; this act help apply the Lau decision. Other court cases followed: Castañeda v. Pickard put into place standards for assessment for the ruling of the Lau case in 1981 and in 1982 Plyer v. Doe (a District Court case) stated that all children were entitled to a fair an equal education, regardless of their legal status. Schools are also not allowed to ask for documentation of a student’s legal status as well, giving undocumented children access to a quality education under the Castañeda standards.
English Language Learners or ELLs are still working hard to receive an equal education in today’s schools. They need instruction not only in their core-content areas but also in the English language itself. Many of today’s schools use a Transitional Bilingual Education model, or TBE. This model is used most often because the government is willing to fund it, and because it puts the least strain on a school district (Wright, 2010, p. 82). The goal of a TBE model is to transition the ELLs as fast as possible into an English-only, mainstream classroom. The most common method of English Language Development or ELD is the “Pull-out/Push-in” method. In this method, ELLs are “pulled out” of their classroom for their English-language instruction, usually for about 30-45 minutes a day. If schools are using a “push-in” model, this instruction happens in a student’s regular classroom, during classroom hours. Another method of TBE is the Sheltered Instruction method. Here, students are taught content in English, but these learning activities are supported by pictures, visual aids, and other methods—anything that would help the student understand the content of the lesson in English. Pascopella (2011) feels that Sheltered Instruction gives students explicit “academic content-vocabulary instruction” in both English and, where possible, a student’s native language. Another method schools use for ELD is the Dual Language model. In this instance, learning instruction occurs half in English, and half in the student’s native language (usually Spanish). Pascopella likes this method because it gives students a chance to “develop their first language” while achieving proficiency in English at the same time. A lot of ELLs have academic success in this method. Finally, some schools use the Submersion model, also referred to as the “sink-or-swim” approach to bilingual education. This is the model preferred by those who promote “English-Only” curriculum. In this model, students receive all of their instruction in English, with no thoughts given to using any part of a student’s native language.
Research has shown that if a student is allowed to keep their native language (L1) in an additive learning environment along with learning a new language (L2) they are more successful academically (Goldenberg, 2008). Garcia (2010) also makes a strong case for keeping an ELLs L1. Wright (2010, p. 83) states that it is “easier for students to learn to read and write in the language they know best.” Unfortunately, many TBE programs are subtractive, meaning that they end up removing a lot of a student’s native language as they learn English. It is challenging to keep an L1; instruction must be given in both languages. This is difficult for both the student and the teacher, as the teacher must put a little more effort into instruction, and the student will struggle at first. They will need “extra time” –after all, they are learning academic content while learning the language, but teaching students to read in their first language “promotes higher levels of reading achievement in English” (Goldenberg, 2008). Still, studies have proven again and again that if a student can read and understand content in their native language that understanding will transfer into English. It is slow going at first; students are processing information in both languages, and that takes longer to accomplish, but in the end, a student who preserves their L1 while adding an L2 is a better learner overall A recent article in the New York Times (“Why Bilinguals are Smarter, March 17, 2012) also supports the idea that bilingual education makes for better learners. Essentially, to have a successful program, ELLs need English language instruction that doesn’t replace their native language.
A good teacher will be able to find ways to teach a student in such a way that they are able to keep their native language. This kind of teacher will be creative, using Sheltered Instruction, and above all, will respect not only a bilingual student’s native language but also their culture. Teacher’s may encounter resistance to keeping a student’s native language from their parents; many parents of ELLs want their children to be taught only in English, feeling that they are able to provide education at home in an ELLs native language. When this happens, a teacher will need to explain the research mentioned earlier—that teaching a student in both languages will create a student who is an exceptional learner and truly bilingual—in literacy as well as speech. It will seem at first that a bilingual student being taught this way will struggle; teachers will need to reassure both the parents and the student that this kind of instruction and learning will be worth it in the end. Websites like “Colorín Colorado” are helpful in promoting dual-language instruction. Teachers can also fight back against the marginalization promoted by NCLB and insist that those teacher performing ELD be trained and certified ESOL instructors. Often, teacher’s assistants or teachers with minimal training are left to teach and implement ELD instruction (Harper, et al, 2007). Good teachers can educate parents about what’s necessary for good ELD instruction, and the parents can be sure to then ask for quality instruction on behalf of their children. Another way teachers can advocate for ELL students and families is to make the school and their classroom a welcoming place for them. I am glad that the Greater Albany Public School district has a Welcome Center for Spanish-speaking families, as well as interpreters available for parent-teacher conferences and other school functions. When I read the district’s ELD plan I was happy to find out that they also work to get interpreters in languages other than Spanish from the International Club at OSU. All of the documents that are sent home with schoolchildren have also been translated into Spanish, and other languages are available if needed. I think that these kinds of activities go a long way to helping ELL student and families feel welcome in any school district. Even with such district support, it is my hope that I will be one of those “good teachers” that is able to successfully teach ELLs.
(Rather than make a Reference page, I've just linked all the references within the text. If I used a reference more than once, I only linked it once. I hope that you enjoyed having all of the actual papers available for your perusal.)
So that's it. That's a small sampling of what I've learned this first term when it comes to Bilingual Education and Technology. It was a big step for me in a lot of ways. I am so glad I took it.