In this hypersensitive political time immigration is a word you can easily hashtag. While we’re debating who comes first and how to secure the border, our young student immigrants are being left out of the conversation. Let’s forget about the actual wall that’s bringing such metaphorical and literal division across the U.S. and talk about the walls surrounding our immigrant students in the classroom. No matter which side you’re on, you want our nation’s future to be educated and there are ways we can give tools to our students, ways as educators to inject accessibility into the curriculum for those who are still learning English. What’s the secret? Wait for it….drum roll, please…technology. Yes, technology can be the great equalizer.
When an English Learner sits in your classroom, they’re only catching about half of what you’re saying. We all know that teachers LOVE to talk but that isn’t ideal for an immigrant student who isn’t fluent in the language. Speaking the native languages of all the students you have isn’t possible either, so we need technology to bridge the gap. Allow English learners to use their smart phone for google translate and look up slang phrases used in the classroom. Youtube can show them visual video examples and the internet will provide searched images of unknown topics. Newcomers that speak little to no English will mainly rely on technology to translate, while English learners who have spent many years here will utilize summary websites like Sparknotes.com for simplified readings, videos and explanations of curriculum. Remember that immigrant students use the internet for most of their questions, just like most American English speakers so educators need to utilize it the same way.
We teachers love to use our expensive vocabulary, but that’s simply another brick in the wall. Throw an English Learner a rope by allowing them to use their smartphone in class. Put your notes and instructions in simplified English on a power point and post it on a school-wide site like Canvas for students to access later. You can go the extra mile and put up a ladder for immigrant students with technology in these small ways. Technology can be the bridge we need to educate our immigrant and English learning population.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Lisa Geimer. Lisa has been an English as a New Language teacher for 16 years, spanning all grades K-12. Her passion for English Learners comes from her upbringing as a child of a Cuban immigrant. She strives to bridge the gap of statistical success and wants to inspire immigrants to reach their goals in the first generation.