Computers and digital technologies are excellent language learning tools. In many cases, computers provide advantages over traditional methods in teaching and learning a new language. Some distinct advantages are the use of audio and video to teach new words with correct pronunciation, and the inclusion of animations and definitions in the students' mother tongue which are translated into English. Listening exercises are enhanced by the ability to produce sound with correct pronunciation, and students can easily record their own voices for learning development and assessment tasks.
Students are also afforded more control over their own learning process as they can choose to repeat tasks, exercises, and questions. Self-pacing is a very important and empowering aspect of using digital technology in an ESL classroom, as the repetition of lessons is simple and often necessary for new content to be properly absorbed and retained.
As with any classroom setting, the ESL classroom is not immune to distractions. Feeling lost on a task is not unique to the ESL learner, as most students (likely all students) will feel lost at some stage of their school life. Compound that with apps, websites and tasks that the student is unfamiliar with, and with content in a foreign or second language, and the chance of distraction is very high. When a student experiences difficulty in understanding and/or undertaking a task, they are more likely to be distracted, and digital technology offers many distractions. A single click of the mouse can take a student’s focus to somewhere less challenging and more familiar, and perhaps more entertaining. With live streaming video, online gaming, social media, online shopping and chat so easily accessible, it’s easy for any student to switch tasks and lose focus on their lessons.
Teachers of ESL students in either mainstream or specialised classroom settings are simply not able to devote 100% of their time to one student. It’s this time, when a student is away from their teacher and working independently on new and challenging tasks that their attention is more likely to wander and they give up on their work, replacing it with more familiar and less challenging things until the teacher is able to assist them.
That’s where the edQuire software can help. An Australian designed and world-first AI-based learning analytics software tells teachers in real-time what digital content their students are accessing in their classes. A simple colour-coded heat map alerts teachers as to whether students are off task, on task, or hotspotting to avoid detection, and this information is presented to the teacher in real-time by simply glancing at their own computer screen. A quick glance allows a teacher to see if any student needs their focus redirected, or if everyone is on task. Information can be collected and collated for each student, over a period of time, to give further insights into how well the student is engaging with the technology in their classroom. Teachers can modify appropriate and acceptable sites per lesson if required, and the intelligent AI software can build on that for future lessons. Additionally, students can access their own data to see how well they are using their time and to take control of their own learning. All the while, school and student privacy is assured with bank-level security.
As we move further and more rapidly into learning environments that are embracing and relying on digital technologies, it’s reassuring to know that as educators, we can now, more than ever before, use the technology to help keep even our most vulnerable students on track with their learning, without it negatively impacting on our teaching time. ESL students can benefit massively from using digital technologies in their lessons, and the ability to ensure that they are on task and engaging well with their content is great peace of mind for not only teachers but also for schools and parents.