Some of the strategies discussed by Cummins et al. in this chapter highlight Wood's (as cited here, 2001) five criteria for effective technology use. I agree with these criteria, especially those such as connecting the new to the known, promoting in-depth interaction with new vocabulary, and teaching students to become strategic readers. I also like the design criteria given by the authors, such as promoting active, self-regulated collaborative inquiry and promoting extensive engaged reading and writing across the curriculum (p. 109). If we could find the computer programs that do exactly that, what a gift we could give to our ELLs! It is crucial to find a way to provide access for our lower-income students as well, so that they can engage in this new kind of learning and get the added support they need.
I have been thinking about how technology is currently used in many schools (dare I say most schools?) at the moment, and I've wondered why it isn't very effective in a lot of cases. I believe the initial wave of software and computer applications were so mired down in the old ways of thinking and teaching that the exercises and activities were essentially the same worksheets, fill-in-the-blank exercises, and vocabulary drilling, with limited scope that were being used in some of the less dynamic classrooms. That is, it is as if the textbooks were simply placed online, with minimal interactivity (is that a word?). It is so edifying to see the newer applications and programs that have been placed online now, and to feel that education is on the brink of expanding (exploding) into something so innovative that the intrinsic motivation for our students and the real results from
the effective use of powerful technology will surely follow.
Websites like www.brainpop.com and http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forkids/kidsclub/flash/index.html are really fabulous, fun, and easy to use. I think they can have a true positive impact on our students and may be of particular utility for our ELLs. Egbert suggested some interesting websites such as Brainpop, which is awesome, but some of the voice technology sites they suggested have already been taken down. On the whole, I think that these interactive listening and speaking programs are useful, especially as a review for class work, or in lieu of access to a classroom environment. I am eager to see what comes out next on the Web and what we are going to learn in this class. Woohoo!