Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Literacy in the 21st Century: Technology as a Foreign Language

Literacy in the 21st Century is presenting challenges for me as a learner and as a high school English as an additional (EAL) teacher. I readily admit I'm technophobic. (I still rely on my daughter's written list of instructions from 1997 explaining how to program my VCR . . . yes I still use a VCR.) As a participant at the Literacy in the 21st Century workshop on March 16, my reflections are from the voice of the technologically challenged learner.

That's me on the left, Arlene Fedorchuk, trying to participate at one of the sessions. Note my trusty pen and paper technology because I can't log in to my computer.

As a technologically challenged learner, I often find learning about new technology overwhelming and energy draining for several reasons. First of all, the language of technology is a foreign language that I am slow in acquiring. Secondly, I struggle with the basics such as logging on or opening sites and I don't know why. Some days I swear leprechauns inhabit my computer and wreck havoc at will. Thirdly, I need to have time to process each step of the application, but because I struggle with technical issues, I'm always a step behind the presenter. I am a bit competitive (I like to think in a healthy way) and I lose focus as I struggle to learn and worry about falling behind. Fourthly, I see the potential in incorporating new technologies in my classroom - I actually get really excited about this - but because when I leave a session, life gets in the way and I don't revisit what I've learned, I'm often left with a sense of failure as a learner and as a teacher who missed an opportunity to offer EAL students alternative pathways to acquiring the English language.

Ironically, however, I was a presenter at yesterday's workshop too. Yes, me - Ms. Technophobe. I presented a session on my EAL students' use of Photostory to share their learning journey in my EAL classroom. I have to say I surprised myself by accepting the invitation to present, especially because I identify myself as illiterate in the area of technological literacy. I realize several factors were part of a process that led me to the place where I had enough confidence to share my learning with my colleagues, which were:

  • stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a risk
  • making the time (uninterrupted time) to spend using and experimenting with Photostory
  • inviting our teacher-librarian to be on hand in my classroom to troubleshoot the technology as together we introduced it to my students and as the students shared their final presentations
  • taking on the role as learner and learning with and from the students
  • trying Photostory again and again with other classes and working out some of the kinks

As a participant at the Literacy in the 21st Century workshop, I came away with an array of feelings and lots to think about. I was amazed at the variety of new technologies shared, and I felt inspired to try some with my students. But I was also overwhelmed by the sheer number of technologies and could feel myself disengaging because of the overload.

Hmmmm . . .

I wonder how students feel about incorporating new technologies into their learning. I've heard the talk that young people are often more technologically savvy than adults. It's true that some EAL students are highly technologically literate and possess the latest technology. But, others arrive with low first language literacy, and have no experience in a school setting, let alone with computers. The common factor among this student group is that each student is an English language learner who needs to acquire both conversational and academic English in order to be successful in high school. As their EAL teacher, the technologies' ability to enhance students' English language acquistion will be what I keep in mind as I decide which new technology to incorporate into our learning environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment