Introduction to Information Literacy in the K12 Classroom/Chapter 4
Informational Literacy With ELL Learners
Informational literacy is important to all learners but has special importance for the job of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and ELLs (English Language Learners). This type of learner is not only learning the academic aspects of the content material, but also learning linguistic proficiency of another language.
ESL and Information Literacy
Information Literacy and English Language Learners
Educators of students who are learners of the English language attending English-speaking schools are charged with a large responsibility with regard to their students' academic success - now and in the future. As a classroom teacher, the idea of getting curriculum across to English-language learners is daunting enough, but the added responsibility of ensuring that these students are prepared for higher education and careers in the digital age presents an even greater challenge. Given that many English-language learners may not have access to technology and many digital devices at home, educators must work with their students to set goals utilizing available educational technology in order to help them become and stay competitive in the academic community. It is important for the teacher to ensure that students not ony have access to the tools, but are allocated the time needed to practice and really learn information literacy skills.
Development of Information Gathering Skills
According to S.C. Yang (2001), English-language learners often approach digital-age resources with both "excitement and anxiety." In order to help these students to become informational literate, teachers must approach the instruction utilizing educational technology in a learner-centered, project-based and goal-directed manner. For example, students can accomplish many technology and research objectives through the creation of informational brochures that go along with curriculum. Students set goals for their final product, conduct the research and produce the project using educational technology. A sample lesson plan for this type of activity entitled, "Desktop Publishing: Sell Your Hometown Brochure," may be found at the New Mexico State University website. Utilizing technology for information gathering purposes requires that students develop effective critical thinking skills and problem-solving strategies, which for the educator of English-language learners means making the instruction interactive and individualized with specific project goals to be met. (Bagnole & Miller, 2003) WebQuests are an excellent activity for elementary and secondary students to use for utilizing information literacy skills. Further, in order to effect success in instruction of English-language learners in information gathering activities, their access to and practice with technological resources must be regular and intensive. (Bagnole & Miller, 2003) There are many problem-based lesson plans available for helping students increase information gathering skills, that may be easily adapted for use with ESL students. The New Infotectives: Tracking Down Good Information on the Web is a one such lesson plan.
Using Technology to Develop Language Skills
In the past, teachers of English-language learners have used various media such as audiotapes, television, and videotapes in an effort to further develop English language skills. (Masterson, 2008) These media are still useful, however the use of the additional digital technology available today opens the door to many more learning opportunities for these students. The text, graphics, sounds, and video available through technology today encourage immersion in the language. Successful use of technological resources by English-language learners can give them ownership of their learning and a sense of power or self-confidence.
Verbal Interaction with Electronic Resources
Educators need to provide English-language learners with a language-rich environment in which they are afforded many opportunities to interact verbally with their peers. Computers offer a nonjudgmental resource for verbal interaction. Computer read alouds, music, and sound effects provide English-language learners with an audible language source. Computer books may be used to facilitate verbal language learning in that students may be read to by the software, read the books themselves, read the books aloud, and share ideas or opinions about the books with other students. The International Children's Digital Library offers children's literature in the form of free computer books, written in a number of languages, that may be read by students of all ages.
Development of Vocabulary
Beginning English learners need to experience the vocabulary visually and contextually. Given that the very nature of digital technology is graphic, computers offer ESL students a very contextual, as well as nonthreatening, environment. Students can interact with the computer and learn the English vocabulary using a variety of visual experiences. Schools may purchase various software packages for use with vocabulary development, but there are several online sources as well.
- Building Language for Literacy is a Scholastic site for early language learners that gives audio feedback to students to help build vocabulary, identify letters, and lay the groundwork for successful decoding skills.
- TV411 Vocabulary is a site that offers various vocabulary lessons (such as "Finding New Ways to Say Something" for older learners with real-life applications.
- Wacky Web Tales is a fun site in which students create new stories by filling in the blanks with the types of words requested (i.e., singular noun, large number, country, etc.). The premise of this site is similar to an "Ad-Lib."
Reading and Writing Development
When English-language learners are beginning to learn their second language, all types of exposure to language are helpful in developing their literacy skills. Digital technology offers a fun and interesting way to practice those literacy skills. While writing for early language learners tends to be difficult, and instruction needs to be guided to reduce frustration, the use of computer graphics and technically-related projects may increase the enjoyment of writing for these students. (Ybarra & Green, 2003) Through the use of classroom blogs and discussion boards, students may practice their reading and writing skills in, again, a nonthreatening environment. Online dictionaries (such as Merriam-Webster's Word Central), spell-checking devices, and grammar-checking devices make it easy for students to edit their own work. The completion of projects researched and produced using technology (such as brochures and newspapers) give English-language learners the opportunity to synthesize their informational literacy skills with the reading and writing skills they have acquired.
As the population of our country changes due to the increase of immigrants from other nations, and schools in the U.S. often educate student populations with multiple home languages, educators need to employ the educational technology available to them to help these students achieve academic success. Educators need to ensure that English-language learners set goals, engage in the language, are afforded access to and rigorous practice in utilizing technology resources for development of information gathering skills, verbal ability, vocabulary development, reading and writing development. Through the regular use of technology, students are empowered and made responsible for their own learning. (Mydlarski, 1999) All students - ESL and other - may acquire the content knowledge required, along with the informational literacy skills needed in order to be competitive in the academic world of tomorrow.
- Online Activities Promoting Information Literacy Springfield Township High School Virtual Library
- Activities for ESL Students A project of the Internet TESL Journal
- Worksheets and lessons plans
- Information Literacy Portal The Association of College and Research Libraries
- 21st Century Information Fluency Project Portal Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy
Bagnole, J.W. and Miller, J.W. (2003). //An Interactive Information Literacy Course for International Students: A Practical Blueprint for ESL Learners//. TESL-EJ, Volume 6, No. 4. Retrieved June 13, 2008 at http://tesl-ej.org/ej24/a1.html.
Masterson, M. //Use of Technology with ESL Students//. Georgia State University. Retrieved June 13, 2008 at http://www2.gsu.edu/~mstmbs/IT8420/F99/MaryM1.html.
Mydlarksi, D. (1999). //Confronting Technology in ESL: So What's a Poor ESL Teacher to Do?// Retrieved June 14, 2008 at http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~mydlarsk/dmconfrt.html.
Yang, S.C. (2001). //Language Learning on the World Wide Web: An Investigation of EFL Learners' Attitudes and Perceptions.// Journal of Educational Computing Research, Vol. 25, pp. 155-181.
Ybarra, R. and Green, T. (2003). //Using Technology to Help ESL/EFL Students Develop Language Skills//. The Internet TESL Journal, Volume IX, No. 3. Retrieved June 14, 2008 at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Ybarra-Technology.html.