English Language Instruction Goes Mobile

Two school districts, one in New Braunfels, TX, and the other in Arlington Heights, IL, instituted an English Language Learning (ELL) initiative that allowed students to check out an iPod Touch or an iPad that they could carry with them 24/7. The result? Nearly every aspect of English language learning, such as speaking, listening, reading and writing, improved. Schools offering English Language & Literature degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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Unrestricted Learning

The New Braunfels, TX, and Arlington Heights, IL, school districts succeeded in their English language learning initiatives because they placed no restrictions on the period of time an iPod Touch or an iPad could be checked out. Once one of these devices was in the hands of a student, it was there to stay. In contrast, many school districts that also utilized mobile devices to enhance English language learning only allowed students to use them during class, which limited their effectiveness.

Because of the unrestricted access to these devices, students in these two school districts could look up a word in their dictionaries and use the browser, translator applications and other educational applications at any time of the day. This resulted in around-the-clock learning that went beyond the walls of a classroom. It even had an impact on the students' families.

Getting the Family Involved

Families were never an afterthought in these iPod Touch and iPad ELL programs. From the very outset, the New Braunfels and Arlington Heights school districts wanted to get the families involved as much as possible. Many of the parents did not speak English and were not especially tech savvy. So, before students brought their mobile devices home, an iPad informational session was set up and parents were invited to attend.

The purpose of the session was to let the parents know what to expect and how to operate a mobile computing device. After a few months, many parents bought low-cost Internet plans, even though they were told where free WiFi spots were in the community, and were also using the tablets with their children. As a result, the parents were learning English as well, which is what many of the ELL program organizers had hoped would happen.

Another important aspect of getting the family involved was the ability to bridge the digital divide. Tablets and other mobile computing devices often intimidate many new tech users, but these ELL programs helped them to get over that barrier. It also helped that iPads and iPod Touches are easier to operate and are more versatile than desktop PCs and laptops. However, the most important detail was to bring parents into the process. When this happens, a student is more likely to succeed.

Apple's iPad is the current tablet king, but are there any other options that may appeal to educators and school districts? Learn about the ASUS Transformer and what it can bring to the increasingly crowded tablet market.

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