Assistive Technology for English Language Learners

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  • 0:04 What Is Assistive Technology?
  • 0:31 ELL Assistive Technology Types
  • 5:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

Assistive technology is a beneficial tool for the English language learning classroom. This lesson will go over the different types of assistive technology and how they can be customized to assist English language learners.

What Is Assistive Technology?

To put it simply, assistive technology (AT) is a program, type of support, or piece of technology that improves student learning. When it comes to English language learners (ELLs), assistive technology includes tools that assist in the acquisition and comprehension of both language and content area learning. This lesson will review different forms of assistive technology that can be used specifically for ELLs.

ELL Assistive Technology Types

The following forms of assistive technology can be used either in the classroom, or, if students have access to mobile devices, at home for extra language practice. Each suggestion is geared toward making the learning process easier for English language learners as they work on acquiring both language and content comprehension skills.

Text-to-speech software is a program that converts text into spoken voice output. While it's commonly used for those with visual impairments or reading disabilities, it's also very helpful for ELLs. Here are some highlights about this type of technology:

  • It can be installed on mobile devices, as in phones, tablets, laptops, etc.
  • Students can use it in the classroom.
  • Students hear the text while reading, which aids in word-sound recognition and pronunciation.
  • It increases students' focus on comprehension rather than sounding out words.
  • It supports multiple languages and text types.
  • And, finally, many students qualify for free digital text-to-speech books.

For many ELLs, repetition and practice are necessary in the classroom. Audio recorders can be used to record and play back oral explanations of new material taught in class. Here are some reasons why audio recorders are beneficial assistive technology tools:

  • They can be bought individually or installed as an app on mobile devices.
  • Students can use them in the classroom.
  • They can be used for recording class lessons, important lectures, key content, vocabulary definitions, or even word pronunciation.
  • Students can replay and better comprehend class content.
  • And, finally, students can record themselves talking to self-check their own pronunciation as they read or speak in English.

Pocket translators are electronic devices or mobile apps that translate words or phrases between multiple languages. Vocabulary development should be an essential element in all English language learning classrooms, so students should not be encouraged to rely solely on pocket translators for vocabulary acquisition. With that being said, students still benefit from translators when they get stuck, so here are some reasons why ELLs benefit from this device:

  • They're portable; can be purchased individually, or as an app for a mobile device.
  • They can be used for vocabulary building exercises.
  • They allow for quick retrieval of vocabulary, spelling, or pronunciation when stuck.
  • And, finally, they're beneficial for learning when the student is out of class and doesn't have a teacher to provide assistance.

Visual aids are visual displays of content for students to refer to when clarification is needed. These are very helpful for ELLs because repetition and frequent reminders of new vocabulary, concepts, ideas, and language rules are important for understanding and retaining what is being taught. Visual aids can be target posters (posters that remind them of language rules, context clues, pronunciations, etc.), pictures, flashcards, items being learned, etc. Here are the benefits of visual aids:

  • They help students understand new concepts or content.
  • Familiarity helps advance the learning process.
  • Assist students in recalling important details, rules, concepts, or vocabulary.
  • Create an ELL-friendly environment.
  • Promote the acquisition of new language learning skills and comprehension.

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