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Tips and Tricks: Integrating Digital Literacy into the Adult English Language Classroom

25 Feb 2023 2:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Authored by Hali Massey, VATESOL Adult Education SIG Leader

When planning for adult English language instruction, it is important to consider how to make classroom materials and activities relevant to the real lives of learners. Given that we live in a world that is dominated by technology, it is inevitable that learners will be asked to use different forms of technology in English. When navigating life in the United States, multilingual learners will need to be able to perform tasks using the internet, digital tools, smartphones, laptops, etc. Depending on their prior exposure to technology and using technology for specific purposes, these skills and tasks may be new to learners. 

Because adult ESOL curricula are typically thematic units that focus on various aspects of adult life in the United States, we can analyze our curriculum to look for areas where digital literacy instruction, materials, and activities would benefit our learners and enhance our instruction. 

Examples of aligning digital literacy skills to adult ESOL curriculum include: 

Learning the alphabet 

  • Using keyboards (images or realia) to learn and practice letter recognition 

Navigating local community 

  • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to look up local places in the community

  • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to navigate directions to and from local places in the community 

  • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to create local community maps

Discussing weekly schedules and routines 

  • Using a calendar on a smartphone or computer to locate days and times and schedule appointments. 

Discussing money 

  • Using a calculator on a smartphone or computer to calculate amounts and percentages.

Instructional practices for integrating digital literacy into the adult ESOL classroom: 

  • Orientation: Spend time orienting learners to digital platforms and tools in the classroom, in-person, and in their home language(s) whenever possible.

  • Explicit instruction: Explicitly teach tools and vocabulary needed to engage in digital literacy skills - use images and realia to scaffold understanding.

  • Familiar tools: Start with tools and platforms that learners have experience using or at least exposure to.

  • Authentic tasks and skills: Utilize authentic digital tasks and skills in the classroom that mimic those that learners need in the real world.

For resources that assist with integrating digital literacy into the adult English language classroom, please see the members only resource section on the VATESOL website.

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