As with any curricular area, English Language Arts faces specific challenges when it comes to integrating technology with this discipline. In many ways, the challenges the language arts teacher faces are daunting as the responsibility of teaching literacy lies within this realm. As with many challenges, there are also solutions that can be found within technology as well.
Reconciling traditional literacy skills with new 21st century competencies is one issue faced by language arts teachers. How do you teach traditional reading and writing skills (literacy) in a world where communication technologies are rapidly evolving? It appears that “new literacies” (Roblyer, 2015, p. 261) are required to be taught in language arts and finding the balance between old and new is challenging. These digital literacies are outlined by Roblyer (2015, p. 262) and include: developing proficiency with new technology tools, strengthening independent thought, analyzing and synthesizing of information and content creation. Solutions can actually be found within educational technology. Students can develop these skills using an abundance of Web 2.0 tools such as writing blogs and microblogs, analyzing comments in social media or by publishing their own ebook.
Another obstacle to overcome is helping teachers develop their own technological capacity. Young and Bush state that we “ must cultivate the same media and technology literacy we desire for students among our teachers” (2004). Teachers often lack the knowledge and confidence to implement the technological desires of policy makers. This obstacle can be overcome by designing effective professional development for English teachers that can bridge the old and new literacies as well as outlining the relative advantages of new technologies. Engaging educational technologists to assist with this is critical as they can guide teachers through the process. This can be done by creating a professional network in Google+ or a staff wiki. Quite often, in my school setting, technology is purchased and teachers are left to figure things out themselves. In my opinion, this strategy only serves to perpetuate a digital divide among teachers between those who are tech savvy and those that aren’t. If we are committed to teaching our students 21st-century competencies then a more structured implementation is required.
As with many issues in educational technology, the solutions are often found within the same technology that causes the reluctance in the first place. Implementing educational technology in language arts can cause challenges for teachers and students but our changing world demands that students become literate in new ways and the language arts class is ideally set up to do just that. To make this possible, language arts teachers need guidance and support by educational technologists and decision makers to make sure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to take on this new role.
Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.
Young, C. A. & Bush, J. (2004). Teaching the English language arts with technology: A critical approach and pedagogical framework. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 4(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/volume-4/issue-1-04/english-language-arts/teaching-the-english-language-arts-with-technology-a-critical-approach-and-pedagogical-framework