Karin Falconer, Adult Educator
Language Learning Enriched by Technology
Karin is an adult educator for English as an Additional Language (EAL) adult learners who are learning the target language English at The Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County. She explains how she uses technology in the classroom to expand on traditional practices of word definition.
Cope and Kalantzis (2009) explain, “The logic of multiliteracies is one which recognizes that meaning-making is an active, transformative process, and pedagogy based on that recognition is more likely to open up viable life courses for a world of change and diversity” (p. 10). Accordingly, Karin uses technology to save time and help her adult learners gain a visual understanding, rather than abstract understanding, of concepts. For example, in the video below, Karin talks about teaching the word “salmon” and the concept of this type of fishing. Díaz-Rico (2012) states, “The instant communication available through the Internet connects students with other parts of the world, with speakers of English, and with rich sources in information” (p. 187). By using technology, Karin brought these concepts closer to her students, for instance, making the word “salmon” more immediate, real, and tangible.
Moreover, Karin specifies the importance of adult educators’ adaptability and flexibility to their classroom and adult learners’ academic, social, and personal needs. Díaz-Rico (2012) reminds teachers and adult educators that collaboration is also vital for “achieving social justice: equal access to, and opportunity for, equal education for all students” (p. 5). Listen below to Karin describe how she incorporates technology in innovative ways to teach her adult EAL learners.
Lesson: Giving and Receiving Directions
Karin starts her class by projecting the worksheet on the whiteboard in front of the classroom. To review before the lesson, Karin goes through a few keywords and phrases relevant to the days’ lesson. When teaching a lesson on following and giving directions, Karin models various sentences pertaining to the lesson, using keywords and phrases from the lesson. For the lesson on giving and receiving directions, Karin starts with “South/East,” “South/West,” “North/East,” and “North/West.” Along with words and phrases, Karin focuses on reviewing prepositions and their purpose in writing.
When teaching about directions, one strategy Karin has found helpful is to allow students to navigate a map physically. Combining spatial, auditory, and oral literacy, adult learners give and receive directions, while other students navigate a map with a toy car. Kolb and Kolb (2005) outline six defining points of experiential learning. These points focus on student engagement and learning as a holistic experience. Kolb and Kolb state, “Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world. Not just the result of cognition, learning involves the integrated functioning of the total person – thinking, feeling, perceiving, and behaving” (2005, p. 194). The following pictures come from Karin’s lesson on giving and receiving directions. The following classroom worksheets allow students to advance their listening and speaking skills by engaging in various activities involving students to test their knowledge of the compass and directions. They also engage students in following directions to answer some true and false and fill in the blanks questions, ask directions in various situations and settings, and finally, apply their knowledge to a real-life situation where they have to read and navigate a fire escape plan.
Learning to navigate the new world in a new language is an important skill Canadian newcomers must work to develop for a smooth transition into their new life. Karin recognizes this need and teaches in a way that enhances language learning and acquisition and enhances life skills learners may use in various daily life encounters. Scarino and Liddicoat (2009) cite Gee (2008) who wrote, “A sociocultural approach places a premium on learners’ experiences, social participation, use of mediating devices (tools and technologies), and position within various activity systems and communities of practice” (p. 28). Karin places such a premium on her adult learners’ in-class experience to make them comfortable in their out of class life experiences. The following document analysis pieces come from a lesson Karin taught on medication. She focused her lesson on showcasing where warning signs and side effects are located on medicine bottles. Within the lesson activities, students learned how to read medicine bottles and worked with subject-specific vocabulary such as “vomiting,” “headache,” “chills,” and “dizziness,” as seen in the illustrated section of the first worksheet. Moreover, class activities continue to expand on reading prescription details and instructions. The following worksheets combine visual and written literacies. Note adult learners are provided with a graphic organizer which allows them some independence in identifying clearly what they understand from reading the labels without necessarily writing out full sentence responses in the target language.