Exploring digital literacy through websites in the ESL classroom
Tuesday, January 08, 2019
Today, because of digital literacy, the world has turned into a small global village. Specifically, for ESL students, who are from different cultural backgrounds, communication becomes easy and convenient with digital literacy tools.
To define digital literacy in terms of L2 learning, Meurant (2009) stated that digital literacy is “developing ability, confidence and readiness of non-native learners of English to use English as a second or foreign language to access, navigate, comprehend and contribute meaningfully to English language online resources and the online discourse of the online community.”
Digital literacy tools such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, websites, gaming, digital storytelling, YouTube, etc. all have changed the perspectives of both teaching and learning of English as a second language.
New technologies are not only transforming the way students’ view learning, but also the way “educators think about education and literacy” (Khawalah & Omania, 2015, as cited in Pilgrim, Bledsoe & Reily, 2012, p.30). And “as these tools continue to transform literacy instructions” they are also helping students “internalize lifelong skills needed for success in this global society” (Ahmed & Nasser, 2015, as cited in Saine, 2012, p.45). With this in my mind, in the spring semester of 2016, I decided to teach my Level 3 class of Academic Interaction (Listening & Speaking) ESL students how to create websites on Weebly.com using iPads.
Have you ever created a website? It’s time now!
Before I started this project in my Academic Interactions level-3 class, I wrote this above-mentioned question on the white board. I started to explore my students’ ideas and thoughts on this project. Some were excited by the idea. Even though they had never created a website, they really wanted to.
In contrast, some other students freaked out and didn’t want to participate. By being a persistent and determined teacher, though soft in my disposition, I encouraged my students with a positive note and they became ready to do this project.
Most of my students in this class were from diverse backgrounds: Middle Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, etc.); Asian countries (China, Japan, and Korea, etc); and a few students from South America (Brazil and Argentina). In total, I had 20 students.
At INTO University of South Florida, we focused a lot on student-centered and content-based teaching, therefore I decided to divide my students into groups. I divided the class into 10 groups of two students. Then I gave an iPad to each group. Before class, I had created a step-by-step process for my students to do the project.
Steps to create a website/webpage by using iPads
Next, I gave each student the project handout and the rubric. I asked them to create a homepage with several other webpages on Weebly.com. I asked them as well to include interesting and important information about their assigned topics. I also asked them to add some interesting facts and biographical information about themselves.
Furthermore, I asked them to find good information on literature and facts, include vivid pictures, and interesting videos related to their assigned topics. I gave each group 15 minutes to present their websites. As I mentioned, at INTO University of South Florida, we focus on a content-based syllabus, so I assigned several topics connected to the content of that class. After I assigned an iPad to each group, I used Smart Board to demonstrate the steps to start their project on Weebly.com.
List of interesting topics I assigned my students for their website project
The textbook of the AI3 class had units on different topics: as life sciences, global warming, natural sciences and resources, national parks of the world, entrepreneurs, and world civilizations.
I took topics from each unit. I also included some topics connected to their native cultures. Here is the list of some interesting topics which I created from “Pathways 3: Listening, Speaking and Critical Thinking:”
- Any famous national park in your native country
- Any famous national park from any part of the world
- Any national park from the textbook Pathways 3 such as Jiuzhaigou National Park (China), Tsingy de Bemaraha (Madagascar, Africa), Giant’s Causeway (Ireland), Tongariro National Park (New Zealand), Lencois Maranhenses National Park (Brazil), etc.
- Global warming and its effect on the atmosphere, especially melting glaciers and the greenhouse effect on the atmosphere
- A biographical sketch of any famous entrepreneur from your native country.
- Describe the ancient civilization of the Celts, the Khmer, the Mayan, and the Egyptians. Include information about their language, music, traditions, food, culture, architecture, and monuments.
- Describe any ancient civilization from your own native country or anywhere else in the world. Describe about its language, music, traditions, food, culture, architecture, and monuments.
List questions i asked my students to answer in their presentations
Once each group had selected a topic from the list, I gave them some additional questions connected to their chosen topics.
The purpose of giving these questions was to make their presentations more persuasive, interactive, and communicative. I did so because the focus of the class was listening and speaking. Here are the additional questions:
- Explain why you chose this topic for your presentation.
- Explain how you will persuade the audience to visit any of the national parks from the world or from your native place.
- Explain how global warming is affecting the atmosphere of the world, and persuade your audience to take the steps to prevent global warming.
- Explain why you have chosen a particular entrepreneur for your presentation. Is he/she your role model? Persuade your audience that he or she is a good role model.
- Explain or persuade your audiences why any of the ancient civilizations (may be from the world or from your native country) is important in today’s concept. Why should we preserve its culture from the past?
After all 10 groups chose their topics and received their questions; they worked together with their partners to create their websites on Weebly.com using the iPads in the classroom. They created a homepage and then added other subpages. They did a marvelous job on their webpages.
Once they finished their websites, they presented them on the assigned dates. The websites were very creative and productive. Most of the students embedded beautiful pictures, interesting videos, excellent descriptions, etc. connected to the content of the sites.
In sum, it was a very successful end of the semester project. Students really enjoyed working on this project. It was a great accomplishment for the students who succeeded in mastering a digital literacy tool. Later, I presented this assignment in the Electronic Village section of TESOL International Annual 2017 Conference.
Links to websites created by some AI3 students
- 8 exercises for strengthening your business writing
- The importance of guided practice in the classroom
- Grouping students: Heterogeneous, homogeneous and random structures
- ELL reading development: Modified guided reading, interventions, support
- The importance of hands-on learning and movement for English learners
- 10 common mistakes band directors make during rehearsals
- Writing the letter that gets you more referrals
- Back to the future with Ford bioplastics
- Aging: What you don’t know can hurt you
- Yoga tips to help fitness clients, athletes achieve better posture
- Workers put spotlight on Amazon’s less-than-‘Prime’ labor practices
- 5 financial checks you need to make before you change jobs
- Making the best of days where it all goes wrong
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