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Paola Epstein

August 2016
Dr. Vega
Fall 2016
Ipads in the ESOL Environment

Masters Degree in Instructional Technology


There are many reasons why my students do not speak English; without the need of
looking at the data is the mobility of their families from their original mother lands in the search
of the American Dream is the biggest reason. When my students were transplanted from their
native countries to ours and landed in a rural North Georgia high school there was instant shock.
It is not easy when your first approach to education in a different country started in high school.
Only one of the students that took part in this project was integrated to an American family
through an adoption process. All four students that took part in the project were selected as part
of the Education for Homeless Children after being declared eligible by the district social
workers, according to the McKenney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. It is very important to
mention this because their environment had a fundamental impact on in the results of this
Nelson Mandela understood the need to influence multiple languages in achieving a
meaningful level ofcommunication. He said: If you talk to a man in a language he understands,
that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart. For my students,
this process is a challenge, particularly when at the first step; we had to start from the previous
The first step of this program was to administer the EOC (End of Course Test) English
Practice test to the students that are taking part in the project. The EOC test was evaluated by the
English department to ensure it is properly aligned to the standards and expectations for an

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entrance-necessary language acquisition of a 9th grade student. The EOC has two parts: reading
comprehension and writing composition. There were 60 multiple-choice questions, a shortanswer segment and two written compositions. I had to schedule the test in two-day sessions to
make sure the students had enough time to complete their assignments. The first barrier that we
experienced was a delay in the test due to a misunderstanding of the instructions. We had to
restart the test after a short training regarding the use of a Scantron answer sheet and how to
correctly bubble the answers.
Once the test started, all of the students were bewildered. Their knowledge of English
was significantly lower than what was needed to comprehend even one question. Their faces
showed their frustration and struggle with the assessment. During those first few minutes, I
debated if it was worth it to continue with the assessment. I decided that on the second day, the
writing part was not necessary and changed the test for a childrens online vocabulary evaluation
that presented many interactive pictures. The results were emotionally better, however, as a
result, I did not have the proper data to compare with the data at the end of this study. An
assigned result of failed was granted to each student to begin the process.
During the first week, the students looked enthusiastic and engaged the use of the Ipads.
Some of them showed high initiative, but the majority was excited but shy to the process. The
exploration of the device and the development of the activities presented multiple challenges that
sometimes were solved on the spot; and other times it was necessary for me to intervene to help
and offer a solution to a particular student.
It was necessary to create a troubleshooting manual in the students native language to
help them through their independent work to solve basic problems and to walk them through the
use of different apps while working in other classes. I also noticed that some teachers were
committed to helping the students, while others were mere supervisors of their time without

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major involvement. The tickets, which were given to the teachers to hand out after the
completion of each activity, were not as effective as I had hoped. Many days, the students forgot
to ask for the exit ticket and many times the teachers did not have the chance to complete the
tickets. After the first semester, I began passing out the Ipads and exit tickets from my classroom
in order to streamline the process. The students had to visit my classroom every morning to
pickup their device and return it to get their ticket completed at the end of the day. At that point,
the tickets were recorded online on an Excel work page to facilitate the tally. Some days the
students forgot to pick up their tablets; this delayed the process by reducing the time of use,
practice and learning.
December came faster than we expected, and with it our first assessment. Unfortunately,
one of our students could not take the first written assessment. Brayan F., our student from
Guatemala was sent back to his country by the authorities. Back in Guatemala, Brayan contacted
me and among his comments, he proudly said that he was able to communicate in English a
Based on what Albert Einstein said: Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its
ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. The written
assessment was tailored to each students ability. I had to create three different assessments
according to the students levels in Classwork, Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. The students each
had outstanding results in their category for their levels of achievement. Cristin M. obtained the
highest results. He was also the student that advanced the furthest in all three applications.
After the holidays, the independent work continued; however, the monotony of some
activities reduced the enthusiasm. It was necessary to add new apps with language games to hold
the interest of the students. By the beginning of February, the parents of Cristin M. informed me

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that due to better opportunities, they are moving to Tennessee. This affected not only the program
but also the emotional relationship of the two other students taking part in the project.
A new written assessment was schedule in March; this time it was not necessary to
prepare multiple tests because both students have similar levels of English.
The results were very good, although it is important to state that the quantity of levels
advanced in the first stage of the program was higher than the second stage.
During this testing session, I noticed that one of the students, Edgar D. had difficulties
retaining information and understanding the instructions. I requested a parent-conference; his
brother and legal guardian confirmed that at home he had lapses of knowledge and
understanding. I took the case to the student services liaison to issue an Individualized Education
Program ( IEP ) observation and possible diagnosis.
Jermn L. obtained the highest score over his classmate and friend Edgar D. It is
important to consider that Jermn is a student living with an English speaking family through an
adoption process. His exposure to the language is much higher than all the other three primary
students from the project. He was adopted by the American family in March, and this new
condition makes him unqualified for the McKenney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act; however,
we received a waiver for him to finish the semester in the program.
After the assessment, we continued working by adding a few more applications that will
allow them to practice their English and increase vocabulary. These two students completed
nearly 220 hours of work with Ipads; however, the project had to face another problem. Edgar
was aware that he could not stay in high school beyond the age of 21, and as he was now 18 and
in 9th grade, he would not be able to graduate. Because of this, he was thinking about accepting a
work offer to help his family. Edgar dropped out of school in mid May; he was failing three out
of four classes at the time.

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Jermn is the only student who finished the program. His results were outstanding. The
support of his family, his immersion in the language, his social skills and many other variables
not measured in this project allowed him to be able to communicate with his classmates.
As we finished the second semester, the continuity of the program was in jeopardy due to
the lack of students that qualified for the program. After a working meeting with our graduation
coach, we decided to monitor Jermn in his language acquisition with a weekly support meeting,
particularly now that he will join a regular English class with an IEP in place. We also discussed
that we can bring the program back as soon as the need is present with new students.


Throughout this project, I was able to learn a different aspect of technology
implementation. I usually learn a new tool and add it to my lesson plans. This time, I had to
prepare my students to discover the tools through independent work and solve the problems that
these tools may present on their own. I also learned that there are some troubling variables that
not even the most accurate lesson plans can avoid. As a leader of this project, I had to work hard
to convince all the stakeholders involved. It was hard to involve mainly the teachers, because
they saw it as merely more work being added to their already overwhelming schedule. The most
important learning factor that I had to cope with is related to the human factor and the emotions
involved in this process. Unfortunately, I had to witness the effects of the migration nature of the
families and the repercussions that this mobility had in the students and their learning process.

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The first test was negatively affected by the lack of prior knowledge of the use of multiplechoice test, Scantron technology, and Ipad technology. Flexibility and modification were the
constants in this project.

The students were involved in a great learning process; however, I had to learn along
with them. The decision-making regarding who will work on what activities, as well as the apps
chosen to support the students learning process required an extensive evaluation of over one
hundred apps and websites. This planning and the design of each program tailored to the needs of
each student demanded dedication and hours of development and strategic implementation.
Another big challenge was the assessments. These needed to be adapted to the needs and
learning of each student.

The most important elements chosen through the standards are clearly addressed. The
creation of an instance of authentic learning experience helped the students to identify
themselves as part of a collective effort to support their integration into society. Another element,
that was hard to fulfill, yet highly rewarding, was the deep differentiation between the program
implementation among the students. The contents, as well as the tools used were flexible and
adjusted based on the needs of each student.

The use of an online platform like Schoology, and an online program like Classwork
allowed me to apply my knowledge from these tools as well as acquire new expertise in certain
details unseen before now. The skill of combining all the tools accessed by the students in a
coherent design that makes sense for their learning process helped to make a fluent scaffolding
on the new language acquisition. It was necessary to have an open and flexible mind, and the
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willingness to consider the diversity, cultural understanding and global awareness to tailor the
structure of the project towards an empathic mindset and disposition.

Recommendations for future implementation of programs in a similar direction, should

be oriented towards following a deeper integration between the applications and the online
learning software. The repetition of contents and exercises depending on which app we were
using was frustrating. It will be better to delineate a backbone of contents and activities without
strictly following an online course like Classwork and Rosetta stone. Of course this pick and
choose variety of activities will be highly demanding for the instructor, and the line of
assessments will need to be created according to this target learning, sometimes making it
impossible for the students just to complete the embedded assessments offered by these courses.
The goals proposed for this project were not totally achieved due to unexpected variables.
The format to achieve the objectives was also modified throughout the process. However, I have
the strong belief that I woke up a sleeping giant inside each of my students. Today I may not be
in charge of the educational process of these beautiful souls, but the spark that was ignited there
has nothing to stop it. As Guy Kawasaki once said: The goal is to provide inspiring information
that moves people to action.


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From left to right: Cristin M., Edgar D., Mrs. Paola Epstein, Jermn L., and Brayan F.


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Ariza, E. N. (2006). Not for ESOL teachers: What every classroom teacher needs to know about
the linguistically, culturally, and ethnically diverse student. Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and
Colomer, S. E. (2015). Positioning Spanish Teachers as Ad Hoc ESOL Teachers. TESOL Q
TESOL Quarterly, 49(2), 393-402. doi: 10.1002/tesq.227
Ediriweera, M. (2014, June). 'Say Again?' An In-house, Online, Self-Access Pronunciation
Project for ESOL Students. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 5(2), 143-152. doi:
Reiss, J. (2005). ESOL strategies for teaching content: Facilitating instruction for English
language learners. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice-Hall.

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