The Amazing 500-in-1 ESOL/ESL Website

from Educators' eZine

It's no secret that technology is often an effective way to motivate students, and this of course holds true for all subjects, including English language learning. Although more and more non-English speaking students enter the education system at every grade level, teachers and professors in many English as a Second Language (ESL) programs continue to shy away from technology, instead relying heavily on curricula and teaching methods driven almost entirely by textbooks. As an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) certified teacher who has successfully taught in both K-12 and in higher education, and one who eagerly embraces technology – despite my lack of a degree in instructional technology — I wanted to find away to help other educators feel comfortable using technology in their ESOL and ESL classroom.

My desire to help these teachers began when I saw firsthand how discouraged, frustrated and bored these students become when they are exposed to the same teaching methods over and over, day in and day out. My insights resulted from an experience I had last summer, when I taught adult ESOL and ESL learners in a private college's adult education program for a professor out on medical leave. In my 13 years in education I have repeatedly found myself working for a department head, principal or other supervisor who seems to fear technology, and/or has no aptitude or interest in technology. This was yet again the situation here; however, rarely had I ever seen so much computer equipment in each classroom. SMART boards, computer keyboards and other tech tools were all readily available to instructors in every classroom. My supervisor confided to me she wished she could think of some other way to use all this equipment besides simply enlarging and projecting the textbook page on the whiteboard, which she dutifully did in each class she taught.

It was not long before I was actually using the SMART board in my classes with the computer keyboard, showing my students a variety of ESL web sites at the end of each class. I found my students eagerly looked forward to finishing the day's lesson, and moving on to the more unpredictable, fun and challenging task of applying their English language skills to the online world.

I soon developed a simple website, actually a portal listing links to numerous ESL sites which I wanted to visit with my students. I could now easily access these links in class, as I realized it was important to continuously offer different online content to the students. I also placed a guest book on this site, and invited feedback from my students. They quickly wrote overwhelmingly positive comments. "I like learning this way!" was the gist of every response.

During that time, and again months later, I read a news article about a college being sued for dismissing college students too early from class. This news made me think more about my ESOL students and my colleagues in that private college, and the gap between the department head's tech knowledge and all the modern tech equipment in that learning environment. Technology had greatly motivated my own students, and I saw for myself how simply devoting 5-20 minutes to technology at the end of class on a regular basis made a huge difference in motivating students. But, I realized that handing my former department head a list of 500 ESL sites would probably not inspire her to take her students to visit such sites.

For teachers like her, I realized that instead of a list with links to 500 ESL sites, what she really needed was one link, to one web site – but one that has content that changes 500+ times. I truly pondered this: How does one create one site, with academic content that constantly changes. . .

Soon thereafter I figured out how to do this, and created such a web site, for all ESOL, ESL and EFL teachers and classes: it's called Inspiration Lane.

Can a teacher actually motivate ESL students by using such a web site at the end of class on a regular basis? I believe the answer is yes. But, you be the judge, and let me know if my site works for you! I know it worked for me, as I was using this same concept before I figured out how to create it in a site. But now, here it is: one web site for English language learners, with daily changing academic content!

Email:Susan Alyn