Arguably, or perhaps not, English and Language Arts instruction is the most vital area of instruction for students. After all, if students cannot read or write, they are not likely to succeed in other content areas. That being said, a lot rests on the shoulders of English and Language Arts instructors, especially with the changes brought about in the information age, such as portable and handheld devices and the internet. These new devices and changes in the way people communicate have posed new challenges to teachers in the form of “new literacies.”
As stated by Roblyer and Doering (2013, pg. 268), the primary responsibility of English and Language arts teachers is teaching students to make meaning of text. This means as the literacies change, instruction must change to ensure the success of students. A hornbook, an innovative and useful piece of technology in the 1600’s has little use in education today besides that of an historical artifact. It will not help students of the 21st century learn to navigate digital text. Is the same true of print textbooks? The technologies have changed and so must the instruction if we are to prepare the students.
One of the obstacles to this change could be a generation of teachers unfamiliar with the new technologies and some of whom possess an unwillingness to learn. I’ve often heard the grumbles, “Why do I need this.” “I don’t care about that, I’m retiring in a couple years.” I would argue that most of these teachers still have a passion for teaching and seeing their students succeed but because of the approach with the new technology, often times throwing new gadgets and devices into classrooms and saying “if you use this you will be better teacher and it will raise test scores,” teachers are resistant and cannot see the benefit of changing something that already works for them, especially when they are not shown how it can be used to aid their instruction. The technology is also new to many teachers. Even in my pursuit of a degree in early childhood education in 2004-2008, I do not recall learning about using social networking in the classroom, ebooks, iPads, even interactive whiteboards were just making their way into the program. I did however grow up with video games and computers making the transition to new forms of technology somewhat easier. To overcome this obstacle districts must to a better job in providing professional development for teachers in the areas of instructional technology. Rather than just placing the technology in the classroom and telling teachers to use it. They must train teachers by showing them how the technology is helpful and relevant. A language arts teacher would be much more likely to use their Smartboard if they knew the benefits of going through the editing and revising process with the technology. They need to see the new and beneficial uses
Another way to overcome the obstacles of integrating technology in the Language Arts is for teachers to make use of personal learning networks, PLN’s. Educators have always worked together to help one another with ideas and strategies on what works in their classrooms, but this often only existed within a school building or a small group of educator friends, or perhaps at a large conference. The existence of social networking connects teachers all over the world. If you have a question about how to integrate blogs into your writing lessons, simply post the question on a forum and get responses from teachers who already use them effectively in their classroom. PLN’s give you access to creative, innovative educators all around the world, who post their ideas and strategies to their personal blogs giving you strategies and ideas that have already been tested by other educators. No longer are educators limited to a small circle of fellow educators, but ideas can be exchanged across the world instantly.
Finally, one of the biggest hindrances to integrating technology into the language arts curriculum is the availability of the technology itself. Many classrooms only have one or two computers creating a planning nightmare to get students on the computer to read and write. Schools also have limited lab space available. I suspect that with the advent of online standardized testing effective in the 2014-2015 school year in the state of Ohio, there will be more lab space or mobile labs available for classroom use. Low cost alternatives to desktop models such as Google Chromebooks, will allow schools to increase their computing power while eliminating the need for more lab space. This issue of teacher training still exists however. Even when the technology is available teachers must be trained in how to integrate it into their curriculum.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.