Linking language teaching with new technology
Dr Simone Smala from the University of Queensland's School of Education examines how bilingual immersion programs can help students and teachers engage with information and communication technology (ICT).
Dr Simone Smala's research has found links between bilingual immersion programs and the use of information and communication technology by teachers and students.
I recently completed a research project that focused on the literacy practices of high school students in second language immersion programs.
Second language or bilingual immersion programs are offered in several state and non-state schools and there is a growing interest to develop similar programs in other schools.
The dual focus of bilingual immersion programs on key learning area content and language education has many advantages, particularly in regards to the language and literacy development of students.
At a time when literacy means mastery of an extended repertoire of practices across different media, it is crucial to identify practices that can help students acquire these skills.
Preliminary findings indicate that second language immersion programs help to develop students' literacy across a range of multi-literacies, in particular digital, as well as incorporate an awareness of diversity and a changing world.
I found that Australian immersion students are using their second language skills to engage with new technologies while developing their communication skills across cultures and borders.
For example, in one German immersion school, the students have found ways to use new technologies to establish relationships with their exchange partners in Germany.
The German exchange students invited their Australian counterparts to join a social networking site which is administered by and only open to students by invitation.
This once exclusively German site is now being used by Australian students and is helping to develop their German language and digital literacies skills.
Engaging with new technology
The opportunities and challenges of studying mathematics, science and other core subjects in a second language seems to require an extended use of different media.
In second language immersion programs, the physical distance to the language's country of origin and the lack of suitable curriculum materials has prompted teachers and students to explore electronic resources.
Teachers engage extensively with new media including interactive whiteboards and specialist internet sites and software. Their enthusiasm for these new technologies can be traced back to the practical need for such skills and applications in the bilingual classroom.
All students need to engage with new technologies, diversity and change as part of their advanced mastery of literacy practices. Teaching and learning now involves many forms of digital technology and the exposure to a greater variety of cultural readings than ever before.
The nature of immersion programs, namely the exploration of a second language and culture through in-depth studies also engages with cultural diversity in a unique way.
My research therefore aims to link theories of literacy as a social and cultural practice in an increasingly digitalised media world with practices found in language immersion programs.
My overall aim is to establish which of those practices could inform teaching and learning strategies in mainstream classes faced with the same need to engage with diversity, change and multi-literacies.
Email Dr Simone Smala for more information on her research