February 2018
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LEARNING ENGLISH AND INCREASING SELF-EFFICACY WITH EDUCATIONAL AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES IN A SPANISH-LANGUAGE ASSISTED UNDERGRADUATE COURSE
Bernadette M. López-Fitzsimmons, Manhattan College, Riverdale, New York, USA

This article speaks to the positive impact of educational technologies, library digital resources, and internet websites on native Spanish speakers’ English language acquisition in an undergraduate three-credit course taught with Spanish-language assistance during the first college semester. The course selected, Intercultural Communication (Comunicación Intercultural) is a 300-level course in the Camino Program that presents theories in anthropology, sociology, religion, psychology, history, sociolinguistics, and cultural studies. Spanish-language assistance was provided throughout the course so that bilinguals understood the content. As they became comfortable in college, their use of English increased, raising self-awareness with respect to their own learning, which improved self-efficacy and self-confidence.

Information technology enhanced second language acquisition and the learning of academics in a pleasant environment that supported learners’ native language. Students used technological innovations to manage time and schedules, develop organizational skills, and self-discipline themselves in adhering to regular and consistent study routines. This article presents teaching English as a new language, embedded in a college course with Spanish-language assistance, as an organic process engaging students in learning academic content, gaining professional knowledge, and developing life skills as well as enriching their linguistic repertoire in English and cultivating sophisticated multiple literacy skills in educational disciplines

Background: The Camino Program

The Camino Program was launched in the Fall 2017 semester in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Manhattan College, Riverdale, New York, USA. The program serves as a bridge between secondary school and college. Its mission has been to support native Spanish-speaking undergraduate students as they improve their English and earn college credits toward an associate’s degree in general studies. As students recognize their own successful learning, their “self-efficacy” increases, and they envision themselves as college graduates pursuing professional careers (American Psychological Association, 2017). In this article, the terms students, learners, and bilinguals are used interchangeably and synonymously.

Educational technologies, library digital resources, and internet websites were integrated throughout the course to facilitate using English—cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) and basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS)—in a comfortable, supportive environment (Cummins, 1979; Schütz, 2007). Like most multilinguals, Camino learners’ diverse educational backgrounds varied greatly in using specialized academic language. This type of language variation is known as disciplinary literacy, accessing prior knowledge from a wide gamut of resources—including people, expertise, projects, challenges, inquiry, scholarly investigations, communities, and fieldwork—to build new knowledge across academic subjects and professions (Achugar & Carpenter, 2014, p. 61). Though secondary education often employs the terms BICS and CALP, it also introduces learners to disciplinary literacy in preparation for higher education

Student Population

Camino students were Spanish speakers with limited English proficiency. The standardized test, Accuplacer, was administered to monitor students’ progress in English. The first cohort consisted of nine Spanish speakers from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Cuba, and Mexico. Similar to bilinguals’ disciplinary literacy, their CALP and BICS ranged from “entering (beginning) and emerging (low intermediate) to transitioning (intermediate)”(New York State Education Department, n.d.).

Educational Technologies, Library Digital Resources, and Internet Websites

Because Manhattan College is a “Google” school, it uses the Google academic suite (G Suite), providing Camino students with cloud-based information technology for online collaborating and web-based communicating, including the college webmail (Gmail), Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Hangouts, and Google Drive. Students reserved texting for peers but utilized webmail to send formal messages to faculty. Bilinguals also composed and sent professional emails to campus departments to gather information on cocurricular events.

During reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities, bilinguals used Google Translate. Mobile phones were convenient for finding the meanings of words in online dictionaries and thesauri. Students watched YouTube videos as well as videos from the library’s streaming video database, Kanopy. For research, bilinguals searched Wikipedia and the Library of Congress Digital Collections. Two academic style manuals—Modern Language Association and the American Psychological Association—were scaffolded into lessons with online tutorials, YouTube videos, and PDF handouts (posted in Google Drive). Learners practiced using online citation creators such as Knight Cite, Citation Machine, and EasyBib. During tutoring, students practiced ways to avoid plagiarizing and patch-writing by following prompts and sentence formulas.

Even though they were not comfortable speaking individually in whole class share, bilinguals frequently appreciated working in pairs on presentations in Google Slides or PowerPoint. Because students were motivated to use presentation software, lessons were customized to afford them opportunities to give short oral reports based on readings. As they collaborated on assignments, learners increasingly spoke and presented in English—important skills in college and future professions. Using presentation software inherently facilitated students’ use of English as they enthusiastically introduced their partners, raising self-efficacy and self-esteem. Collaborating, sharing, and presenting organically improved learners’ oral linguistic repertoire, enriching disciplinary literacy.

As the semester progressed, learners recognized that they were speaking English more fluidly as well as learning more content. Using Google Chromebooks in the classroom and/or the computers in the library labs, students created presentations based on information from multiple sources. They engaged in inquiry-based thinking, synthesizing concepts from sources and formulating their own opinions.

A visit to the college library and technology commons introduced bilinguals to various resources available to the campus community. Students used faxes, photocopiers, scanners, and printers. One lesson included watching the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence in the library’s multimedia room. Students felt impressed that they were in a theater-type room with an instructional computer station, projector, and DVD player. Bilinguals enthusiastically shared ideas about the film’s tenets, connecting them to the textbook’s theories. They also used the instructional technology, developing academic and professional presentation skills. As they accomplished more academically and linguistically, learners’ self-efficacy and self-confidence increased.

Although they began to take ownership of their own learning, Camino students still lacked self-discipline, time-management strategies, and organizational skills. The Center for Academic Success held a workshop on time-management and organizational skills. Students used Google Calendar to plan time for studying, completing assignments, library visits, and so on. Eventually, learners used mobile phones—for example, using calendar apps and creating study alerts—for improving time management and organization. Not only did bilinguals discover that these skills were an immediate asset, they also realized that they would be important in their professional and personal endeavors.

In the library, students located course reserves by searching the online catalog for the textbook. Library computer labs afforded learners the opportunity to use Microsoft Office—Word and PowerPointwhereas Google Chromebooks limited them to the Google suite. Because they comingled with traditional students in the library, bilinguals felt as though they were “real” Manhattan College students rather than being separated as the Camino cohort. They used library group study rooms with a Google Jamboard for practicing presentations.

To supplement internet sources, YouTube, and Google Images, learners attended a library workshop to learn how to search databases such as Google Scholar, Proquest Central, Proquest Newspapers, Ebscohost Academic Search Premier, and Opposing Viewpoints in Context. They created folders, sent full-text articles to themselves via database email apps, and copied and pasted citations into Google Docs. They used Kanopy—an online library streaming video database—to save clips for assignments. Just as they learned to create in-text and reference citations for text sources, so too did Camino bilinguals become adept in creating both citation types for digitized materials.

Conclusion

Though Camino learners were confronted with many challenges in their first college semester, numerous technological innovations facilitated their becoming more fluent in English as they learned academic content and fortified disciplinary literacy. These successes increased self-efficacy and self-esteem so that they could envision graduating from college and embarking on careers. Students developed confidence in the ability to direct their “motivation, behavior, and social environment” (American Psychological Association, 2017). As educational and information technologies engaged them in self-directed learning, bilinguals recognized their own abilities to be academically, linguistically, and professionally successful.

References

Achugar, M., & Carpenter, B. D. (2014). Tracking movement toward academic language in multilingual classrooms. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 14, 60–71. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap
.2013.12.002

American Psychological Association. (2017). Teaching tip sheet: Self-efficacy. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/education/self-efficacy.aspx

Cummins, J. (1979). Cognitive/academic language proficiency, linguistic interdependence, the optimum age question and some other matters. Working Papers on Bilingualism, 19, 121–129.

New York State Education Department: Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages. (n.d.). A guide for parents of English language learners in New York State. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files
/programs/bilingual-ed/guideforparentsofellsinnysenglish.pdf

Schütz, R. (2007). Stephen Krashen's theory of second language acquisition. English made in Brazil. Retrieved from https://apps.esc1.net
/ProfessionalDevelopment/uploads/WKDocs/58121/2.%20Stephen
%20Krashen.pdf


Bernadette M. López-Fitzsimmons is special faculty for the Camino Program and associate librarian at Manhattan College, Riverdale, New York. She taught Intercultural Communication, embedding bilingual information literacy lessons in the course, and has presented on TESOL at local and national conferences. She delivered a presentation on cross-cultural communication at the New York Library Association Annual (NYLA) conference 2017 and was subsequently invited by Academic and Research Libraries-New York (ACRL-NY) and the Library Association of the City University of New York (LaCUNY) to speak at a professional development event.

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