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Get Your Adult ESL Students to Learn With Computers

written by: Sonal Panse • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 10/11/2012

Using computers to teach adult ESL students is better than the old paper and pen route. For one thing, computers have opened up learning access to anyone, anywhere, anytime in the world. All you need is an Internet connection!

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    Log On

    The benefits of using computers to teach adult ESL students are dual: Computers have become a necessity in our everyday lives, and it makes sense for adult ESL learners, who presumably are learning the English language for practical purposes, to become proficient in computer usage as well. If the student is job-hunting, he'll come to realize just how important that is!

    Another benefit is that by going online and tapping the varied information resources found on the Internet, students are able to gain a broader perspective about the English language and the different English-speaking cultures. By learning how to navigate online, gleaning information and processing the gathered information, students also develop a self-reliant, independent attitude that can only boost their language development skills.

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    Getting Ready

    A few things at the beginning -

    • It is assumed that the adult ESL learners have at least basic English language capabilities. These will be necessary to use the computer and to navigate online.
    • The adult ESL learners will also require basic computer literacy. If not, this ground must be covered well. The students must be comfortable operating the computer and navigating online before they can proceed to polishing their ESL skills. Explain about hyperlinks, HTML and so on.
    • Explain about following the right online etiquette, maintaining the right degree of online privacy, ignoring spam, respecting copyright and avoiding plagiarism.
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    The Basics

    Now let's take a look at some tips to aid language learning in adult ESL students:

    To begin with, make a list of useful websites to visit. ESL and news sites are especially recommended for beginners. You can find some suggestions at the end of this article. Show the students how to bookmark and save these, so they don't need to remember and type the URL every time. Later on, students can discover and bookmark other useful sites for themselves.

    Find out about ESL software that you can use even when you're offline. You can purchase or find free ESL software online and download it to your computer. Such software will usually place equal emphasis on developing reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, and will include activities and games to enhance the language learning process. Select software that is appropriate for a particular learning level.

    Listen to online radio broadcasts in English, listen to English songs on sites like YouTube, and watch English movies online. Regular exposure to spoken English is the only surefire way of developing listening comprehension skills.

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    Other Communication Options

    Use Skype and other communication tools to speak with other ESL students and native or proficient English speakers. This is a good way of developing oral communication skills in English. The students can also make podcasts in English. They can read a poem aloud or read aloud from a paragraph or an entire text. Listening to their own recording can help students understand how they are pronouncing English words and where and in what way they need to improve.

    The ESL teacher can maintain a blog that includes lessons, class information, class requirements and so on. It is also a good idea to encourage the adult ESL students to write a blog of their own. This can be on their language learning progress, their favorite hobby, or on any other topic that interests them. Developing writing skills is an important part of learning a language, and maintaining a blog and interacting with readers is a fun, creative way of doing this. Using computers to teach adult ESL students to write is more convenient than writing on paper, as mistakes can be corrected quickly and new additions can be incorporated easily.

    Ask students to read online newspapers, journals and magazines, and have a discussion about what they have read. This improves both reading and reasoning skills, and keeps them well-informed about what is happening around the world as well.

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    Suggested Websites

    Purdue University OWL - http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/678/01/

    SelfAccess - http://www.selfaccess.com/resources.php

    Using English - http://www.usingenglish.com/

    English Club - http://www.englishclub.com/esl-resources/

    ESL Base - http://www.eslbase.com

    Breaking News English - http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/

    Dave's ESL Cafe - http://www.eslcafe.com/

    Tower of English - http://towerofenglish.com/

    Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab - http://www.esl-lab.com/

    Young and Old Favourites - http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/musicold.htm

    Special English - http://www1.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/

    Favorite Poem Project - http://www.favoritepoem.org/index.html

    English Zone - http://english-zone.com/index.php

    Interesting Things for ESL Students - http://www.manythings.org/

    English Grammar - http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/index.php

    Reader's Digest Articles - http://www.rd.com/

    Time for Kids - http://www.timeforkids.com/TFK/kids/news

    English Pronunciation - http://international.ouc.bc.ca/pronunciation/