Enhancing ELA Learning Strategies with Digital Tools - National Council of Teachers of English
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Enhancing ELA Learning Strategies with Digital Tools

This post was written by NCTE member Dianna Minor. 


Digital literacy is important for the development of students’ reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Our students live in an age now when technology is at their immediate disposal. Students should be able to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology. Digital literacy skills are important in order for students to become critical readers, writers, and presenters of a wide range of ideas.

Google Docs has played a powerful role in the classroom as it is a great collaborative tool for annotating and writing and a perfect vehicle to foster active engagement. I work with a wide range of students daily, from those who are English language learners to students who struggle with reading comprehension. Google Docs provides an avenue for students to collaborate on the same writing assignment simultaneously and share annotations with each other—whether with a partner, small group, or the whole class.

Flipgrid is another great digital tool that allows students to video record or audio record. In English language arts, Flipgrid can be used for reading comprehension checks, student interviews, student responses to a printed text, etc. It provides the perfect platform for online collaboration and discussion as well as opportunities for students to show their creativity through a different medium such as book reviews, movie clips, or small-group projects.

Another digital tool students love using is iMovie. Current research states that students should be able to use a wider spectrum of digital technologies in order to be able to decode information in different formats. Integrating iMovie into language arts provides the students a different forum to move beyond the printed text. My students have used iMovie to integrate the elements of a story from their book club novels into a visual, digital format through the making of a digital book trailer (digital storyboard). Students had the choice of using iPads or their own device (e.g., Chromebook).

Implementing iMovie gave me the opportunity to see whether students had mastered the elements of a short story, as well as providing students the opportunity to work together in small cooperative learning groups. Because students were creating a one-minute book trailer (similar to a movie trailer), they had to use a variety of strategies and skills to accomplish the task: synthesize ideas and information they encountered in the printed text/novel and associate visual images/pictures with meaning that guided and fostered their understanding of the story. Students were also able to use numerous reading comprehension strategies, including making text-to-text connections, making inferences, visualizing, determining the main idea, and questioning, thus expanding their critical thinking skills.

Both in terms of instructional benefits and student experience, Edpuzzle has been an invaluable digital resource. I have been able to integrate videos from a variety of online resources—TEDTalks, YouTube, National Geographic, Khan Academy, my own videos, or those created by other teachers—to accompany a lesson. Edpuzzle allows you to embed questions for comprehension checks, record explaining a concept from the video in further detail (making connections), and check students’ progress (monitoring comprehension and skills for mastery). And Edpuzzle benefits students by helping them make connections to topics and ideas covered in class, as well as promoting active learning and engagement.

Technology is a powerful tool that can enhance the strategies and skills students use in the classroom every day. Integrating digital literacy prepares students for the ever-advancing digital world.


Dianna Minor is an educator, writer, and consultant. Her professional experience includes literacy, curriculum, and instruction. Twitter: @diminor1




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