Using Technology to Help Students Interact with Academic Language

P4 – Practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction. P4, to me, means that technology is used to enhance classroom learning. Technology can be a tool for helping students understand new material and language as they can visualize and see concepts that deepen their understanding of those concepts. P4 goes well together with ISTE Standard 1, to facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity. I chose to focus on the learning aspect of ISTE Standard 1 and how technology can enhance it.

In O’Neil and Ringler, they state that academic language in the classroom must be developed interactively (2010). A definition of academic language is given by Flynt and Brozo, “By using the expression academic vocabulary we are referring to word knowledge that makes it possible for students to engage with, produce, and talk about texts that are valued in school” (2008).

For my middle school Life Science classes, our learning target last week was explaining the difference between vascular and non-vascular plants. Most students did not know what these words meant in relation to plants. After a discussion about where the students have heard the term ‘vascular’, we watched the following video about plant structure that included these two new terms.

Using this technology helped my students visualize the terms ‘vascular’ and ‘non-vascular’ as they compared the term to how it is used in describing the vascular system in human bodies. Some of the students had heard of the cardiovascular system. After watching the video, they students explained to a partner what a vascular plant is and what a non-vascular plant is.

The technology of a projector and using a YouTube video helped my instruction for this particular academic language by relating the terms to something the students had heard of before and by helping them to visualize these new vocabulary words.

As I looked at the resources of my classmates, one of them posted an article on how technology can aid in the learning of academic English for English Language Learners (ELL). It confirms my use of technology, as it will help my ELL students to visualize these new English vocabulary words.

In the future, I hope to continue to use technology for academic language instruction, but also to use it as a springboard for discussion. I want to relate our content to the students’ personal experience and to also challenge their thinking.


Flynt, E. S., & Brozo, W. G. (2008). Developing Academic Language: Got Words? Reading Teacher, 61(6), 500-502.

O’Neal, D., & Ringler, M. (2010). Broadening Our View of Linguistic Diversity. Phi Delta Kappan, 91(7), 48-52.


2 thoughts on “Using Technology to Help Students Interact with Academic Language

  1. David

    I too have used YouTube as a teaching tool. There is a difference between an “expert” presentation from someone or something outside the class and myself – even when the information is exactly the same. Teaching drama I have used YouTube to bring different actors and acting lessons to the classroom. I find that it is important to “stop and talk” throughout the video. When I do this, the conversation can be directly related to the video content.
    One thing I want to do is a screen cast of me – stop and talking – to the video. This would allow my students to review the content outside of class. One of my teaching goals is to move toward a flipped classroom. For drama, the richest learning occurs when there is student collaboration. I would guess that the same is true in science. When students can collaborate with each other – in class – their retention and understanding increases. I can do this when I deliver the content to students outside of class via a screencast. Check out my latest favorite resource – There is a small fee for educators ($75). The potential for increased content delivery is significant – and there are even tools to create quizzes within the lesson.

  2. lidaenche

    Hi Heather. I like how you bolstered your student’s understanding of the academic language through the youtube video. So many students learn through visual imagery rather than lecture – and it’s always great to use a variety of methods to get your message across to all students. Great idea to use technology as a springboard for discussion as a way to relate the content to the students.


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