Friday, December 4, 2009

How Broadband and Technology Enhance the English Language Arts Classroom

This post is a guest spot and is syndicated from Broadband for America's blog. Visit their website to find out more about their initiative to make broadband access to the internet available to every household in the nation; to provide data transfer speeds to make that broadband experience valuable to users; and to provide the bandwidth necessary for content providers to continue to make the internet a cultural, societal, and economic engine for growth.

You can view the original posting here.


With high tech gadgetry becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the work and play of even our youngest students, it only makes sense that the presence of communications and production technology in the typical classroom should expand as well.

Whether you’re watching TV and Ellen Paige is proclaiming her amazement at an
American class’s interaction with a class in Japan via Cisco’s newest classroom product, or you’re reading in an online article that schools in the Southern US are receiving millions in technology grants, or you’re debating with your child’s PTA about the best way to raise money for new classroom computers — it seems that folks everywhere are talking about how teachers and students use technology.

On social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the English Companion Ning, and We Are Teachers, all sorts of educators from novices to the most seasoned literature professors are chatting about how to use technology effectively in the classroom. At the recent National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Convention in Philly, I was lucky enough to meet with a group of English Companion Ning teachers who had come together “IRL” (in real life) to talk about the best ways support new teachers using their social networking site.

Over the past few years, even the most traditional classrooms have become high tech. Teachers have always been leaders in the technology revolution and are now even more so the forerunners in exposing their students to new and creative ways of learning. Even with severe budget cuts during the past few years’ economic decline, teachers have become more ingenuitive in their approach to helping students learn.

It’s no secret that the current generation of students was born into a world far more technologically advanced than were their parents or most of their teachers. Kids crave interactivity and respond well to technology that allows them to form friendships all over the world and maintain a level of contact that used to be reserved for next-door neighbors. Kids no longer only read books or watch movies; they interact with authors, actors, and producers. They not only consume the news, they text, tweet, and e-mail their opinions and actually help to shape the news.

Just as passivity is passé in the “outside world,” so too has the sun set on the day of “drill and kill” and the passive “lecture-listen lesson.” With products like SMARTBoard™, traditional presentations that require kids to do nothing but sit like sponges and soak it all in are transformed into opportunities for students to manipulate information—drag punctuation into place, rearrange sentences, reveal answers—and forge their own knowledge.

Kids who would otherwise need to review a lesson multiple times to retain information gain a whole new level of engagement with tools that allow (and even encourage) group learning; the presentation creates a center of focus and prompts students to think together and complete exercises together. When they’re not actively working with the board, students benefit by watching, critiquing, and correcting the process as it happens.

In our visual, point-and-click culture, high-tech teaching tools capture attention, create a tactile engagement from abstract material, and encourage involvement. In short, new, interactive presentation software and hardware turn ideas nto substance. tudents are motivated to participate, changed from audience into learners.
Teaching is translated too, as every lesson and assessment you write can be infinitely customized to suit your and your students’ preferences. Your only limit is your own imagination, and so much of the software and resources available on the web are absolutely free for the taking!

Free sites like Quizlet offer teachers an assortment of interactive activities for students to learn vocabulary through practice tests and games. Free software like Adobe Acrobat and PowerPoint allow teachers to use either self-created presentations or title-specific materials from companies like Prestwick House. Teachers can enhance and drive home vocabulary or grammar lessons, enhance writing and editing skills, or pique student interest in a new book.
Freedom and versatility are the keys.

Whether your tool of choice is a downloadable PDF version of your favorite teaching guide, an enhanced presentation, or an ebook for your Kindle, never has there been such a vast array of materials and strategies available at such low cost and such high convenience.


Annie Rizzuto is a copywriter and social networking advocate for Prestwick House Publishing in Smyrna, DE. A recent graduate of University of Delaware’s Business and Technical Writing program, Annie is thrilled to be part of a company with a focus on helping English teachers. Read more of her writing at


Kevin Heiderich said...

Hello Annie,

Thank you for this exploratory post and thought on both current movements regarding technology in the classroom, and the changing ways in which our children and young adults are learning.

I agree that there are many free teaching tools available to our teachers. Several come immediately to mind such as YouTube, hosted blogs, galleries, and Google Groups/Wave.

Multimedia, social media, broadband, pocket computers, netbooks, laptops, and cloud computing (among others) have already changed a significant portion of population and the way they consume information. Federal law such as the TEACH Act, and Fair Use regarding copyright have helped pave the way for an allowance of use of even copyrighted media, given a few prerequisites.

Web 2.0 integration is changing the way these programs interact, and extending the classroom beyond the conventional 4 walls.

Having recently completed my masters degree, I was also fortunate enough to have returned to the school house in order to experience some of the new delivery methods for teaching. It was due to this experience, and prior work experience that I started a software company ( in Higher Education and Digital Media, storing and delivering assinged multimedia course materials in a TEACH Act compliant manner.

I feel that we are really one of those companies that is on the forefront of this exciting space, driving new innovation and leveraging new technology that was created from the past decade of media delivery. In a nutshell, we provide a turnkey hardware/software, or software only solution, that provides multimedia delivery, integrated with the most popular LMS/CMS choices available. Our software protects the media from piracy, utilizes twitter for immediate media response recording and preservation, and Google languages to generate Closed Captioning in over 80 languages for the media owned by the school.

Without droning on about our software, you can always contact me if you would like to hear more benefits to an institution and its students, staff and faculty if you would like by contacting me.

In order to help facilitate and contribute more to this discussion I would ask your other readers, and you Annie, what technologies have you specifically used that are free, or pay, that you think already have or will impact the educational learning landscape?

For myself, I really enjoyed the free use of Google Groups ( in my MBA classes. My teams found it much easier to coordinate electronic documents for our reports and papers via Groups, rather than via email.

In terms of a paid tool, I thought the simulation marketing engine known as Markstrat ( was a great tool, and has tremendous room for growth and improvement.

I look forward to reading your responses and continuing the discussion.

Thank you,

Kevin Heiderich

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