Chatterfun News

The Role of Technology in Language Development for Modern Children

By: Kari N. Herreman
Curriculum Development Specialist
Redlands, California
Guest Contributor to Chatterfun

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There are no doubts among professionals and parents alike that advancements in accessible technology impact learning styles. These advancements have had a tremendous impact upon the expanding cultural needs and learning styles in modern children. As social networking systems and communication capabilities continue to rapidly evolve, learning needs and styles in modern children have adapted. Language acquisition is one area in particular which has been affected by these growing parallel trends. Assistive, interactive technology has proven to be extremely effective and efficient in meeting the needs of modern learners.

Experts Champion Technology Integration

Research overwhelmingly indicates that children who are exposed to learning multiple languages thrive across several academic areas. Cultural intelligence, multidimensional processing, and abstract competencies are noted in children who are given access to global learning. Language acquisition and development are optimized with assistive technology. Educators have noted how advancements in technology have changed the way children learn and respond to external stimuli. Immediate feedback and individualized focus are two of the most important beneficial factors of technology upon language development.

Technology integration into language development processes has a wide range of advantageous effects in addition to those which are academically noted. Many types of language development technology offer multisensory engagement, which offers speed and support to the learning process. Modern children have a keenly intuitive knack for understanding computer based systems. Teaching technology also reduces performance stress, particularly for shy children.

Examining Case Studies Which Point to Successful Technology Integration

Consider the case of Magdalena, an elementary school student in Southern California.

When Magdalena entered kindergarten at age 5, her primary language was Spanish. She understood approximately 100 English words, and was reluctant to speak in either language in front of peers. Her limited language engagement affected her development in both Spanish and English, which had a ripple effect on her progress in speech, reading, and writing. Magdalena’s teacher recommended EL and speech support services to help her develop age appropriate skills. While Magdalena showed initial progress in response to the implementation of these supports, progress was slow reaching and short lived. The major difference occurred when Magdalena received an integrative English speech device from her EL support teacher. The device had been introduced at a teacher training seminar, and the teacher felt it would distinctly suit Magdalena’s needs. Within a few weeks of using the device, Magdalena’s English vocabulary nearly doubled, and her pronunciation improved. The device allowed her to practice new words while providing immediate feedback and developing her vocabulary. After a few more weeks, Magdalena’s confidence soared as she began to verbally integrate into peer groups in her classroom. By grade 2, she achieved fluency in English while retaining her native fluency. Her grades improved, and Magdalena grew to become a model student.

Technology can be implemented at earlier ages to access the optimal point of brain development to absorb and learn language. This occurs during the first five years, in which native language is acquired. This is also the prime age range for simultaneous second language acquisition.

Consider the case of Timothy, a 3 year old preschool student in Northern Minnesota.

Timothy’s speech emergence came later than most toddlers. Concerned, Timothy’s parents purchased a learning toy which allowed Timothy to choose age appropriate vocabulary words and receive pronunciation feedback. He began chattering away within weeks of using the new toy. As Timothy’s speech emergence rapidly developed into sentences and stories, his mother decided to enrich his learning by adding the French software to his toy. Initially, Timothy’s father was worried that Timothy might become confused and regress in his verbal expression. This fear was quickly put to rest as Timothy progressed even more quickly in his native language while taking on French fluency. In a matter of months using the new toy, Timothy went from being a late-blooming talker to a bi-lingual tot.

Expanding Technology Integration for Modern Learners

Assistive technology should ideally be accessible to every student for global language acquisition. The benefits of learning multiple languages are increasingly important as the global community is bridged through advancements in technology and communication systems. This is of particular concern for US students, who lag behind in language learning among international competitors. Practical ways for parents to ensure that these benefits are extended to their children are suggested in the bullet points below.

  • When choosing language learning technology, look for multisensory engagement. Interaction with the technology should be auditory, visual, and verbal at minimum. This type of engagement allows the child to file the new information into several places in the brain.
  • Do not be afraid to allow your child to explore several new languages at young ages. Rather than becoming confused, they will tap into their ability to develop multidimensional meanings for each new concept they encounter. This depth of learning is only achieved by exposing children to multiple languages, and they are most adept at learning them at young ages.
  • Engage with your child. Encourage their use of the technology, and give positive reinforcement to their efforts and progress. Learn with your child, and this will become a bonding activity for you both!
  • Choose technology that has a leveled program for long term progress. Language acquisition should involve more than a few vocabulary words at an early age. Practice keeps progress moving. Fluency can be attained with a little dedication.
  • Make cultural relevance and immersion a part of your language program choice. This is a key factor because the cultural aspects of language are the essence of the language itself.

For the first time in human history, technology has become a cultural norm in communication. The extension of technology as a natural communication tool changes the way children learn and acquire all knowledge. This is particularly true of language development. Technology integration into language learning provides the natural fit to the adapted and evolving learning styles in modern children.