Obstacles to Integrating Technology in English/Language Arts

There is an unusual tension in utilizing technology to teach English/Language Arts (ELA). My state standards for American Literature cover American foundational documents (i.e. Declaration of Independence or Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech) at the same they cover online editing collaboration. ELA as a subject area seems to be looking back at the same time it is trying to look forward. This is a delicate balance that I do not always maintain, as much as I try to.

Change is happening faster than I can keep up with it. Our textbook cites Edwards (2010) and Leu and Forzani (2012) who acknowledge constant change is the new normal in technology and literacy. In other words, we teachers all need to get comfortable with change in the technology we use and what is necessary to be literate in our society, including the English teachers. At the same time technology is changing, what it means to be literate is changing, even while many of our mandated content standards are not changing.

How does technology interact with English content that traditionally uses no technology, like poetry, or at least uses no modern technology. I suppose Shakespeare’s quill pen he used to write sonnets would be considered technology, but it is not the technology we are grappling with today. First, there are websites that give poetry teachers a vast body of literary poetry they did not have access to before, like the American Academy of Poets’ website and that of the Poetry Foundation. Also, there are great YouTube videos that provide interesting instruction about poetry like Crash Course and websites that enable students to work creatively with words in poetry or to annotate poetry digitally.

However, even though there are many resources for using technology to teach English, there are still many obstacles. For example, deciding which technology is effective for teaching students. Roblyer (2016) noted research that shows students comprehend digital text less than they do text that is one a physical page. Sometimes, educators are excited about using new technology, but just because something is new does not mean it is better. Another obstacle to using high quality technology to teach English is the cost of it. The cost of putting a device in the hands of a student is only the beginning. The most useful websites and software are expensive and even the ones that have free features often have costs for the use of the whole website or software. For example, my school has paid subscriptions for Turnitin, grading and filtering software, and Noodletools, a research writing website, but not Glogster, a tool to create digital posters or NoRedInk, an adaptive grammar testing tool. In public education there is only so much money to go around, and there is not enough money to cover all of the useful ways technology can help my students learn English in this new world of literacy and technology.

Roblyer, M. D.. Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (Page 263). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.

3 thoughts on “Obstacles to Integrating Technology in English/Language Arts

  1. When writing my blog, I hadn’t even thought of cost as an obstacle! I teach Spanish, but the world language department as a whole pays for subscriptions to use certain cites. We always have a tough time deciding which sites to pay for. Often, each of us has a different flashcard/grammar site that we prefer. I’m not sure what the solution is to the cost barrier. Perhaps spending less money on hard copies of textbooks, and instead using the money to pay for online textbook access and website subscriptions.


  2. Cost is definitely an obstacle, and one that will always be there in public education. There are a lot of online resources or apps that offer free versions, but pale in comparison to the paid version (understandably so). I have paid out of pocket for access to a few different websites, but it all adds up very quickly. We aren’t allowed to ask for parent funding because we are providing “free and public education”, which again, I can understand. It sometimes feels like an impossible catch 22. We have the physical technology to utilize what is available on the web, but fall short.


  3. Dana, you raise valid concerns regarding student ability to comprehend text when its presented in an online format. I think that’s why the intentional use of technology is so important. As digital ELA teachers, we need to come up with a system for our students to interact deeply with text, even when it is presented online. My department has shifted to StudySync, an all online ELA curriculum. Before that, we utilized Google Docs for close reading. In both platforms, annotation and highlighting remain essential, as does the use of text-dependent questioning. Without reading tasks and annotation tasks, I agree that comprehension suffers. However, I see merit in shifting how we ask students to consume texts, because Roblyer also points out how much of the text students read is both online and nonlinear in nature. For example. websites and blogs are not read in a particular order, but rather according to interest or need. This is definitely an exciting time to be an ELA teacher! I find that each year I need to be even more flexible and adaptable than the last.


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