I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: My students are isolated and lonely. English Language Learners are stuck in a country and a culture they’re not used to, and for the past 12 months, they’ve been told not to interact with other people, the very thing they need to master the skills to succeed in America.

But there are two sides to the isolation coin. Loneliness? Yes. But also independence and personal growth. Yesss!!

If students have to be stuck at home, I’d argue that there’s no better time in the history of education for it. With access to the internet and the incredible tools being made by innovative companies, ambitious teachers, and unsung tinkerers around the world, students can connect with their English Language Learning and in turn, all other subjects, all in ways considered inconceivable just a few years ago. 

But the world is moving far beyond yesterday’s science-fiction images of THE FUTURE, and with a little guidance, independent learning and autonomy for ELLs is, in fact, quite conceivable. 

I have the pleasure of teaching people from all over the world at Irvine Valley College. It takes incredible fortitude to pack up and move to a new country. Our ELLs have a rich history just waiting to be unlocked, and that’s why it’s on us to give them the keys to autonomous learning.

One of the first things I talk about in my class is that learning a language is an ongoing experiment, and that makes my classroom a lab. But where scientists famously work late into the night, alone in their labs, looking for reactions, language learners have always needed other people, checking for reactions and guiding them along the right path. Those days, are fading, though! 

Technology is allowing students to make explosive growth in their language acquisition without even having to leave their homes! By sharing tools and techniques with our students, they can learn to grow on their own, collaborate more productively, and create language in ways they never thought possible before. 

Let’s help our students step into their independent learning, together. At CUE, we know we’re all #BetterTogether, so I’d love to hear what’s working for you and your ELLs.

Join Brent on Thursday, March 25, 2021, at 3:00 pm for his session “Keys to the Car: Helping ELLs Develop Autonomy.” Register for Virtual Spring CUE today at cue.org/spring!

Brent Warner is a Professor of ESL at Irvine Valley College. He loves integrating technology into the classroom, and co-hosts two niche podcasts on EdTech: The DIESOL Podcast focusing on Technology in English as a Second or Other Language, and The HigherEdTech Podcast focusing on EdTech in Colleges and Universities. Brent is also the co-chair of CUE’s Higher Education Learning Network.

About Kristin Oropeza
Kristin is a full-time special education teacher, contract consultant, and educational content writer. She is a Google Certified Teacher (Level 1 and 2), Google Certified Trainer, and MIE Expert for 2020-2021.